Monthly Archives: August 2015

Hungary and Romania

Hungarians are different to Romanians. The last decades since the 1956 crackdown have been more benevolent than in Romania.

There is disbelief about the suffering of anthroposophists in Romania and incorrect beliefs about their own country. Nora was convinced Lake Balaton was only for wealthy tourists and full of ugly resorts. Eva had told me that was only true of some parts and much of it was very beautiful. Eva believed that Miskolc was only an industrial city and couldn’t have a lovely Waldorf school in lovely surroundings. The truth is that the industrial aspect of Miskolc has long since gone and only the ruins of factories remain.

With ‘freedom’ the oligarchs left, industry closed down and a high proportion of the population lost their jobs.

These are just two examples of mistaken beliefs about their own country and their neighbors, which brings a bit more understanding about what seems like confused beliefs of the population in Ukraine.

Romania is worried; Hungary doesn’t seem to be. I suppose much of it depends on previous experience of communism.

I’m having quite a grand time in Miskolc with Nora Kunos, a Waldorf school parent who can organize a few days of traditional Hungarian activities and sites for us to visit when we come.

A highlight for me was being asked to speak to a Grade 12 class who were about to have an English class. They were respectful, curious about Canada in general and BC in particular, and had good questions. They delighted in bear stories and wanted to know about the Inuit. I so enjoy working with Waldorf high school students. It was good meeting some teachers and it was apparent that I passed The Test – whatever that was. Nora gave me a good report next day and a message of welcome.

Budapest to Miskolc to Belgrade to Sofia

More trains – this time from Budapest to Miskolc, back to Budapest, on to Belgrade (Serbia) to Sofia (Bulgaria) – 24 hrs. You can tell I like trains!

Reality is – there are no direct flights from Budapest to Sofia – you have to fly back to London first and the cost corresponds with that silliness. I’d rather be on a train seeing the countryside.

It was apparent that Hungary is better off than Romania – stations in good condition, modern tractors, hard top roads. Many Romanian roads are still dirt.

Rail travel with a eurailpass almost always gives you a 1st class seat at the basic cost of the pass – that’s why they do it – to occupy 1st class seats. This time I have a lovely first class carriage all to myself with my ‘own toilet’ and adjacent to a dining car. What more could a traveler want?! 🙂 The only thing missing is wifi. Some trains have it but not this one.

Saturday morning in Budapest

Saturday morning …

The overnight in the train was excellent and, by chance, I had the compartment all to myself. 7 hours of sleep being rocked gently by the train.

Woken by border officials as we left Romania and then by Hungarian officials – Passports!

Spent the day with Eva Ujlaky catching up with what is happening in Budapest, with our respective news of our shared colleagues and sharing our own lives. We walked in the Pest part of the city – very elegant – and didn’t get over the river to Buda. We spent too much time having breakfast, coffee, lunch, and later dessert with more coffee – and talking.

I saw with my own eyes the plight of the refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan at the station.

My room faces onto the front of the train station and all evening there has been a demonstration out there by the refugees – but the police haven’t been concerned so perhaps it’s a nightly event.

Rosia Waldorf School

I took a bus to Rosia to visit the gypsy Waldorf School that I had understood was very poor. It looked better off than our own school at home! They get donations from Germany to keep the school going. Almost no government funding and parents unable to pay tuition.

I met one of the teachers who was delightful. Leila took me to the school and then to her home for coffee. She arranged for a ride for me back to Sibiu and I spent the rest of the day exploring the old town, trying to stay out of the sun, looking for accommodation for a group, and enjoying the medieval fair set up in the large square.

I walked back to the hotel, picked up my backpack and am now at the train station 3 hrs early for the overnight train to Budapest. I might as well wait here as anywhere else and my feet refuse to walk any further.

Sibiu has done a great job of restoring its historical buildings and the two squares, the large and the small, are full of cafes looking very welcoming.

There’s no wifi here at the station but I can use the time to write this update – and now I only have 2 hours to wait for the train

I have made some good and useful connections for a tour and new friends. I wish email was more reliably accessible but this is Eastern Europe which is still catching up.

I’ll be met off the train in Budapest tomorrow morning which is comforting, though my biggest priority is to get clean. The shower this morning was wonderful but after sweating all day I’m in need of another!

The Easy Path

Why do I get myself into these things? (Rhetorical question!)

A hike in the mountains and a couple of nights stay over in a lodge sounded delightful. We were told a half hour bus ride and then an easy walk for 3 to 4 hours. The bus ride was 2 hours and that ‘easy’ walk took me 5 and a half and I wasn’t the last to arrive. The ‘easy’ wasn’t easy as you will see from the picture.

Maybe easy for a strong, 20 year old man but not for us older ones, yet there was no choice but to keep going. After 2 and a half hours my legs no longer hurt but keeping balance on those stones and rocks was challenging. Once there I thoroughly enjoyed the hot spiced wine!

There was only electricity for 2 hours each day, from 8:00-10:00pm, so lights out at 10 was literal. Only cold showers – and ice cold, straight from the mountain river. The beds were so cold and damp we all wore our clothes to sleep in.

And then there was John – Big John, as we called him. A giant at 6ft 5ins, he is Romanian but has lived in Canada for 8 years, has Canadian citizenship and a Waldorf teaching certificate. He was so pleased to have another Canadian there and took it upon himself to watch out for me and make sure I was OK. I appreciated that.

After the Conference

The Conference is over now and tomorrow many of us will go on a bus and then walk for a few hours into the mountains. We will stay for two nights in a lodge and have some meditation exercises etc. I don’t expect there will be internet up there so I won’t take my laptop which is heavy and my day bag will be full of fresh socks etc 🙂

We come back on Wednesday and on Thursday morning I take the train to Sibiu (still in Romania).

I will be looking for good accommodation for a group, exploring the old town which is, apparently, very lovely, and expect to visit a Waldorf school for gypsy children and find out if there is something useful a tour group could do there at the school if we visit.

Friday night I take an overnight train to Budapest.
Someone will meet me there in the morning and we’ll visit another possibly interesting place.

I hope to be able to check emails every day after we come out of the mountains.
This was a surprise, not having access here in the village.

It was not a nice surprise.

Romanians at the Conference

What I learned from Romanians at the Conference…

They suffered terribly under Communism and still have wounds of the soul. Not even scars yet – still open wounds. The older generation still cannot talk about it and the younger ones don’t know how to ask. They were tortured and killed for having any book on anthroposophy in the house; often not enough food and constant fear. Can you imagine living in fear of that, or knowing what has happened to your loved one and trying to live with it? Terrible psychological wounds. 25 years later they haven’t forgotten it but don’t dwell in misery.

They celebrate their freedom and at the same time are aware that the population was so accustomed to the government doing and controlling everything they don’t know how to take initiative and make things better for themselves.

I have made some friends here and am so glad I came.

Dacian Site

The first day we went on an excursion to an ancient Dacian (Thracian) site – terrible road – but good company in the car with gypsy and Romanian songs and funny company.

Next day we started out going to the Prislop Monastery, famous as the gravesite of a Romanian Saint. Narrow winding road, thick traffic, no organization, traffic jammed in many places, thousands of people. We parked the cars and started walking, but it was another 5km and all uphill and I didn’t get there. I managed 3.5km but gave up.

The crowds of people discouraged me; not my idea of visiting a monastery.

I had a rest, walked back to the cars slowly, visited a church and cemetery on the way and then watched the drama of cars and buses trying to pass each other on the narrow road. It was often very amusing. I had a choice of being bored waiting for the others to come back or watch people’s behavior and be amused.

Simeria the Soul of Europe Conference

The train journey to Simeria for the ‘Soul of Europe’ Conference was very long – 10 hours – on the dirtiest train I have ever travelled on, but I had an interesting conversation with a young woman and when I jumped (literally – the doorways are so high off the platform) from the train in Simeria, a woman was there waiting for me at the exact door and calling my name – a big surprise. Here is a picture of her in her gypsy dress.

She is Romanian and was fed as a newborn baby by a gypsy wet nurse thereby receiving gypsy life forces. A man I have met needed a blood transfusion as a newborn babe and received gypsy blood so considers himself half gypsy. They have both looked after me very well and the conference I came to attend has been very interesting. Here is a picture of a gypsy house. I didn’t know gypsies lived in houses – but it’s only the wealthy ones.

Hiking in the Forest in Simeria

We hiked in the forest and met some cows and cow herders coming down from summer pastures. I was amazed at how the cows managed to keep their footing in that rocky terrain. I was amazed that I did too!

The hike back down only took 3 hours though they were a bit nerve-wracking.

Monsieur Bijoux, had it easiest. He travelled in his own special back pack and was an exceedingly well trained cat. He belonged to an opera singer amongst us.

Back at the Conference site the Romanian goodbyes began. All goodbyes have to be said 3 times, with hugs, to be real. It was chaotic but warm-hearted.

John gave me a ride to the station for the trip from Simeria to Sibiu. I arrived last night – accomplished a lot of emails, and had a really good night’s sleep.

It is hot here.