Michael’s - Erdély / Ardeal / Siebenbürgen

 Transylvania  Tanzhouse

In the years from 1995 to 1998, I and my former wife Sue Douglas Torreyson went to Hungary and Romania to live. To be able to study more in depth the folk dances of Transylvania, both the Hungarian and Romanian styles. Over this time we lived in Budapest, and 3 Transylvanian cities of Sepsiszentgyörgy, Csikszereda, and Marosvársárhely (Sfintu Gheorghe, Miercurea Ciuc, Tírgu Mures - the Romanian names).

The last city, Marosvársárhely (Tîrgu Mures), which means “market place on the Maros” is situated on the Maros river, in a beautiful valley of sloping hills and mountains. It has a mixed population of about 150,000, about 60% Hungarian and 40% Romanian. The center of the city is a very busy, double sided boulevard, with a tree lined park in the middle, and lined by interesting old buildings. There are several theaters for culture events and programs. Tîrgu Mures has one of the oldest professional folk dance groups in Romania. Featuring both Romanian and Hungarian groups, which we were able to make friends with, and practice on a daily basis.

While living there we made many friends, one couple Istvan and Klara Balázs were living in her parents’ house in the village of Marosszentgyörgy (Síngeorgiu de Mures) on the northern edge of the Marosvársárhely. On a return visit in Oct 2000, I found Istvan and Klara had bought a piece of land, and were starting to build their own house nearby in the same village. They told me that the piece of land next to theirs was also available to buy. So we talked to the mayor of the village, because it was city land, and he agreed to sell me the land, about 1/4 acre for $2000 USD. But after more than a year and no finial commitment from the city and the mayor, I was about to give up.

On my next visit in September 2002 we agreed that the land I wanted wasn’t to be. But Istvan and Klara were persistent, saying that there was other land in the village for sale, so we started looking. For two weeks we looked and looked, and like Goldie Locks, nothing was “just right”. Only one piece of land was almost right, but it was too big (4 times to big) and the owner would not sell just one portion. So, with encouragement and support from my friends, I bought the whole thing (I couldn’t believe I bought the whole thing!). The idea was to divide it up and sell off 3/4 of the land and get my investment back. It was a risk, I know, but the land was good, clear, in a nice village, and best of all it was on the other side of the place where my friends were building.

Well after transferring the money though the banks at the end of 2002, Istvan and Klara had found buyers for all the land except mine within only 2 months. So, I went back to Romania in May 2003, to finalize the sale of the land, collect my money, and start the building of a fence around my land, yes My Land!  Also, I worked on drawings with an architect for a house, found the right man and company to build the house, and I planted some pine trees. Now this summer they have laid a foundation, and cut wood to let it age and dry for a year, before starting construction in the summer of 2004.

Transylvanian Tanzhaus Update - June 2004

I arrived in Síngeorgiu de Mures (Marosszentgyörgy) on the first of June to find a squatter on my land. As I went to open the gate of my fence to my land, a large black, wolf like dog came up barking and growling. It turned out that she was just protecting her place, "my place".  After a few minutes of discussion, petting, and a little food, she saw that I meant no harm to her or her place. You've heard of many people going to Romania to adopt children, well Blackie, I call her, has now adopted me!

The purpose of my trip this time was threefold:
First, to see and confirm that the newly built foundation was built to the correct specifications. It was!
Second, to visit and talk with a new company in regards to building the main part of the house, and some sub-contractors (electric & plumbing). More on this later.
Third, as always, to visit with friends, and get updated with them. This time bringing 3 sets of baby / children's clothes.

Klara & Istvan's little girl Krisztina, is hardly little anymore, almost 3 years old, and the picture of cute. Adel & Norman have a one & half year girl, Hanna. Lastly, Zsuzsa & Jocó had a boy last Dec 2003, now six months old, and too cute for words, Bence (look at pictures at your own risk).

On to my work for this trip. First we, Klara, Istvan and I visited the company, Monolit and owner Nandor, in the city of Gheorgheni (Gyergyószentmiklós), about 1 hour away as the crow flies, but 2 hours plus by car. After a meeting, a factory visit, and a tour of a recently built house it was decided that this was the right company to construct my house. A contract was written up and a start date of Sep 1st was set, with the condition that I first needed to return to the USA, to arrange the finances and the needed time off from work.

The plan called for me to send a down payment by Jul 1st, then a second payment by Sep 1st (start date) with final due upon completion. The Monolit company first cuts and assembles all the needed wood at their factory in Gheorheni, then they transport it to the building site. Then it will take 4 men about 6 weeks to build the house. At the same time other sub-contractors will be installing the electric, heating, and plumbing.

Interesting Romanian fact - I must pay for the housing and feeding of the 4 workers for the 6 weeks, which is written in separate from the contract I am to pay Monolit. With Klara and Istvan's help (again) we have found a family in the village who I will pay to house and feed the workers. According to Istvan this is the best and least expensive way to do this.

While there I saw that even though I had painted the fence last year with a wood preservative, the fence color was fading and needed a new coat. I spent the better part of week painting the fence again, this time a medium brown.

After 2 weeks in Romania I returned to the USA. I have been able to borrow enough money to start the construction. Already I have done a bank transfer of the first payment. Signed and received back the contract signed by Nandor, by fax. Only one little hitch, my time off from work. I spoke to my manager at work, requesting to add 5 additional weeks of unpaid leave to my already scheduled 3 week Sep vacation. My manager asked if it would be possible for me to delay my time off by a month or two, because Sep is a very busy time? I needed to ask Nandor, of Monolit. I did this and we settled on Oct 2004 for the start date. So, I will be returning to Romania to oversee construction. Watch for another update soon.


Transylvanian Tanzhaus Update - Oct to Dec 2004

First I would like to say that this update is a condensed version of my 8 weeks working on the construction of my house. And, if you would like to read the full detailed account I would be happy to email you all 8 weekly updates that I wrote and sent during my time in Romania. Please email me at: michaelhgelman@yahoo.com

This time to save money I did not rent a car, instead I took the train from Budapest to Marosvársárhely (Tírgu Mures). Of course once I got there I was much more dependent on my friends Klara & Istvan to get around, and on the local bus transportation, or just plain walking. The good news is: combined with all the work I was doing and having to walk most of the time, I lost 15lbs. I arrived at the Marosvársárhely train station at 8pm after a 9hr train ride, to see Klara & Istvan waiting for me, a wonderful sight.

The next morning I woke to find my house 4 days old, and the workmen hard at work. That evening I had to resolve the first of many problems to come. The workmen were staying with an older couple in the village, which Istvan had arranged. You see it was my responsibility to house and feed the workmen for the 6 weeks they would be working on my house, which became 8 weeks. The problem now was, they were eating much more than the host family had expected, so they needed more money for food.

The next problem, the windows. Monolit, the company I had contracted to build my house, needed me to pay an extra $3600 for the special windows I wanted. I tried to explain that because the windows were pictured in their brochure, and they had not said anything in the many emails over the summer, that this extra cost was unfair of them to demand now. After a face to face meeting, and my having little or no choice, I had to pay the extra cost.

With concern about all the materials at the construction site, and the possible theft by local Gypsies, I spent the first week as a security guard, on stake out. It was very cold and dark. Fortunately I never had any problems, and after the second week I only had to make an occasional night check.

At the end of the 2nd week I bought the roof tiles, and came to find that my estimated cost of $2000 was less than half of the actual cost. Along with the extra costs of the windows and housing the workmen, I quickly saw that the money I had brought with me was not going to be enough. This then became the underlying theme of my whole trip. Almost everyday I would be faced with something new, or some increase in the cost of work or materials that I thought I had been prepared for.

Beginning in the first week I started painting my house with a light pine color stain / preservative. Each day, usually in the afternoon, I would work 3 to 6 hours. Fortunately, I had a helper, Istvan had found, a 14yr old student named Attila. At the end of the 3rd week the electrician, Gego, came to survey the house. We walked through the house room by room to decide where to put the outlets, switches, & lights. Not your usual American way of doing things.

You remember Blackie, from the previous update (just above), well she was waiting for me. And I had a surprise for her, a doctor to spayed her, along with shots and worm medication. She was a trooper, came through the operation great. But now I had to tie her up to her newly built dog house, because she kept attacking the workmen or anyone who would come up to the gate. She didn't like being tied up, she's a wild dog, and she would cry and whine all the time.

Let me tell you how this house is being built & how these 4 men are working. Even though all the wood is cut & packaged in the Monolit factory, about 2hrs away, then transported here, it is not a "Pre-Fab House". There have been 4 double trailer 18 wheeler truck loads delivered here over the first 3 weeks, and still more to come. The loads are packaged by type & size of wood, and shipped as needed. The men unload the truck, then almost each & every piece of wood has to be measured, cut & hammered into place, except the doors & windows, which are already made. Each one of these men (3 of which are only 23 to 25 yrs old) is an experienced carpenter and the building of my house is much like it was done 100 years ago. Even though I am only painting, it is fascinating to watch the progress each day (see the slide show under the Tanzhaus tab). All this, sore muscles, and weight loss too.

Going into November the weather started to change for the worst, temps below freezing, lots of wind, rain, and the first snowfall on Nov 21st. Fortunately the roof tiles were put up just before the snow. But first we had to celebrate Kristina's 3rd year birthday, with not one but two parties. First a private family event, then a large all day gathering on Sunday.

For both the digging of the well and the making of the rain gutters, we hired my Gypsy neighbors. Let me tell you what I know about them. There are 3 houses across the dirt road (strada Pacii) which we all live on. I think there are as many as 6 to 8 families living in these houses. The houses have electricity, but no gas, or running water (no indoor toilets just outhouses). The one house directly across from me has 2 families, 3 generations. The oldest man, Jani, I think is married to the older woman, & they have at least 4 children, 2 girls & 2 boys. The oldest is a daughter, about 20, and she has 2 children, (1yr & 2yrs?), but I can't tell if she has a husband, at least none that I have seen.

Jani goes out in his horse drawn, 4 wheeled wood wagon several times each day. He leaves empty & returns full of stuff (wood, metal, hay, sand, etc.) One time I saw him go onto one of my Romanian neighbor's land & take some wood that had been used to make the cement foundation for their fence. I don't think my neighbors were done with it yet. I think Jani, like many Gypsies, just collects & takes whatever is not locked up or nailed down, then sells it or uses it for themselves.

They are all very interested in me & what I am doing here. They continually ask me if I need help? Do I have wood to give them? And tell me how beautiful my house & fence are. But mostly they just watch me. Klara & Istvan caution me to be careful & not to get too familiar with the Gypsies, which by the way they prefer the name Roma. Like most people in Romania they don't trust, like or know the Roma. In general Roma are treated like the blacks after the Civil War, freed not slaves, but not equal either. Most don't go to school, don't have good jobs, and don't even have any legal status or papers.

I know what they are thinking: "Oh that rich American, he has everything, and he doesn't, or won't give me anything." Yes, I would like to help them, but if I give to one, then everyone will come & not just my neighbors, but from all over the village & the city too. Yes, I have more than they do, but I've worked hard to get this far & I don't have anything extra. I have found that there are 3 basic groups of Roma: 1) The very poor almost homeless, caravan traveling, street begging Roma. 2) The very rich, cell phone using, Mercedes driving, big house, fancy dressing Roma. 3) But most are like my neighbors, some with jobs, other just working when they can, many are farmers, all trying to make a living in a harsh world. I'd like to, but I can't help everyone.

Talking to Klara & Istvan about my cash flow situation, or lack there of. They pointed out that I need to do the most important things now, and that some things will just have to wait until next year. They are right, or correct as the Hungarians like to say. I have bitten off more than I can chew. So, I did some re-thinking: I will only finish one WC (toilet) & one bathroom, instead of 2 each. And the kitchen & dining rooms will have wait too. Instead of a house 90% finished it is about 75% done. But there will be a place to sleep, if you bring a sleeping bag (no furniture yet), and an indoor toilet & shower bath, if any of you would like to visit next year. I plan on returning in May / June 2005 to continue work on my Transylvanian Tanz Haus. Everyone asks me: "When will it be finished?" My answer is: "I will be working on my house for the rest of my life!"

Finally, I want to say a few words about Klara & Istvan. Thank God for these two wonderful people. Without them I would not be here today telling you about all that I, we have accomplished. From the very beginning it was Klara who encouraged me to look into buying the land and then building a house. When difficulties arose trying to buy the land, they helped me by finding buyers to sell the extra land to. Almost every trip to Romania I stayed with them. Now with the construction phase Istvan was indispensable. Again, I can't say this enough times - THANK YOU, Klara & Istvan.

Transylvanian Tanzhaus Update - November 2005

This update is condensed also, but a little differently. It contains information from both this trip and a trip in May with Heidi. As in the previous update I have the full text of my three-week trip in 2 emails I sent from Romania, and I would be happy to send them to you. Please email me at: michaelhgelman@yahoo.com

 As I said, in May of this year Heidi and I had the good fortune to able to travel to Romania to see and work on my house. With stops in Budapest and Munich  Some say, and this I believe: “It is not the destination, but the journey that matters.”  This has been true for me both in building my house and my life. As for my house each and every trip has its special memory (I have now made 15 trips, more on those highlights later). As for my life, this journey has been over 50 years in the making, but I feel re-newed with the discovery of love and the journey I am starting with Heidi. just because Heidi had never been there.

 Now the 15 Memory Highlights

   1. Oct 1988 – Drove in, in the dark, into Cluj met (and still good friends with) Adi and Dorina, first Romanian folk dance friends.
   2. Apr 1989 – Attended Husfate Bal – Easter Dance in Mera.
   3. Fall 1990 – First time no Ceausescu, met Arap’s family in Udvarhely.
   4. Fall 1990 – Truckers & Taxi strike in Hungary, had to drive though back roads and fields to evade blockades to get into Romania with water heater.
   5. Fall 1990 – 2 day overnight trip to see “Feketeto” (Black Market) drove late at night to arrive about 3am, slept 4 in a small car to wake up in the middle of a huge gathering.
   6. 1996 to 1998 – Lived in 3 different cities over 2 ½ years, making many trips to Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, and Germany.
   7. Oct 2000 – First return after living in Romania, renewing friendships, seeing Klara and Istvan's new house, just started, and seeing the land next door. The seed is planted.
   8. May 2001 - Met Kristina first time, Klara & Istvan’s 7 month old daughter, and decided to buy land.
   9. Aug 2002 – Bought land with help from Klara & Istvan. Dad visits me in Cluj.
  10. Mar 2003 – Return to finalize land deal, met new neighbors Zeno & Laura.
  11. May 2003 – Build fence, stay with Klara & Istvan first time.
  12. May 2004 – See foundation Istvan laid, and arrange contract with Monolit to build my house.
  13. Oct to Dec 2004 – Build House
  14. May 2005 – First trip with Heidi
  15. Nov 2005 – Still working on this memory

 Back to this current trip. I wanted to start it earlier, back in Oct, but I only just received enough frequent flier points at the end of Oct to get my free trip. Like last year I flew to Budapest then I took the train to Tg. Mures. Only this time I did not stay overnight in Budapest. Instead I had an overnight sleeping compartment on the train. The good news – the bed was comfortable. The bad news – I had to wait about 10 hours to board the train.

 About the Romanian money, at this time last year the US $ was equal to 33,000 Lei; when I came here in May with Heidi it was 28,500. Now it is 31,000 to the dollar, or in new Lei 3.10 to the dollar. The Romanian government started changing the currency in July by moving the decimal point 4 places or dropping 4 zeros. Right now both currencies are in use, and will be for another year or more. It is very confusing! For example: If you have an old 500,000 Lei note it is the same as the new 50 Lei, and both are equal to about $16.20. The taxi cost 13.4 new Lei, or 134,000 old, with tip I gave the driver 150,000 Lei about $4.80. The bus, by the way would have cost 15,000 or 48 cents. The trick is not to mix up the money. Also 1 hour of Internet use in the café costs 15,000 Lei.

 Just as I got to my house it started to rain and it has been raining for 2 days now. My house is the same as when Heidi and I left it in May. Only a little dustier, with plenty of dead bugs. I guess the house is like the roach motel, bugs go in, but don’t come out. Once inside there’s nothing to eat and they die. Also, I found Blackie looking well, still living with a neighbor. She greeted me as I got out of the taxi.

 Date Saturday Nov 19th – First snow, two days earlier than last year. I woke up find everything covered with about an inch of snow, and it looks like more to come. Went back to sleep until noon, woke and started cleaning inside. I was downstairs in the dance room sweeping and suddenly appeared a strange person in my window. Strange and unexpected at first, and then I said aloud: “Oh My GOD!” It was Gyula and his wife Toni; they came 3 hours on a surprise visit. You see, but don’t know, I have many a time landed on their doorstep surprising them. Turnabout is fair play. Some of you may remember that Gyula and Toni are my Romanian / Hungarian friends that were visiting relatives in Florida this past summer, and I arranged for and took care of them for a few days in the DC area. So, I got to show off my house and we went out to lunch.

 I went to the Tg. Mures hospital, to talk to the director of the kidney dialysis clinic, about the possibility of a visit next year by my father. I met a very nice woman doctor, who said it was possible, but the problem as always is: time space availability. Also met with two different workmen. One a carpenter, Tibi, about cabinets, tables, and beds. The other a new tileman, Karci, to replace the other who cannot work at present. With any luck I will have a start and a price on the kitchen, and the tiles laid before I leave.

 Thursday, Nov 24th – Thanksgiving – not a holiday here. Karci the new tileman came to start work on the kitchen at 9am. Since he was alone I decided to help him and get the work done faster. Now I have a new skill / career, tile and bricklayer helper. We worked all day with only a lunch break, when Karci’s 15yr old son Zolli showed up with a sandwich. He speaks some English and I asked him did he just get out of school? He said there has not been any school for the last 3 weeks due to all the teachers in Romania being on strike. We worked until 4pm, it’s backbreaking hard work. I think I will stay with Domino’s until I get back with American Express.

 Sleeping this trip has become a challenge. Staying in my house without TV, telephone, or the Internet. I only have two books and I finished them already, now I’m reading my Hungarian dictionary, I’m up to the D’s. It gets dark here at 5 and I mean really dark, no streetlights, and very few house lights. So, after working until 4, I eat something, write in my journal, read some, listen to music, after all that, it’s already 7pm. I can’t go to bed now, and the weather makes going out difficult. Generally I am up until 11 or 12 at home, so this going to bed at 7 or 8 is strange, but I’m tired, so I think maybe?  NOT!  I lie there for hours and hours, I shift, and I get up to pee. Then there are the neighbourhood dogs, 20 or more all trying to sing me to sleep at the same time. When they take a break, generally 15 minutes out of each hour, I hear the mice coming and going. The first few nights I would try and catch one in the beam of my flashlight, but no luck (or luck? you choose) so I gave up. Finally, one night – night HA! – more like 3 in the morning,

I switched on my light to a sound close by, but nothing. But while my light was still on I heard it again, not 3 feet from my head, in a plastic bag, I was using for trash, and I saw it move. I quickly grabbed and closed the top of the bag. Success! Now what? It’s 3am; I have a 2-inch mouse trapped in a plastic bag. If I let it go, it will just return. If I keep it in the bag it will suffocate slowly making noise all the while. I did the only thing left, yes, I had to. Now, I worry that his family will be coming for me. It’s now 4am; I try and sleep, maybe I do, I don’t know? It starts to get light around 7am and I need to be up and ready to work at 8, so maybe I got 2 hours sleep, who knows? I’ll ask the mice.

 Sunday – day of rest, for Karci, not for me. With good weather finally I can get the yard cleaned up, with the paid help of my Roma neighbours. Here’s how they, Roma and Romanians, do it. You tell them what you want done, (i.e. grass cut, haul trash, dig ditch, make gutters) and they give you a price. If you think the cost is too high you bargain and / or you find someone else. When you both have agreed upon a price, it’s for the job done, not the hours it takes. In this case I was to pay Pisti (Jani’s son, I think he’s 18) 500,000Lei (about $16) for cleaning the yard of trash, and cutting some weeds. Jani would get 150,000Lei for each load he hauled with his U-Haul wagon and horse. He ended up making 5 trips, or 750,000Lei (about $24). Total hours 3, so they averaged $6 to $8 an hour. I also worked, but did not have to, and did not get paid! Something’s not right here. Oh yeah, I got some fertilizer from Jani’s horse, in other words shit. But the yard looks 100 times better (or based on Romanian money 1,000,000 times).

 Considering the 21 total days for this trip. I needed 2 to get here and 2 to get back, which leaves 17. Then a full week went by with almost nothing happening. With this in mind let’s review the things I've done:

1.      Kitchen and dining room floor tiles done
2.      Made arrangement for cabinets, tables, chairs, and beds   to be made
3.      Got electrical problems fixed
4.      Found company to do window screens
5.      Met with dialysis clinic director
6.      Cleaned up yard
7.      Front gate repaired
8.      Got door installed on outhouse (TMI?)

 As for my memory of this my 15th trip, it’s hard to say.  Besides missing Heidi a whole hell of alot. I would say that this has been the coldest and most sleepless trip I have ever taken.  PS – Only one mouse is known to have been harmed in the making of this trip.


Transylvanian Tanzhaus Update June – July 2009

To begin with, as usual it takes 2 travel days to get to my house in the village of St. George on the Maros, near Tg. Mures, Romania.  This is my 19th trip to Romania, most of them to work on my Transylvanian Tanz Haus (TTH). I first started planning this trip as soon as I got back from my last one in Jun ’08, in which I traveled with Heidi and her daughters Katie (20) and Sarah (16).  On that 2 week trip we visited not only my TTH in Romania but, also Gyula & Toni in Sepsiszentgyorgy, and we spent time in both Budapest and Vienna. So during the 6 days at my house not much work got done.  Only the purchase of two mattresses and the ordering of the final window screens for the downstairs windows.

 In planning this trip, I was to go alone and spend as much time here as possible to get things done.  At first I made arrangements with my School Bus and Domino’s work to take 2 weeks off over the Spring break.  But as the end of 2008 came, I decided that it would not be enough time and it might still be too cold to get much work done.  So, I reset my dates for the 4 weeks after school finished.  Also, I was looking forward to trying out a new airline service to Tg. Mures from Budapest (BUD) on Malev Hungarian Airline, but in the end the cost and the timing didn’t work out.  I would fly into BUD, arrive at 3pm, but the one & only flight daily to Tg. Mures leaves at 1pm and cost about $250.  Add to this an overnight hotel with taxi cost of $150. Double that for a return trip, and you have over $800, plus meals.

 In emails with Gyula, he told me of a new bus service from BUD to cities in Romania.  “Orangeways”, which I could book on the internet.  I looked them up and found that they had a pick up service not only from downtown BUD (not convenience) but 2 stops at the airport, going to 6 cities in Transylvania for the low cost of 9900 Forint one way or about  $25 (an overall savings of $750).

 I had only 3 little problems come up on this trip.  First no one at the airport knew about this new bus service and exactly where the pick up point was.  Second, upon arriving in BUD, I found that my 2 bags had not!  Third, luckily for me the bus service was an overnight one leaving at 11:30pm to arrive in Tg. Mures at 10am the next morning.  Meaning I would have to sit around the BUD airport for 8 hours, this effectively solved the 2nd problem, because Malev had my bags on the next flight from Paris arriving at 9.

 The BUD airport is not long layover friendly.  There are no comfortable seats, and what few they do have are metal ones.  They do not have any sit down menu service restaurants, only a cafeteria style sandwich bar.  The closest hotel is about a 15 min. taxi ride away.  About 10 other passengers on my flight also did not get their bags and were told that Malev would deliver them to a location of their choice in about 2 days, even in Romania.  Fortunately for me, I planned ahead with an 8 hour BUD layover.

 The new, 2 year old, Orangeways bus trip was very comfortable and efficient.  They made 4 stops before Tg. Mures, one smoke & pee, Debrecen, Oradea (the border) and Cluj.  They offered beverages and snacks for a small price and had a movie in Hungarian with English subtitles (National Treasure with Nicolas Cage) seen it, I slept.

 Saturday, Jun 20 – I slept long and well, except for the on & off doggie serenade at 1am and 5am. I started the day by sweeping everywhere in the house.  Istvan said yesterday that the new plumber, name Silviu, would come early at 8:30, but this was not to be. Here we go again!  It turned out he was finishing work at another location and he got here about 11am.  Silviu replaced a clogged pipe in the well and started up the pump.  Yes, I have water in the house again.  Silivu will come back next week to install more pipes in the 2 upstairs bathrooms and work on the gas pipeline. Next K&I and Krisztina, and I went shopping at Sel Gross (the local Costco).  I for needed daily supplies, and K&I for a BBQ later.  The BBQ took place in K&I yard, we had worst, chicken, fish, and mic (mixed ground meat sausage) with bacon fat spread over everything for flavor, all grilled over wood coals. Plus potatoes, cheese, bread, and a tomato and cucumber salad.

 I had made the following To-Do-List before coming here.

   1. Repair water pump
   2. Fixtures for bathrooms (toilets, sink, bath/Jacuzzi) if enough money
   3. Pipes for upstairs baths
   4. Finish gas pipeline for hot water needs
   5. Finish work on window screens
   6. Lights in attic
   7. Fans in dinning room, kitchen, & master bedroom
   8. Tile for upstairs bathrooms
   9. Paint fence
  10. Repair and better secure large gate
  11. Paint all window and door frames outside
  12. Lay wood tile floor in master bedroom
  13. Wood edging around upstairs terrace

Mark off #1 as done.

 Monday, Jun 22 – Made arrangements to borrow Istvan’s car, to buy paint and supplies for work on my house, by taking him to work at 7 in the city center, and I will pick him up at 3.  I went to a super hardware store, new here in Tg. Mures, a German firm called “Baumax”.  Found and bought the needed things to start painting the door and window frames.  First, today I started to scraped and cleaned the frames.

 I asked Istvan if he knew someone who could help me with this paint job.  Five years ago he had a teenage boy named Attila help me paint my fence and house, while I was here during the initial two month construction.  He said that Attila has move away and he would find someone else.  I told K&I about the house jinx, trying to explain what a jinx is. By reminding them of the many people (not all) who have worked on my house and have not returned. Such as: the first title man Balsza, the plumber Attila, the electrician Gego, now my painter helper Attila.  And Istvan adds to the list, Rudi & his brother the stone mason guys from the last update.  K&I don’t believe there is a jinx, but Klara laughingly says: “There are two women in her office she would like to see come here to work on my house.”   But seriously now, Istvan has asked his brother Levi, to come tomorrow and help me paint. And no he doesn’t want to get rid of him.

 Friday, Jun 26 – I woke up early as usual, this time to be ready to go with Istvan to his work so I could borrow his car again.  The day was starting out very sunny and hot, in the end I think it was over 90.  I needed to go to several places, first I went to an electric and lighting shop, where I got not only lights, switches, and electric cables, but they have ceiling fans like the ones I already had installed.  Interesting side note: In 2004 I bought 3 ceiling fans with lights for 330 Lei each and at the exchange rate of 3.28 then, that equaled about $100 each.  Today that same fan cost 130 Lei and at the exchange rate of 3.00 it equals $43!  You may ask: How do I remember this from 5 years ago?  Well those who know me will agree, I take and keep very detailed notes, of dance, expenses, and these daily doings when needed.  I may not always be able to find then quickly, but given time I usually do.  Back to the prices, this example is not the norm; mostly things here go up in cost almost daily.

 The place I went next was a carpet and flooring store.  Here in Tg. Mures, Bill’s goes by Diego’s. Only just Wed. Istvan and I visited Diego’s, along with two other places, and found Diego’s to have the best price for do it yourself wood flooring.  Now I am back to buy some, but I find they are sold out of the reduced price item.  The salesman said they would get some more in next week.  When and if they do, we’ll see if there is a price difference.

 Next I went and bought paint for my fence and some food supplies.  Due to the Tg. Mures days festival and some road closures the traffic in the city was terrible.  Using Istvan’s car so much I decided to get some gas.  Starting back in 2001 I found that some places in Romania had started accepting credit cards (Romania has always been a cash only country), mainly newer stores and modern gas stations.  But after a while they stopped because the businesses sometimes had trouble getting their money. So, they started accepting only bank debit cards, even mine from The Columbia Bank.  When I would present my card I was asked if I had a “PIN #”, because the merchants knew that locals did not have regular credit cards and foreigners had both.  I rarely use my debit card at home, opting mostly for my Amex card.  A week before coming here I found out from my bank that my debit card was cancelled for lack of use.  Why don’t they tell you this will be the case, ahead of time?  Anyway, I had them send me a new card and it did arrive just in time for my trip.  Why do I tell all this you may ask?  When I went to get gas I decided to use my new debit card, and for some, as of yet, unknown reason it doesn’t work here!  So, I paid cash, about ½ a tank (100 Lei = $33).

 Wednesday, Jul 1 – WOW July already.  I worked more on the fence and window cleaning in the cool of the morning.  I went to Diego’s, and yes the wood flooring I wanted has come in and the price was still the same.  It’s a Miracle – Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles – al la “Fiddler”.  I had to make two trips with Istvan’s Ford Fiesta, because of the weight of 13 packets of flooring was too much for one trip.

 Gyula and Toni arrived a little before 6, and we had a very nice visit.  They visited once before in Nov 2005, before any interior work had been done (i.e. kitchen floor tiles, tables, chairs, cabinets, and sink; beds; bathrooms with water).  Gyula said this was the only time they could visit because of their work, and his musical groups performing, and they are having their apartment painted.  He said it has taken 2 weeks to do one room, and the whole place is a mess, and they have one more room to do.  I hear you my brother, been there, doing that now.  We went out to dinner at a very nice Hungarian restaurant in the city. It was the “Laci Czardas”, which I remember going to with Heidi on her first trip here in 2005.  All together Gyula and Toni were here 3 hours, with a total 6 hour round trip drive from Sepsiszentgyorgy, near Brasov.

 Saturday, Happy 4th of July – I got up early at 5, it looked like a good day for a walk to the top of my hill for a sunrise set of pictures.  Only the sun was a no-show, due to clouds and fog.  Oh well, I’ll try again another day.

 I worked some more laying floor, but I still need a 2nd set of hands to finish.  K&I went shopping this morning.  When they returned I saw from my balcony / terrace that Istvan was starting to work in their yard, so I went over to help him pick cherries.  He then loaned me his electric lawn mower. I spent the next few hours cutting my, I can’t really call it a lawn, it’s more like a short forest.  Now I really feel I have joined the Romanian middle-class.  As I finished the front yard, saving the back, and my back for tomorrow, Istvan showed up at my gate about 6pm.  He asked if I was ready to work on the floor. Hot, tired, sweaty, and hungry I had planned on bathing, eating, and bed, but what the hell, I can do those things any old time.  So, Istvan and I set out to work on my wood flooring.  At first it was difficult, each 3.5 meter long piece, had to lock and fit in the previous set just so.  But as you got one end in, the other end or the middle would come out.  Finally we got the hang of it and finished the first section, 40% of the room in about 2 hours.  After Istvan left I bathed and then went over to K&I’s to eat late around 9pm.

 RST – Roma Soap Time – I have been watching my Roma neighbors across the road for 5 years a few weeks at a time.  Except for what seems to me a few small changes, maybe they are big ones to them, not much has changed in the past 5 years.  Here is what’s new:

A new family has built a house and moved in, almost directly across from K&I, to their chagrin. This family seems better off than the others, they have a car and water inside the house (almost everyone else gets water from my spring).  They do not seem to know or even talk to the others.  The next family (moving L to R) has a very fat grandmother, who only gets around in the back of the horse drawn wagon. I see now 3 little girls and an infant.  The now teenage (14 or 15?) tom-boy is pregnant (father unknown).  The next family, whose home shares half the building of the former, has added on a small bar to the front, on the street.  The hours of operation sign states: Open from 7am to 10pm, but seldom is.  Here a very thin grandmother looks to have 2 adult daughters each with husbands.  One of the sisters is due to give birth any day now. Here too are many children, at least 2 very young girls and 2 boys.  Next directly across from me are Jani, and his wife Lenka.  They have 3 grown children, oldest daughter with a son (I have never seen a husband) lives here, an adult son too.  Their youngest daughter was married a few years ago at age 15, and moved to Hungary. The last family is a well off couple with one child (car and inside water).  I am told that someone who is living with them is building a small place (hard to call it a house) on the edge of the soccer / playground field.  I’m not sure if this is legal. Now you are up to date on the 6 Roma families on my part of str. Pacii (Peace St.)

Further down the street passed the field, towards the main road there are by my estimation 30 houses with maybe 40 Roma families.  Two other points of interest: First, the Roma have their own language, and they also all speak both Romanian and Hungarian (How many of us can say we are fluent in 3 languages?).  I noticed that much of the time they speak Hungarian among themselves, probably due to living in a mostly Hungarian village.  Second, none of the Roma women across from me wear the colorful dress we are use to picturing Roma women in.  On the other hand most of the Roma women at the end of the street do wear the colorful dress everyday.  I think maybe they are a little better off. Ah, I just now saw Jani let out his wagon, without the horse, to a couple of young men that needed to haul something.  Back to the old original “U-Haul-It / U-Haul”.

 Monday, Jul 6 – The day has started off overcast and cool, so I did some finishing touches on the yard (surprise for Heidi), then I started to paint the 2 gates.  I did the inside only because I need to secure some parts on the outside before painting there.  While I was painting, I saw an old man walking, just barely, down the street.  He stopped in front of my gate and checked his pockets, yes he had some money.  He then went into the bar, this about 11am. He stayed there, drinking, singing, and bothering people passing by, until the thin grandmother yelled at him, and threw him out a little after 1pm.  I see why Istvan would like to see the police close this place down, besides being open late every night.  Speaking of Istvan and the police, he is no longer a policeman.  This pass year he finished his studies in accounting and he is working for a small construction supply firm.

 I worked more on my new floor.  I am able to do it alone, but it’s slower, more difficult, and not as much fun without Istvan.  I am about half way done.  I had dinner with K&I, then went home to wait for the moonrise, more on this tomorrow.

 Tuesday, Jul 7 – I will start by telling you about the last 2 nights. Sunday night at about 9:30 I just happened to see the most beautiful moonrise ever, huge and bright gold coming up over my hill, not quite full.  I rushed to take some pictures and they are OK, but not what I saw.  It’s difficult to get the moon or the sun on film the way the human eye sees them.  I noted the time and thought maybe tomorrow night I would get another chance with a really full moon.  So, Monday night I stayed up watching from my balcony from 9:30.  At first it looked promising, but the clouds rolled in and nothing.  Later the moon broke thought around midnight and shown in my window and face all night long. I really need to get some curtains.  With the moonlight, dogs barking, and the bar open well passed closing time, I got very little sleep.

 Now it’s Tuesday morning, and for some reason I woke up before 5 and looked out my window to see a giant orange ball of a moon setting.  Again I rushed to get some pictures, they came out just so-so.  Having gotten up I noticed a very clear sky, so what better time for another walk up my hill?  I may regret it later, but as they say: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”  I did get some very good pictures up there.  On my way back I met Istvan leaving for his work at 6:45.  I asked to borrow his power drill, and I fixed the gate with a better lock.  Mark off #10.

 After this, per my doctor’s order’s, I went to the mineral baths here in St. George.  Many years ago, Aug 1997, I stayed at this hotel in St. George called the Apollo, it was not good, and over priced, and it had mineral baths, but I did not use them.  Now they have remodeled and added to the hotel and baths, calling it: Apollo Hotel & Wellness Spa Club.  It’s much better, but still over priced, the hotel not the spa/club.  Depending on the time of day and day of the week, the price range is 22 to 44 Lei (about $7 to $15) for a 3 hours stay.  This includes two different strength hot salt water mineral baths, several styles of sauna, indoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and of course locker room with showers and towels. There is also a drink and snack bar available.  Not too bad for $2 to $5 per hour.  They also have separate from the Spa, several outdoor swimming pools with a children’s water park play area, all for 18 Lei for the day ($6).  So, I treated myself to a spa day, after all I am on vacation, no?  And it was my day to bath and clean up, yes.  After the spa I took a nap and it rained so no other work today.

 Saturday, Jul 11 – I borrowed Istvan’s car again for some food shopping, and added gas again.  Last week Lenka, Jani’s wife, said something to me about how flowers would be pretty in front of my fence by the spring, I agreed.  Well, yesterday and today she was working hard to clean up that area.  A little history if you please, from my first set of updates from 2004 (full details available on my website).  When I was here for 2 months in 2004 for the construction of TTH, I spent the good part of one day in mud boots up to my calf in muddy water cleaning out the gutter and area around the spring.  This besides weeds and muck was full of general garbage.  With translation help I ask my Roma neighbors to help me keep this area clean.  After all it is they who use it most.  As you can guess they did nothing until I am visiting, then they get busy.  Sounds a lot like the way needed work on my house gets done, only when I’m here.

 I must say Lenka has done a very good job, and today she asked if I would pay her something.  Not for her, but for the children’s medicine.  I gave her 50 Lei (about $17) more than she expected, mostly for her labors, but partly for her gall and initiative.  The men just sit around and ask for work from me, she found something I wanted done and did it.  I spend the morning on my fence, floor and windows.

 It rained again in the afternoon.  Istvan says this amount of rain is not normal for summer, and some parts of Romania are experiencing flooding.  Sandor was a no show again.  Also a no show this week, the window screen man Emile, he has not returned yet.  I had dinner was K&I and went to bed early.

 Monday Jul 13 – The day started out cold and overcast, but by 7 a little sun came out and by 9 it was mostly sunny with a cool breeze.  Perfect for painting the fence, which I did all morning.  We had a bit of excitement RST wise.  Jani and Lenka went out with a wagon load of watermelons to sell.  Ten minutes later he came walking back with his horse.  While putting the horse in his stall, it got free and ran down the road, with Jani yelling and running after him.  Jani tried to catch him with food, talking & yelling, even throwing rocks (no honey).  The horse had a mind of its own, going to the soccer field and staying just out of reach of Jani.  Finally after 20 minutes of this Jani was able to chase the horse back into his yard.

 After my usual lunch and a nap, I started again on the fence from 2 until I finished at 6:30.  Mark off #9.  Sometimes I think I am in a weird re-make of “The Karate Kid” with what seems like miles of fence to paint.  Then I went over to K&I minus K.  Istvan asked where was I?; wasn’t I hungry?; didn’t I want to eat?  I said yes thank you, and that I was working all this day painting the fence, watching and waiting for Silviu and Sandor.  Neither came.  Istvan said both called to say they would come “Tomorrow”.  Another song comes to mind from “Annie”.  I had dinner at Klara’s parents, eating by myself while everyone watched.  They said that they looked for me at 4, when they all had dinner, but could not see me.

 After dinner at 7:30 Istvan comes up to me while I am on the computer and says do I want to work on the floor.  This time I had eaten, and was thinking bath and bed, but what the hell, again.  We, Istvan, Martsi, and I (Martsi is Klara’s father, pronounced  Mart-see) worked until 9:30 trimming down the doors so they would slide over the new floor.  Martis then invited me over to take a shower, with thanks I did, a very hot one.  I was also invited to come tomorrow for dinner, this time I will be on time.

 Thursday Jul 16 – Another very hot start to the day, it may exceed 90.  Istvan lent me his car so I could get some more electrical materials.  For lunch I had something completely different……”Pizza”.  On this trip, for the first time, I saw a pizza delivery service, here in St. George.  So, I stopped in on my way home and got a small (mica 10”) ham and mushroom pizza to take out for 10 Lei ($3.30).  The delivery car signage says free delivery but I don’t actually have a house number yet, and I wasn’t sure of the correct procedure for tipping the driver.  The pizza was good and ready in 15 minutes, but their pizza crust could be improved, it is like our thin and crispy.  They only have 2 sizes small and large (mare 14” for $5). The extra sauce I got was just ketchup.

 Friday Jul 17 – This is the 5th Hot, No Rain Day in a row.  I worked on cleaning up and putting things away in preparation for my departure tomorrow.  Arpy came this evening 5 and again worked 2 hrs, and I am happy to report he finished.  Sandor never did come back.  Istvan says he went on vacation, and this is why Arpy was here.  Arpy got paid for the whole job nothing for Sandor.  Jinx or not you decide?    Mark off numbers 6 & 7.

 Sad to say the main problem and work still to be completed, the gas line, will not get done while I am here.  Istvan thinks it will be finished in August.  So, tonight I take another microwave hot water bath.  Oh well 7 out of 13 items done, better than half.  That’s the sad news.  The glad news is: I didn’t spend as much money as I planned, for two reasons, less work done and I had a nearly free trip here (frequent flyer flight).  Overall I had a great time visiting with K&I and K.  An added plus, on my Transylvanian Diet: Lots of sweaty hard work, walking daily, and eating anything you want, I’ve lost 10 lbs in 4 wks.  Do you think I’ve got the makings of an “Info-merical”?

Saturday Jul 18 – Last Day, my bus leaves at 8:15pm and arrives tomorrow morning at the BUD airport at 6.  I have to finish packing and preparing, both the house and myself.  Then I do some last picture and video making.  About the pictures, some of you have asked when they will be available.  Besides adding pictures to my on going TTH album, and website, Heidi has suggested I put pictures on my Flickr site for quicker access.  Which I have done, and here is the link to my Flickr page:


 I went over to see Istvan early at 2, to talk about things, (i.e. money, future visits, & work), then had an early meal at Klara and Martsi's.  By the way Klara's mother's name is also Klara, it's confusing.  That's one reason why they call Klara of K&I Boggie, the other is, it's her nickname from childhood.  Boggie (not sure of the correct Hungarian spelling) means Ladybug.  I also took one more hot shower for the road.

 My return trip was uneventful, four long periods of nothing.  First 9 hours on the bus, then 7 hours at the BUD airport, next 9 more hours on the flight to JFK.  Last, even though the connection was for 2 hours, delays and air traffic at JFK bought that time to almost 6 hours.  When I finally got home it was almost midnight, 28 hours from when I left Marosszentgyorgy.  Part of the charm and attraction I feel for this place is that you cannot just hop on and off a plane and be in your luxury hotel in a few hours.  The other part is the people and again I want to say a big THANK YOU to Klara and Istvan without whom all my efforts would be almost impossible.  I have again extended my invitation for them (with Krisztina) to come next year to America.  Istvan is ready to come, but Klara is still a definite maybe.  Last thing Istvan said was, he talked with her by phone about this, and she said still no, but that he could go by himself if he wanted to.  While I saw that he was thinking seriously about it, I told him to be careful.  Even though Klara has said this, it may be a trick.

  Thanks again for your interest in my Transylvanian Tanzhaus project.

 Tirgu Mures main street

Tirgu Mures city hall and palace of culture 

Michael's land with fence on str Pacii 

Blackie guarding Michael's land and foundation 

Bence too cute for words at 6 months 

Monolit company factory

Construction crew having lunch 

First picture of my Tanzhaus construction site 

Nov 2004 first snowfall just after tiles were set 

 Klara and Istvan with Krisztina at her 3rd brithday party

Jani and wife Lenka - Jani made the gutters for Michael's Tanzhaus 

Istvan and Klara holding 7 month old Krisztina in front of their house 

Heidi and Michael in the dinning room of Michael's Tanzhaus 

Dinning room and kitchen with new tile and furniture 

Michael with Toni and Gyula on their visit to his Tanzhaus 

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