Sunday, August 20, 2017

The monasteries have a competitor - the Merry Cemetery!

Oh, and the Festival was definitely yesterday.  The music, or was it from the restaurant below us, pumped bass well into the night last night. I went to bed at 11 with the beat still drumming in my ears, but it didn't stop me from sleeping. Sleep was good. Sleep was a full 8 hours - yay.

We are down to breakfast as the pull down of the festival is in full swing and before we head over to the Merry Cemetery and the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance in Romania. They don't open until 10, so we have a bit of time.

We repacked the suitcase last night, so once we hit the road, we can just go straight to the airport and check in without drama.
Well, we left the hotel without any drama and as we head off in the car I plug in Sapanta where the Merry Cemetery is to the tablet. But then as we get back in to Sighetu Marmatiei proper, I spy the sign to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance in Romania and it is only 500 m away, so a quick change of plans even though the GPS is very insistently telling us to turn right, in 50 m turn right, in 120 m turn right, we keep going straight. Thankfully, this memorial opens at 9:30 am, so we are right on time.  And as we are early, parking is a breeze - right at the end of the block where the Memorial is located.

The Memorial is located in the former Sighetu Prison and tells the story of the rise and impact of communism in Romania from 1945 to 1977. Like many of the ghettoes, gulags and prisons in other parts of Europe, it tells in detail of the atrocities that man can visit on his brother in the name of power.
  • 1945 - the repatriation of former prisoners and deported persons from the Soviet Union happened through Sighetu
  • 1948 - imprisonment of students, pupils and peasants from the Maramures
  • May 1950 - 100+ government ministers, academics, economists, military officers, historians, journalists, politicians were transferred to Sighetu
  • Oct 1950 - 50 bishops and Greek-Catholic and Roman-Catholic priests interred
  • Prisoners could not look out the windows as they were all shuttered, with only a small patch of sky visible
  • 1955 - Geneva Convention and Romania's admission to the UN - some pardons were granted and some prisoners freed, other sent to other places and the balance placed under house arrest. The prison returned to being a law prison.
  • 1977 - the prison was put out of use and fell into disrepair.
  • 1994 - Approval was given for the creation of a Memorial on the site.

 The names engraved in the memorial wall, and the photos that line the main corridors of the detainees are very sobering.
It began our day with a very different feel as we realised that the communists and their followers have so much to answer for.  In order to really do the Memorial justice, you would need to spend at least half a day here, alas, we give it 2 hours only, but enough to give another small insight into the nature of man.

So we are now off to Sapanta.  This is the home of Cimitirul Vesel - the Merry Cemetery. Relatively new, it came into being in its current form only in the 1930s when local artist Ion Stan Patras begins to celebrate the life of villagers by carving and painting headstones that depict something of their time on earth. Today, his work is continued by Dumitru Pop.
The artist alone decides on the picture and the epitaph - although he consults with the family to get information on the deceased. There are hundreds of these crosses in the cemetery and the following is a verse on just one:
Under this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother in-law
Three more days should she have lived
I would lie, and she would read (this cross).

You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
Cause' if she comes back home
She'll criticise me more.
But I will surely behave
So she'll not return from grave.
Stay here, my dear mother in-law!

There was one tragic one where a three year old little girl had been killed after being struck by a car.
All in all - a unique and quirky way at looking at life and I can't help but think that this is the way I would like to be remembered.  Heaven knows what would be written about me though!  😄

The Church of the Annunciation which sits beside the cemetery is still under construction. As we have said before, religion is big business and most of the tiling that is happening here is in rich colours and gold mosaics.  The church certainly does have a very colourful and impressive spire - I'll put some pics on Facebook.

Just a km further on is the Mănăstirea Săpânța-Peri which has the honour of having the tallest spire of a wooden in Europe.  No mean feat considering that this newly built church (1997) is constructed using traditional methods.

Set aside from the village amidst a forest, this place exudes a calm that was very welcome after the sombre and then light-hearted start to our day.

After this, it was time to turn for the south and a return to the International Airport at Cluj-Napoca to depart Romania.  A little over 200 kms, it will take us 3.5 hours.  We have grown to trust the predictions of the tablet and Google Maps and not to base our expectations on driving times from home.  So we know that we will get to Cluj around 3:40 pm.  In good time to return our hire car and make our departure at 4:55 pm.

The trip itself is relatively uneventful and very Romanian.  In any other country in the world, it is a well known fact that red cars go faster.  Here, they are the slow cars!  And after seeing an advertisement on TV last night for Prevomit, a medication for travel sickness, I can't help but think that the pharmaceutical companies are in carhoots with the road designers.  Apart from the two major motorways, there would not be more that 1-2 kms of straight road anywhere - even on the flat they meander along.

We pull in at the car parking lot at the Airport right on cue.
Double check the car and gather all our 'stuff' (there is that word again, Gen) and head in to return the keys.  The Dacia has been an interesting car. A workhorse for sure.  Michael and I lay bets on how far we have driven - we cannot find the odometer on the dash display and have to ask the rental clerk to tell us.  Michael suggest 4,000 kms while I say no, I think more like 3,000 kms. The clerk gets back to the office, our camera in his hand (it was left int he door pocket) and confirms me as winner - we have only driven 2,913 kms, even though it feels much more.  The clerk is quite impressed and tells us that we have just driven 6 times the length of the country.  Now, when you put it like that . . .

As we take off, we can't help but feel that the taxi-way at the airport really reflects the infrastructure of much of the country - patchy, bumpy and definitely in need of a bit of TLC. Thankfully, the runway proper is in better nick! We are again flying with Air Dolomiti - and for the grand sum of 20 euro extra per ticket have snagged business class.  This just means that we get two seats each - across the aisle from each other and extra special attention such as a served meal on china with real cutlery rather than the sandwiches in a box. And I get a glass of Prosecco to wash it down with.

Drum Bun Romania - it sure was nice getting know you a bit and our final view before we head into the clouds is of the outskirts of Cluj, like most of the rest of the country strung out in a line along the roadway.

Our trip is uneventful, although for most of it we are above the clouds and the smog with nothing to see.  There is a storm outside Munich, but as we come in toward our landing, there is a parting of the clouds and a late ray of sunshine to bring out a beautiful view of Germany.
We have decided to stay at the Hilton at the Airport again tonight before heading back to Steph and Felix in the morning.  Sort out the car that was originally booked for today, have some dinner - at the Route 66 Buffet (at 48 euro a head!), compile tonight's story and that is it - your lot for the day!

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