Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Csango Valley

The Csango valley lies between Csikszereda and Moldavia in the Carpathians. A 20 km drive east of here leads you over a pass and into this mysterious place. It is mysterious because it is fairly isolated and because the people are somehow different from those around them. They speak a kind of combination Hungarian and Romanian with a whole bunch of their own words thrown in. They have different traditional costumes and dances from the Szekely and the Moldavians who they lie between. Hungarians say they are Hungarians who have been Roamnised by Romanian domination, while Romanians say they are Romanians Magyarised by Hungarian domination. They themselves will just say “we are Csango”. Thez have names like “Peter son of Peter son of the Peter with the one ear son of the tall Peter”.

When we set off for the beach we took a route that led us through this fascinating valley. As we climbed out of Ciskszereda,the skies were darkening and as we descnded into the valley it had begun to rain. And what rain. It poured down. Rain like that I don't remember ever seeing outside the tropics. As we got further down into the valley, passing through towns that had once, 1000 years ago formed the border between Hungary and Romania (or what passed for those countries anyway), passing old and quite beautiful barracks and military offices, the rain kept falling. We were headed for Comanesti, the Moldavian town where the valley ends, so that we could turn south and go towards the coast, where hopefully this insane rain was not an issue. In one village a group of Csango had gathered to watch a river rise with the torrents of water flowing down the stream that had become a major river. In a valley like this one, with steep sides and many stream and tributaries flowing into the valley floor, rain of this intensity was a particular problem. They stood there in their ponchos, still drenched and soaked to the skin, watching the bridge which we crossed getting closer and closer to the surface of the muddy and branch strewn water. We kept onwards.

We went through a town whose main street was under water, making guesses as to how and where the water was at it’s shallowest. We weren’t the only car heading this way, so we knew it was possible, but as with all roads here there is a constant danger of potholes – and a deep one could have spelt the end of our trip. So we crawled at a reasonable pace (for fear of stalling) through the impromptu river, and eventually cleared it and went on our way.

A few kilometres later, we came to a second street underwater. Except at this one there were a line of stopped cars – including landrovers and other vehicles purportedly able to cope with anything. I don’t know if you have ever seen or heard of a Daewoo Tico, but it is not one of those vehicles. We’re basically talking about a Korean-Romanian Fiat Punto, only slightly smaller. So we stopped, and watched the river (formerly a street) rise. The guy in the landrover turned around and came to us and told us that this road was closed for as long as the rain lasted (which seemd like it meant for a few weeks at least) and that we ought to turn around now and get out of the valley before tne bridge we had previously passed got washed out and we were condemned to spend our intendedbeach holiday soaked to the skin in the Csango valley. We turned and drove like the clappers back through the nearly washed out street that we had previously come through, and our hearts beating to the bridge, at which the villagers were frantically doing somethingh sandbags which appeared to be diverting the water over the road and away from the bridge in some effort to save it I presume. However, we (and this is the important bit) made it. 140 kms after setting off we were right back where we started from in Csikszereda.

The next day after we had finally made it to the beach, we heard (through the miracle of mobile phone technology) that the valley had been totally closed, and that a 7m high level of water had been reported in Comanesti, the town we had never reached. That seemed a tad high, but I guess it was possible, given the level of rain we had encountered up to that point. We merely had to concern oursleves with how deep we were able to get into the Black Sea before the “Salvamar” people angrily whistled us for being out too far. (This was at basicaly chest high level.). The Black Sea coast and its gorgeous beaches will have to wait for a future update, as I am now off to bed.

No comments: