Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sportopolis

I wonder if there is any town that is has produced as many successful sportspeople per head of population as Csikszereda.

Novak Edouard
I have gone on before about the ice hockey team and how they are the best in Romania  - well, they've been champions for the last seven years, and while this streak may well be ended this year by Brasov, the vast majority of Romania's national team hail from Harghita County and more specifically this town.  And while Romania's hockey team is not close to being the best in the world, they do reasonably well, and in the past have done extremely well.  Someone I consider a friend was on the team at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980, (the famous one in which the USA beat the USSR in what the US media referred to as "The Miracel on Ice"), at which they finished 7th.  Which is not to be sniffed at.

Tofalvi Eva
But, you may be thinking, ice hockey is a fairly niche sport in Romania and it's really only popular here, so that's not necessarily a big deal.  Obviously I'll have to come up with more sportspersons to convince you.  Well, how about Novak Edouard, Romania's only ever paralympic medalist and current World and Olympic champion in cycling?  (Who, in fact was a very fine young speed skater before the accident which cost him a leg and meant he ended up as a paralympian)

And then cast your eyes over to Sochi and the current Olympics going on there.  Featuring no fewer than 4 separate Szeredans.  Some of whom have done extraordinarily well, especially given the lack of funding and support that Romania offers to its athletes.  A quick listing of the results so far shows a genuinely superb set of performances:

Eva Tofalvi, biathlete
7.5km sprint - finished 22nd
10km pursuit - 26th
15km individual - 21st
12.5km mass start - 21st

Edit Miklos, alpine skier
Miklos Edit

super combined - 16th
downhill - 7th
super-g - 15th
giant slalom - 34th

Emoke Szocs, biathlete
7.5km sprint - 70th
15km individual - 70th

Zoltan Kelemen - figure skater
short programme - 24th
free programme - 23rd

Given the circumstances, these are truly brilliant results, and these people should be extremely proud of themselves.

[Note: Because the new Hungarian constitution allows anyone of Hungarian ethnicity to become a Hungarian citizen, two of the above athletes (Miklos and Szocs) have competed under the Hungarian flag rather than the Romanian. As I understand it they say it's because they felt they were offered more support by the Hungarian Olympic Committee, but (a) that wouldn't be difficult; and (b) personally I think that's a shame, and if people have to participate in the Olympics under a national banner I'd rather they would have done so under the Romanian one, but ultimately I'm counting them as "from Csikszereda" before anything else anyway.  And, if people actually paid any attention to the Olympic Charter this wouldn't be an issue anyway since it says
Article 6: The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries.
But sadly everyone ignores that and makes it all about nationalism anyway.  I mean why - given the above - do we have a medals table?]

So, anyway, before we end up down the usual cul-de-sac of my standard rants about national identity, can anyone give me a town with a greater number of top athletes per head of population?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Extreme Mildness

That's about as oxymoronic as it gets, I suspect, but in fact it fits.

We are experiencing a very very weird winter. As I may have gone on about at some length, Csikszereda is a very cold place.  Temperatures in January are regularly below -20 and in some years down as low as -30 and below.  By this time of the year, we should be waist deep in snow and wrapped up like michelin men. But we are not because we are in the middle of what ought to be termed a massive heatwave.  It won't be termed a heatwave of course, because temperatures of +3 are not really what one would call a heatwave.  But in terms of comparison with the norm, we must be at least 10 degrees over the average, and possibly more.  Which is a heatwave, of sorts anyway.

So, what to call this extreme mildness? The US media has gone way over the top with these kind of things of late, with this year's Polar Vortex beating last year's Perfect Storm and Snowmageddon, so I think we need a term for this year's incredible bout of mild and unusually bearable weather.

Some possibilities:
  • Fair-to-middlingmageddon
  • The Great 2014 Carnage of Tolerability
  • The Four Horseman of the not-that-parky
  • Temperataclysm
  • Clement Void
  • Actually-pretty-comfortable-to-be-honest-pocalypse

To be serious for a moment, it is having some serious effects on the local economy, as at this time of year there is usually a lot of snow (and this year there is precisely none).  The vast majority of the local ski runs don't have any snow making equipment so they have already effectively lost half their season (which typically runs December to March - we're now in mid January and they haven't even been able to open yet).  Then of course there is the fear of the possibility of a drought later in the year - since there has been basically no precipitation of any kind since October, we could be in some trouble later on down the line.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Health and Safety

One of the things that the Daily Mail reading knobheads who make up a dangerously large proportion of my countrymen moan about is "health and safety". You know, how people are much safer now and people care about the safety of people when they plan stuff.  I mean it's quite understandable why it causes these right wing dicks such pain, to see people taking "precautions".

Health and Safety in Romania is a very different kettle of fish though.  We don't really have things to sign, or long involved forms to fill in, or lots of paperwork.  If my daughter goes off with her class skiing for example, we have to sign something which says she can go, but nothing else. Once a week her class goes skating (this is a new town policy that all 1st and 2nd graders learn to skate and all 3rd and 4th graders learn to swim), and again, we just drop her off and off she goes.

Now, while I do tend to trust people and think that she is perfectly OK in these situations (and obviously if I thought she wasn't, I would find a way of making her safe), there are areas of life here in which I feel a dash of health-and-safety-ism wouldn't go amiss.  Driving, for example, in which Romania punches well above its weight in totally unnecessary deaths, due mostly to the fact that there are a huge number of complete arseholes let loose at the wheel in this country.  And the number of times that the news leads on the explosion of an apartment building somewhere due to a gas leak does seem somewhat excessive.  I mean one would be excessive, but here it's seemingly one a week.  And the number of buildings in this town which have some form of tiled entranceway, including tiled outdoor steps at the hospital, where tiles are the world's worse surface in icy conditions (conditions which are really pretty common here), is mind-blowing.  I mean has noone ever noticed and thought to themselves "That new public building we're constructing - I wonder if it would be safer not to tile the front steps?"

This morning however, as I crawled back and forth on my customary morning swim, noting the 9 year olds doing their thing at the end of each lap (that school policy mentioned above), wondering as I plunged back down the pool, what the ratio of swim teachers to children would be necessary in the UK (I'm pretty sure that the apparent 30 kids: one teacher ratio would be unacceptable), I realised that there is a health and safety culture here.  It's just a very different one.  It's not an officially sanctioned one, and it doesn't really rely on evidence-based safety features, but rather a kind of institutionalised old wives' health and safetyism.

I am sure I have already mentioned the fear of "curent", which is to say draughts. Get on a bus in summer, in 40 degree heat and dare to open a window to try and make the whole situation bearable, and instantly incur the wrath of the self-appointed health and safety inspectors who will quickly shout at you for your idiotic desire to not melt and will close the window despite your protests. Draughts make people sick, you see.

Go out with your child in a temperature of anywhere below 20 degrees C and have the self same health and safety inspectors will come up to you and tut loudly about her lack of a hat.

And, to prove my point, after my hydro-exertions, I was reminded of the other aspect of the kids' swimming lessons. The hair drying. As the kids come to the swimming pool in their regular class time, they are accompanied by their teacher.  I presume the teacher is allowed to swim, but usually they just sit around watching.  Their real duty at the pool is the making sure everyone gets changed successfully on arrival and departure, but most importantly to make sure every child's hair is totally and utterly dry before they leave the building and return to school. Because going outside with wet hair is so so much more dangerous than racing through a village at 120 km/h, or jerry-rigging the wiring of your house, or asking old people to walk up ice stairs to get into a hospital.

To cap it all, have you seen how much hair 9 year old girls have? Each one of them takes about half an hour to dry it to the exacting standards required.  This means that for a one hour swimming lesson the children are out of school for getting on for all day.  (I exaggerate slightly, and I do think making sure all the children of the town can swim is an excellent idea and even contributes to actual health and safety).

I tend to get changed, slip on my coat and walk out, wet head held high. I have no idea how the teachers explain that to the kids.  "You see that man, leaving with wet hair? Obviously having wet hair as a child has made him crazy as an adult to the point where he doesn't even dry his hair!"


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Lightbulbs

How many politicians in Romania does it take to change a light bulb?  

One or two to sign the contract handing over billions of dollars of taxpayers money to a massive multinational corporation to do the actual work of changing the lightbulb, many more to be paid off to not question the deal, and some others to make trouble and change the subject if anyone in the media ever challenge it.

(oh and at the end of the process the lightbulb hasn't actually been changed)


In the interests of balance, though I was careful to specify that it was politicians in Romania in the joke/reality above, rather than Romanian politicians

How many Hungarian politicians does it take to change a lightbulb in Harghita County?

It really is appalling that the government in Bucharest have not changed this lightbulb already.  it's just another example of the anti-Hungarian bias shown by this country.  If this lightbulb were in Craiova it would have been changed months ago.  

Friday, November 01, 2013

A 100 year old mirror

Recently, I started reading what seems to be widely regarded as "The Great Transylvanian Novel", which is Miklos Banffy's Transylvanian trilogy (or Banffy Miklos's if you prefer). Period literature is not really my thing, usually, and especially period literature which features as its main context the lives of aristocrats and the privileged.  But, so far, (I'm mid way through book 1) it's an absolutely cracking read. I'm - to my surprise, actually - really enjoying it.  And so many things are familiar to me, in a way which I could never have expected. (Which is precisely why everyone tells me that I shouldn't overlook such novels. So, I have been foolish.  As usual.)

So, anyway, I'm guessing I might write again on this subject as I devour the 3 books, but yesterday I came across a passage which was just so perfect I felt I had to share it.

The hero, Balint Abady (I'll just stick with the translated version's ordering of names rather than the original Hungarian), who is a count and a politician (and one assumes not a million miles from Banffy himself), is travelling on a train from Maros-Ludas (Luduș) to Kolozsvar (Cluj) where he meets a Romanian lawyer, Dr Aurel Timisan.  They start talking and...

It was all such nonsense: Romanians were Romanians and would remain so eternally, no matter what new names were invented for them. "Nobody expects anything else," said Balint, "but you must admit that the country in which you live has a right to demand that you learn its language!"

"Naturally, I'm not against that," said Timisan, and once again a barely perceptible mockery lurked in his smile, "That's to everyone's advantage. As you see I've learned it myself, even becoming a Doctor of Law at a Hungarian university and serving in the Hungarian army, both with tolerable success, though I say it myself. [...] "But you must admit, too," he went on, "that it is most unjust that the public notaries, high sheriffs, tax-collectors - indeed all public servants - are not obliged to speak the language of the people they serve. It is really absurd that the people cannot explain themselves in court in their own language, but they have to use an interpreter.  the Nationality Bill was supposed to grant us this...but of course it's been drawn up by Hungarians without us being consulted!"
This passage actually made me laugh out loud because I feel like I've had this conversation over and over, or overheard it time after time.  Except now of course, the roles are reversed, and Romanian and Hungarian have changed places. This part of the novel is set in the early part of he last century, around 1906 I believe.  100 years later and we have exactly the same conversations about more or less exactly the same things, just in reverse.  First time tragedy, second time farce?

Abady changes the subject at this point, and sounds a bit like a more erudite version of me..
"It's my view," he said, "that we should try and find the means to draw closer spiritually and economically.  here in Transylvania we are both at home. It is your country and it is my country. It is common ground to both of us. We could learn a great deal is we paid more attention to what really matters, and did not allow ourselves always to be sucked into the whirlpool of Budapest politics"
(Here you have to replace Budapest with Bucharest, but you knew that)

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

It's a great book.  I'd really recommend it.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Romanian Vignettes

There is a system of heating and hot water in Romania, whereby for the (many) blocks of flats, there is a centralised building where they heat the water and pump it around the buildings, providing hot water all year long and heating in the winter. The heating gets turned on round about October 1st and turned off again in April.  (Round here anyway, down in some of the warmer parts of the country these dates may be different).

Now this system would actually be quite a good one, were it not for the fact that the facilities and infrastructure are old and they've never been updated since the communists built them.  So there is massive inefficiency, and loads of leaks and so on.  So the amount of money you pay each month for your heating and hot water is not related that closely to how much you've used.  Because of this most people try to get off the system and install their own gas boiler water/heating system, so that they only pay for what they use.

Our apartment was already off the grid when we bought it, and has been for something like 10 years, but because the pipes run through our flat we still have to pay something.  (When we first moved in they were all clad in insulation so we didn't pay that money, but then the law changed, so we took off the insulation - since we were paying anyway.  But I digress).

Last week, the one remaining apartment on our side of the building that still used the central system, installed their own system, and someone from the building came round telling us that we could finally get rid of the pipes and stop paying the (ridiculously large) monthly amount of money.  As ours is the lowest apartment in the building (one floor up above some shops), it was decided that it made sense if the pipes would be cut and capped in our apartment.

So, last week the blokes came around and sawed off all ten pipes that ran through our apartment, bottom and top, and welded them shut.  It was a surprisingly quick and not too disruptive a job. Until another resident of the building from some floors higher up on the other side, came in to see what was going on and got very upset because she said that the system went up one side of the building and then back down the other side, so when the heating was turned on (a) they wouldn't get any; and (b) we'd all get flooded by all the water going round the system.  

Now, it is at this point that the story becomes a truly Romanian* story. Because when we asked the workmen if it was possible that she was right, their answer was not "No, that's not a problem, we would never have cut these pipes if that could happen", but instead.  "Hmm.  We have no idea.  I guess we'd better check". 

(*By which I mean a story that takes place in Romania, rather than a story that is Romanian in its ethnicity :-) )

[Turns out that they did need to do some work up on the top floor to ensure that this problem didn't arise, but it wasn't the absolute clusterfuck that it would have been if they'd needed to re-install the pipes that they had just removed.  But it is a good job that the neighbour checked]

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Democracy and Rosia Montana

There has been a big story in Romania for years now - that of the proposed gold mining operation at Rosia Montana.  Anyone in Romania can skip the beginning of this since you all know the ins and outs of this question, but for people who are not familiar, here is a very brief summary of what has been happening and especially the last few days:


The basic background information

In Transylvania, Romania, in the Apuseni mountains, an area of stunning national beauty, there is a small village called Rosia Montana. it is a village built on mining, where mining - for gold mostly - has been going on since Roman times. Indeed under the village there are excellently preserved Roman gold mines. 


The village has been at the centre of mining operations ever since, though mostly on a very small scale. As with most such industries at the end of communism the mine shut down (inefficient, dangerous, polluting, needing tons of investment to continue)


14 years ago a Canadian company called Gabriel Resources acquired the rights to develop the mines and mine the gold. They set up a company called Rosia Mountain Gold Corporation (hereafter RMGC) which is 81% owned by them (Gabriel) and 19% by the Romanian state.  Since then there has been an incredibly long and convoluted process to finally get this mining under way. RMGC's plan was basically to relocate most of  the villagers to nearby town Alba Iulia, and knock down 4 mountains in the largest open cast mine in Europe. It's a massive operation. they bought up much of the land, with the majority of the villagers - desperate for work - happy to go along with the plan and to be employed. Some, of course , did not go along and held out, refusing to sell their land.


The environmental movement is also, obviously up in arms, since not only does this plan pretty much trash a massive area of extremely beautiful countryside, but it also involves the extensive use of cyanide. Cyanide is used in gold mining as standard, and the plan would create a large toxic lake of cyanide which would pretty much stay there for ever.  15ish years ago in northern Romania, a much smaller cyanide lake burst its banks and entered the river system, killing fish all the way down the Tisza and eventually the Danube in Hungary. RMGC argues that they have modern methods and there is absolutely no danger of this happening again, and that even in environmentally conscious countries like Finland this kind of thing goes on. (This conveniently ignores the fact that this project will on its own use about ten times as much cyanide per year than is used per year in the whole of the rest of Europe.)


Then of course there is the ever present suspicion of corruption. Nobody in Romania trusts any politician not to be on the take. And in the case a huge multinational corporation trying to make a bunch of money, there is widespread (universal) assumption that there are some dodgy dealings in the background.

Politics


So, the whole project has been tied up for years in legal and political arguments, with successive governments trying to push through laws to make the whole project start (like forcing people to sell up etc). The President has been in favour for years, and the last government (of the same party as the President) doing the same. But they couldn't get it through in time, before they got voted out last year. The new prime minister was on record in opposition as being against it, so it seemed like it might be finished. Last month however, his government put forward draft legislation to approve it (he claimed that as an MP he was opposed,but as the leader of the country he was for. The best flip-flop argument ever).

This brought people on to the streets in protest and all major cities, especially Bucharest, have seen ongoing demonstrations since that date (Aug 27th). Yesterday the PM flip flopped again saying he would vote against the legislation as would most of his government. The project is assumed to be dead in the water and the Gabriel share price has dropped like a stone (amid threats from Canada to launch legal action). 


Other links


Those are basically the facts.  It's a bit of a brief outline of the situation by necessity, and therefore there will be bits that I have omitted, but essentially the salient facts are as above.

If you want to read further then the wikipedia page is pretty good, though obviously as this is a hot issue, I'm guessing that page is in the front line of the different points of view, so it might change fairly regularly.

This Reuters article from last year is also very good and puts both sides of the story well.


And to give a well-argued counterpoint to my view (below) on this, Craig at Bucharest Life has written a good post (a number of the commenst below that are excellent too) 

My view

Not that it matters to any degree, and I've gone back and forth with this question anyway, but my gut reaction, backed up by stuff I've read since then is to side with the anti-RMGC side of the debate.  I haven't been to Rosia Montana, so I can't really comment on the town, but I have been to some villages fairly nearby, and it is a stunning area and incredibly beautiful.  I have also been to Balan, a town not far from here, which I guess is similar in some ways - a copper mining town which grew under Ceausescu, and which now is home to just over 5000 people (very similar to Rosia Montana), most of whom live in the concrete blocks beloved of communist architects.  In the time that I've lived here, Bălan has gone from being almost a ghost town when the mine closed down, to actually finding its feet again.  Despite the architecture there is something attractive about the town, over and above the stunning scenery that surrounds it. That scenery does attract people with it being the starting point on the climb up to Egyeskő / Piatra Singuratică, and the mountains around.  Other small industries have been set up, including large scale collection of wild mushrooms to be shipped off to Western Europe, which seem to be enough to make the town self-sufficient.  That's not to say that it's an easy life for people there, but it does seem to have turned the corner.  The mine entrance building looms over the town, closed and silent, and when you climb up to the the mountain it is then that you can see the area of the valley that has been stripped bare and the toxic lake left in the middle from the mining operations.  I am sure there a large number of people in Bălan who would like the mine to reopen, thus providing work, but in the bigger picture, the town has a more sustainable economic future ahead of it, even if it takes a while to really build up.  

So while I haven't been to Rosia Montana itself, and I am fully prepared to believe that a large number of its residents are very much desperate for this mine to go ahead, my feelings lie with the desire to not destroy this area, and leave a huge scar across the middle of Romania.  In addition, when it comes to large multinational corporations making vast amounts of money, I have no faith that these deals are above board and fair.  Nobody knows what the contracts are between the State and Gabriel Resources.  Nobody knows whether RMGC will pay much in the way of tax.  Nobody knows what kickbacks and deals have been done behind closed doors.  RMGC say they will clean everything up, that they will make everything incredibly safe, that they will offer good wages, and so on.  But why would anyone believe a massive company whose main aim is to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible? They could very well be a hugely ethical company who are less interested in their shareholders than they are about the villages  and villagers of rural Romania. Or not.


Democracy

And so to the ultimate point of this post. The people who have come out on the streets to protest against this, have, it seems, won.  The government has backed down and the deal seems dead (though one should always be cautious).  People power has won out, and the scenes of young Romanians out on the streets standing up for what they believe in have been powerful.

But, is this democracy?  That's the question that thoughtful people are now posing.  Tens of thousands of people demonstrated, in a country of nearly 20 million.  Is it democratic to give in to their demands?  It's a fair question, i think.

Those who are appalled by the government's change of direction, refer to these people out on the streets as "hipsters".  It's a cheap shot, immediately downplaying them, giving them a name with negative connotations, to lessen then, make them seem like they don't really care.  In truth they are a wide range of people, mostly young, mostly well-educated, mostly middle class, it seems at least.  But not only these groups.  Its a fairly broad protest.  But while the hipster label is unfair and demeans their efforts and their motivations, they are still a fairly small group of people.  So, again, is this democratic?

Well, it is worth turning this question around and looking at the other side.  Who supports this project?  A majority of residents of the village of Rosia Montana.  And then a massive wealthy well connected Canadian corporation. And possibly some politicians.  That's it.  Beyond this there is a large swathe of the country who probably don't know much about it and who in the long run don't really care. So, is it democratic to build this mine in order to satisfy the shareholders of Gabriel Resources?  

Democracy itself is in some danger.  Corporations and governments work together to subvert it all over the globe.  Is it democratic to change policy based on tens of thousands of protestors?  Not in the traditional model of democracy, where everyone has an equal say in who governs.  But we don't live in that world any more, we live in one in which large corporations and the 1% drive policy that suits them with the aid of bought off governments and compliant media.  

So, frankly, I'd rather trust tens of thousands of well educated, well read, thoughtful young people to fight for the right things than a massive corporation and some corrupt politicians.  Perhaps this is what democracy will be in the future.   I for one welcome it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Miccsoda?

What can you learn from a single line on a menu?  Well, at times, quite a lot...

The picture is the specials at the "grill" by the swimming pool at a hotel in Hungary.  Each day a different location is represented (though actually the US managed to get on twice in the 7 available days).  On Saturday (Szombat) as you will see the region of choice is Transylvania (Erdely)  Now the first thing to notice is that to represent Transylvania they've chosen the Szekely flag, which  neither sums up Transylvania as a whole, nor even the Hungarian element of the Transylvanian population, but never mind, let's move on.

The first item on the menu is "Csevapcsicsa", which anyone who has ever been to anywhere in the former Yugoslavia will recognise as a Hungarianised spelling of a word from Serbian/Croatian/etc.  Ćevapčići, are small turds (frankly the most descriptive word) of minced meat with herbs and stuff which are barbecued or otherwise grilled.

Now it is very true that in Romania a version of Ćevapčići are indeed eaten.  They are called mititei or more commonly, mici. You see them absolutely everywhere, at every outdoor event.  Occasionally on a Hungarian language menu or board you might see "mici" written as "miccs" to phonetically render this Romanian word in Hungarian.

So what we glean from this word is that (a) mici are being sold as a Transylvanian speciality.  From a Hungarian perspective this may not be far removed from the truth, I suppose, since the average Hungarian traveller, brave enough to enter Romania at all, is never likely to venture south of Brasov; (b) they are implicitly (with the flag and all that) being sold as a Szekely food.  Even the most hardened psychotic Szekely nationalist would not think of suggesting that mici were anything other than Romanian;  (c) it is assumed that a Hungarian clientele would not recognise the word miccs (or mici), and so they are offered the serbian/croatian word instead.  This is probably because most Hungarians seem to have been on holiday to Croatia at some time or other, but have probably not dared venture into the wilds of Erdely.

Onwards. These mici are being served with kemences burgonya, or ( I presume) roast potatoes. Literally "oven potatoes", anyway.  Could be jacket, I suppose. Anyway, the only time I've ever eaten either roast or jacket potatoes in 9 years living in Transylvania have been the times when I've cooked them. So, again, not an especially local speciality.  Mici, as everyone from here knows, are served with a massive glob of mustard and some bread.  If potatoes are involved at all, it would be as chips.

The final part of this very Transylvanian dish is tepett salata. That translates literally as "torn salad". No, I don't know either.  I have two possible theories here - one is that in the quest for your authentically rustic, peasant, and hence Transylvanian, experience, they have elected to make a salad that involves the lettuce being torn, authentically and rustically.  The other is that in Hungary they believe that the poor Transylvanians, can't actually afford knives.

This restaurant wasn't actually that far from the border either. Still, I guess this happens all the time, and Hungarians would likely point to the weird things called "goulash" on menus worldwide, or what passes for "chicken paprikash", in similar establishments as being proof that no-one is immune from this sort of thing.

This has been today's textual analysis lesson. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Anthem for my Romania

In my ideal world, the one in which multicultural traditions and roots are recognised and celebrated, rather than fought against and rejected, this would be the national anthem of Romania.

Romanian folk music collected and arranged by Bela Bartok, a Hungarian born in what is now part of Romania, and played here so amazingly by Taraf de Haidouks, a band of Rroma musicians from Romania.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cosmopolis

(Posts on this blog are like buses, you wait months for one and then two come along at once)

This weekend (the weekend recently completed, if my use of "this" is confusing), Csikszereda suddenly became a cosmopolitan metropolis out of nowhere. From being a sleepy backwater in which nothing ever happens (two weeks ago there was a "come along and meet a bank robber" day at a local shop - that's how quiet we are*), we suddenly rocketed into a weekend starring as the cultural capital of the Balkans, Romania, Transylvania, Harghita County, the Csik Depression, before we have come back to our proper station as the land that time forgot.

How, you may be asking, did we make this dramatic shift? Well first of all the town became a satellite of the very successful TIFF film festival.  TIFF (Transylvania International Film Festival) runs every year in Cluj and has gained a really significant reputation.  This year they decided to have a part of it here called TIFFSzereda. This (as far as I can tell) has been a huge success, with the culture starved intelligentsia of the town flocking to see the various films on show. You can read all about it here. (or at least you can if you read Hungarian or Romanian).

Backstage at Harry Tavitian and Cserey Csaba
(well I say backstage but I mean "by the toilets")
Simultaneously was the 5th annual "Mini-jazz" festival.  I believe the "mini" refers to the festival rather than the jazz, which seemed to be perfectly normal sized jazz to me.  This too has grown into something fairly reasonable over those 5 years, and it's (weather permitting) a very enjoyable event, since it takes place in the courtyard of the castle, which is a not unpleasant place to sit around and listen to jazz and drink wine and/or beer. Somehow they even managed to tie these two events  together and have a film following on from the Saturday night concert in the same place.
http://www.jazzfestival.ro/ for details.

And that was it.  Well, that's a lot.  Really.  No actually there was another big event this weekend - the opening of a huge Dedeman superstore, but it wasn't terribly cultural. For anyone oustide Romania, Dedeman is a very big hardware shop, which as far as I can tell actually seems to be a Romanian owned business, which makes it more or less unique among the various urban-sprawl-based megastores that surround towns here these days.

[*To be fair the bank robber was local boy-made-bad, Ambrus Attila, star of the book "Ballad of the Whiskey Robber", so it wasn't entirely as weak as I'm painting it, but it's close]