In the village of Enlaka in Hungarian-speaking Romania you feel you should whisper it’s so quiet. Feeling like a benign alien, unable to communicate.Like an advance scout for the tourist massive. Not many English visitors get this far. Most are Hungarians wallowing in the loss of their historic homeland. The deep rustic Hungary they no longer have at home. Or Unitarians from America making connections with this Unitarian enclave – where you can see pre-echoes of the American west. The horse-drawn carts, the hats, the white churches.
Ceausescu’s combine harvesters and heavy agricultural machinery lie rusting in their depot. The field patterns remain medieval as do many of the tools that till them. The thick wildwood remains in hefty clumps all around the rim of hills. There are satellite dishes on the houses as there are wells in the gardens.
Hungarian hospitality presses on you – wine, meat, bottle of Palinka (local brandy). Our host,the priest’s son, full of entrepreneurial zeal and local pride. Holding the balance of power in the uneasy settlement between the centuries.
Suddenly everything speeds up and we invited on a tractor trailer delivering wood to a homestead in the back of beyond. Stopping every twenty minutes for more wine.
We land up at the homestead of some refugees from Budapest who have bought some fields and set up a garden and a new life – in deep in Hungarian mysticism, sheltering in the lee of a hill. Beasts are a fact – bears, wolves and wild boar. Animals you can’t see but can harm you. Shepherd’s dogs that you can see – and will attack you. Translyvania is like that – comfortable, cosy – but always the feeling you could slip off the edge into something wilder. Something on the edge of town, just out of vision.
Next day we return for a walk up the hill with one of the Budapest visitors to the homestead. We learn that the spirits can harm you too – or help you – or tease you. The faerie castle and garden on the hill are still inhabited by the faeries – and if you sit and contemplate them long enough they might tug at your shoulder. Or so our guide says – walking and taking – mesmeric. Stopping to examine fresh bear droppings. The wood has a presence. Too much presence eventually for a christian retreatant who is now in an asylum. He built a hut in the dark wood by the castle wall. His bed and table still there and the walls still daubed with crosses.