Flinn Scholars

On the Road 2009: Day Twelve

June 5, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

Today the 2009 Flinn class put more emphasis on the Travel part of “traveling with a purpose.”/p>

We ate breakfast at our hotel in Timisoara, consisting of items ranging olives to fried eggs, sausage to honey on bread. A bit later than scheduled, we loaded the bus and departed for a travel day.

The bus ride was highlighted by the observation of the stunning Romanian landscape. The group was very observant of the many shepherds and sheep we saw, as well as the small homes or brick towns we drove through. Romania’s unmaintained roads served to both slow our travel and keep us awake, both factors giving us deeper observation of the architecture and countryside than we had to date.

Due to a closure, we were not able to visit the Hunedoara Castle. It was theorized by some of our leaders that the area might be closed for a film screening, and this would not be the castle’s first star appearance. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see it, but that allowed more flexibility in the rest of our day, which was quite enthralling.

Our first stop was at Deva Castle, originally constructed in 1269. The castle has been pillaged and plundered by many cultures and the construction we viewed was actually one of the rebuilt castles made sometime in the late 17th century. The castle sits on a tall hill with a steep embankment as defense against intruders. Roughly half the group took a lift to the top, while the other half followed the trail to the castle. I took the hiking route, and we were able to see the rising of the original wall and eventually the two gates that formed the entrance. At the top, with a beautiful view of the city of Deva, we took many photos and enjoyed crystal sharp cityscapes while learning about the massive castle before us.

Following that visit we reloaded the bus to go picnicking. A brief drive later and we arrived at a grassy hillside perfect for our small group. Our untirable guides had purchased all of our favorite lunchable foods: gnutella, cheese spread, lots of bread, meat, peanut butter, and jelly! We munched on the hillside while observing a view of the beautiful Romanian countryside, snapped some pictures, and hit the road once more.

This time the bus ride was focused on discussion and reflection, rather than observation. The situations of disabled children and homeless, both of America and Hungary, were discussed. A couple additional challenging questions we were unable to solve in the hour or two we worked on them were “How do you start a government?” (pragmatically, and preferably succesfully) and “What is our role in preserving history?” (what is anyone’s role in preserving the history of another, even if the other doesn’t want that history to be preserved)

We stopped the bus, but did not get out, for a view of Copsa Mica, believed to be the most polluted sight in the world. The coal plant operating there was in operation at levels between 20% and 45% when the ’06 Flinn class visited during their Central European Seminar in 2007. When we stopped today, the plant had been closed. The Romanian government is looking to sell what would be a Superfund or more accurately a Hyperfund site for the price of 1 lei, less than 35.173 American cents, on the condition that the site be cleaned by the owner. No one has yet made an offer. I personally was very interested in the site, and plan to do further research on it when I am back in the US.

The rest of the journey was quick, most of our class barely noticed we had been on a bus for more than seven hours! Perhaps that is wishful thinking, but our arrival in Sigishoara surely put all travel anxieties from our mind. Our hotel is in the Castle District, meaning that we are living inside the old walls of a castle! The roads are all cobblestone, and there are churches and graveyards spaced casually throughout the town. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and then walked to dinner with our new guide, Zoltan, who will be with us throughout the rest of our Romania travels. We enjoyed the delicacies of the Rustic Romanian Restaurant: fried chicken, french fries, and loads of tomatoes. After dinner we walked back to the hotel, a few of us went on a run, and afterwards everyone went out to explore the night life of Sigishoara!

It was a day meant for travel, but still most certainly filled with both intellectual stimulation and eye-candy sightseeing. We saw a castle, a devastated city, and many beautiful countrysides and cities. A snapshot day in the land of Romania!