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Szuszi’s wedding – Jan’s Romanian diary

14 October 2011

[Click on an image to enlarge]

Wed Sept 28th
Arrived in Romania – temperature 28 degrees! We were dressed for the autumn!! Andor met us at the airport – with two bunches of flowers for Karen and Jan! That was a “first” for both ladies – flowers at the airport!

We met the family, unpacked and were hosted for our evening meal by Bobbie and her parents, for a traditional meal in a traditional home. Bobbie was one of our guests back in March, when a group came over for the conference. Karen fell on the way home – pitch black and no road surface! Fortunately, she got away with minor scrapes and grazes.

Thurs Sept 29th
Another scorcher! The ladies accompanied by Szuszi and Emoke for a pre-wedding manicure/pedicure! Jan had a manicure too! During the afternoon we (men included!) spent the afternoon cutting and tying green and white ribbons in preparation for decorating the church, the garden (and the surprise horse and carriage that Szuszi knew nothing about!). We ate together with Szuszi’s family in the evening.

Fri Sept 30th
Yet another very hot day! We donned our oldest clothes, ready for a very busy day! While Andor and Szuszi’s dad collected wild growing Sunflowers and big yellow daisies from the fields, alongside greenery from the hedgerows, the village men were chopping pine branches and we set about decorating the church ( something not known to this part of the world, but which Szuszi had seen and liked!). Meanwhile, Noemi (Pastor and also mother of the bride!) was outside shovelling stones – to level the road outside the church – YES – THE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING!!! The church had just undergone repairs, the plastering was still wet – and not yet paintable!! So we had the task of making a building site ready for a wedding!! The bows were attached to the end of the pews, door handles, the cheese plant in the entrance, window sills, balconies – everywhere! Our biggest challenge was probably to cover the new central heating boiler, proudly positioned next to the pulpit and immediately facing the bride and groom! While Karen found an old basket in the cellar to put the wild flowers into, Jan set about covering the boiler with pine, then decorating with the wild flowers. She was very proud of the end result – never having done any flower arranging before! Karen’s middle arrangement, followed by Jan’s floor level arrangement to make it all flow together, made a display that the family were very excited about! it’s not usual to see Michael Ross making ribbon decorations for a carriage – or Geoff attaching ribbons over the archway by the garden gate! We all experienced a “first” on Friday! The evening was spent with another host family – Cotty and Domi. Cotty was an exceptional cook! It was strange to be given cake with Schnapps as a starter though!!!

Sat October 1st
The wedding day dawned as another very hot day! We had our first quiet morning after we had been down to the church to replace any of the dying flowers that weren’t in water and to view what the young people had done the night before – fixing wire in the church along the plaster line and winding round vine and other wild greenery, then adding bows that had been specially made. The overall look was stunning!

We got ready and awaited the arrival of the secret carriage to our house – up the lane from Szuszi’s home. The carriage came across the field track, so as not to be seen from the house. So, in our wedding finery, we decorated the horses and carriage in traditional colours (red, white and green) including plumage!! Then we made our way to the house – where everything began at 2.30pm
Andor, with his guardians (parents stand behind, followed by all his family and invited guests) asks across the gate if a beautiful girl lives here. “Several, ” replies Uri – Szuszi’s spokesman. After several questions, they are finally allowed into the garden, where Szuszi’s relatives and invited friends are waiting. At this point there is food, wine, schnapps etc in plenty! Andor knocks at the door and requests his bride. Firstly Grandmother is brought out – will she do?? NO! Grandmother is followed by Anuska, a villager, then a bridesmaid – all of whom Andor declines! Then his beautiful bride is presented to him! She looks stunning!! More food and wine! Then it’s into the carriage – with musicians on a squeezebox and fiddle, who serenade them all the way to the civil ceremony (a legal requirement in Romania – Church alone doesn’t count!!). Guests follow in cars in a procession, horns honking all the way to the registry office in the next village. The ceremony is followed by more food and drink served from the registrars desk !! The church ceremony is next – where Noemi is Pastor, preacher and mother!!! All in hungarian, Emoke sits between us to translate, whilst Michael videos the ceremony. Afterwards, the couple release doves together – with MORE food and wine! Then it’s back in the garden with the whole village with yet more of the same food and wine! By now it’s approaching 6pm – and we wonder how long the wedding will last, having been told about some of the activities that will follow at the reception! Discovering that the wedding will finish between 6-7 AM next morning, we dash back to the house to pack a bag, hoping to book a room at the hotel!! We English aren’t up to all night partying – well, not at our age anyway!! As a result, we miss the next part of the wedding – travelling through the village street, whilst villagers throw gifts and pine leaves. At the end of the street, rope and villagers block the way – claiming that Andor can’t take his bride away from the village! After answering silly questions and giving forfeits when he can’t give an answer, off we go in a similar procession as earlier to the reception.

What an amazing sight! A champagne reception is followed by showing us to our seats – 220 of them!!!! The tables are set like a banquet – 6 courses, but with approximately one and a half hours between each one! The first course is a meal in itself! That iss followed by the bride and groom’s traditional Hungarian dance that they present to their guests, after which follows more of the same for everyone. Around 9.30pm the fanfare begins, followed by 6 waiters who present the soup formally to the top table (just 6 people – bride, groom and 4 guardians). Szuszi’s parents are sitting with us and Andors parents are the other side of the room! Afterwards, everyone receives soup – and masses of bread! Then more dancing and set activities – including Szuszu standing on a table and Andor sitting under it – something to do with who is the boss of the house!! Michael is the first to retire, after the soup. We have a dormitory for the 4 of us!!!! At 12.10am we face the main course, after which Jan decides it’s bedtime! Michael is fast asleep already. Geoff and Karen last for about another two hours until the cake is brought out – five tiers on a trolley with fireworks like giant sparklers blazing away!!! A house (giant money box) is brought out. Everyone receives an envelope, named, into which everyone puts their gift – the cost of the meal (what a good idea!!) plus extra. This money covers everything from the meal to flowers, photographer, honeymoon etc – everything apart from the bride’s dress, bought by Szuszi’s father. For the four of us, the day has ended – but we hear the music clearly for another 4 hrs!! – We all miss the last two courses of a meat platter and dessert and the opportunity to pay to dance with the bride but what an experience!!

Sunday Oct 2nd
We wake around 10.15am, shower, dress, pay the bill and have something else to eat! Jan has a plain omelette (cost = 4 lei, just under £1) while the other three eat wedding cake – yes at that time of the morning! Our accommodation costs in the hotel came to about £8 each!!! We didn’t know how we were to get home – so we looked out for cars with the familiar green and white bows attached for a lift! Geoff and Jan got back this way, whilst Karen and Michael waited longer and were brought back by Chabba – Szuszi’s dad. We slept most of Sunday – and Michael began to be really unwell. Looking back – this probably started at the wedding, when he went to bed early.

Monday Oct 3rd
Both Michael and Geoff feeling rough today! Karen plays nurse and Jan goes to town with Szuszi and Andor – returning hired items! Poor Karen – she also becomes inflicted on Monday evening.

Tuesday Oct 4th
Today we should be moving on to Cluj – but Jan is the only one fit to go! About 15 people now have this bug in the village alone- declared an epidemic, which is being passed through the air on it’s travels from Germany! Our Cluj friends are very disappointed that we can’t go, as are we. Maybe tomorrow!

Wed Oct 5th
No – can’t go today either! Geoff and Karen better, but both very weary. Michael seems to be getting worse! Jan? She’s escaped it so far! Karen and Jan joined Chabba and Noemi, Szuszi and Andor and Emoke for a brief trip to an old stately home. Both Emoke and Andor become ill while we are out!

Thurs Oct 6th
Michael, completely dehydrated, having lost about half a stone and feeling very weak is taken to hospital. He is given three infusions of saline, anti-sickness and some kind of fluid energy. Had we not been due to travel the next day, he would have been admitted. So, Geoff and Jan have lunch in town with Emoke and Andor (now recovered) whilst Szuszi interprets at the hospital. Michael and Karen make a new friend – the doctor of infectious diseases – whom we discover later was sat next to Geoff at the wedding! They may be having her to stay next year!!!!

Fri Oct 7th
We leave at 4am (2am uk time) and are taken to the airport by Andor. Szuszi and Noemi are out in the street also waving us off – along with the pet dogs (2 of them). The old lady dog died, sadly on the morning of the wedding. We arrive at Luton at 8.15am and Karen drives Michael’s car home – a big car for a small lady!! She does very well, in spite of being up most of the night! Well done, Karen! Michael returns to the GP – but is awaiting test results from Romania on Tuesday.

A truly memorable time full of fun, excitement, sadness at not being able to go to Cluj and sickness! God was with us every step of the way – for which we give thanks!

Jan Fennell

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