Planes, Trains, Trams, and Buses – Pilgrimage to Transylvania
By Sandra Goohs Pecora (edited by Christine Goohs Donaldson and Patricia Goohs Petersen)
The trip had been dreamed of for years. We grew up attending the Saxon Club in Lorain, Ohio, with our Grandma’s recipes in the Saxon cookbook, and reading the history of the Saxons in Transylvania. Christine’s parents, Christian and Evelyn Goohs (Gooss), had visited relatives in Meschendorf in the 1970s. Later, Aunt Eleanor Goohs Kerner and her cousin Rose Gross had toured Transylvania with the Alliance of Transylvanian Saxons group tour. Now was our generation’s turn.
Our cousin Andrea Lurz had put us in touch with Cosmin Serbin, who owned Tante Anna Schmidt’s house, now converted to a beautiful Gästehaus. We were to begin an adventure of a life time: a trip to meet family members we were aware of and those we didn't know existed. We arrived in Frankfurt and headed for Baden, Baden, where we met Andrea Lurz (from great uncle Georg Gooss' lineage), her son Uwe and niece Kateryn. After years of emails, it was wonderful to finally meet her in person. We toured the Casino and parks, and walked through the old city, viewing from high places the city of Baden Baden. Then we headed to Munich where we met our cousins from Bad Tolz in a lovely beer garden: beautiful Heidrun (whom we had known previously in California), her father Helfried, fiance Richard and their dog.
We then travelled to Prague to meet with the rest of our party and visited maternal cousins. We took a train through Hungary, with a two hour quick tour of Old Budapest enroute, and finally arrived in Sighisoara.
Our guides Cristiana and Cosmin Moraru drove us to Meschendorf, where our Grandfather Christian Goohs [Gooss (it was misspelled by Immigration at Ellis Island, New York)] was born and raised before coming to the United States around 1900. The countryside was lovely, but Meschendorf seemed a somewhat empty town. When did the German Saxons leave? When Patricia, Janet, and Christine’s parents visited in the 1970s, they were still here. When Eleanor visited in the 1980s, some were still here. Now there were almost no Saxons; they had moved mainly to Germany. The houses were abandoned or vacated or bought by Romanian people.
We found our grandfather’s house, but could only look from a distance. Our Hosts Cosmin and Ildy Serban had purchased the home of Tante Anna Schmidt and remodeled it into a Gästehaus -- a delightful place to stay. Cosmin is a Forester, and his mission is to restore the village of Meschendorf. We had comfortable rooms with our own baths, and we dined in a delightful room with good food, for Ildy is Hungarian and a terrific cook. This couple and our guides were like family to us. We had finally arrived at our Grandfather's family home. Wunderbar!
On August 2nd, we headed with Cosmin and Cristiana to Feldorf, where our Grandmother Sarah Kellner Goohs was born. It was a hidden village nestled off the main road -- a quaint but more updated village, with the fronts of houses brightly painted. We looked for Grandmother's home and found a corn field where we thought it should be. Disappointed, we started to walk away. However, Cosmin walked further and found the house -- the numbers were out of sequence. A Romanian family was living in it. It was nicely painted and had a beautiful courtyard, with the flowers Grandma Goohs always had in her garden in Lorain, Ohio. The summer kitchen and well and the house were still intact. The woman allowed us to enter. How delightful and emotional to know that Grandma had grown up right there. What a gift!
The Lutheran Church in Felldorf was to have be restored, but funds ran out. Instead, most of our party climbed the hill behind to visit the cemetery. We left there pleased and blessed and drove to Sighisoara, a beautiful a "Burg" (original walled city) where Cristiana and Cosmin live.
August 3rd: Cosmin took Janet and Jamel to the airport. We were sad to see them leave, but they had traveled to Tunisia (where Jamel is from) before joining us in Germany, and they had to return to the school they own in California.
Cristiana took us to a wilderness area with volcanic rock formations. We visited Emerald Lake, said to be bottomless, apparently formed by a meteor impact. Its sulfuric waters are icy cold and therapeutic. I was somewhat tired and my feet were swollen, so I decided to stay on the high ground while others hiked down to the lake. However, I did continue down the path, and we saw that children were swimming in the lake.
Some of our party went on down, and I heard our LORD say, “Go put your feet in the water and I will heal you.” I walked down to the lake and did so. Of course, I then had to walk back up the hill, and I often have problems with my lungs when climbing. I proceeded and made the first climb, but there was another. I was somewhat alone, and started praying as I made the second climb, "LORD, I asked you to be with me on this trip,” (for I wasn't sure I would be able to come), “Help me climb this hill." He said, “I am with you. I am already here.” Then I saw in my spirit His sandals and His robe colored in charcoal, grey and blue. His left arm was around my left arm, and he held my right arm with his right hand. We were walking straight up the hill without effort, and He said to prove this, I would almost fly up that hill. I was amazed and hesitated at one point, but He told me to keep going. I could not believe the outcome! I had no trouble breathing either!
That evening we had another surprise: Mike and Mathilde Zink, cousins we had not known, came into the BnB. We had found more family. Mathilde looked at me and wept - I was the image of a family member of hers, I think her mother or sister? Mike brought another family member Hermine, and we had such a good time. Ildy brought a cake to celebrate Christine’s birthday which was the next day, which was apparently Mike’s birthday, too. We were invited the next day to their home and Hermine's. This wonderful surprise meeting had been arranged by Helfried, who had given Cosmin their information.
The next day Cosmin took us to visit Brasov and Bran Castle. Afterward, we visited Hermine as she shared her traditional German Saxon home where she stays when in Romania. There is an entry gate, the summer kitchen, and suites for the elderly, the visitors, and the family. Also a wine or cold cellar. There were grape vines, a vegetable garden, many flowers and a well. A barn, sheds, and another gate to the orchard. It was paradise to her, and we all agreed. How beautiful!! Beyond the house there were rolling hills and a beautiful landscape of wildflowers and meadows and mountain ranges. Hermine was a gracious hostess and gave us beautiful needlework that she had made. We looked at photos, ate, and Hermine played the accordion for Christine's birthday -- a wonderful visit.
We then went to Zink's home, met their son and grandchildren, and celebrated Mike Zink's birthday, with fried sugared donuts and Schnapps, wine and sausages....laughter and pictures – a remembrance not soon forgotten...
Back at the guesthouse, we had our final meal with Cosmin and Ildy. The next day Cosmin and Cristiana took us to Bucharest, for our flight back to the States.
But there is one more story: Cosmin and Ildy's story.....Praising the LORD for it all. Cosmin Serban, our host in Meschendorf, told us a story of his life and how through the influence of a Romanian Monk, Fr. Arsenie Boca (1910-1989), his life changed. Cosmin wished to invest in the properties in Meschendorf to build this little retreat for friends and visitors and help the people of Meschendorf revive. However, the cost and building of this vision was too much. Through his sister, he heard of a Romanian Monk who had lived during the Communism takeover, and had the gift of prophesy. He went to the tomb of this monk and something changed in his heart. Later, a priest told Cosmin to make a good confession, and, when he did, his finances and outlook took a change for the better.
Cosmin decided to build a Cross and shrine at the entrance to Meschendorf. It is typical to have a Christian Crucifix at the entrance of every town and village in Romania. There already was one there but Cosmin wanted to build another.
Cosmin and Ildy were barren and had done everything they could to have children, with no success. They were given a 95 % certainty that they would never conceive. On the day that Cosmin finished the shrine and Cross, Ildy met him there with her pregnancy test. It was positive. To GOD be the glory, they have a beautiful son, Zian Andrei. What a beautiful story to tell.
To find that the blessings of our LORD, go wherever we are privileged to go, and to meet such beautiful Christian friends so far away in this world we live in, I know that the LORD always brings good to those who love Him. What a wonderful end to my story. I am so blessed and happy to have been able to tell it. Look for Father GOD in every turn of the paths you travel, dear ones. He is present and willing to share His love with all who seek Him. In Jesus I give this day and put my trust in Him.