Day 9-Tables in Paradise

We drive the bumping winding roads of Transylvania and arrive at Chilla’s nagymama’s (grandmother’s) house, the house where Chilla’s father was born. Chilla is the young new minister’ wife. We open the gate to a small portico covered with vine-loaded clusters of green grapes a week or two from ripening. The garden sparkles with daisies, roses, baby’s breath, bulb-topped garlic plants, and several other blue, purple and pink flowers. The short path opens to a cloth-covered table adorned with palinka glasses and flowers.  A very pregnant Chilla greets us with a Madonna-like smile. Her eighteen-month-old trails behind her clapping his chubby hands. Laurent, who has traveled with us this morning, embraces her and scoops up the baby.

Our perennially cheerful companion, Mike Nolan, remarks, “This should be heaven. You walk in, a beautiful table waits under the grape arbor, with wonderful things to eat.” We agree.

From a small kitchen Nagymama emerges, grinning broadly, wearing  a flower print dress and apron. We sit; drink palinka and apple juice and eat from platters of handmade, spiral bread dredged in sugar. Break off crisp strips and laugh. What else can one do? Chilla’s grandmother does not join, which is characteristic in Transylvanian women when they cook, but serves us coffee after we have stuffed ourselves. I ask Chilla, “Who tends the garden?’ Her eighty-four year old grandmother does it all. Perhaps that is why nagymama has lived so long and so joyfully. We say our goodbyes, kiss on both cheeks.

After, we visit a UNESCO World Heritage site, a church that has uncovered medieval frescos (See following post).

Next, the greenhouses of the brother we met at the Sunday picnic. He offers us beer and provides a tour. Loads and loads of firewood are stacked, which heat the greenhouses in winter and melt the snow from the roofs. He built up the business little by little, which started off as a vegetable garden and now employs twenty villagers. And what do you know? He invites us to a table where his wife has sliced a watermelon and placed a bowl of steamed ears of corn. A neat stack of plates and forks, napkins and a salt decanter are ready. We sit and admire the garden, hills and the sky and continue on.

This time we visit Levente’s own mother, a stylish woman, with blonde hair, make up and  trim figure. Quite the modern woman businesswoman who owns a beauty parlor and has traveled to Budapest. Inside, a table. Of course loaded with homemade fritters. “Are we still alive?” I wonder. We all try to eat two or three. The rest are packed up for us.

We visit a famous wood carver,who near Levente’s mother. He meets us at the gate wearing boxers with a pattern of Christmas presents, an undershirt and slippers, he has wild silver hair and a substantial mustache.  The Székely (pronounced sak a/long a) people use wood memorials instead of headstones, somewhat similar to totem poles, but slim carved structures. He shows us two such markers, one completed and one in process. He sketches the scenes, then hand tools the work. He created the wood doors, altars and emblems we visited in two new Unitarian churches. My favorites plaques, of the many he exhibits, are intricately modeled on ancient coins and heraldic shields. One illustrates a bear eating a man; his small face, amazingly plaintive, pricks my heart. Many stunning scenes and deft woodworking.

We arrive home to the home table: palinka and beer, vegetable soup, lamb and eggs, for the vegetarians: polenta with rich cream. Before we go to bed the Szloboszai family presents us with a gift: a painted wood plate, a macramé (?) doily, a mug and bookmark from the Csokfalva church. Calman opens another beer for Thomas; I slip off to bed before one is opened for me.

In the morning I wake up just in time to wave to Ibi headed off to work. For breakfast the formidable Calman, former truck driver under the Soviets, serves us paradise. He tells us through Levente that everything on the table comes directly from the farm: two types of sheep cheese, yellow peppers and tomatoes, eggplant mash, fire-roasted bread, red pepper paprika spread, honey from the hives, and palinka. Calman and old Calman (the tradition to name the son for the father) wave to us from the gate until they can no longer see us, Booby and Ferfe wagging tails at their feet become a blur.  Tears spring to my eyes as I write; for a moment, we were part of a village.

 

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UNESCO World Heritage Site-Szekelyderzs (Dirjiu)

Again, the history is unclear. Laurent, the new minister, and Danish, the old, passionately insert more explanations and history, which stymies the tour guide.  Did the Catholics or the succeeding Unitarians cover the frescos?  Levente, jokes that the Unitarians covered the walls to preserve the frescos for the Catholics.  The story unfolding in four scenes, depicts a young woman being stolen and raped by a Tartar, his cloak the color of rust.

The saint pursues them in silver garb.  Both the saint and the sinner loom larger than life, depicting the forces of good and evil, the young woman much smaller.  Three golden arrows merge with the Saint’s forehead representing the three sources of his power, the mind, the vision and the spirit (not sure if I recall these correctly).  The woman and the saint work together to pull the offender off his horse. The woman slices the villain’s Achilles heel. Then slits his throat with a battle axe, the Saint not being allowed to murder.  The last scene portrays the woman above the seated Saint peering into the part of his hair, representing that they are of one mind or that she sees into the holy. Beautiful and fearsome frescos.  Interesting woman power.     (Click blue heading at the top for our last day in the village and to access previous entries.)

Dirjiu

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