SPRING 2016, ISSUE III.
Greetings from Budapest!
Excursion to Transylvania
We traveled to Transylvania, Romania for a 4-days excursion. We visited the beautiful Kalotaszeg region, a special, Hungarian ethnographic area of Transylvania. We lived with local village families, experienced their warm hospitality, enjoyed their delicious, home cooked meals, and witnessed traditional, rural living and folk culture.
Our first destination was still in Hungary, in Nyírbátor. It is a small town in the center of the Nyírség Region and rich in medieval monuments. István Báthory of Transylvania had two Gothic churches built here between 1484 and 1511. The Calvinist church is considered to be the most beautiful single-nave church in Hungary; its late-Gothic net vault and the Renaissance decorations are certainly admirable sights. As the burial place of the Báthory family, it is one of the important memorial places of Hungarian history. Its bell-tower is 33 m (~100 feet) high; a belfry with small towers was built around 1640. We were received by the minister of the church who showed us around.
Students felt as if they stepped back in time during those four days. In the region, traditional dresses are still worn on festive occasions, and many forms of folk art are still part of their daily lives. We visited the home of a local old woman who even dressed our students.
Weather was summer-like when we arrived in Torda. The first Act of Religious Tolerance was issued here in 1568 and the place had also one of the most important salt mines of Europe for centuries.
We hiked through the famous Gorge of Torda, where nature did its best. Here a mountain is split in the middle and the sight is simply spectacular. According to one legend, St. Ladislaus, a legendary Hungarian king, successfully escaped the Mongolian Tatar hordes by using his sword and cutting the cliff and creating the gorge.
The beautiful Torda Gorge with the Hesdat stream flowing through
Torockó was another highlight of the trip. Torockó, a Unitarian community and the center of iron mining and manufacturing in Transylvania for centuries, received the “Europe Nostra” award for cultural heritage in 1999. We visited the local museum, marveled the beautiful snow-white houses nestled below the monumental Székelykő (Székely Stone), a three-thousand feet tall rock.
Students were full of energy and insisted on hiking to the top of Szekely Stone. The hiking trail was safe, marked clearly and conditions were just right for this great bonding experience. The picture below says it all.
The next day was a really busy one. We visited the monthly animal market in Bánffyhunyad, then traveled to Kolozsvár (Cluj), the former capital of Transylvania, an important economic and educational center of the country.
Then came yet another treat: we visited the village of Körösfő famous for selling an abundance of old and new handcrafts. All forms of folk art have reached high level of sophistication in the Kalotaszeg region, and Körösfő’s specialty has always been wood carving. We visited a local small shop where chess pieces are still made by hand. Our host was happy to show us his skills.
On our last day, we visited the 13th century church of Magyarvalkó. Here, inside this old village church, decorated by beautiful pieces of embroidery made by local women, we reflected about local customs and traditions and their value and how they may enrich our lives.
Elizabeth Simon, Resident Director
Judit Fekete, Resident Coordinator