The best of two seasons

If you’ve ever driven the Richardson Highway between Valdez and Anchorage, Alaska during the couple of weeks when the leaves turn, you will know what I mean when I say that the scenery is like a painter’s palette. I’ve heard of people going to New England for the Fall to see nature’s mesmerizing display and since Alaska, while I’ve seen nice autumns, I’ve not experienced anything quite like the drive through the forests of Tranyslvania.

For a thousand years, up until WWI, Transylvania was associated with Hungary. Back in the 10th century, the Hungarian Székely settled in what is still called Erdély (‘beyond the forest’ – the literal meaning of Transylvania). With two-lane roads wending their way through the mountains, the colours were breathtaking. Passing few cars and seeing no-one but a series of lone, chain-saw wielding men, it was as if we had the place to ourselves. The higher we went, the colder it got and then we crossed over – from autumn to winter – that wonderful moment when it is neither one nor the other but a bit of both.

Given the choice between hot and cold, I’d go for cold any day. There’s a limit to the amount of clothes you can take off and if you’re not near the sea or a substantial body of water, heat is miserable. But cold – especially contintental cold  – that’s more than doable.

We were trying to get to Saint Anna lake but as we dodged fallen, snow-laden branches, pragmatism won out. The lake will have to wait for another day but the legend, and its swans, reminded me of the Children of Lir.

Way back when, even before the 13th century, two brothers lived in the area. One day, a stranger, driving a beautiful chariot with six horses, called to one of the brother’s castles. They had a party and in a gambling game of some sort (probably dice), one of the brothers won the stranger’s chariot and horses. The other brother, not to be outdone, found a better chariot and went to the village to find the 12 most beautiful women, to pull it. [I wonder if this might be the source of that Irish saying – she’s a horse of a woman?] But the chariot was too heavy for them. They couldn’t move it. The brother became angry and started beating them to death. Before she died, the most beautiful of them all, Anna, cursed the castle. A terrible stormed brewed and the castle sank into the earth. A lake appeared in the crater and on it swam 12 swans. When the birds touched land, they changed back into girls and all but one went back to their village. Anna stayed and built a small chapel and stayed there til she died.

Pilgrims still come in their droves and many young people come in the hope of finding a partner. Again, I’m reminded of Ireland and that childhood prayer: Holy St Ann, holy St Ann, send me a man as fast as you can. Definitely worth a trip back in the spring.


12 replies
  1. Guest
    Guest says:

    I’m from that region. This piece of writing definitely made me homesick as I’m sitting at my desk, at work, far far away in Australia..

  2. shirley mason
    shirley mason says:

    Loved your article..can you tell me where to contact someone in Tranyslvania to buy one of the mushroom hats ?
    many thanks..

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      Hi Shirley – you don’t say where you’re located. I know they also sell them at some of the craft markets in Budapest around Christmas and I can try to get a card from one of the stalls if i come across them. What I saw in Transylvania though was very local and from an Internet search I couldn’t find any sellers. No-one I asked there had an email or a web address. Perhaps someone reading this might be able to help.

  3. juditg
    juditg says:

    Hi Shirley and Mary,
    I thought yhat you would enjoy these videos about making mushroom hats. This is a really old craft tradition in Korond – Transylvania, unique in the world and just few more families doing it nowadays.

    Comments and subtitles are in Hungarian, but images are more important, in my opinion:
    Dear Shirley,
    None of them has any website or e-mail address, unfortunately. I live in Transylvania, not so far from this village, but I can’t see how I could send you a hat to Florida :). I’m sorry. There is a Hungarian proverb that “The soup costs more than the meat”, which means that carriage would cost more than the value of the hat :))))
    Judit Gellerd

    • shirley mason
      shirley mason says:

      DEAR Judit,
      I am overcome with appreciation that you would even consider sending me one of these precious hats !! How kind and thoughtful you are..bless your heart !!!
      Loved the video and the artisan’s joyful description of his craft..No, i did not understand a word, but you are right that the images speak for themselves !!
      Many thanks for your reply and kind heart..My best to you wherever your bouncing ball takes you in life !!!
      Shirley Mason


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] for future reference. It’s not my first time in Romania and yet it feels different. There was snow on the ground last time and I was in a different part of Transylvania then, too. I loved it then. I love it now. But this […]

  2. […] for future reference. It’s not my first time in Romania and yet it feels different. There was snow on the ground last time and I was in a different part of Transylvania then, too. I loved it then. I love it now. But this […]

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