Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Archive for May, 2007

Farewell for another year, Búcsú

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 May, 2007

Well, it was hot for the pilgrimage. Very very hot. And since the culmination of the event involves climbing up a fairly steep slope in order to take part in the mass in the saddle of a hill, it was quite brutal. Pilgrims are not necessarily athletes, and there were some people who really looked like they were suffering (a couple of very overweight blokes I saw looked like they were about to keel over even before the climb started). At the top, the bloke who was speaking over the PA system pre-mass kept telling people to respect the sanctity of the event and to please not take all their clothes off. But not that many people were paying attention, or at least, they felt the statue of the virgin would understand their need to cool off a tad.

The mass was a bit of a laugh because the priest giving the sermon was such a grumpy old sod. Here he has 400,000 people all there ready for him to fill them with passionate love of the catholic faith and joy at being in the presence of such a huge communcal gathering. But no. Instead he goes off on one about how people (ie his audience) were coming for the wrong reasons and young people were just there to do drugs and party wildly for the weekend and that all those listening were in fact a bunch of miserable sinners who all ought to be seriously penitent and then some.

I guess I really just don’t get this strand of guilt and abuse in the Roman Catholic church (and in many others it has to be said). What does it say about human nature that so many people in the world are Catholics? Are we really all just a bunch of masochistic vagrants who are desperate to be taken in hand by a strict father figure who’ll give us a metepahorical seeing to with his belt? I suspect I’ll never understand humans.

To some extent he wasn’t wrong though (though he might need a sense of humour transplant) – this supposedly sacred experience does have all sorts of other extraneous bits attached. Many of these pilgrims, it is true, did not actually come for the opportunity to be especially holy in any way. Yes, there are a bunch of young people who show up and camp out on the hill and have a weekend party (though I suspect most of them who do are fairly religious and partying is done in a low key and catholic way), and yes there are many for whom the weekend is less about religion and more about Hungarian identity and nationalism (witness the presence at this year’s event of László Tőkés, who is pretty much the accetable public face of Hungarian nationalism in Romania, but who is a bishop in the Reformed Church – why was he at an RC mass?).

If the priest had been that fussed about people not according the pilgrimage its proper respect, he should have made a point about how it wasn’t supposed to be used for nationalistic purposes. But he didn’t. Funny that. Not that the church (any church/mosque/temple/synagogue) is ever guilty of siding with nationalists, obviously, no sirree.

The town is still full of cars registered in Hungary – I think today (Monday) is a holiday in Hungary, so people are taking their time going home. Overheard in a cafe yesterday:
Group of young Szekely blokes: Welcome! Where are you from?
Older couple: Debrecen, in Hungary.
Szekely blokes: And you speak Hungarian? Wonderful. You speak it so well.

(This references the possibly apocryphal but often told story about Hungarians from here going to Hungary and having people surprised that they speak Hungarian “so well”. The conversation above was all light hearted, though, and ended up with the groups joing for a beer together)

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Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism, traditions | 1 Comment »

Farewell for another year, Búcsú

Posted by Andy Hockley on 28 May, 2007

Well, it was hot for the pilgrimage. Very very hot. And since the culmination of the event involves climbing up a fairly steep slope in order to take part in the mass in the saddle of a hill, it was quite brutal. Pilgrims are not necessarily athletes, and there were some people who really looked like they were suffering (a couple of very overweight blokes I saw looked like they were about to keel over even before the climb started). At the top, the bloke who was speaking over the PA system pre-mass kept telling people to respect the sanctity of the event and to please not take all their clothes off. But not that many people were paying attention, or at least, they felt the statue of the virgin would understand their need to cool off a tad.

The mass was a bit of a laugh because the priest giving the sermon was such a grumpy old sod. Here he has 400,000 people all there ready for him to fill them with passionate love of the catholic faith and joy at being in the presence of such a huge communcal gathering. But no. Instead he goes off on one about how people (ie his audience) were coming for the wrong reasons and young people were just there to do drugs and party wildly for the weekend and that all those listening were in fact a bunch of miserable sinners who all ought to be seriously penitent and then some.

I guess I really just don’t get this strand of guilt and abuse in the Roman Catholic church (and in many others it has to be said). What does it say about human nature that so many people in the world are Catholics? Are we really all just a bunch of masochistic vagrants who are desperate to be taken in hand by a strict father figure who’ll give us a metepahorical seeing to with his belt? I suspect I’ll never understand humans.

To some extent he wasn’t wrong though (though he might need a sense of humour transplant) – this supposedly sacred experience does have all sorts of other extraneous bits attached. Many of these pilgrims, it is true, did not actually come for the opportunity to be especially holy in any way. Yes, there are a bunch of young people who show up and camp out on the hill and have a weekend party (though I suspect most of them who do are fairly religious and partying is done in a low key and catholic way), and yes there are many for whom the weekend is less about religion and more about Hungarian identity and nationalism (witness the presence at this year’s event of László Tőkés, who is pretty much the accetable public face of Hungarian nationalism in Romania, but who is a bishop in the Reformed Church – why was he at an RC mass?).

If the priest had been that fussed about people not according the pilgrimage its proper respect, he should have made a point about how it wasn’t supposed to be used for nationalistic purposes. But he didn’t. Funny that. Not that the church (any church/mosque/temple/synagogue) is ever guilty of siding with nationalists, obviously, no sirree.

The town is still full of cars registered in Hungary – I think today (Monday) is a holiday in Hungary, so people are taking their time going home. Overheard in a cafe yesterday:
Group of young Szekely blokes: Welcome! Where are you from?
Older couple: Debrecen, in Hungary.
Szekely blokes: And you speak Hungarian? Wonderful. You speak it so well.

(This references the possibly apocryphal but often told story about Hungarians from here going to Hungary and having people surprised that they speak Hungarian “so well”. The conversation above was all light hearted, though, and ended up with the groups joing for a beer together)

Posted in csikszereda, hungarian nationalism, traditions | 3 Comments »

Csikszereda’s annual moment in the sun

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 May, 2007

Once again it’s that time of year, the weekend when Csikszereda briefly takes centre stage and becomes the most vibrant city in Eastern Europe. Well that may be overstating it a tad, but having half a million people descend upon a town of 45,000, is a big deal whichever way you slice it. It is, as I was told last year, the biggest pilgrimage in Central and Eastern Europe. Already the town is filling up with Magyarorszagiak (people from Hungary) on safari, come to see in what squalor and poverty their poor cousins live. “Look Istvan, they don’t even have Tesco here”.

Here are the things I wrote a couple of years ago at my first experience of the event – before and after.

I don’t want to overstate how big this whole thing is, because, y’know I’m not all that into hyperbole and exaggeration, but it’s really really a big deal (I think in Romania as a whole it’s hardly commented on, and probably very little known outside the Romanian Roman Catholic world – I remember seeing a news report on Pro TV last year on the day itself but aside from that it basically is a non-event). People come from all over the world. Obviously this creates some problems within the town, in coping with all these vast numbers of people. This afternoon, for example, my father-in-law is arriving by train. I am going to meet him at the station and bring him back to our house, but I am already planning to do so by walking to the station and coming back in a taxi – experience has taught me that once you drive anywhere this weekend you will never again find a place to park.

The big news is that I am going to make a film about it. Well, to be honest, my friend, neighbour and director/producer/editor/cameraman Denes is going to make the film, I’m just going to be the front man. I have no idea what will happen with this film, which is planned to be the first of a number of films of life in Csikszereda based loosely on the blog, but we’ll see. If we can’t flog it to anyone I’ll end up just posting it here I suppose. This new creative direction for Csikszereda Musings comes through what I imagine is a very modern new way of building relationships. You see, Denes (or Gömbi báci as we knew him for a while in our house, named after his dog Gömbi) is my neighbour, who lives across the hall in our apartment building. We were on friendly terms, exchanging hellos and brief chats in the hallway, but we were eventually connected properly through this blog, when someone he knows in Paris pointed it out to him, and he began reading it, quickly connecting it to that strange English bloke who lived across the hall. So there you go – want to connect with your neighbours but are not sure how? Then start blogging and hope they find you through Google or some other convoluted method. Or you could just go and knock on their door and say hi. I suppose.

Posted in csikszereda, transylvania | Leave a Comment »

Csikszereda’s annual moment in the sun

Posted by Andy Hockley on 25 May, 2007

Once again it’s that time of year, the weekend when Csikszereda briefly takes centre stage and becomes the most vibrant city in Eastern Europe. Well that may be overstating it a tad, but having half a million people descend upon a town of 45,000, is a big deal whichever way you slice it. It is, as I was told last year, the biggest pilgrimage in Central and Eastern Europe. Already the town is filling up with Magyarorszagiak (people from Hungary) on safari, come to see in what squalor and poverty their poor cousins live. “Look Istvan, they don’t even have Tesco here”.

Here are the things I wrote a couple of years ago at my first experience of the event – before and after.

I don’t want to overstate how big this whole thing is, because, y’know I’m not all that into hyperbole and exaggeration, but it’s really really a big deal (I think in Romania as a whole it’s hardly commented on, and probably very little known outside the Romanian Roman Catholic world – I remember seeing a news report on Pro TV last year on the day itself but aside from that it basically is a non-event). People come from all over the world. Obviously this creates some problems within the town, in coping with all these vast numbers of people. This afternoon, for example, my father-in-law is arriving by train. I am going to meet him at the station and bring him back to our house, but I am already planning to do so by walking to the station and coming back in a taxi – experience has taught me that once you drive anywhere this weekend you will never again find a place to park.

The big news is that I am going to make a film about it. Well, to be honest, my friend, neighbour and director/producer/editor/cameraman Denes is going to make the film, I’m just going to be the front man. I have no idea what will happen with this film, which is planned to be the first of a number of films of life in Csikszereda based loosely on the blog, but we’ll see. If we can’t flog it to anyone I’ll end up just posting it here I suppose. This new creative direction for Csikszereda Musings comes through what I imagine is a very modern new way of building relationships. You see, Denes (or Gömbi báci as we knew him for a while in our house, named after his dog Gömbi) is my neighbour, who lives across the hall in our apartment building. We were on friendly terms, exchanging hellos and brief chats in the hallway, but we were eventually connected properly through this blog, when someone he knows in Paris pointed it out to him, and he began reading it, quickly connecting it to that strange English bloke who lived across the hall. So there you go – want to connect with your neighbours but are not sure how? Then start blogging and hope they find you through Google or some other convoluted method. O r you could just go and knock on their door and say hi. I suppose.

Posted in csikszereda, transylvania | Leave a Comment »

Why?

Posted by Andy Hockley on 23 May, 2007

In many underground systems of the world, when you get to the platform there is a screen which shows you the amount of time you’ll have to wait until the next train comes. In Bucharest (where I am today), there is a screen showing you how long it has been since the last train left. Why? What bloody use is that?

Posted in travel | 8 Comments »

The price of abstention

Posted by Andy Hockley on 21 May, 2007

As you may be aware, on Saturday there was a referendum in Romania as to whether to impeach President Basescu. This measure was supported by pretty much every political party bar his own, and it failed spectacularly. Basescu got 75% of the vote (or technically the answer “no” to the question “do you want to impeach him?” got 75%, which is not exactly the same thing)

This huge defeat to the sponsors of the referendum was, however, not as conclusive as it might have been (though to my mind it is pretty damned conclusive) because the turnout was only 43% of the electorate. Harghita County (i.e. here) registered the lowest turnout of any county in the country. Now, those who lost in this election are coming out and assigning a reason as to why so many people didn’t vote. It shows that they don’t care enough about Basescu to vote for him, was one thing I heard, for example.

This is why not voting is a mistake. It allows people to assign you a position. Those 57% who didn’t vote? “They tacitly supported us, and that’s why they didn’t show up”. There are of course numerous reasons why people don’t vote, many of them very valid. Here are some.

  • I couldn’t be bothered to get off my lardy arse.
  • I think Basescu is as corrupt as the rest of them and see no reason to support one or other side in this ridiculous charade
  • I don’t support him, but I can’t bring myself to vote for a measure sponsored by Iliescu/Vadim Tudor/Marko Bela/Tariceanu (delete as appropriate)
  • I don’t support him, but I can’t bring myself to vote for a measure sponsored by the PSD/PRM/UDMR (delete as appropriate)
  • I do support him, but I can’t go against my party’s line, so I’d rather not vote at all*
  • This whole argument between Basescu and Tariceanu is a complete waste of time. I’m not going to dignify it
  • I have much more important things to do with my Saturday than voting (this was almost certainly true in many rural areas since this is a very busy time of the year agriculturally and polling booths were only open in daylight hours. It seemed counties containing big cities had higher turnout than those that don’t)

[*This reason by the way is the one that it is suggested to me which is the reason why Harghita and Covasna had the lowest turnout across the country – that is that people here typically vote UDMR (and vote as the UDMR tells them), but that the UDMR were telling them to do something they didn’t want to do. So rather than go aganst the party, they just didn’t vote. Even then, though, the graph on this page shows that 58% of UDMR supporters voted “No”, and I read somewhere else that Covasna, although it had the second lowest turnout, was the most pro-Basescu county of the whole country. (Anyone know where I can get a detailed breakdown of the turnout/vote?)]

Posted in politics, romania | 4 Comments »

Bilingual Stirrings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 May, 2007

Paula is starting, slowly, one word at a time, to speak. She has had one or two words for a while now – one of her first words, for example, was to point very firmly at something which caught her eye and say “Né!”. This is the Hungarian word for “Look!” and sounds not unlike “Ni” – thus for a while she was very much the “baby who says ni”. But anyway, I digress.

So, post né! and a long drawn out, occasionally whiny A-ny-u-ka, she was being quite slow to utter things. This apparently is quite common in bilingual babies who are getting input in more than one language – they take longer to start using the words. She was up to speed with all the other developmental milestones which parenting websites offer up, but speaking was (and is) lagging a tad. But recently the words have started to come – there’s now a very definite “köszi” (thanks), and something which sounds like “this” but is very likely “tessek” (among other things, “here you are”), and a few others. But a couple of days ago we were standing (or I was standing, she was in my arms) at the kitchen window looking for dogs outside (She loves dogs. And pigeons. All animals probably, it’s just that in downtown Csikszereda, dogs and pigeons are broadly speaking the only obvious non human options). As we stood and looked, there round the corner came a dog. Quick as a flash, her arm extended, and her finger pointed quivering at this sight. “Look!” she cried excitedly. In English. Not only had she come up with her first recognisable English word, but she had correctly surmised that she needed to use it with me, and nobody else, and had managed to do that all in the split second of intense excitement at seeing yet another scruffy mongrel. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I’m not sure how long it will be before she learns that an English speaking cockerel goes “Cock-a-doodle-do”, since at present they very definitely say “Kukuriku”, which is what those odd magyar cocks say. (More animal noises in different languages can be found here).

Posted in language, paula | 1 Comment »

Bilingual stirrings

Posted by Andy Hockley on 17 May, 2007

Paula is starting, slowly, one word at a time, to speak. She has had one or two words for a while now – one of her first words, for example, was to point very firmly at something which caught her eye and say “Né!”. This is the Hungarian word for “Look!” and sounds not unlike “Ni” – thus for a while she was very much the “baby who says ni”. But anyway, I digress.

So, post né! and a long drawn out, occasionally whiny A-ny-u-ka, she was being quite slow to utter things. This apparently is quite common in bilingual babies who are getting input in more than one language – they take longer to start using the words. She was up to speed with all the other developmental milestones which parenting websites offer up, but speaking was (and is) lagging a tad. But recently the words have started to come – there’s now a very definite “köszi” (thanks), and something which sounds like “this” but is very likely “tessek” (among other things, “here you are”), and a few others. But a couple of days ago we were standing (or I was standing, she was in my arms) at the kitchen window looking for dogs outside (She loves dogs. And pigeons. All animals probably, it’s just that in downtown Csikszereda, dogs and pigeons are broadly speaking the only obvious non human options). As we stood and looked, there round the corner came a dog. Quick as a flash, her arm extended, and her finger pointed quivering at this sight. “Look!” she cried excitedly. In English. Not only had she come up with her first recognisable English word, but she had correctly surmised that she needed to use it with me, and nobody else, and had managed to do that all in the split second of intense excitement at seeing yet another scruffy mongrel. The human brain is an amazing thing.

I’m not sure how long it will be before she learns that an English speaking cockerel goes “Cock-a-doodle-do”, since at present they very definitely say “Kukuriku”, which is what those odd magyar cocks say. (More animal noises in different languages can be found here).

Posted in language, paula | Leave a Comment »

Wednesday weak

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 May, 2007

I have nothing much to post, except to pass on this great link to a piece about searching for painted eggs among the Ukrainian community of Romanian Bucovina. And to report on the frozen saints (as mentioned a couple of days ago), who must have been on holiday this year. It turned out to be the hottest three or four days of the year so far – reaching 30 degrees at times, which for Csikszereda is August temperatures, not May. We’re all doomed I tell you.

Posted in links, weather | Leave a Comment »

Wednesday weak

Posted by Andy Hockley on 16 May, 2007

I have nothing much to post, except to pass on this great link to a piece about searching for painted eggs among the Ukrainian community of Romanian Bucovina. And to report on the frozen saints (as mentioned a couple of days ago), who must have been on holiday this year. It turned out to be the hottest three or four days of the year so far – reaching 30 degrees at times, which for Csikszereda is August temperatures, not May. We’re all doomed I tell you.

Posted in links, weather | Leave a Comment »