Romania part 4
After breakfast Paul and I ask Dana about taking a walk and she suggests that we walk on the dirt road (the only road) that we drove to get here but walk the opposite way from where we came in. Dana tells us that it will take us into the nearby forest where the road comes to a dead-end after a mile or so. Dana also tells us in broken English to carry a stick along for defense! We look at her in surprise to which she says “don’t worry, you will have no problems”. Well we aren’t worried as we have seen no wild animals on this trip so far but a couple of hares and a few squirrels in England!
It is chilly this morning as we walk along the unoccupied road but it feels good to be out of the confines of a car. We pass by two placid cows wearing bells around their necks. As they turn their heads to look at us, the bells spill lovely musical notes into the crisp morning air. Farther down the road some goats are adding their own music to our morning walk, as the bells they are adorned with, chime softly as they graze. I love that sound. A young cow, with a half-grown calf by her side, is walking towards us mooing plaintively, possibly because her herd left her behind. Walking in the forest the coniferous trees tower above us and short of a cowbell jingling in the distance and a few warbling birds we are surrounded by silence. As Paul and I round a curve there is a lanky hare sitting in the middle of the road. There is wildlife in Romania!!
At the roads end there is a hunting blind on stilts, a grain trough, and the skeletal remains of two cows. It appears they bait hunt in Romania too. Our question is what are they trying to attract with the bovine carcasses? We see a pile of old scat full of animal hair that was certainly deposited by a large animal. Wolf? Bear? Wild Boar? We don’t know but the poo does prove that there are more than hares in the forest.
As we stroll back toward our temporary home, we find the calf that we met at the start of our walk standing alone a few hundred yards from our guesthouse. The bull calf is bawling for mom and as we walk by him he begins to follow us. As we walk along, the mottled calf has decided he likes Paul and trails behind him like a dog. When Paul and I enter a small graveyard next to the road that is surrounded by a wooden fence, the lost calf peers through the slats of the gate as if to make sure we don’t disappear too. Once we reach the monastery the calf seems to have given up that we are going to help him find his mother and turns and walks the other way. Poor thing.
On our return, Cornelia is waiting to transport us to the first of two painted monasteries we will visit today. Other than a huge amount of traffic streaming into a city that is celebrating a milestone birthday, our travel to the monastery went smoothly and as usual was full of interesting sights along the way. In Bucovina as there was in Maramures there is a housing boom going on. The new houses being built are huge and the outside of them are generally finished in colorful dryvit. I have noticed that no matter how old, new, big or tiny the houses are in Romania they all have pretty lace curtains in the windows.
Cornelia pulls into a parking lot and for the first time we must pay to park. Another first is that we encounter vendors who are selling souvenirs from small stands set up on the sidewalk. We pay our entrance fee for the Humor (hoo-mor) monastery, and when we step through the gate we see the historical building which is built of stone but covered in plaster to create a smooth surface. The outside walls facing us are covered in paintings of biblical characters or scenes depicting bible stories. Cornelia tells us the monastery is for nuns and it was built in the early 1500’s. This monastery has a cross on its roof not a spire which means that a court official built the monastery not royalty. The paintings on the south side of the building are vibrant with reds, blues and yellows being the dominant colors, and it is hard to believe that they are 500 years old! Cornelia takes us to the north side of the building where the exposure to the sun has destroyed all the paintings except the area of the wall that is protected by the low hanging roof and these paintings are very faint.
The three of us enter the small monastery and find that the inside is just as elaborately decorated as the outside. There is so much to look at that it is overwhelming and when I do a 360 while staring up at the ceiling I get a bit dizzy. There are separate panels (12 maybe?) showing all the events leading up to and including the crucifixion of Christ. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside the painted monastery. The only thing that distracted from being in this spectacular place was that a nun decided to vacuum the rugs while we were enjoying the interior of this ancient building. Oh well, sixteenth century meet the twenty-first century:).
Returning to the van, we are now in route to the more famous painted monastery of Voronet. When we arrive we again pay for parking in a large lot which is several blocks from the Monastery that is nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of the East. Here we walk by lots of souvenir shops and decide to search for the traditional gift of wooden boxes sporting the name of the country we are visiting ,in this case Romania, that we give to our partners children. We find exactly what we are looking for at the second shop we visit and purchase three wood boxes from the vendor.
We reach the impressive stone wall that surrounds the grounds of Voronet and walk through an arched wooden gate. The gate leads to a small room where a nun collects our entrance fee and we walk onto the grounds of this famous painted monastery. Wow, Voronet is really big compared to Humor and there are a lot more people visiting here too.
Cornelia, who by now we realize is a walking encyclopedia, tells us that Voronet was built in the late 1400’s by Stephen the Great to celebrate a victory over the Turks. Well the great man outdid himself because this monastery is gorgeous. The blue color in the paintings is very intense and Cornelia says that the blue paint is unique to Voronet. To this day no one has been able to break down the components in the paint to figure out how they made the stunning blue color. Cornelia says there is a legend that instead of using water they used horinca to mix the blue paint!
Cornelia asks us if we can figure out why the monasteries are covered with paintings. We don’t know and she tells us it is because the people who lived here couldn’t read and the services were held in a language they didn’t speak. The religious leaders painted the walls so the people could understand Christianity through the pictures. It makes sense to me as the paintings are very realistic. We enter the monastery and as in Humor it is spectacular. There also is the rule of no photos allowed which is a shame but I understand that they need to protect these ancient masterpieces.
On our way home there is a man and boy riding horses ahead of us and they look to be outfitted for a parade or show and the riders are dressed in fancy costumes. I have raised my camera to my eye and am trying to find the riders so I can snap a photo, when I hear Cornelia and Paul both exclaim “Oh my God!”. I yank my camera down to see the boy’s horse lying on its side on the shoulder of the road, while the boy, who was thrown free thank goodness, is lying in the grassy ditch. The boy jumps to his feet and runs to the horse who is struggling to get up. The boy grabs the horse’s bridle and helps the poor animal to its feet. All three of us are relieved to see that the big horse regains his footing and stands solidly on all four legs. Cornelia drives up to the scared boy and converses with him. Cornelia explains she was asking the rider if he was alright and if he needed any help. The boy replied that he was fine. Oddly enough his companion is completely unaware of the boy’s mishap and is still trotting his horse down the highway. Another man has parked his car on the shoulder and is standing and talking with the boy so knowing he is not alone, we continue on our way.
Cornelia has one last place to take us and that is the Painted Egg museum which is exactly what the name implies. The proprietor of this place, it is a private collection, has on display painted eggs from all over the world. We enjoy looking at the interesting eggs and seeing the amazing things an artist can paint on an egg! I didn’t take any photos because I was too cheap to pay the camera fee.
It is about dinner time when we return to the guest house. After we are finished eating Dana sits down at the table to visit with us. Cornelia and Dana get in an intense discussion (in Romanian) about how to prepare the corn meal dish (it was delicious) we were served tonight. Paul and I become so mesmerized by this passionate, animated, conversation that we are staring rudely at the two women. It took Paul and me about two days with Cornelia to understand that people here talk very emphatically and it doesn’t mean they are irritated or upset with you! These two ladies are facing each other and once in a while we can understand a drawn out “nooo” and assume they are disagreeing on some part of the recipe. Who knows though, they might have been discussing us!
After a good night’s sleep, we have our breakfast of bread, cheese, sliced summer sausage and little white chunks of something. Cornelia sees me eyeing this item and tells me that it is lard. Oh why not, I take a piece, stick it in my mouth, and well, it’s pretty greasy and cold. I will pass up that offering the next time.
It is Sunday morning and yesterday we had asked Dana if the people coming to the monastery for church today would be dressed in traditional outfits. She replied that they only wear the traditional clothes on special occasions. Imagine our surprise when after Dana has served our breakfast she returns outfitted in her traditional clothes. That is going above and beyond to please your guests!
Paul and I want to take a quick walk in the forest before we have to leave this peaceful place later this morning. When we reach the gate there is a man standing beside his car and he waves at us saying something we can’t understand. He shakes Paul’s hand and takes my hand and kisses the back of it. Hey, I could get used to this. We assume he is going to church but then we see Dana’s mother trotting towards us carrying a wicker basket. When she arrives, slightly out of breath, we see that her basket is filled with big wedges of cheese wrapped in plastic. The dapper man and Dana’s mother talk for a bit and then he hands her some lei in exchange for the cheese.
After watching the free market at work in Romania we continue on our walk. The goats are still in their field, neck bells chiming softly. As we stroll down the forest road we hear a cuckoo bird whose call sounds exactly like the bird that pops out of a cuckoo clock. In fact the first time we heard a cuckoo sing in Breb we actually thought it was a cuckoo clock chiming in a nearby house! Paul and I sit down on a fallen log to enjoy our surroundings when a car drives by. The odd thing is that a dog is loping behind the car. The driver speeds up, the dog runs faster and they soon disappear from sight. It occurs to us that this guy is “walking” his dog which we find pretty funny.
Cornelia is ready to hit the road as soon as we return from our outing, so we go to our room and retrieve our luggage. Dana comes out to give Cornelia some butter she has purchased from the family and to say goodbye to us. We thank her for the wonderful food and hospitality. I shake her hand and Paul taking a cue from the men that kissed my hand decides this must be a proper way to say goodbye to Dana. When Dana realizes what Paul is about to do she cries out “no” and removes her hand from Paul’s. Yikes, that isn’t exactly the reaction Paul was looking for. We never did figure out why she reacted that way. Waving goodbye, Cornelia drives us through the pasture and Paul gets out, opens and closes the gate and we are on our way to rendezvous with Daniel.
On our journey to meet Daniel we see our first and our last oxen team pulling a wagon. It appears that the man has loaded up all his possessions in the wagon. Three crates contain a big dog, a calf, and a hog, while on the back of the wagon there are pails, pots, what appears to be bedding and so on. Later we see a woman with a wagon full of milk cans stopped on the road side. The milk women is picking up farmers milk and dropping off empty milk cans. A woman driving a wagon is something we have rarely seen so far on our tour of Romania. We round a curve and come face to face with a big flock of sheep being driven down the highway. Most of the sheep are in the lane they should be traveling in but a few have strayed into our lane. Cornelia must come to a complete stop so one of the boy’s trailing the flock can gather up the strays and move them back to the main group. Unreal!
Three hours after our departure, Cornelia pulls into a gas station where Daniel is waiting for us in his Ford sedan. Cornelia introduces us to Daniel and we say goodbye to this knowledgeable, feisty woman who has done such a wonderful job the past five days in guiding us through Maramures and Bucovina. Later, Nancy