Lost in Transylvania

As some of you may know, I have recently spent a week in Transylvania with some of the best hosts in the world. It began in Bucharest, from where I took the ‘express’ to Baia Mare, the second last stop on the route.

‘Express’ meant it stopped at every second station, and in between it rolled along at a very leisurely pace – absolutely the best way to travel. 14 hours it took, for 690km:

Once in Transylvania (Maramureş to be exact) I enjoyed the mating rituals of the locals:

Was intrigued by the burial practices:

Was drawn to diabolically spicy Reformed churches:

And even more alluring Orthodox churches in the villages:

I even went to a rock concert:

But what really intrigued me was the fact that students and professors have different toilets – the professors a type of unisex arrangement:

Throughout this time, I kept being offered clear liquid in plastic bottles, which I naturally thought was water. Ţuică is its name, I was told, although I couldn’t figure out why it was served in small earthenware vessels and had a rather fiery taste. Which is probably why I thought this was the main road home:

By the time I realised I had been swilling the 60% proof plum-brandy, the locals were ready to celebrate my departure with gay abandon:

Can’t wait to return …

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2 thoughts on “Lost in Transylvania

  1. You really made my day/ weekend with this post. You see, us Romanians often profess an overly critical vision on our country, history, culture. A seminal example of this view would be Emil Cioran’s diatribes from the 30s.

    This tendency becomes a chronic condition among the members of Romanian diaspora scattered all over the world (being there, still doing that.) Sometimes the radical tone gains theological-subversive depths comparable to the Marian exiles. 😀

    Thanks for reminding me that my home country can still seduce and fascinate. It is good for the soul.

    While I am writing this, I am looking at a glass of horinca (this is the original Maramuresan name of the double-distilled plum brandy that you seem to enjoy). If you ever come to Montreal, I would gladly share some of it with you…as a 65% proof Proustian madeleine. Noroc!

    1. People kept telling me the name of the drink in Maramures, but I have a memory like a sieve – so thanks. I did come across the odd complaint, since people often do it tough in an economy that has suffered for all manner of recent reasons. But I also found that deep down, perhaps because things are tough, people know how to live and enjoy life in a way that is often lost in the antiseptic and administered societies of Western Europe or North America. So yes, thoroughly seductive and alluring in all sorts of ways. Montreal, though, is a great city – I lived there for three years too long ago.

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