The ReConnect Transylvania program included destinations of Hungarian cultural and historical significance, both in urban and rural areas.
We visited historical landmarks, museums, libraries, and castles in the vibrant cities of Kolozsvar, Marosvasarhely, and Segasvar, where our Peer Guides introduced us to important Hungarians figures of the past and the historical events that have shaped the region. We also visited rural villages nestled in the mountains with overnight stays in Zetalaka, where we sampled homemade palinka and learned how to make kurtoskalacs, and in Torocko, where we hiked up the mountain Szekelyko for a breathtaking view.
To better understand the lives and cultural traditions of Transylvanian Hungarians, we took a closer look at their religious beliefs, visiting both Catholic and Unitarian churches, the pilgrimage site of Csiksomlyo, and the holy mountain of Madarasi Hargita. We also had the chance to observe local artisans by visiting a leather-craftsman in his workshop, shopping at a family-owned pottery shop in Korond, and enjoying a private tour of the Banffy castle in Bonchida, where conservationists actively worked to restore the structures.
As we learned more about the history of Transylvania, ate homemade meals prepared by the owners of the inns where we lodged, and learned more and more Hungarian words and phrases, we made new connections and discoveries with our own families’ traditions and histories. Some members of our group even met relatives living in the area, where they shared old photos, made new family tree connections, and brought each other up to date on family news, while other members of our group explored the history and events related to their ancestors’ lives.
By the end of our trip, our group felt more Hungarian than ever, so it seemed right that we found ourselves on the final night of our trip immersed in folk music and folk dancing at the Hungarian Festival in Kolozsvar, in celebration of St. Stephen’s Day: a fitting end to a trip dedicated to reconnecting with our Hungarian heritage.