It was one of those days on which, under most circumstances, I would have wanted to be sitting on my couch by the fireplace, reading the Fellowship of the Ring (which takes forever to get through …). But, as Eric said several times, the mountains were really more interesting to see on this misty day than on a sunny day – more mysterious, impressive.
Saturday morning, we had a quick breakfast and tried to get on the road early. We had a full schedule – a huge dam that provides electricity for part of the area; a campsite at a lake, where we ate lunch; another lake, one of the highest in the Carpathians, which legend says was created by the tears of separated lovers; a rickety walking bridge; and a basket shop for souvenirs.
These were interesting stops, but my favorite part was the time between the stops, driving on bumpy roads up through the mountains. It was intriguing to watch the landscape – both geological and cultural – change slowly as we went farther east.
In Hungarian culture, the houses are made of bricks and covered with stucco, then painted any color from white to brown to pink to blue. The further we drove into the hills, the more log houses I noticed. In the mountains proper, almost all the houses were logs or wooden. The population shifted from villages to rural farms; head-hankerchiefs were worn by women of lower and lower ages, until even the smallest girl wore them; people began to look less Hungarian and more Ukrainian (which means my blonde hair didn’t stand out so much); more cows and horses, more wood smoke, more orthodox churches.
And halfway through our drive back, I found the European middle of nowhere. The West African middle of nowhere – just outside Bo, Sierra Leone. The North American middle of nowhere – the “holler” in which my AmeriCorps group built a retaining wall in West Virginia. The Eastern European middle of nowhere – somewhere in the center of the Carpathian mountain range, amidst the tallest mountains, where the only thing that crosses it is a two-lane road – not power-lines or a highway. I saw two or three houses from my vantage point in a field along the road, and from where I stood, I could see for miles.
So I guess that makes Péterfalva 3 hours west of nowhere.