April 24th – June
Black: Tracing the 1990 Journey
Red: Linking into ’68 &’83
Orange: A 30 Year Partnership
Blue: Arboreal Bridges & Ukrainian Connections
Green: A Home(s) Run
we start at Church Stretton where a plaque notes the time distance from London.
“Will you be joining us today Mr Betjeman?”
…….. where we take the night train to Sighisoara
We were to be in 2 separate male/female cabins….
…. but staff switched us to a single, with shower room
To Sighișoara along the railway being reconstructed between Hungary & Bucuresti.
The reconstruction work made it difficult to cross the tracks
The first place at which we, as a family, stayed in 1990 was with a Unitarian family living near the church.
Much has changed – but the basic structure of one of Europe’s most significant mediaeval German towns remains the same.
“I am following your progress on your map. It makes me realise how small the world has become since my first journeys through Europe and how small minded some of us are in the UK. Go well!”
That issue is the most painful part of this journey.
Most people we meet are not aware of the degree to which the U.K. has chosen to separate…. And many regard us, at best, as bizarre.
No matter how encouraging our partners and friends are, the impact of discussion about the practical issues of Brexit are deeply depressing.
I’m standing at a viewing point over the town…. A place beneath which (where the taxis are standing) we arrived as a family …. And were met enthusiastically by locals. It was a time when the U.K. was engaged… unlike now when I read today that a member of our government avoids committing to helping the Sudanese & incorrectly suggests refugee responsibility lies with the UN ……. Immoral and shameful.
The guitarist was playing “Stairway to Heaven’.
There is still a school at the top.
Whilst involved in one of our projects, we stayed in this tower.
To Râmnicu Vâlcea
The railway journey follows the same route we drove in 1990
Journeys by train in Romania and Bulgaria are marked by the ruins of previous industries. One lesser known example victim of the changes was the loss of local beer production (associated with the ‘Saxon’ inhabitants).
The poles of a former hop field
Changing train at Medias was required – and exploration of the town was made during the wait
The church is placed in the centre of the original fortress. This was common in the Saxon villages but not in the mediaeval towns
Present access to the church requires entry through on of the original defended gates & passages
As with many other town churches in Transylvania the church contains many valuable works of art and culutrue
The pulpit cover – and presumably a distraction for generations of people when bored by tedious sermons.
Beyond Medias was Copsa Mica, once regarded as the most polluted town in Europe.
Now just 2 chimneys standing over a largely ruinous series of buildings
As with most other journeys in Romania and Bulgaria the ruins of the previous pre-1990 regimes are glaringly apparent. The lack of ‘tidiness’ in clearing & cleaning areas such as industrial sites may relate to a wider sense of lack of social/community concern (explaining concepts such as ‘social & community development’ is still difficult) … BUT ….. everywhere is considerably better than in the past and the efforts to keep towns clean and tidy is impressive… more than than might be experienced in UK.
Discussions with Radu Alexandrescu in Râmnicu Vâlcea about these issues were very valuable.
Our train from Medias also felt to be something of survival from a previous Age. It was a ‘pre-loved’ vehicle from another country but not well maintained
One door was held – the other just stayed open
The train passed over a low range of hills to Sibiu (Hermannstadt/Nagyszeben). Before taking the train to Râmnicu Vâlcea there was time to visit the central square of what has been an important ‘Saxon’ town.
We were met on arrival – and it was amusing to ride to the hotel in Radu’s Jag…… a very rare treat…..not something I’ve experienced in the UK!