Guarding Frozen Churches

[If you missed part 1 of my recent Transylvania trip, click here to read it.]

The walls of this church were covered with hand-sewn embroidery. (click to see larger)Crossing borders used to cause me some anxiety.  You get herded, one way or another, into a certain spot where you can be scrutinized by law enforcement people.  You always seem to be surrounded by cameras, walls, fences, men with guns, and other intimidating barriers.

I think the first line of all border guard job descriptions states “You must be physically incapable of smiling and not even understand what a sense of humor is.”  They always seem to stare right into your soul while they ask you questions, and it gives the feeling that lying is impossible.  Sometimes you don’t feel the need to even answer the questions because they can obviously read your mind.

In parts of the world, I’m led to believe that these individuals are corrupt.  Bribery is possible and maybe even necessary.  That’s not the case here.  I live at the edge of the highly civilized parts of Europe.  I’m under the impression that this saves me quite a bit of money.

Here's the elaborate ceiling of the church that was made of individaul tiles. (click to see larger)Hungary is one of the outside edges of the Schengen Zone, so the guards at its border crossings are very picky.  The reason for this is that if you can get into Hungary, you can get to Paris, Berlin, Brussels, or any other major European city or country without having to go through any more checkpoints.  Therefore, each time I cross into a non-Schengen state (or come back in), my passport gets scanned by a computer.  It takes a while, and I used to think that this meant I was a wanted man about to go to prison.  Fortunately, it just means that the computers are slow (I think), so I’m now used to it.

To pick up where I left off in my last story, our awesome bus took us to the Romanian border.  After waiting for about half an hour, we were cleared to go across and the bumpy roads began.  The bus driver was an expert at navigating these pothole filled streets, even if it meant nearly clipping a horse cart or playing chicken with oncoming traffic on a mountain pass.

Here’s an interesting fact:  Right of way in Romania seems to be given to the biggest vehicle.  Motorcycle beats person walking, cow beats motorcycle, horse cart beats cow, car beats horse cart, mini-bus beats car, giant bus beats mini-bus, and alien space ship beats giant bus.  I witnessed all but one of these.

We drove down some crappy roads then headed up a mountain pass to cross the traditional Transylvanian border.  Unsurprisingly, this was marked by the “Vegas Hotel”.  That’s always a good start.  There were some downsides to this establishment, though, it had dirty bathrooms and absolutely no gambling, magic shows, or tigers.

This first stretch of road wasn’t as exciting for me because it’s the same road that I drove in on with my parents back in November.  Everyone was pleased each time we saw something new and exciting, but I was left out.  It was simply old and exciting to me.  It’s so difficult living a traveling life!

Here's the church tower down the street from where I stayed my first night - it is very similar to the other church I visited that day. (click to see larger)The most valuable lesson of the day was how cold a church can get.  A priest let us into his church and gave us a special talk about it, and I should’ve taken notes.  It was old.  Really, really old.  Unforunately, I can’t remember when it was built.  But, it was beautiful and full of embroideries and a fancy ceiling.

Unfortunately, my jacket was buried away in my bag.  I didn’t think much of it since it was a warm spring day, but the minister wasn’t lying when he said to bring a coat inside.  I couldn’t see my breath, but I think that’s just because my eyes were frozen. 

At least that explains why the church has been there so long, it’s too cold to tear down.

In the next day or two, I’ll share some more stories of this adventure.  As a hint, it involves Gypsy palaces, Hungarian moonshine, and magical songs.


Hungarian word of the day:


Pronounced ”AIRrrr – day”.  This is the Hungarian name for Transylvania.  I recommend using it when you’re trying to avoid Dracula references or impress Hungarian girls.  Actually, just the second reason.  When would you ever want to avoid talking about Dracula?