Sunday, July 6, 2014

Arrival in Odorheiu, Trains in Transylvania

Last pic of Budapest for now, the rear view from the balcony

Have just crossed the border from Hungary into Romania. I had been asleep on the train when a police boarding team came through, inspecting passports against a satchel held scanning device. After a silent, and tense 45 minutes, the train continued on its journey into this strange land.
The sun is rising, piercing through the heavy cloud cover in the east, revealing the urbane westernization of Hungary does not continue into Romania; fields of corn (knee high before July!) are intersperced with occasional bits of forest, as well as the husks of crumbling structures, their windows bereft of purpose, now merely more holes in the crumbling morass.
Perhaps a sunny pleasant land, the burning cloud coverage gives a sensation of mist and fog, adding a sense of wonder to the landscape. Corn gives way to wheat, wheat gives way to gigantic fields of sunflowers, far as the eye can see from my perch here in the 2nd class coach. Evidence of human occupation, construction vehicles and a system of dirt roads dot the nearby areas, but aside from the boarding police there has been no sign of its citizenry. Distant signs of modernity begin to slowly creep into view, aluminum sided industrial buildings, their purpose lost on me, increase in frequency. The signs of progress become more and more common, although not in equal measure to the signs of decay, rusted rail cars lie unused, their sides torn down or crumpled.

We have stopped in what I can only describe as a series of buildings, a town I would not quite refer to it as. A silent, sullen series of laborers board the train, some headed to work, some just for the railroad.
To add to my already impressive mountain of stressors, my right elbow has become quite an issue. During a survey with Transect Archaeology prior to my departure, I was using a free standing sifter, and my elbow ached from then on. It has been a pain but a manageable one. Since the 2km walk from our Budapest hostel to the train depot, however, and carrying luggage in excess of 80 pounds, it is nigh on useless. Pain pills are a temporary solution, yet even lifting my camera is almost too much. This is currently becoming a greater and greater threat in my mind, one does not prefer to be in the company of foreigners in a foreign land, and feel so helpless as to be unable to lift ones own objects. However, this workshop will consist primarily of laboratory work (as far as we know) as such I hope to be fit to continue.
The sun is nearly fully risen as I conclude this entry, revealing the multitudes of satellite dishes which pepper the exterior of a squat, square warren of an apartment building.

0530 Addendum
Our previous boarders were Hungarian police, as three Romanians in grey uniforms have boarded and reinspected the train, again going through my passport, although while stoic they were somewhat less terrifying, perhaps since they did not rouse me from a fitful slumber. Having stamped my passport again, I have enough data and patterns to infer passport handling despite my complete lack of prior exposure. I received a stamp upon arrival in France, and departure from Hungary, as they constitute a portion of a similar zone within the EU that Romania does not, and as such upon entering this new land, the stamp of entry to Romania must be endowed. At this rate I will have a good half dozen in my new collection by the time I return to my loved ones.


 There's a third stamp too, I'll take a pic tomorrow

 The first sign of settlement upon crossing into Romania.









 Imagine glowing vampires...


















 hur hur hur

 A circle of icons dedicated to great 
 Odorheiu!
A few of the workshop members

Upon arrival, we clambored onto a bus and made our way to Odorheiu, 41 km away from our train stop in Sighisoara.  The hotel is nice, a bit spartan, my roommate is very nice, in fact everyone in the program is remarkably friendly, bright and nice, every one going out of their way to be nice or show empathy for one another, each of whom have their own travel horror stories, most of which dwarf mine.
The staff put out a wonderful local feast of sliced meats, boiled eggs, pickles, olives, and we all shared in a toast of Palinka, the plum brandy which is commonly drunk here...  very very drunk, sometimes.
The within walking distance of the hotel is the lab, and near that is the tiny grocery store, so very compact and very pedestrian.
We all went to dinner at a place called The Jungle.  One reason is that, unlike Budapest, there are very few english speakers here.  Whats worse is that despite being firmly in the heart of Romanian Transylvania, nearly everyone speaks only Hungarian.  Such an ancient melting pot of cultures here, people still so tightly grip their ethnic and linguistic identities.
During the dinner, the program lead, John (recently awarded his PhD from University of Tennessee) gave me some remarkable insights into not only getting into a graduate school, but what to do once there and beyond.  Not even here 24 hours and already received great insights, not just from him but from the multitudinous attendees, which range from third year undergrads to ABT Masters candidates.
Tomorrow, we have a bone quiz, knowing that John is familiar with our own Dr. Sarah Keller and her "old school" manner.

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