Week 124 August 13, 2016

Loren and I are moved when we hear from family and friends that our journey is inspiring to you. Thank you for keeping in touch with us! This week we had an email from another couple – offhand we can recall previously hearing from three other couples or families who have taken, who are on, or who will soon begin their own extended travels as a result of learning about our experience. Yay! May you too have the fortune to realize your dreams.
We had a nice stay in Sibiu, enjoying a dinner out with our AirBnB hosts at their favorite restaurant, then we had a couple of walks through the City Centre in what was once a double walled citadel. The apartment where we are staying was a few stories up, and with taking the stairs we had a little extra exercise this week. 
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Then we enjoyed staying in a “traditional Romanian house” AirBnB in the country near Sibiu, a charming large home respite next to a creek. The host is also the owner of six delightful stray female dogs. While on a hike with her and them in the hills she attracted yet a seventh to her pack – this one a male.
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Our host accompanied us the hour and a half to make sure that we would find our way to Medias – said Meh-dee-osh, for a Unitarian Sunday service that was translated for us by the Reverend’s kind wife who sat with us. One thing our AirBnB host said afterwards, which resonated for me is: “God’s plan is bigger than our own.” Da da da – Yes, yes, yes, in Romanian, that is so true.
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On the way back to her home we enjoyed a picnic at a local preserved fortress together, where we were able to climb the precarious steps all the way up into the bell tower where the view was outstanding. We also visited a Festival – pronounced fes-ti-VAHL, for traditional music and more traditional food.
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We covered a lot of kilometers in our rental car this week. 
     “Claire, you have become good at navigating roundabouts,”
an impressed Loren said as we drove from Sibiu to see the fortress in Alba Iulia – said you-lee-ah, home of the biggest citadel in Romania. 
     “Claire your rediscovered New Yorker driving skills have allowed you to drive more
       like a Romanian, I mean, like a Romaniac,”
Loren said further, using his invented word for the daredevil drivers we have seen, as we neared Cluj-Napoca airport to return our rental car in heavy traffic. Once a New Yorker, always one, I guess. We have been asked on several occasions what we think of Romanian drivers…
At Alba Iulia I was a little disappointed because the palace was home to the only Unitarian King in history – King John Sigismund during the 16th century, but, we found absolutely no reference to his reign. Regardless, it was impressive, with a modern cathedral built in honor of the coronation of Ferdinand and Maria.
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In Kolozsvar – Hungarian for Cluj, we had the privilege of having our former Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Sunnyvale California Partner Church minister from Kolozsvar and her daughter join us for dinner. We invited our AirBnB host, and her neighbor – a long term friend of hers who is also a retired Unitarian minister. What a small world! It was wonderful to visit with our friend after all these years. Then Loren and I enjoyed a walking tour of some major sights of the city with our AirBnB host.
The next evening we had the pleasure of having dinner again with the retired Rev and his wife. He gifted us with a book in English – translated from the original Hungarian, with reflections of Transylvanian Unitarians about our faith. It is a treasure! One chapter is his own translation of the Unitarian Catechism that youth in Transylvania must prove they have learned at their confirmation. Another chapter is by a Transylvanian minister, who years ago had studied in Berkeley and who I remember preaching to our Sunnyvale congregation. His chapter is a delightful read of his experiences and reflection on the U.S. UU’s, which triggered more of my own memories.
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Loren and I also enjoyed a day hike on a path through enchanting woods with some local Hungarian-speaking Transylvanians who hike weekly and who our AirBnB host helped us find. A couple of them spoke a little English, and one spoke some Italian, so, in addition to being good exercise it was socially enjoyable too — including the time when it poured down rain for which we sought shelter. It rained some all the way back too. One of the women was also a Unitarian, and another was scouting out wild mushrooms in the forest as we hiked.
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That evening we went to a local Org – Organ Concert in the Reformed Church. As much as I love music, I recently have come to the conclusion that there is sometimes a fine line between music and noise. I realize though that this applies to all the arts. I therefore respectfully request to amend the age old idiom about Beauty’s Beholder with this: Delight may or may not be found in all of one’s senses: sight-sound-taste-smell-touch and any others you care to include, not limited to just one’s eye.
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On our last full day in Kolozsvar for now, our former Partner Church Rev. gave us a tour of the Transylvanian Unitarian Headquarters, where she now works as Secretary to the Bishop, and for their seminary. It was impressive to stand in the hall where leaders of the six districts of Transylvania and one district of Hungary meet – the connection between Transylvanian and Hungarian Unitarians just resumed in 2012 — after a break of nearly a hundred years due to European political turmoil. The beautifully wooded walls are fringed with images of former Bishops and lay leaders, hung high. The seminary includes a chapel where daily student worship services are offered.
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The next day we took a train to Sighisoara in Romanian – Segesvar in Hungarian, which took nearly six hours. The first 45 minutes included waiting for the train to arrive, then to depart, the Cluj station. No wonder there are warnings that trains may not be on time. But, that also gave us more time to have fun with the five year old Romanian boy and his grandparents who shared our compartment. With hand gestures and the ways that the Romanian language is like Italian, we learned it was his first ever train ride! In all those hours he tried many times and ways to lie down for a nap, but he was too excited to have his riposo.
In Segesvar, we rented a car to be able to drive to a Unitarian Gathering. I wish we knew some Hungarian because even with the invitation in hand, I am at a loss to explain more than that we visited park in a wide open space with a stage near the congregation of Szekelyudvarhely in the village of Odorheiu Secuiesc, for the Szejkefurdoi Unitarius Talalkozo. I do know it was anticipated that 2000 people would attend. The previous few days of cloudy, rainy weather cleared for a mostly sunny day for the event.
Some people were there in traditional costume, and some of them participated in the ceremonial worship or performed dances afterwards. We sang Hungarian hymns and were offered the Lord’s Supper (communion). When I said, Ishten Aldjon – God Bless You, to the Priest who gave me Communion, he replied in English, “God Bless You,” which felt like a dear connection.
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We all then followed the procession of ministers through a long corridor of wooden portals in the nearby field to honor and place commemorative wreaths on the grave of Orban Balazs. We were able to briefly visit with a few of our friends from the Arkos camp who we had met last week. On our return trip to Kolozsvar, we drove through other areas of the countryside. In all, another lovely day.
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I am aware that emergency vehicle sirens in Romania sometimes sound like the ones in the USA – they more often whirr in crescendo and decrescendo, instead of blaring the two alternating tones like in most of the rest of Europe. I am also aware that as we have traveled through parts of Europe and Africa that I have smelled more cigarette smoke in public places, smelled more unpleasant scents in the streets, more harsh chemicals, exhaust, burning rubber and smoke from intentional fires than I am used to in California. How I wish people were not exposed to such toxins… more reason to resume my Bikram yoga practice to eliminate those toxins from my body. Until then I will follow the advice I found from a graffiti artist in English in Kolozsvar this week:
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PLEASE NOTE: While this week we have an internet connection, we may not have viable service on a weekly basis. Please visit this site again, I will upload my posts when and as often as I can.

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