Romania part 4

 

Romania part 4

Road side scene taken from the van

Road side scene taken from the van

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!!

Friendly cow with a bell around her neck

Friendly cow with a bell around her neck

Cow and calf that seemed to be lost

Cow and calf that seemed to be lost

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.

This is the first wild animal we have seen in Romania!

This is the first wild animal we have seen in Romania!

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.

Paul has a new friend

Paul has a new friend

Are you still in there?

Are you still in there?

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.

We saw houses being built all over the part of Romania we visited.

We saw houses being built all over the part of Romania we visited.

People often add decoration to the outside of their houses

People often add decoration to the outside of their houses

DSCF9106Cornelia 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.

A poor photo of Humor Monastery and it seems to be the only one I have

A poor photo of Humor Monastery and it seems to be the only one I have

An up close look to show how the paintings on the south side have fared

An up close look to show how the paintings on the south side have fared

The north side where the paintings have disappeared

The north side where the paintings have disappeared

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:).

DSCF9138Returning 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.

The gate of Voronet Monastery

The gate of Voronet Monastery

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.

Voronet Monastery

Voronet Monastery

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!

This scene is painted on one end of Voronet

This scene is painted on one end of Voronet

This shows how intense the blue paint is

This shows how intense the blue paint is

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.

This was a different pair of riders than the ones I wrote about but they were dressed the same

This was a different pair of riders than the ones I wrote about but they were dressed the same

DSCF9189Cornelia 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!

Dana dressed in traditional clothing for church

Dana dressed in traditional clothing for church

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.

Dana's mother selling cheese to a customer

Dana’s mother selling cheese to a customer

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.

The road leading to the forest

The road leading to the forest

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.

Oxen team pulling wagon

Oxen team pulling wagon

Milk Woman

Milk Woman

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!

Flock of sheep being herded down the highway

Flock of sheep being herded down the highway

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

I thought that this photo of a horse drawn wagon passing another horse drawn wagon was pretty funny.

I thought that this photo of a horse drawn wagon passing another horse drawn wagon was pretty funny.

Where are we! For those of you who may not know, our home town is Alma

Where are we! For those of you who may not know, our home town is Alma

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Romania part 3

Romania part 3

This morning Marioara serves us crepes with homemade jam and butter, cold ham along with a plate of local cheese, sausages, tomatoes and cucumbers. The food was delicious as were all the meals we were served at this guest house. We say our goodbyes to Marioara and thank her for making our stay comfortable and tasty!

Marioara

Marioara

Breakfast our last morning at Marioaras' guest house

Breakfast our last morning at Marioaras’ guest house

Today we are leaving the Maramures region and will drive southeast to the region of Bucovina. Our journey will take 5-6 hours on this sunny day and we will be driving over the mountains. We also will stop at a few historical places along the way.

I haven’t mentioned all the White Storks we have seen on our trip thus far. The large white birds are nesting and they build nests of sticks, usually on top of a power pole. The nests are huge because the storks use the same nest year after year and just build a new layer over the old nest. Paul and Cornelia find it quite amusing since I am the “birder” that they are the ones that usually spot these lanky birds standing or sitting on the bushel basket sized nests. I have no explanation why I seldom spot these very obvious storks and nests. I took lots of photos but I got very few decent ones as it seemed I was always shooting up into the sun and through a wad of intersecting wires.

Storks on their nest

Storks on their nest

Farmers are taking advantage of this warm and sunny weather and we see lots of people in the fields cutting hay or piling it into haystacks. Cornelia stops alongside the road where a man and three boys are working in the field. The boys are scything the alfalfa and the man is stirring up the cut hay with a pitchfork. Cornelia calls out to the man and asks if it is o.k. to come down to the field. The pleasant-looking fellow nods his assent and we walk down to the hay field.

Man turning alfalfa by pitchfork

Man turning alfalfa by pitchfork

The mowing is finished but scythes are sharpened in prep for he next field

The mowing is finished but scythes are sharpened in prep for he next field

This young man liked being in front of a camera

This young man liked being in front of a camera

The boys have just finished scything the field of alfalfa, although the blond-headed youngster is busy sharpening his scythe in preparation for next time I suppose. I think the older boys are enjoying the attention of foreigners because they seem to be more than happy to strike a pose for photographs. Cornelia fields questions from us to the man like, “Is all the land you own right here”, answer, “no, we have small fields scattered around the area”. “Are these your sons”? “Two of them are my sons and the third is a school friend”. After we are done visiting, Paul brings out his photo book and the four hay makers cluster around and seem genuinely interested in Kansas and our ranch. They ask their own questions such as “Are those beef or milk cows”. We thank them for taking time to visit with us, wave goodbye, and continue on our journey.

The people we meet are so pleasant and their faces show this I think

The people we meet are so pleasant and their faces show this I think

A boy and his scythe

A boy and his scythe

Checking out Kansas photos

Checking out Kansas photos

Cornelia exits the main road and drives to Leud. We are visiting the Church of Leud Hill, which is a UNESCO monument. Cornelia has called ahead to the caretaker of the church as he will have to unlock the historical building for us. The bridge over the small river that Cornelia normally would drive across to get to the Church is closed so we must walk across the swinging bridge meant for bikes and foot traffic. We are dogged by a young girl who is asking for lei (money), and Cornelia firmly tells her no. The little girl finally gives up and walks back across the bridge.

A man is waiting for us at the bottom of the drive that leads to the Church of Leud Hill. When we reach the church he unlocks the door and allows us to explore the inside of the 15th century church on our own. The church is designed like the one we saw in Budesti, with the back benchless room for women, and the front room with benches for the men. The walls are also covered with ancient paintings of religious portraits and scenes. The interior of the church is as fascinating as Josani was. The one difference between our visits to the two churches is that I am not allowed to take photographs of the interior.

Uniquely shaped wood shingles

Uniquely shaped wood shingles

The corners of Leud Hill church

The corners of Leud Hill church

The three of us walk outside and look at the workmanship of the wooden church. The corners of the building are dove tailed and we get a close-up look of the faded wooden shingles on the roof, which are exactly like the ones we saw being hewn in Breb. Since it is impossible to get a good photo of the church at this level, we follow Cornelia as she picks her way uphill through the graveyard to the highest point. Wow, this is a great perspective of the historic church with the decorative graves surrounding it.

Church of Leud Hill

Church of Leud Hill

After leaving the wooden church behind, we walk down the dirt road to visit the Ethnographical Museum. A woman in traditional dress greets us and we find out that she is the owner and operator of this living history museum. The woman, I didn’t write down her name, focuses on demonstrating both plant fiber and wool weaving.  The curator has every tool necessary to create textiles from raw material of either plant fiber or wool. We watch as she shows us how to “comb” the material, spin it into usable yarn and then demonstrates how to use the looms. Our hostess shows how she can rock a cradle while working on her loom.  A wooden rod attached the cradle to a pedal which the woman can pump with her foot while she works at the loom. I have to keep from giggling because as the woman concentrates on her looming she is enthusiastically rocking the cradle via the pedal and the doll in the cradle is in danger of being ejected from the old wooden bed! We end up buying one of the woman’s’ embroidered dresser scarves for about seven dollars.

Combing hemp

Combing hemp

Note the tilted cradle as the woman works her loom

Note the tilted cradle as the woman works her loom

The museum lady saying goodbye over the gate

The museum lady saying goodbye over the gate

We say goodbye to this person who is so passionate about keeping the old traditions alive and start walking back to the car. We stroll by a cheerful man scything the tall grass around a religious statue and he strikes up a conversation with Cornelia. He offers the scythe to Paul who takes him up on his challenge. I see a surprised look come over the man’s face as he watches Paul work.  The man turns to Cornelia, nods his head and tells her Paul is doing a good job (translated of course)! The man smiles, shakes Paul’s hand and we continue on to the van.

Sharpening the scythe for Paul

Sharpening the scythe for Paul

Paul scything under the gaze of the worker

Paul scything under the gaze of the worker

Paul gets a handshake of approval

Paul gets a handshake of approval

As we drive toward Bucovina we share the road with lots of horse-drawn wagons along the way, many of which are loaded high with loose hay. There is no impatient horn- honking from the automobiles at these extremely slow vehicles the cars share the road with which I find amazing. We also meet a young man herding cows on the highway for heaven’s sakes. I just wonder how often there are accidents between machines and the animals on the busy roads. Thank goodness, we never witnessed any accidents of any sort.

A big load of loose hay

A big load of loose hay

A bigger load of loose hay!

A bigger load of loose hay!

We met this small herd of cattle as we came around a curve.

We met this small herd of cattle as we came around a curve.

As we are driving along the edge of one of the many villages we pass through today, we see two men and two boys actually making the conical hay stacks we have been seeing throughout our trip. Cornelia asks us if we want to stop and since she is slowing down at the same time I’m sure she anticipated our affirmative answer. We cross the ditch, (after Cornelia makes sure there is no sewage running through it!) and stand one hundred yards from the haying activity. I am taking photos of the hay crew when the two men wave their arms in a come on down gesture.

Walking down to the hay crew

Walking down to the hay crew

The making of a haystack

The making of a haystack

We make our way through another field until we reach the fragrant field of mown alfalfa. Cornelia makes introductions all around, and Paul shakes hands with both fellows. I offer my hand to the man nearest me, which he takes in his, but instead of a handshake he gently kisses the back of my hand. To say I am taken by surprise is putting it mildly and quite frankly I don’t quite know how to react. I just smile widely and say something like “oh my” as the elderly man releases my hand.

Working in the hay field didn't stop this man from being a gentleman!

Working in the hay-field didn’t stop this man from being a gentleman!

The other 72 year old

The other 72-year-old

The two boys, who must be grandsons or hired help, continue to rake the hay up while we converse with the two men. There is also a beautiful young girl who is standing around watching the others work. I ask if I can take her photo and she shyly agrees to pose for me. Paul and Cornelia are having an intense conversation with the two men and at one point I see the plaid-coated man and Cornelia stretching their arms wide as if they are one-upping each other on how big the fish was that they caught. The man in the plaid coat is the more talkative and he reveals to us that both he and the other fellow are 72 years old. When we prepare to leave, first one man and then the other man, kiss the back of my hand. I tell you, it made this plain- looking woman from Kansas feel like royalty! As we walk away the chatty man instructs Cornelia to tell us that if we return in ten years they will still be working their fields and Paul and I should come back and work the fields with them!

I'm not sure what was discussed here but it looked like the man was showing how big the fish he caught was:)

I’m not sure what was discussed here but it looked like the man was showing how big the fish he caught was:)

Isn't this young girl beautiful!

Isn’t this young girl beautiful!

The two boys kept working while we were there.

The two boys kept working while we were there.

As we drove through another village we must stop for a train and Cornelia comments that this is a long train. We laugh thinking she is making a joke because the train is pulling four passenger cars. Cornelia isn’t kidding at all as she tells us most of the time the engines only pull one or two cars behind them. As we continue down the street we must stop at another railroad crossing for the same train. We end up stopping for that “long” train five times before we exit the village. Crazy.

Our third out of five encounters with the same train

Our third out of five encounters with the same train

As we begin to climb in altitude more of the land is covered in forest. When we reach the mountain top we can see what looks like a miniature town nestled in the valley below us. As we descend into the valley we begin to see developed springs (well, the water is running through a pipe) alongside the road, where people stop and fill up their plastic bottles. We encounter gypsies for the first time as they drive their horse-drawn homes down the highway.

The valley view from the mountain top. Photos never do these sweeping vistas justice

The valley view from the mountain top. Photos never do these sweeping vistas justice

Gypsies and their horse drawn houses

Gypsies and their horse-drawn houses

Cornelia has never been to the guesthouse where we are staying for the next two nights. The man Paul planned this trip through was busy with other clients for the first five days of our stay so he hired Cornelia, who has her own tour company, to guide us. Cornelia is excited to see this place because it is Daniels “secret” and now he has had to share it with her. Cornelia’s excitement wanes a bit when after following the directions through the village we end up on a very narrow, potholed, dirt road. We come upon a church where the Saturday night services have evidently concluded as there are a crowd of people getting in the numerous cars that are parked along the road barely leaving enough room for Cornelia to maneuver the van through. It is a bit chaotic but Cornelia finally manages to drive through the maze of people and cars.

The monastery with our guest house in the background

The monastery with our guest house in the background

We drive a few miles on the bumpy road with forest and grassy fields on either side of us. Suddenly the countryside opens up and there are several buildings dotting the area including a monastery. To get to the guesthouse we must go through a swinging gate that is situated next to the monastery, and then drive a short distance through a pasture to reach our destination. A pretty, young woman is standing by two small wooden houses; she greets us and introduces herself as Dana. There is a larger wooden house that stands a little way from the smaller houses. I assume that we will be staying in one of the smaller cabins but Dana tells us that the three of us will be in the big house. It seems Dana, her mother and her grandmother occupy the two-story cabin and the other building is the kitchen.We grab our luggage and follow Dana along the flower lined path to the guest house. When we walk through the door we see one half of the first floor is for dining and the other half has a sink for doing dishes, a bar type counter in one corner and there is  a large wood-fired oven/stove that is made of clay (I think) and covered in smooth plaster. Dana leads us up to our rooms which are small but adequate. We do have our own bathrooms which is always a plus.

The guest house

The guest house

The bedroom

The bedroom

Dana informs us dinner will not be ready for another twenty minutes so the three of us decide to walk across the pastures to the barn where Dana’s mother is doing the nightly milking. As we near the barn a curious long-haired goat runs up to the wooden fence and pokes its head between two posts to take a look at us. A big spotted dog is chained up next to the barn and acknowledges our presence with deep, menacing barks. Dana’s mother steps out of the barn door to see what is stirring up the dog and welcomes us with a smile. She invites us into the barn which makes the pair of geese inside begin to honk hysterically. The chickens begin to run up and down the ramp that leads to their coop and the two cows are shifting nervously.

The curious goat

The curious goat

This dog did his duty by barking at our approach

This dog did his duty by barking at our approach

All the hoopla doesn’t seem to bother the owner of the livestock as she proudly shows off her cows and a handsome calf. We stay long enough to watch as the lady thoroughly cleans the udder of one cow and then begins milking the cow by hand. That sure brings back memories for me; I always rather enjoyed milking cows, if they didn’t kick that is!

Milking the cow with the chicken coop overhead

Milking the cow with the chicken coop overhead

When we return to the guesthouse Dana begins bringing food to our table but first, you guessed it, we must have some horinca! We raise the brandy size glasses, utter the toast “noroc” and take a sip of the throat burning liquor. There are five kinds of cheese on the table and all of them were made by Dana’s mother and the cheese is wonderful. What the rest of the meal was tonight I don’t recall, but I do know that every meal we had at this place was delicious. Later, Nancy

The most handsome matching pair of horses we saw in Romania

The most handsome matching pair of horses we saw in Romania

Quite a contrast

Quite a contrast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romania part 2

Romania part 2

Early morning traffic by our room.

Early morning traffic by our room.

Once we return to the guesthouse, I borrow a bristle brush from Mairoara and return to our room. I take my mucky shoe into the shower and scrub it down using the liquid hand soap in the bathroom. I was going to set my wet shoe outside but the rain is starting to come down so that plan is out the window. Instead I put the shoe on the old-fashioned radiator that is next to the staircase, knowing that this evening Mairoara will turn the heat on. I change into my spare shoes and Paul and I go back to the main house where Cornelia is waiting for us.

We are driving to Sighetu Marmatiei to visit the Sighet Museum, a Memorial to the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance. Rain is falling in earnest so we are thankful that we finished our village walk when we did. , By the time we reach Sighetu it is pouring and when Cornelia turns onto the street where the museum is located the parking spaces look to be full. Cornelia declares to us that she is a lucky person as she finds a parking space next to the museum! We scurry through the rain and enter the enormous building. After paying a small fee, we listen to an audio narrated by Ana Blandiana, who was instrumental in initiating the building of Sighet Museum. Blandianas’ purpose was to bring the truth of what had happened during the communist reign to the publics attention.

The gloomy rainy weather accentuates the mood we fall into after spending an hour or so in the museum. Many of you probably remember the downfall of Nicolai Ceausescu, the last communist leader of Romania, but I had no idea of the atrocities that were carried out during the 45 years of communist rule.

Typical cell for the political prisoners during communism

Typical cell for the political prisoners during communism

Cornelia takes us into some of the exhibits which are displayed in the tiny prison cells where the political prisoners were kept. We look at one cell where people were punished for disobeying orders such as laying or sitting on their cot during the day. This cell has leg irons in the center of the tiny room and the cell was kept completely dark. We visit the exhibit concerning priests and bishops who were imprisoned. The communist government would replace the priests in the churches with priests that were loyal to the government. These undercover priests would report people to the government after hearing confessions that would implicate them of crimes against the government, after which they would be arrested. Another exhibit explained how the peasants were rounded up and forced into cities to become workers at factories or in building the canal. Their land was seized and to insure that they wouldn’t try to escape and return to the farm, the government killed two million horses which were the backbone of a farmers operation. I could continue to relate the atrocities but you get the picture. Another sad tale was that many people in the resistance held out the hope that the USA would come to Romania’s rescue, that of course never happened and eventually the resistors were all caught and imprisoned or worse. If by chance you are traveling to Romania in the future this museum/memorial should be part of your itinerary.

Looking down a hallway lined with prison cells.

Looking down a hallway lined with prison cells.

These paintings were made from using the artists own blood when he was held in Sighet prison

These paintings were made from using the artists own blood when he was held in Sighet prison

We exit the building to look at the bronze sculpture in the yard of the former prison and it is fitting that we are looking at the agonized human figures in dim light and falling rain. Cornelia leads us into an underground room where there is a pool of water. All of us light a candle for the victims of this horrible time. We then place the candles in holes that are drilled in a metal plate that sits about an inch down in the pool of water. Even though our candles are the only ones burning, it still is a very peaceful and beautiful sight. I found this action very uplifting after the somber and depressing stories we had just encountered.

The bronze sculptures in the prison yard

The bronze sculptures in the prison yard

After leaving the museum/memorial Cornelia drives us to a restaurant for lunch. Cornelia turns onto a one way street and a car is driving toward us. The man drives right up to us as Cornelia lets fly with a curse word in English. Since there are cars behind us, Cornelia can’t back up and I don’t think she would have anyway! The knucklehead drives up on the sidewalk, where some people are walking I might add, and continues on his way. I have a choice name for that wrong way driver myself although I say it under my breath.

Cornelia parks the van and the cold rain makes us hustle into the Hungarian restaurant. The place is nicely decorated and the patrons seem to be made up of locals. When our server, dressed in Hungarian attire, comes to take our order, Cornelia and I opt for chicken noodle soup, while Paul orders Hungarian goulash which comes in a cute ceramic pot. Cornelia also orders eggplant salad for all of us, but the “salad” is a creamy paste that you spread on thickly sliced bread. All of the food is yummy.

Paul's Hungarian goulash

Paul’s Hungarian goulash

We linger over lunch, as we are not in any hurry to go back out into the rain. Eventually we leave this cozy restaurant to drive to the Merry Cemetery at Sapanta, the last stop of the day. On the drive to Sapanta the countryside is one of large pastures where herds of cattle and horses graze. Cornelia points out the country of Ukraine which is just across the river.

Cattle grazing on pasture. Photo taken as we were driving

Cattle grazing on pasture. Photo taken as we were driving

I swear that the rain stops falling when we arrive at the Cemetery and Cornelia again reminds us that she is good luck. A small entrance and camera fee is handed over to the ticket seller. We enter the colorful cemetery and Cornelia explains the history of the unique graveyard. In the 1930’s, artist Stan Ioan Patras began carving crosses from oak, and then decoratively painted them. His work included a portrait of the deceased depicting their profession or posing with something that they cherished in their life. Patras also wrote a poem describing the person’s life and sometimes the poems were very candid such as the poem about the guy that loved to drink! Dumitru Pop who apprenticed under Patras has carried on the painted cross tradition since Patras died in 1977. What I find  astonishing is that the people who commissioned these two artists to create their loved ones crosses, have no say in what the portrait of their relative will be and no control over what the poem says!DSCF8439

Cornelia shows us two graves, one is that of Sapanta the artist that began this tradition in Merry Cemetery. The other grave shows a woman wagging her finger at a defeated looking man. Cornelia explains that the person buried here is the mother-in-law of the man being admonished. The poem on the cross, in short, asks the visitor to this grave not to wake his mother-in-law up, because if she returns he will be the one sleeping here!

The grave of the artist, poet and wood carver, Patras who began the tradition of Merry Cemetery

The grave of the artist, poet and wood carver, Patras who began the tradition of Merry Cemetery

Paul and I wander around the bright graveyard on our own and although we can’t read the poems we can ascertain via the portrait something about the person occupying the space. We see many women sitting at looms, and lots of men doing agricultural tasks. There are also tragic portraits such as a young girl getting hit by a car and a boy drowning.  I don’t see how this stark depiction of the tragedies would be comforting for a parent that is visiting their child’s grave. Before we leave we enlist Cornelia’s’ help in finding crosses where people are portrayed with cattle. Between the three of us we find portraits of women milking cows, men standing or leading a cow or bull and one where a woman is standing by a calf. Mission accomplished and now it is time to return to Breb.DSCF8449

I don’t remember what Mairoara served us for the main course this evening, but I do remember that the soup was chicken noodle, duplicating what Cornelia and I had for lunch! We have a small glass of horinca set in front of us and we raise our glasses, utter the Romanian toast “noroc”, take a sip, and agree we had a fascinating day.

This morning I am pleased to find that my shoe is completely dry and it is so clean it looks brand new. This is good because I need my hiking shoes for our walk to the neighboring village of Hoteni after breakfast. It is chilly and partly cloudy when we begin our trek but a few blue patches of sky are showing so hopefully the clouds will give way to the sun later on.

Paul on our walk to Hoteni

Paul on our walk to Hoteni

There is no need for Cornelia to be our go between on the hike to Hoteni because we do not meet a human on foot or in a car. It is glorious to be strolling in the countryside and occasionally we turn to look back at Breb, which slowly fades into a miniature village behind us. The wildflowers blooming along the road and in the meadows are colorful and numerous. The birds are in full voice this morning adding music to our delightful stroll.

Flowers seen along the way

Flowers seen along the way

We reach the outskirts of the village and the first person we see is an old man sitting in his yard, whittling replacement teeth for his rake. As we walk farther into the village we pass by children walking to school plus I spy a few cats which is always a plus for me. There is a wooden church in Hoteni and we walk through the elaborate wooden gate into the cemetery. All the churches are next to or in the middle of their cemeteries. Although the church is locked, Cornelia takes us around the exterior of it and points out the unique features of the late 18th century building.

Whittling replacement teeth for his wooden rake.

Whittling replacement teeth for his wooden rake.

It was very hard to get a photo of the entire church. This is the best I could do

It was very hard to get a photo of the entire church. This is the best I could do

We begin our walk back to Breb in bright sunshine and a busier road. We meet a man driving what Paul and I identify as water buffalo but Cornelia tells us they are Romanian bison. The bison spook when they see us and clumsily run off the road into the flower filled meadow and the man, carrying a wooden rake, trots after them. Since the bison owner makes no attempt to get in front of the running bison I guess they must be going in the direction he wants them to.

Romanian bison

Romanian bison

The bison after they spooked and ran off the road

The bison after they spooked and ran off the road

Looking at Breb on our return from Hoteni

Looking at Breb on our return from Hoteni

It is late morning when we arrive in Breb, we take a ten minute break, and then we are on our way to Budesti to visit the wooden church, Josani, which is on the Unesco World Heritage List. A woman welcomes us when we walk into the church. I can’t help but gasp as I look around the interior of this historical church. The floors are covered with vibrant, thick, hand-woven rugs. The walls in the room where we are standing have faded religious figures painted on them. Cornelia points out that in the past the women of the church would have been in this small, back room during services, while the men sat on benches in the front room. We admire religious icons painted on wood and glass dating from the 15th to 17th century. The vestry, which we aren’t allowed to enter, has three separate, highly decorated entrances; the largest door in the middle is for the priest.

A poor shot of the wooden church in Budesti. I was trying to keep the roof of the building I was standing next to out of the photo

A poor shot of the wooden church in Budesti. I was trying to keep the roof of the building I was standing next to out of the photo

The rugs that covered the church floor

The rugs that covered the church floor

Faded paintings that covered the church walls

Faded paintings that covered the church walls

On display near the front of the church, is a split piece of wood with the unmistakable impression of a cross. It seems a former member of the church who had lapsed in his faith, was splitting firewood when he saw the cross imprinted in the piece of wood. The man took this as a sign from God and came back to the church, his faith restored.

The cross in the piece of split wood that restored the wood splitters faith

The cross in the piece of split wood that restored the wood splitters faith

We leave Budesti and drive a few miles to the town of Sarbi. Cornelia takes us to a house that has individual ceramic pieces cemented to parts of the outside walls which form a colorful, geometric pattern. As we enter the yard, a woman greets us and soon a sleepy-eyed man appears. It seems the man has been up all night attending to the family still brewing horinca! Cornelia asks the woman if we can go into her house because Cornelia wants us to see a lifetime of work by our hostess of handcrafted rugs and fancy work. The woman is more than happy to invite us into her home and when we enter the house we are overwhelmed. There are handcrafted items hanging on the wall, piled on furniture, and draped over things. I think my jaw literally drops! Cornelia asks the woman to show us some of her special items. The woman opens a trunk and pulls out a traditional white dress she has sewn but what Cornelia really wants us to look at is the hand embroidery on the cuffs. I must say it looks perfect to me.

We saw these decorative tiles on the side of many houses.

We saw these decorative tiles on the side of many houses.

Just a small part of the hand crafted items in this room

Just a small part of the hand crafted items in this room

Beautiful hand embroidery done by the woman

Beautiful hand embroidery done by the woman

It is the husbands turn to show us his hobby and he leads us to a building where there are tables and chairs set up. The man insists that Paul and I have a drink of his horinca, Paul says yes to the offer but I decline. Paul raises his glass of horinca and emphatically says “noroc” to which our host responds in kind. We admire the bottles of horinca on the bar that have miniature wooden ladders inside the bottle. The bottles of horinca at our guesthouse contain ladders too. How the craftsmen, like this man, can put the items together in the bottle is beyond me. We don’t ask but since the room is set up with a bar and seating, we wonder if this is a public drinking establishment?

Ladders in a bottle

Ladders in a bottle

A close up of the tap and cup built into the gate.

A close up of the tap and cup built into the gate.

Our sleepy host, who seems more alert since drinking his glass of horinca, has one more thing to show us before we depart. He walks with us to his wooden gate and points out a small cup that is sitting under a wooden tap. Sure enough when the man turns on the tap handle a trickle of liquid runs into the wooden cup. The man is so animated about his invention that we laugh out loud.

The man showing us his liquor tap by the entrance gate

The man showing us his liquor tap by the entrance gate

Cornelia leads us to a nearby house where Vasile Borodi, a well-known traditional hat maker, resides. Vasile is sitting at his ancient sewing machine busily constructing a hat made from straw. I don’t remember the process that is used to prepare the straw but I do know that the yellow material has been flattened. We watch as Vasile grasps the straw in his stained, cracked fingers and turns it in circles as he runs the clattering sewing machine. Soon the bright straw begins to take on the shape of his trademark hats. Vasile has been very innovative when it comes to running the thread to his sewing machine. The thread runs through copper wire that has been twisted into an eyelet, the eyelet is fastened to a thick wire, and Vasile has a screwdriver laying on the thread for tension.  I’m not sure why the thread stays tight and keeps feeding into the sewing machine but it does.

Vasile making a traditional men's hat

Vasile making a traditional men’s hat

The thread running to the sewing machine

The thread running to the sewing machine

Vasile has some finished hats sitting in his work shop and encourages Paul to try one on, which he does. I have to laugh, I don’t believe these hats are Paul’s style, but Paul threatens to buy one and wear it to his next bank meeting! We walk across the yard to Vasiles’ house which is also his store. There are lots of things for sale including hats, wool bedroom slippers, and beaded items that his wife makes. I end up buying a beaded choker necklace which I will never wear, but they were cheap and I wanted to buy something from this friendly couple. Paul gives Vasile a Kansas Livestock Association hat with the logo “Eat beef” embroidered across the front. I don’t think Vasile quite knows what to do with the hat but he graciously thanks Paul for the gift!

Hmm, I don't think so Paul

Hmm, I don’t think so Paul

We go outside and the couple shows us their barn. Like most people, they hang their farming implements on the side of the barn. The couple also has a cow and a handsome cat. Paul pulls out the photo book he made to bring on our trip and the couple is quite intrigued with the photos of Paul’s stone fences and our ranch. We wave goodbye to the sparkling-eyed couple and walk back to the van.

Notice the implements hanging on the wall.

Notice the implements hanging on the wall.

 A close-up of Vasiles' wife

A close-up of Vasiles’ wife

How could I not include the photo of their cat

How could I not include the photo of their cat

Our next stop is Barsana to visit the Barsana Monastery, another Unesco World Heritage Site. We eat lunch at one of the venders are situated near the walkway that leads to the hilltop Monastery. We order a type of crepe with cheese filling and wait as the woman cooks our lunch on a hot griddle. The woman places the Romanian style grilled cheese sandwiches on a paper towel and hands them to us. The sandwiches were so tasty that it is making my mouth water just thinking about them.

The spired gate leading into Barsana Monastery

The spired gate leading into Barsana Monastery

DSCF8671After lunch, we walk up to the Monastery, pay our entrance fee and walk into one of the most stunning places I have ever been. I can’t begin to describe the beauty of the various buildings including the wooden church. The vast lawns are lush and flower beds are blooming with poppies, lilacs, along with a variety of other flowers. I feel like I have stepped into a painting.

You can see the nuns house in the background. Not bad!

You can see the nuns house in the background. Not bad!

Cornelia takes us into the church whose walls and ceilings are covered with paintings depicting biblical scenes, saints, apostles, and so on. When you peer up into the vault of the ceiling a benevolent Christ looks back at you. We learn that this church is the tallest wooden building in Europe. I am a bit confused about the timetable of the monastery. I know Cornelia said that this is not an old monastery but I have read that the existing church was built in the late 1700’s. I guess that is new compared to the many churches that date back to the 1500’s! I am sure that the other buildings that make up this complex were built in the last twenty or thirty years.  Cornelia also informs us that there are only 14 nuns that live at Barsana Monastery! I wonder how the church decides which nuns get to live here because if I were a Romanian nun this is where I would want to be! It is simply fantastic. We wander down the flower-lined paths by the lovely house where the nuns live and another beautiful house which I guess is where the priest stays when he is visiting this monastery. We peruse the museum which contains items from ancient bibles to antiques that relate to the culture and history of Romania.

The Wooden church of Basana Monastery

The Wooden church of Basana Monastery

The ceiling vault

The ceiling vault

Paul and I at  Basana Monastery

Paul and I at Basana Monastery

Leaving this picture perfect place behind, we have one more stop to make in Barsana. Cornelia wants us to see the workplace of the famous Romanian wood-carver, Teo Barson. Our first thought when we arrive at the wood carvers’ is how the heck do we navigate this maze of logs to reach the business! We end up stepping over or walking in between the huge logs to reach the open air work place.DSCF8722

This is the plan the wood carvers were working on

This is the plan the wood carvers were working on

We watch the artists at work, skillfully but tediously chipping away at the wood with chisels to create their designs. After visiting with the workers, Cornelia asks if Teo Barson is home, and the answer is no. Cornelia asks the man who appears to be in charge if he can call Mr. Barson and ask him to come home, because she really wants us to meet the guy. After some back and forth between the two, the head honcho leaves and Cornelia informs us that he has gone to fetch the famous wood-carver. Within minutes the man returns and informs Cornelia that Mr. Barson will be here shortly.

Busy carving a wooden plank

Busy carving a wooden plank

Some of the finished work

Some of the finished work

The three of us walk over to the house to wait for the man whose biggest claim to fame is figuring out how to carve a chain out of a single piece of wood. We haven’t waited long when a voice calls out to us. We turn to see a short, smiling man striding up the driveway. He clambers over his self-made moat of logs and joins us in front of the house. The man bubbles with energy and his eyes twinkle with orneriness. Cornelia introduces Paul and me adding that we are from America. Without skipping a beat Teo says, “I have been to America. I have a girlfriend there. She is 94 years old and pregnant”! He says it so sincerely that you have to laugh at the silly statement.

Teo Barson

Teo Barson

We follow Teo into what I thought was his house but it is really a cluttered store with various carved items for sale. The famous wood chains are on display and we scrutinize one chain that is not completed. Paul and Cornelia try to explain to me how Teo is able to carve the wood into links to form a chain but it makes no sense to me. Teo also has a disproportionate number of wooden spoons compared to other items for sale. Evidently the spoon is a favorite of tourists to buy because the utensils can be used and they are easy to pack. Teo has oversized wooden knives that he makes for children and we decide to purchase a pair for two Kansas boys. I’m sure their parents will be delighted with our choice.

These pieces are carved from one piece of wood. Notice the Smithsonian certificate in the cabinet

These pieces are carved from one piece of wood. Notice the Smithsonian certificate in the cabinet

Mr. Barson starts telling us about his experience in Washington D.C. when he attended the Smithsonian Folk life Festival along with other crafts people from around the world. Teo proudly shows us his Smithsonian certificate of appreciation, housed behind the glass of a cabinet. Teo then tells us that he told President Clinton he would take Monica off his hands and the President could keep Hillary. Teo roars at this joke once Cornelia has translated it to us. We laugh and shake our heads at this want to be comedian.

A wooden chain we saw hanging on someone's wooden gate.

A wooden chain we saw hanging on someone’s wooden gate.

It is time to return to Breb, so we tell this ornery but talented fellow goodbye. I might add that we have seen and will continue to see as we travel through Romania, the carved chains of Teo Barson fame hanging from many of the more elaborate wooden gates. Later, Nancy

Children in Budesti

Children in Budesti

Another neat cat photo

Another neat cat photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romania part 1

Romania Part 1

One last photo in England

One last photo in England

Paul and I are up at 4:30 a.m. (ugh) to finish packing and gather bedding and towels for Paul’s sisters to wash up. I feel bad about that part. We then warm up our bakery goods we bought yesterday for a very early breakfast. A few minutes before Steve is due we carry our luggage downstairs, trying to be as quiet as possible, to wait for our ride. Steve shows up on time and an hour later we arrive at the London Luton airport. We settle our bill up with Steve, thank him for our wonderful tours, and make our way to the terminal.

Our flight on Wizz air (I’m not kidding) goes smoothly and we touchdown at the tiny airport of Cluj-Napoca airport in Romania. We stand in line to show our passport and the only thing the person checking our papers ask is how long are you staying in Romania. I guess since England and Romania belong to the European Union they assume you have already been scrutinized. Our duffel bag shows up on the baggage claim belt and we walk out of the terminal to see a strawberry blonde, with a friendly smile waiting for us. Whew, two things that cause me anxiety, will our luggage arrive and will someone be waiting for us, are behind us!

Cornelia welcomes us to Romania and we walk a short distance to her silver van. Cornelia gets in on the right side of her vehicle and we are ready to start our adventure in Romania. Imagine our surprise when we find in Romania they drive on the right side of the road as we do. Cornelia tells us her husband bought the Honda van out of England; this is why the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. Now think about how hard it would be to drive with that arrangement. In the days to come we would often have to tell Cornelia if it was alright to pass a car since she didn’t have a clear view of oncoming traffic.

DSCF8266It is a wonderful warm, sunny day in Romania and after the rainy, mostly cloudy days in England, full sunshine is very welcome! We don’t drive far before we stop for lunch and to fill the van with fuel. Paul and I laugh when we see a placard on our table advertising the restaurants new Mexican food dishes. One other thing that amuses me at our lunch stop is when we are eating the song “I had the time of my life” is playing over the speakers. I take this as a sign of good things to come! We are also shocked but delighted to see how cheap our lunch cost, which is about three bucks apiece!

Driving down the winding highway we encounter horse-drawn carts and though I knew the horse and wagon were still prominently used in Romania, I never dreamed this mode of travel was allowed on a busy highway! We also see the handmade haystacks here and there that are a trademark of Romania, particularly in the region of Maramures. As we drive, Cornelia in very good English, relates some of her countries interesting history along with information about her life too.

Passing a horse and wagon

Passing a horse and wagon

Putting up hay the old fashioned way. fuzzy photo due to taking it from the van

Putting up hay the old fashioned way. fuzzy photo due to taking it from the van

We stop in Baia Mare, where Cornelia lives, to buy bottled water and some snacks. When we prepare to leave we notice that there is a funny vibration coming from the rear end of the van, also the steering wheel is making squeaking noises. Paul guesses that the vibration is a loose exhaust pipe. The good news is that Cornelia’s husband Dan is a mechanic, so she drives the vehicle to his garage. Dan, a big friendly man, gets behind the steering wheel, turns the motor over and intently listens to it. He gets out, peers under the vehicle and pronounces that the exhaust pipe has broken loose. Way to go Paul!

Dan announces he can repair the exhaust in an hour or so and he drives the three of us to the city square to pass the time. We listen with delight as Dan talks about his passion for cars, particularly Dodge chargers. He also is the owner of a Cadillac and both Dan and Cornelia talk about how much they love their caddy. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Dan is that he speaks English quite well and he learned English on his own. I am so jealous of people who have the ability and tenacity to do that!

Paul and I sipping lemonade in Baia Mare

Paul and I sipping lemonade in Baia Mare

Dan drops us off at the city square and the three of us settle at an outside table at one  of the many small cafes that line the square. Cornelia treats us to fresh made lemonade and we relax with our refreshing drinks as we watch small children running, riding trikes, or playing in the manmade stream of water that runs from one corner of the square to the base of the decorative water fountain. Once we have finished our drinks, Cornelia leads us around the square explaining the various buildings and the restoration work that has been finished or is ongoing on many of the old structures. We leave the old square and stroll down other streets taking in the scenes and atmosphere of Baia Mare.

Street scene in Baia Mare

Street scene in Baia Mare

Baia Mare and the water fountain in the city square

Baia Mare and the water fountain in the city square

An hour and a half later after leaving the van with Dan, we walk to a bus stop where Dan drives up with our repaired vehicle. Waving goodbye, we continue toward Breb and Mairoara Pensiunea where we will be staying for the next three nights.

Our route takes us through the Carpathian Mountains on very curvy roads where incredible vistas unfold beyond the car windows. Unfortunately, I can’t get any decent photos due to window glare. As the light of day is beginning to dim we come upon an incredible sight along the road. There are four men milking goats and Cornelia asks if we want to stop. Absolutely we do!

This through the window photo doesn't do justice to the beauty of the landscape

This through the window photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the landscape

As we are walking towards the goat milkers a flurry of conversation is taking place between Cornelia and the men. We were hoping to get ringside seats to witness this activity, but Cornelia tells us we cannot leave the highway due to the sheep dogs. Odd, the sheep dogs are lying around and haven’t paid any attention to us, but perhaps if we stepped into the dog’s territory their bored demeanor might change.

We still are able to watch the fascinating process of the goat milking from the side of the highway. There are four men milking the big herd of goats, we estimate over 200 goats. The men are sitting with their backs against the corral fence where the goats that still have to be milked are penned. The men milk the goats by reaching between the animals back legs; in essence the goat’s butts are a few inches from the milkers’ faces! When the men have finished milking a goat, they release it and the goat is free to join its herd mates that have been milked. A man standing in the group of goats that still must be milked shoves another goat through a gate to the waiting milker. There is no feed involved and I can’t figure out why the goats stand still to be milked but we learn later that goat and sheep milkers hold the animal’s tail or leg with one hand and milk them out with the other hand. It will be dark soon and I can’t imagine they will get through all the goats they have to milk yet before the sunsets.

I ask Cornelia if I can take a photo of the goat milkers but her inquiry to the men is evidently answered with a “no” as Cornelia just shrugs her shoulders and shakes her head. Rats, I really wanted to capture that scene in a photo.

This banner was next to the goat milking. Cornelia gave me the o.k. to take this photo. You can see goats waiting to be milked

This banner was next to the goat milking. Cornelia gave me the o.k. to take this photo. You can see goats waiting to be milked

DSCF8549We arrive at Marioara Pensiunea just before dark. The main building is a beautiful two-story house that is definitely not the norm in Breb. However we are staying in the old wood house behind this new structure. Marioara shows us to one of the two rooms upstairs and points out which bathroom is ours. It is a simple room, with two single beds but it will do just fine. We go back to get the rest of our luggage and Paul forgets how low the door is when we enter the house.  I hear a thud as Paul makes contact with the head jamb, then I hear a curse word split the air as Paul stops to rub his head. The top of a door frame seems to be well named. It won’t be the last time Paul has an encounter with head jambs in this house and other places in Romania!

We return to the main house for a homemade dinner made by Marioara who owns and runs this place with her husband. The first thing we have is a small glass of homemade horinca. Holy Smokes, I manage one sip that leaves my throat burning and my eyes watering. Criminy, how do they drink this alcohol?

Marioara then brings us a hearty meat and vegetable soup along with thick slices of bread. The next course is a pork dish accompanied by mashed potatoes and it is wonderful. A plate of cake is the finish to the meal. I tried not to eat too much as it is late but it was all so good! We retire to our room and settle in for the night.

I can't believe this is the only photo I have of the house where our room was.

I can’t believe this is the only photo I have of the house where our room was.

This morning it is cloudy so it appears the English weather has followed us across Europe. We don’t have breakfast until eight o’clock so Paul and I look around the grounds. They have a garden, stacks of firewood, herbs hanging from the sheds eaves, a swing set for kids to play on, a picnic table and a unique corn crib that I assume is just for decoration.

You can see herbs and garlics hanging from the eaves of this building. There is also a brick oven by the wood pile

You can see herbs and garlics hanging from the eaves of this building. There is also a brick oven by the wood pile

After our breakfast of schnitzel, cheese, bread and jam, Cornelia suggests we walk around Breb. We start out but don’t get far when Paul decides he had better go back for our rain coats as the clouds seem to be thickening. Our first stop in the village is a wood shingle “factory”. This is a start to finish operation, starting with logs that are cut into boards by workers at a small outside sawmill. We enter a shed where two men are actually making the shingles. One of the men splits a board into thin pieces and the second guy takes one of these strips and quickly shapes it into a shingle. The men are friendly and gladly answer our questions that Cornelia translates into Romanian for them, but they never stop working. Paul asks Cornelia to find out who they are making the shingles for and surprisingly the men tell us these shingles are going to America. A Romanian community in the U.S. is building a wooden church and they want authentic, handmade shingles from their home country. It really is a small world.

Logs, chunks of lumber waiting to be sawed into lumber, and the final product, shingles are shown in this photo

Logs, chunks of lumber waiting to be sawed into lumber, and the final product, shingles are shown in this photo

The two men we visited with as they made wood shingles

The two men we visited with as they made wood shingles

Romania is known for the decorative wooden gates that grace the entrance of many   houses and we see several of them on our tour of Breb today. Most of the decorations carved into the gates are symbolic, such as the ropy looking limbs that symbolize the tree of life representing past, current, and future generations. Cornelia also tells us that the wooden gates were traditionally put up before a married couples house was built as this was believed to insure that they would have a son.

Our guide Cornelia explains the tree of life designs on this wooden gate

Our guide Cornelia explains the tree of life designs on this wooden gate

Paul took this photo of this lovely young woman who stopped to visit with us as we were walking in Breb

Paul took this photo of this lovely young woman who stopped to visit with us as we were walking in Breb

We leisurely walk along the dirt roads of Breb and curiously look at the weathered houses and activities going on around us. We stop at the gate of one house to take photos of a team of horses that are hitched to a wagon. There are two men and a woman loading tools into the back of the wagon and they smile and wave as we take photos of the horses, the people and the intriguing barn doors. An older couple is also in the yard. One of the men leads the horses out to where we are standing and Cornelia strikes up a conversation with him. The younger woman, dressed in jeans comes out too.  The older couple walks through the wooden gate to where the rest of us are. The man has two hoes slung over his shoulder and the woman has a wicker basket strapped to her back.

The homestead of the field workers we met. Take a close look at the beautiful barn door.

The homestead of the field workers we met. Take a close look at the beautiful barn door.

Preparing to leave for a days work in the fields

Preparing to leave for a days work in the fields

The man that drove the wagon

The man that drove the wagon

The older couple ready to go work in their fields

The older couple ready to go work in their fields

Cornelia is busy trying to relay our questions to the villagers and then translating the villagers answers to us and vice versa. Paul and I ask questions ranging from who forges the heavy, cleated shoes on the horses hooves (the man handling the horses does), to questions about the rakes and pitchforks that are loaded in the wagon. Paul notices the older man is wearing a Sedona, Az. sweatshirt and points to the logo on the garment. The cheerful man just shrugs and we assume it was given to him by a tourist. There is a trio of women coming up the road and when they arrive at the wagon, they load themselves and their rakes and pitchforks into the wagon. The older couple turns and walks the opposite way from the wagon party towards a different field.

I took this photo of the older gentleman while Cornelia and Paul were talking with him

I took this photo of the older gentleman while Cornelia and Paul were talking with him

Two of the three women hitching a ride in the wagon

Two of the three women hitching a ride in the wagon

Close up of the wooden rakes the villagers use. Paul's photo

Close up of the wooden rakes the villagers use. Paul’s photo

We move to the side of the road to let the ladened wagon by and I step onto the narrow strip of grass that is growing on the edge of the dirt road. Oops, my left foot slips off and I step into the ditch. No big deal right? Wrong, in Breb the ditches are open sewers! The good news is I give the wagon party something to laugh about plus the muck doesn’t go over the top of my waterproof shoe. The bad news is my shoe is covered with black sludgy muck. Cornelia says we must go back to our room to wash off my shoe, but she quickly adds that stepping in this muck is considered good luck by the locals. I laugh out loud at this supposed superstition, but Cornelia insists that this belief is true.

I took this photo shortly after my mishap. I wasn't as worried about my shoe as Cornelia was.

I took this photo shortly after my mishap. I wasn’t as worried about my shoe as Cornelia was.

I had to stop and take this photo of the black sheep and her spotted twins, before we found the water pump for me to clean up at.

I had to stop and take this photo of the black sheep and her spotted twins, before we found the water pump for me to clean up at.

We strike off towards the hotel and by chance come to a community pump. Paul is able to hold the handle down slightly so a thin stream of water comes out and I am able to do a decent job of washing my shoe off. We didn’t have to backtrack very far which is another silver lining to a stinky story!

As we continue to explore Breb, we walk by a house where Cornelia points out a pipe that is dripping a fragrant fluid into the ditch. She tells us that the occupants of this place are distilling horinca and asks if we want to go in and learn about the process of horinca making. Of course we say we do, so Cornelia goes to the closed iron gate and calls out to the occupants. A woman comes to the gate and speaks to Cornelia. Cornelia converses with the woman who is outfitted as the majority of women we see, in a dress with a scarf over her hair and tied under her chin. Soon she throws the small door open and beckons for us to come in. There are two sections to the entrance gates. One is for humans to use and the other for horses or cars to use.

The huge wooden cask that will eventually be full of horinca. Paul's photo

The huge wooden cask that will eventually be full of horinca. Paul’s photo

That small still turns out some potent alcohol

That small still turns out some potent alcohol

We look around the homestead which is similar to the fieldworker’s place that we just left. There is a wooden house, a barn and a shed where the fruit is being distilled into horinca. There are three men standing around the shed door who grin and wave us over to see their horinca factory. We walk inside the shed where the copper still sits upon what looks like a fireplace made of stone. One of the men shoves another log onto the blazing   fire while Cornelia explains the process of how the still works. One of the tubes attached to the still runs to a vat that collects the coveted liquor. As we exit the shed, it is really hot in there; we continue to converse with the foursome. One fellow pulls an old plastic bottle from the pocket of his tattered coat and takes a long pull from it. He sees Paul and me watching him and extends the bottle to us. We shake our heads, not to violently I hope, to decline the offer. It’s 10 a.m. for crying out loud. When the others try to encourage us to try a sip, I put my hands on my belly and Cornelia explains that I have a sensitive stomach, which is true esp. when we travel. Paul somehow manages to escape having a drink with the group too. It does make one feel a little rude towards the friendly hospitality that is being offered.

I caught the four horinca brewers standing outside the building that houses the still. I love this photo

I caught the four horinca brewers standing outside the building that houses the still. I love this photo

Cornelia translating a question or an answer for us.  There were many questions for us from the foursome. Not just questions from us to our hosts.

Cornelia translating a question or an answer for us. There were many questions for us from the foursome. Not just questions from us to our hosts.

The man who offered us a shot of horinca from his plastic bottle

The man who offered us a shot of horinca from his plastic bottle

I liked this photo of the eldest member of the group

I liked this photo of the eldest member of the group

Wow, we haven’t covered that much ground in Breb but we have had three very interesting stops already. We have reached the edge of town and we decide to walk up a muddy road to see if the field workers might be working close by. We reach a fork in the road and because it is starting to spit some raindrops, we decide to head back to Breb.

Haystacks in a meadow on the edge of Breb

Haystacks in a meadow on the edge of Breb

There is a woman scything grass about 50 yards off the road we are walking and stop to watch her work. Cornelia calls out to the traditionally dressed woman and inquires if it is O.K. for us to go down to where she is scything. The woman waves her assent and once there, we watch and photograph her as she gracefully scythes the grass. The woman than gathers the grass up with a pitchfork and piles it on a wooden-sided wheelbarrow.

Loading the cut grass on the small wheelbarrow

Loading the cut grass on the small wheelbarrow

Paul asks if he can try his hand at cutting the meadow grass with her scythe and she gladly hands the apparatus to Paul. Paul occasionally uses a scythe at home so he is a bit humbled when the woman begins talking rapidly and shaking her head, which Cornelia translates as meaning, “This is no good”. She takes the scythe from Paul and as she scythes she is telling Paul he must twist at the waist more; this advice is translated by Cornelia naturally. The teacher hands the scythe back to Paul who adjusts his technique and is awarded with a “that is better” compliment.

Scything grass

Scything grass

Paul after receiving instructions from his mentor

Paul after receiving instructions from his mentor

We turn to leave but the woman insists we must see her livestock. She leads us to the barn, opens the door and takes us into the dark confines of the barn. There are two Simmental looking cows tied up by means of a rope around their necks, as is the month old calf. A white hog sits in a corner pen, blinking at the sudden shaft of light that has illuminated their dark living quarters. We ask Cornelia if the animals are kept inside the barn all the time and she seems to think they are. Surely they are allowed out into the sun sometime. However, most homesteads we saw in Breb had a barn with the proverbial manure pile that had been shoved through a small door in the side of the barn, which proved there were animals inside. We never did see cows or hogs in the barnyard in Breb although we did see sheep and goats on occasion.

A common scene outside the barns was the pile of bedding and manure. Paul's photo

A common scene outside the barns was the pile of bedding and manure. Paul’s photo

We turn towards the road when we leave the barn but the woman now insists we come into her house. Well, we would like to see the house so why not. As soon as we walk into the small but cozy kitchen, food begins to appear on the table despite our pleas to our new friend that we have already eaten breakfast. Bread, boiled eggs, and cold sausages are set in front of us. The woman decides she should make soup for us but Cornelia talks her out of that idea. A bottle of horinca is sat on the table and Paul decides he must accept some of the drink to be polite. I again plead a sensitive stomach. The woman watches with pride as Paul takes a swallow of the alcohol and we consume a boiled egg and a piece of bread. A plate of cake then appears and I simply can’t eat anymore. Paul eats a piece of the cake and declares it delicious. Somehow Cornelia manages to sit and watch us without eating or drinking anything!

Some of the food that the woman offered us.

Some of the food that the woman offered us.

Our hostess intently observing Paul as he drinks the horinca.

Our hostess intently observing Paul as he drinks the horinca.

Our hostess brings a photo of two teenage boys and Cornelia translates the woman’s’ sad story. It seems that her sons were swimming in the river when the younger boy began to struggle. The older brother went to help him but in the end they both drowned. This happened seventeen years ago but I could see the sadness in the mothers’ eyes as she related the tragedy to us. She then tells us her husband lived for eleven years after their boys died but in the end she believes his grief over his sons deaths finally took him too. The sweet woman than tells us she handles this loss by working hard every day and all day which allows her to sleep like a baby at night. When she has finished her depressing narrative, she ends with a phrase meaning, “That is life”. It’s a darn good thing we were done eating before listening to her tragic tale as I’m not sure I could have managed to swallow the food past the lump in my throat.

The woman getting the photos of her boys.

The woman getting the photos of her boys.

As the woman is putting the photos back in her cupboard, Cornelia suggests we might leave her ten lei as a gift. We have no problem with this but I am afraid this proud soul might be offended. Cornelia assures us that she knows what to say so the woman won’t take offense. When we stand to leave, the woman sees the money lying on the table and she does protest. Good to her word Cornelia talks to her; the woman nods her head and shakes our hands. When we leave the house it is sprinkling and the woman wonders if we should take her umbrella, saying someone could bring it back to her later. Good heavens, how wonderful is that! We thank the woman for her thoughtfulness but tell her we have rain coats in our pack. We wave goodbye and continue down the road. After discussing about this unique experience we realize that we never asked the woman her name!

I will quit with this wonderful encounter and save the rest of the day for the next blog. Nancy

A peaceful scene as we walk back to Breb

A peaceful scene as we walk back to Breb

The tassels on the horses bridle aren't for decoration but to ward off the evil eye.

The tassels on the horses bridle aren’t for decoration but to ward off the evil eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

England part 3

England part 3

Gorgeous hey?

Gorgeous hey?

 

Today we are taking our second tour with Steve of Sho4 tours. Steve arrives at the designated pickup time but he is driving a different van. It seems that Steve’s’ van threw a belt yesterday and it is in the shop for repairs today. The problem with the van he has rented from a fellow tour operator is that there is no microphone to help those of us sitting in the back  hear Steve’s’ commentary. This van also has a backwards facing seat, so two people in our group will be looking out the back window on today’s tour. After discussing what the advantage of a backwards seat is among us and coming up with no good reason, we ask Steve about this arrangement. Steve tells us the facing seats are nicknamed businessmen seats as businessmen want to face each other and conduct business as they are being driven to airports, hotels or where ever. I guess that makes sense but it sure isn’t very convenient for people who are sightseeing!

Woodhenge

Woodhenge

Steve takes us to an area called Woodhenge and we walk among the squat stone pillars that mark where tall wooden poles originally stood. The site sits atop a grassy windswept hill, where lovely yellow flowers sway in the breeze. Steve points in the direction of Stonehenge, about two miles away, and tells us that some theorize that Woodhenge was built in relation to Stonehenge.

Woodhenge was discovered in 1925 when a pattern of dark circles were seen in an aerial photo. The archaeological workers determined that Woodhenge dates back to 2500 B.C. (if you can fathom that date). Workers also found pieces of pottery, stone tools, plus human and animal bones.

Once we are loaded in the van, Steve drives the back roads to Stonehenge to avoid the traffic congestion of the main highway to Stonehenge. Once the van is parked, we proceed to the entrance gate where Paul buys tickets for the five of us. Steve will wait in his van for our return. Each of us receives a telephone like device which is our electronic guide once we reach Stonehenge. We then load up on one of the many buses that are shuttling tourists to the World Heritage site.

Stonehenge a world heritage site.

Stonehenge a world heritage site.

After a few minutes we reach the famous Stonehenge and begin our self-guided tour. I must admit I was expecting Stonehenge to sprawl over a much larger area so I am taken aback to see the behemoth rocks quite crowded together on the hilltop. Tourists are not allowed to walk among the rock structures and a rope barrier encircles the site. This works quite well as sightseers are directed in a circle around Stonehenge, where they stop at numbered markers to listen to the information on their devices. The barrier is far enough back from Stonehenge that it keeps us tourists spread out and I am surprised at how many of my photos only show a few people  and amazingly a few of my photos are completely devoid of humans.

It appears we have the place all to ourselves.

It appears we have the place all to ourselves.

As I listen to my recorded guide I learn that Stonehenge evolved over thousands of years. Stonehenge is thought to have been a sacred site for natives beginning around the same time as Woodhenge and may have even had a similar structure out of wood at that time. The rock formations we are looking at today began to be built four or five thousand years ago. The largest stones that were planted upright weigh some 25 tons and are thought to have been brought from 20 miles away. How in the world did these people manage to move such massive rocks over rough terrain when they hadn’t invented the wheel yet?  Maybe a better question is why did they go to so much trouble? Nobody really knows but the theories abound, from aliens to a sacred cemetery. Well, if this is a cemetery those are the most gigantic headstones I’ve ever seen.

This rock sits alone many yards from Stonehenge

This rock sits alone many yards from Stonehenge

The Miller Siblings . The item Joy is holding in her hand is squid. If you have read past blogs you know about squid.

The Miller Siblings . The item Joy is holding in her hand is squid. If you have read past blogs you know about squid.

Paul and I beat the sisters back to the headquarters and go to the museum to look at the artifacts and exhibits. Because your entrance ticket also admits you to the museum, Paul and I make a quick tour of the small museum because Paul has everyone’s tickets! We exit the museum to wait for his sisters only to see them emerge from the museum. We find out later that they talked the woman who is checking tickets to let them in without their tickets! I never did find out who the smooth talker was.

As we are walking back to the van, a buzzing noise goes off and it appears to be coming from Lois. Everyone looks at Lois and we see what is making the buzzing sound, Lois is still carrying her electronic guide. Lois must feel that she is on trial as it seems we all ask her at once why she didn’t turn the device in. Lois pleads her case and tells us the person collecting the machines from tourists insists that the gadget belongs to our guide because there is no tag on it and refuses to take it from her. After hearing Lois’ alibi, we declare her innocent and Paul returns to the ticket area to give the machine back. Evidently someone just forgot to put a tag on the machine.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

DSCF8110Steve drives us to Salisbury Cathedral which is evidently the “must see” Cathedral in Great Britain. We arrive only to be told that we won’t be able to enter the interior of the cathedral because a memorial service is being held. This is a bit of a letdown. We are still able to see the beautiful cloister as we walk to the Magna Carta exhibit housed in the Chapter House. As we stand in line to see the old document, I marvel at the vaulted ceiling, the carvings and the stained glass windows, Chapter House. I can only imagine what the grandeur of the church must be like when this small room is so magnificent.

Looking through the walkways arches at the cloister

Looking through the walkways arches at the cloister

After lunch, which we eat at the cathedral cafeteria, Paul and I walk around the outside of Salisbury Cathedral. As you can imagine it is magnificent with all the carved stone, arches, flying buttresses (Paul pointed these out to me and told me the name of them) plus Salisbury Cathedral has the tallest spire in England. I believe this, because my neck hurts when I bend back to look to the top of the spire. There is another reason I am studying the spire so intently though, Steve has informed us that a pair of peregrine falcons are nesting near the top of the spire and often the male can be seen perching or flying around the spire. I canvas the area with my binoculars but have no luck in seeing the small falcon.

The Salisbury Cathedrals' spire

The Salisbury Cathedrals’ spire

As we are walking back to the van, Paul and I hear someone clapping their hands loudly and giving short whistles. We look around and find that it is Steve. He sees that he has attracted our attention and points up at the sky. We look up just in time to see a peregrine falcon fly over us and then disappear quickly from sight. Man those birds can fly fast. Hurray, a great sendoff from Salisbury Cathedral.

Our last stop for the day is New Forest; an ironic name considering this place had its beginnings in 1079 when some Royal bigwig wanted a hunting area. I had hoped we would be able to take a hike here and do a little birding. However, we have driven a lot of miles and time is slipping away so our hike lasts about 20 minutes. I spend half of that time standing in one spot trying to get a look at some of the various birds that were singing, but I never could find any of the little buggers.

It is a pretty forest, though it is a bit odd to find giant redwoods that were brought from California growing in one section of the forest. As we drive out of the forest area and onto treeless plains above New Forest, we begin to see a scattering of horses and a few cattle grazing the grass. Steve had explained to us that anyone has the right to bring their animals here and let them graze for the summer, (perhaps that right is just for the people of this area). I did read that the practice to allow the residents to graze their animals in New Forest started back at the beginning of the park, in those times the residents were known as “commoners”! My own personal observation is that summer has barely begun and the grass already appears to be grubbed out. I also ask myself if you own a horse, isn’t summertime when you would ride that animal the most? Hmm.

Horses grazing in The New Forest area

Horses grazing in The New Forest area

Steve delivers us back to the apartment where he says goodbye to Doris, Lois, and Joy. Paul and I will see him again as Steve will be driving us to Luton airport early Wednesday morning for our flight to Romania. We all thank him for showing us some wonderful parts of England, taking us off the beaten track and being such an informative and fun guide.

Tonight we decide to order dinner in from an Indian restaurant which the owners of this apartment recommended to Doris. They have a menu in the kitchen from the restaurant and we place our order with Doris who calls in our requests. When the food arrives, I go downstairs with Doris to help her carry up the food. Doris hands the young man the money we owe him for the food, but the total turns out to be less than what we had calculated. I’m not sure how much extra money we ended up with, but Doris hands it to the polite young man and tells him “this is for you”. The smile that lights up this young fellows face when he accepts the tip money made we food fetchers grin too. I have a feeling getting a few extra pounds for delivering restaurant fare isn’t something that happens very often. The food was delicious by the way.

Preparing for our hike around North Leach

Preparing for our hike around North Leach

Today is Joy, Paul and my final day in England and to end this Miller reunion we are going for a hike around the village of North Leach. Lois takes the wheel of the car once more and we proceed without incident to the picturesque town of North Leach. Once Paul and I polish off the yummy roll we bought at the local bakery, the five of us, prepare to follow the directions for the trail described in the book “Short walks in the Cotswolds”, and we set off on the 4 mile hike.

Walking across the pasture

Walking across the pasture

Sunlight and shadows make for a dramatic scene

Sunlight and shadows make for a dramatic scene

DSCF8162We walk through North Leach, cross the highway and find the gate that gives us access to the pasture. We cross the lush pasture, pass through another gate which leads us into a field of some kind of grain that Paul and I are unable to identify. There is an actual path in the middle of this field for us to walk on! The vista is just breathtaking at this point as the canola field in the distance is half in shadow and half in sunlight and the yellow field is framed by the dark green of fields around it. As the book promises, the path leads us to the delightful settlement of Hampnet. After we take a few group photos on the inviting wooden bench, we visit the pretty church that sits in the middle of the dozen or so houses that make up Hampnet. I find it amazing that no matter how small the village, there always is a lovely stone church gracing them.

I really am on this trip. Paul and I in front of the Hampnet church

I really am on this trip. Paul and I in front of the Hampnet church

The interior of this church was very unique

The interior of this church was very unique

Paul and Doris exiting the stone church

Paul and Doris exiting the stone church

Once we leave the church Paul reads us the next set of directions from the book. Since Paul brought the book home I will copy the next paragraph of directions we are to follow word for word.”Leave the church and return down the track. Cross the river and turn left, uphill, at the junction. Pass through a gate halfway up the hill and go straight on at the road. Follow the right-hand field boundaries to the next road”. Did you get that?

Well actually we thought we did except we never saw a river on our way here. We go back the way we came, find a gate halfway up the hill, there is a road between two fields, and we continue hiking. The landscape unfolding behind us is just breathtaking and our cameras are put to use.  Following the next set of directions we turn left at the road, etc. until we cross the main road where we are to find the next path. Well we can’t find the darn footpath sign so we walk on in hopes that we just haven’t reached it yet.

My photo of Joy and Paul taking photos of this colorful scene

My photo of Joy and Paul taking photos of this colorful scene

We stroll by a stone fence that is being rebuilt and Paul can’t resist placing a few rocks on the fence. We continue walking but we are not finding the things described in the book like, “you will pass by farm buildings”. Oh nuts, looks like we are misplaced again. Joy suggested I should use the word misplaced instead of lost because In Joy’s words, more or less,” we know where we are, and we just are taking a different route that can lead to new discoveries, nice people and who knows what”. I like that philosophy!

Paul putting a few stones on the fence

Paul putting a few stones on the fence

We finally decide to walk along a wheat field that takes us back in the direction of North Leach, where we actually do end up walking through a farmstead, and then we come to the highway which leads us back to North Leach.

DSCF8218We have worked up an appetite so we have lunch at the Wheatsheaf Inn. The fish and chips I ordered were really good. Hey, I couldn’t leave England without having a meal of fish and chips.

After we have eaten we walk around North Leach looking at the old stone buildings and marveling once again at a few houses whose roofs’ are stone tiles. We have seen houses with stone tile roofs just about everywhere, even in Oxford, and it boggles my mind to think of the weight of a stone roof! We also visit the St. Peter and St. Paul church where a very friendly young woman is on hand to answer any questions you have. As with all the churches we have visited, this one is just gorgeous inside.

A roof made of stone tiles. Paul's photo

A roof made of stone tiles. Paul’s photo

St. Peter and St. Paul church in North Leach

St. Peter and St. Paul church in North Leach

Beautiful stained glass window in the church

Beautiful stained glass window in the church

DSCF8254Before leaving North Leach we visit the butcher shop out of curiosity plus they also sell cheese and we need more cheese for our cocktail hour this evening. As you might expect, the items for sale in this family run shop have different names than what you will find in the meat section of our stores in the states. To name a few of the products, there are Gammon hocks, Rolled breast (in the pork section), and Plain Streaky Bacon. Once the cheese purchase is completed, Paul and I go back to the bakery and buy a couple of more goodies for our early morning breakfast tomorrow.

 Part of the Meat case display

Part of the Meat case display

Buying cheese at the butcher shop

Buying cheese at the butcher shop

Joy makes a friend in North Leach

Joy makes a friend in North Leach

Lois drives us back to Oxford and this time we take the correct turn at the roundabout to get us to Summerville. Saturday we took the wrong exit on the roundabout and were misplaced for a while but eventually we made it back to our apartment:). We enjoy our cheese with wine, eat leftovers for dinner and watch another slide show of beautiful photos accompanied with interesting stories. Paul and I say goodbye to everyone tonight, as we are leaving very early for the airport, and it makes no sense for Doris, Lois, and Joy to get up to see us off at 5:30 a.m.

Today was a great way to end our stay in England. We were walking in beautiful surroundings, enjoying each other’s company, and eating good food. What more can you ask? So this ends our visit to England and tomorrow Paul and I will fly to Romania. Joy flies off to Africa later tomorrow, and in a couple of days Lois goes to Italy, while Doris makes her way to Spain. I told you this Miller family were die-hard travelers! Later, Nancy

Joy, Paul, Lois, Nancy, and Doris

Joy, Paul, Lois, Nancy, and Doris

Miller sisters in Hampnet

Miller sisters in Hampnet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

England part 2

ENGLAND PART 2

Another photo of our tour of the Cotswolds with Steve

Another photo of our tour of the Cotswolds with Steve

 

After our terrific day touring part of the Cotswalds, we relax with wine, cheese and crackers before enjoying spaghetti accompanied with wonderful bread purchased from a bakery in Burton. After our meal, we huddle around my little tablet to enjoy a slide show of photos from our last reunion in Cape Cod. In the evenings to come we will see wonderful photos and hear interesting stories of  Doris’ travels in Sri Lanka and India, Lois’ travels in India, and Joys’ extended stay in Paris this past year. Have I ever mentioned that I married into a family of avid travelers:)?

I reaffirm that sunrise does occur shortly after 4 a.m. in England, but this morning at least I am able to go back to sleep. We are up at six a.m. though since this morning Paul must be delivered to the Whitehill Quarry at nine a.m. to participate in the stone fence workshop he signed up for online. You read that right, Paul is going to learn the English version of the art of stone fence building. Pretty cool huh. We women are going to hike around Burford and explore that city for the day.

Unfortunately, it is raining this morning. Lois, who has volunteered to drive on our outing, could have done without this added challenge I’m sure. I know that Lois is used to driving in Boston but here Lois will be driving on the opposite side of the road in a car with a stick shift which means she will be shifting with her left hand in addition to driving in a strange city in a foreign country plus it’s raining! Lois’ faces all this adversity with a “can do” attitude!  Doris is the navigator and has programmed her phone with the name of the workshop site, in the assumption that the computer will lead us directly to our destination.

Lois drives us out of Oxford without incidence and we are off. After driving some way on a lightly traveled highway the phone navigates us in a direction that doesn’t feel right. We also haven’t seen any sign for Burford which is only a mile or two from where Paul is attending the stone fence workshop. The rain continues  intermittently as Lois navigates us through sleepy little villages on this beautiful road, which by now we all agree probably isn’t taking us where we need to be! Oddly enough, we drive by a new stone fence that is partially built but there is no one around nor is there a sign about a workshop being held here.

O.K. this was from yesterday too but similar scenes were seen on this drive

O.K. this was from yesterday too but similar scenes were seen on this drive

As we meander through the picturesque countryside the time is slipping away and it is obvious Paul won’t make it to the workshop by nine. Up ahead we see a sign to Burford and Lois turns onto the road. We drive through Burford and Paul uses his written directions from the workshop organizer to guide us to the quarry. Lois pulls the car into the entrance of Whitehill quarry around 9:30. A man welcomes us and informs us that the rain has delayed the start of the workshop so Paul hasn’t missed a thing. We leave Paul with the other students and we will return to pick him up later this afternoon.

DSCF7918Lois drives us back to Burford and the four of us decide to go to the bakery/café we purchased sandwiches, bread and breakfast rolls yesterday, to have a cup of tea in hopes that the light rain will soon end. The rain dwindles to a sprinkle now and then so our foursome; armed with a map describing walks around Burford we found at the visitor center, strike out on a hike that will lead us out of Burford, into the countryside and then circle back to Burford.

The unique thing about hiking in England is that all trails are marked with a sign proclaiming “footpath” with a painted, yellow arrow pointing out the direction of said path. If you want to follow a particular trail you must have a map/book which gives you directions like ” you will cross over a stile, walk until you reach another stile where you will now walk through a meadow, after walking by a small barn, cross another stile and walk across road into a farmstead, go up the farmyard drive, find the footpath marker on your right”. I kid you not. The trails we have hiked in the states are marked with the name of the trail, pointing out the direction you are to go in, and give you the distance to the next marker. This seems to be more efficient and easier to me but hey.  Well, we made it over stiles, through the meadow, up the driveway but we can find no footpath sign once we get to this point. We wander around peering into the farmers’ fields and hedges, making sure we haven’t missed the sign, and then we retrace our steps to the road by the meadow and decide to walk down the road. We end up in a village (or is it the outskirts of Burford?), where we find a footpath sign and decide to follow this track. The narrow, weed choked path is situated between two fields and after a short distance we end up amid several houses with no footpath sign in sight.  Good grief.

We made it through the meadow just fine!

We made it through the meadow just fine!

We walk by a house with banners hung in the yard identifying this home as a participant in the local arts celebration that is ongoing this week. The four of us walk in and study the paintings that the mother and daughter artists have on display.  We chat a bit with the family and mention that we have lost the circular trail we had hoped to hike. The man and woman suggest we take a trail they often trek to Burford and recite directions to us. And I paraphrase, “Go around two bends, up a steep hill(I missed this part), walk quite a ways then at the bottom of a hill you will find a footpath sign pointing to the right, eventually you will find a small church and more signage that will take you back to Burford.

We thank the couple, walk out the door, go around two corners, and come to a street that turns right. I am ready to walk down this street but my three companions relate the steep hill part of the directions to me, and straight ahead there is a steep hill so up the hill we go. We meet a man and woman walking towards us and inquire if we indeed are on the right track. They assure us we are and tell us that at the bottom of the next hill we will find the footpath sign.

Beautiful but smelly Canola field we walked along

Beautiful but smelly Canola field we walked along

We do find the sign, turn right and walk along a vivid yellow canola field. I discovered on our tour with Steve, who informed us that rape seed fields stink, that I have a reaction to the pollen the canola fields are producing. I walk the full length of the field holding my coat over my nose and mouth in hopes I can reduce the effects I had from this stinky stuff yesterday. Our quartet reaches a very tiny village or a farmstead and again finds ourselves disoriented. We do see the charming stone church called St. Oswold to our left but according to the directions we received we should have walked directly to the church. We find the answer to our misdirection just outside this cluster of buildings in that we have been following the bridal path sign which sports a blue arrow. Oh well, we are still in the right area.

The St. Oswold church of Widford

The St. Oswold church of Widford

Climbing over a stile into the pasture to walk to the church

Climbing over a stile into the pasture to walk to the church

Another view of the 13th century church as we walk towards it.

Another view of the 13th century church as we walk towards it.

We walk to the stone church as the clouds are beginning to break up, giving us a dramatic view of the isolated church. We enter the 13th century church and look over the interior. There are 14th century wall paintings seen on the walls in a couple of places plus some uncovered Roman mosaic to astonish the visitor, (o.k. I looked the dates up on the internet). This church still holds services and they leave the ancient church open to the public. They only posted rule I remember is one asking that you shut the door behind you. Amazing! Of course when we leave the church, the only footpath marker we find is definitely going the wrong direction to take us back to Burford.  We retrace our steps through the pasture and this time we are greeted by a friendly group of steers who decide they want a close up look at us interlopers.

The steers that come to greet us as we walk back through the pasture

The steers that come to greet us as we walk back through the pasture

Once we are back on the road, it isn’t long before we come upon another small cluster of houses. As we hesitate at a fork in the road, a young woman comes to the door and asks if we are walking to Burford. We tell her yes, and she points to our right and tells us we will find the footpath after walking a short distance. We thank her and walk in the direction she indicated.  We find the sign with the yellow arrow directing us off the road into a grassy field. This part of the trail is lovely, as it follows a lazy, meandering stream. We see a moorhen, some mallards and a pied wagtail so I particularly enjoy this part of our hike. We can see the spires of the church that dominates Burfords’ skyline, and although they are quite distant, at least we know we are headed in the right direction. Before long we reach the highway and soon are back in Burford.DSCF7896

We eat a late lunch and then we stroll the streets of Burford, looking into shops, taking photos, and doing a little grocery shopping. Doris and Lois purchase some cheese at Mrs. Bumbles of Burford, and we return to the bakery we stopped at yesterday so I can buy another lardy-lard cake for Paul and my breakfast. That really is the name of the roll, and as you can imagine it is very rich and heavy.

This sign made us laugh!

This sign made us laugh!

We spotted this security sign with this unfortunate name

We spotted this security sign with this unfortunate name

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Street scene in Burford

Street scene in Burford

Before you know it we must go pick Paul up at the quarry. We wait at the gated entrance and watch as people carrying various tools walk out of a tree line just beyond the gate. Soon Paul appears, carrying a couple of picks, and I can tell by his face that he has enjoyed his time at the workshop. Paul tells us they didn’t actually build any fence today, that will happen tomorrow and he won’t be attending, but he did learn some new things, including a way to organize the rocks before starting to build your fence.

Paul after a day at a stone fence workshop

Paul after a day at a stone fence workshop

We return to Summerville by early evening and everyone congratulates Lois on a job well done!  The rest of the gang decides to go out for supper to a pub in Oxford, but I opt out as I am worn out. The leftover shepherd’s pie is calling to me from the fridge and after I shower, I heat up a portion and enjoy every bite of the yummy dish. The Miller sibs return after I am in bed and by Paul’s report the food was good and they had a good time.

We enjoy a lazy Sunday morning, which is gloomy with clouds again. Paul, Lois and I go walk in the nearby park after we have eaten breakfast. We each take a turn at riding the zip line which makes us laugh out loud. We go by the smelly bird aviary which is overrun with parakeets, lovebirds and other exotic birds and I find this a bit depressing. We giggle at the miniature golf course, and sit on a bench by the duck pond to enjoy the swans, ducks and ducklings.

Paul enjoying the zipline

Paul enjoying the zipline

A swan setting on a nest at the duck pond

A swan setting on a nest at the duck pond

This afternoon we meet Ian, a guide I believe Doris arranged for us, who will give us a proper tour of Oxford.  He is a slender man, with twinkling eyes and a passion for the history of Oxford. Since, I have already talked about walking around Oxford; I am not going to spend a lot of time describing our tour. Needless to say, the man was full of information, spewing out ancient dates, names and all kinds of info about the origins of Oxford University and more.

Ian with a captive audience

Ian with a captive audience

I will tell you that I was admonished by Ian for standing on the grass in the yard of the college we toured. Was it New College? It seems that the colleges that make up Oxford University are in constant competition on who is the best in many different categories and that includes the state of their grass in the courtyards. I believe there are 30 plus colleges in the University. I will also relate to you, since I am a big Harry Potter fan, of both the books and movies, I was delighted to see the inside of the Bodleian Library which was the infirmary in the Potter movies. The building is beautiful by the way.  There is a cool bridge across one of the streets we walk and it is nicknamed the bridge of sighs, because it resembles the bridge of sighs in Venus. We also tour a huge church that has some fantastic stained glass windows and painted glass windows vividly depicting biblical scenes. Ian leads us to and explains many of the buildings in this part of Oxford but truthfully, most of the facts have long since evaporated from my brain!

Oh my gosh, I actually had the gall to stand on this grass!

Oh my gosh, I actually had the gall to stand on this grass!

The interior of the Bodleian Library

The interior of the Bodleian Library

The bridge of sighs whose real name is Hertford Bridge

The bridge of sighs whose real name is Hertford Bridge

At the end of our tour with Ian, we decide to have high tea. That sounds simple enough but it appears everyone in Oxford is having high tea and the cafes we walk into are filled to the brim with customers. We finally find a small cafe with a vacant table and here we order tea plus a snack. In my case I order a scone which resembles a thick biscuit. The tea and scone are very good but they should be because the price is quite high. All the food we purchased in England was high priced!

Paul checking out the old time red phone booth of England.

Paul checking out the old time red phone booth of England.

The five of us take our time walking through the streets as we make our way back to High Street to catch the bus to Summerville. Tonight we enjoy one of the slide shows of past travels I mentioned at the beginning of this blog and  we play a game of Apples to Apples. Another enjoyable day in England comes to an end.

Street scene in Oxford

Street scene in Oxford

One of the biblical scenes painted on glass in the church we toured with Ian

One of the biblical scenes depicted in the church we toured with Ian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

England part 1

Oxford England

Taken as we walked through a small village in the Cotswolds

Taken as we walked through a small village in the Cotswolds

 

After a flurry of activity on the ranch which included putting the alfalfa up, turning cows out to pasture and working the spring calves, the day has arrived that Paul and I are winging our way to England. Even though we received an inch of rain, (after the guys finished with the last alfalfa field), Kansas is still suffering from drought in our area and we wonder if we will have much brome hay to harvest when we return from our European vacation.

The flight from Manhattan to Chicago to England goes off without a hitch for us. Our old jet out of Chicago is half empty due to bad weather in other parts of the U.S. so Paul and I can lie down in the middle seats and get some decent shuteye overnight. Joy, whose flight came in ahead of ours, is waiting for us as we walk into the common area of Heathrow.

The three of us wander around looking for the man Joy researched and then engaged him to drive us to Oxford plus guide us for two of the days we are in England. Even though we have arrived early, Joy decides to call Steve after we have waited twenty minutes, to find out when he will arrive. While talking on the phone to Steve, he asks Joy if she is wearing a yellow blouse! We burst out laughing as we look around and find a man sitting in a chair a few yards away, chatting with Joy on his cell phone.

Steve leads us to his van and we leave London behind, driving towards Oxford where Doris and Lois are already settled into the apartment that we will be staying at for the next few days. If you haven’t deduced for yourself, the Miller siblings and me, the fifth wheel, are meeting for a Miller sibling reunion. England was chosen because Doris is in a program where people swap houses with each other for the opportunity to visit other parts of the U.S or world. The owners of this apartment owed Doris a stay in their home, as they used her house in Boston in the past. Not only that, we also have the use of the apartment owners car. Many thanks to Doris for being willing to share her house swap with the rest of us as it sure will save us a lot of expense during our stay in England!

Our drive to Oxford, well the suburb of Summerville, is filled with lush scenery punctuated with interesting information from Steve. Riding in a vehicle that is traveling down the left side of the road is always disconcerting for me, but by the time we arrive at the brick apartment building, I am already adjusting to everything being backwards. We say goodbye to Steve and hello to Doris and Lois who show us to our rooms in the cozy apartment.

The Miller siblings seem to have the square all to themselves

The Miller siblings seem to have the square all to themselves

Once we have settled into our rooms, the five of us enjoy catching up a bit before we have lunch. After eating we decide to take a bus to Oxford and do some sightseeing in the center of town. Paul and I are the only ones that haven’t been to England before so all the massive stone buildings, (most of which are a part of the colleges that make up Oxford University), are new to us. The ancient structures are awe-inspiring, imposing, and humbling. The morning clouds have given way to sunshine this afternoon as we wander through the labyrinth of stone where gargoyles depicting every emotion, (grinning, snarling, and frowning) look down on us. These faces and fanciful figures are in my opinion on the creepy side. Another eye opener is the immense number of bicycles being ridden or parked along the streets.

A whole host of stone faces looking down on us

A whole host of stone faces looking down on us

Creepy

Creepy

One of the happier looking stone gargoyles

One of the happier looking stone gargoyles

The five of us decide to pay a small fee to climb up into the tower of a church and are rewarded with a 360 degree, Birdseye view of Oxford. The beautiful blue sky, filled with interesting cloud formations, accentuates the gray stone edifices and the sunshine makes the brilliant yellow, fields of rape seed (canola in the U.S.) glow in the distance. We carefully walk down the narrow, winding stairs to ground level and continue to wander around the square and beyond.

Fantastic view from church tower

Fantastic view from church tower

A nice touch of color in all the grey

A nice touch of color in all the grey

Looking another direction from the tower

Looking another direction from the tower

After several hours of walking and gawking, we catch the bus back to the apartment. Considering Paul, Joy, and I had a long day and night of travel, I’d say we held up pretty well today!

I wake up this morning to weak sunlight filtering through the drawn blinds in Paul and I’s bedroom. I’m amazed that I have slept through the night considering our time difference of six hours. I peek at the alarm and see that it is only 4:15 a.m.! What in the world…I get up, look outside and sure enough, despite the light cloud cover, the sun is definitely lighting up the horizon. I guess we are pretty far north but I never dreamed dawn arrived at this time of morning in England.

Steve arrives at 9:30 and we are off to explore the Cotswolds area. It is overcast and misty by now but the landscape we travel through is lush and verdant. We make several stops through the day, some of them planned and some spontaneous. Steve is peppered with questions over a wide variety of topics from us and none of them seem to stump him. Looks like Joy hit a home run with our chauffeur/day guide. By the way his company is SHO4 Tours. Clever.DSCF7808

We explore the ruins of Dovecote, the house of Minister Lovell Hall from the 18th century. Even in ruins you can imagine the grandeur of the place in its prime.

Rather ambiguous hours for visiting Dovecote!

Rather ambiguous hours for visiting Dovecote!

Our guide Steve and Joy at Dovecote ruins

Our guide Steve and Joy at Dovecote ruins

Touring through the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, we admire and walk through Arlington Row, a group of cottages that date back to the 1300’s, or at least the area was founded at that time. Can you even fathom buildings that date back that far? And we think our house built in the late 1800’s is old :). We enjoy the picturesque area despite the light rain that is falling intermittently. There is a lovely pair of swans with their six cygnets gracing a placid stream that flows next to the road. An occasional trout can be spotted in the clear water if you look closely. Paul finds an ice cream truck at the end of our circular walk and treats himself to a vanilla ice cream cone.

Swan family near Arlington Row

Swan family near Arlington Row

Arlington Row cottages

Arlington Row cottages

Moving on through the Cotswolds, we find the proverbial scene that one conjures up when thinking of the English countryside. A flock of sheep is grazing on a lush meadow. The field is lined with trees and neon yellow fields of canola are seen in the background. All of us ask to stop and take photos of the bucolic sight, and Steve gladly complies with our request. The sun is trying to peek out of the clouds which help we photographers as we try to do the peaceful scene justice with our cameras.

Pastoral scene

Pastoral scene

Our next stop is at the Chedworth Roman Villa and the five of us join a group of tourists led by a volunteer who explains the archeological digs of this ancient Roman ruin. If I recall correctly, the settlement was actually manned by the locals but answered to the Romans. I listen politely as we peruse various areas of the ruins such as the steam bath room, the hypocaust (an under floor heating system), etc. but my eyes wander to some colorful birds that are dining at a nearby bird feeder. A park bench sits tantalizingly near the feeder and since I know all the facts and theories being proffered by our knowledgeable volunteer will never stick in my head, I wander off to observe the bird feeder visitors.DSCF7712

The hypocaust area

The hypocaust area

Since I don’t have my bird book with me, I take photos of the few birds that are brave enough to feed with me sitting within a few feet of them, so I can identify them later. A pheasant in the meadow below the Roman Villa begins running in my direction then flies over the wooden fence that delineates the ruins from the field. I lose sight of the colorful game bird at the base of a small knoll. A woman comes out of the building behind me and begins shaking a sack that contains grain, while calling out a name. It isn’t until the pheasant bursts into sight that I realize she was calling to this pheasant. The bird is sprinting enthusiastically towards the sound of the grain sack, just as our cattle will run when we honk the pickup horn to alert them it is time for hay. I wish I could remember what the office worker called the wild pheasant, but I do remember that she told me she feeds the bird to reward it for surviving the hunting season!

I hear the grain sack!

I hear the grain sack!

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

A robin who has some issues!

A robin who has some issues!

Paul comes to inform me the tour is over and it is time to leave. We wind our way through narrow roads where perfectly laid stone walls outline the farmers’ fields. Paul is in his element among all the stone fences and buildings, and he is soaking every bit of the beauty of the stone structures up. We pass through quaint villages with equally quaint names such as Twin Brooks, Stow on the Wold, Upper and Lower Slaughter, and they look like something out of a fairy tale. Steve stops the car on a couple of occasions and lets us stroll through the streets of the village as he waits for us at the other end of the villages. The one odd thing we notice is that most of the places we drive or walk through seem to be deserted. I guess everyone is working and the children are all at school.

Paul looking like a character out of Mary Poppins:)

Paul looking like a character out of Mary Poppins:)

A waterwheel in one of the villages we walked through

A waterwheel in one of the villages we walked through

Thatched roof seen on some houses in the various villages

Thatched roof seen on some houses in the various villages

Steve takes us to St. Andrews Church in Naunton and we quietly walk through the fifteenth century church. There is a beautiful stone font inside the church that dates back to the 12th century I think. It is hard to get my mind around something that old. We leave the peaceful old church and start back to Oxford.

St. Andrews church

St. Andrews church

Doris and Steve checking out the 15th century stone font.

Doris and Steve checking out the 15th century stone font.

We make one last unscheduled stop to look at some Cotswolds Lion sheep grazing on the bright green grass. The strange-looking animals are curious and come to have a close up look at their spectators. How do these animals see where they are going? Evidently they are called Cotswold’s Lions because their ears resemble lions ears.

Cotswolds Lion

Cotswolds Lion

Steve delivers us back to the apartment in Summerviller and we all agree that the day was interesting and filled with beautiful sights. Later, Nancy

The brilliance of the rape seed fields despite rainy skies

The brilliance of the rape seed fields despite rainy skies

Typical English garden

Typical English garden