How I ended up in a Hungarian folklore dance camp

4 minute read

Late at night I arrived in Timisoara. The border crossing took forever. Officers entering the bus and took all passports. I checked in at the hostel in Timisoara late at night. It was an old villa converted to a hostel with dorm rooms. The next day I visited the city center. There was nothing going on with only two squares. There is a cool museum about consumerism in the communist times with a great pub and garden to relax. In the basement you can find old stuff as if the time stood still for 40 years. Old passports and cloths.

I took a beer and something to eat in the garden and met a fellow guest of the hostel. He was from Spain and wanted to eat paella. He came all the way to Romania to eat paella? I was bored and Kinga, the Hungarian girl, texted me. She told me there is a party this night in Romania in Magyarlapad. A local Hungarian folklore festival. And this Saturday they have their closing party. If I like local cultures I should definitely go there. This town is a Hungarian settlement in Romania. About 290 km away from where I was now. Kinga’s mother used to go to this dance camp.

Kinga told me to take the train and it will take 6 hours to go there. Timisoara was a bit boring so I decided to go there. I went back to the hostel, packed my bags and went to the train station. I managed to buy a train ticket and took the train. The trains were horrible. There are no wall sockets and nobody spoke English. The train stopped several times. Luckily the train was not full and there was plenty of space to sleep a bit. I had a conversation with a woman in German. She was with her 2 daughters. They couldn’t speak any English at all. She worked in Germany before. Another family started talking to me. The father spoke German as well. They wanted to know why I was on this train. I am going to a party at a dance camp. And I am on my way to Japan. The daughter was the only one speaking English. Her name was Joanna and she was 14 years old. She translated everything for me in Romanian so I could have a conversation with her family and friends. The train should arrive at 23.15 in Aiud but it was delayed after being for hours in the train.

An old guy saw me and my backpack. He started talking to me, but not in English. He spoke a bit of Italian and German. As far as I understood he invited me to go fishing on a lake in his village. He was a wood carver and showed me photos on his phone. He insisted that I would come to him. I didn’t want to. I asked Joanna to translate for me. She laughed and think he was a bit crazy. I got of the train in Aiud. It was almost midnight. The battery of my phone almost died. I wrote down the name of the village in Romanian and Hungarian and the name of the person I should contact when I was there. Kinga wrote me a phone number of a taxi company in this area. I called and 1 minute later I was in a cab. I gave him the paper with the 3 names.

The driver knew the way to this village, but not where the dance camp was. We drove for 15 minutes in the darkness. I was a bit worried that this will be a complete failure. 7 Hours ago I was sitting in the sun, drinking a beer at the terrace of a museum and decided to go to the middle of nowhere. This village looks dead. All lights in the houses were of. It was almost 24.00.

At the end of the street lights were shining. There was a huge party tent in the fields. Loud music was playing. Live music. People are dancing, eating and drinking. Young people, old people. Food stands and people selling drinks from refrigerators. The whole village was here on this place! I got out of the taxi with my backpack. The driver was getting something to eat. I stood there with my sign. People looking at me what I was doing here. I asked someone where to find the guy I have the name of on my paper. Ahh, Csongor Kiss! They looked around and pointed me in a direction of the big tent. I found him. He said he couldn’t speak English. Maybe after a few more drinks he will speak it fluently, but not now. Not yet. He got me a translator. A young couple who spoke English. I explained I was sent by a girl in Hungary to this dance camp and that I am from the Netherlands. They were surprised and happy to see me. They showed me around and introduced me to the local people.

This small village Magyarlapad, or ‘Lopadea Nouă’, the Romanian name, has a population of a bit more than 1000 people. All Hungarian speaking and they were all here together. Celebrating, dancing, singing. A folklore fest. Some young people could speak English and some a bit of German. They gave me food, home-made alcoholic drinks and they showed me how to dance. I was amazed by their hospitality and their kindness. And we partied until the sun was coming up again.

Folklore dancing