Romania final chapter

Romania final chapter

Well pooh, I woke up in the night unable to breathe through my nose and knew the cold that had been sending subtle warnings to me the last couple of days had arrived in full force. I got up and fumbled through our medicine pouch until I found the Afrin spray, took half of a sleeping pill and went back to sleep. With just two days left of our European adventure I was hoping for once I wouldn’t get sick. Paul never gets sick on our travels and I always come down with some malady it seems.

I liked the pedestals they had attached to the wooden wheel to sit their flower pots on

I liked the pedestals they had attached to the wooden wheel to sit their flower pots on

This morning, Paul and I go down to the courtyard and sit on the bench in front of the main house. Paul is checking on emails and I am admiring the unique ways that Dorin and Ileana have planted flowers in old antiques. We go into breakfast at eight and Dorin serves cheese, bread along with an eggplant spread, juice and of course tea. Ileanna has already left for work so Dorin is in charge of our breakfast.

Paul checking out the garden behind the house

Paul checking out the garden behind the house

After we have eaten, the four of us go to the area behind the house and look at the large garden where various kinds of vegetables are being grown. There is a fence between the garden and a grassy area. Here Dorin keeps two sheep, two pigs and a small flock of chickens. Dorin turns the chickens and pigs out of their pens and the pigs happy to be free, go for a gallop around the grassy lot. The sheep are too busy eating grain to pay attention to us.

Breakfast time for the two sheep

Breakfast time for the two sheep

Dorin turning the chickens and pigs out

Dorin turning the chickens and pigs out

This morning we are driving to a sheepfold to visit a family who are good friends of Daniels. We are cruising along enjoying the picturesque winding road when Daniel stops by a group of men that are taking a break from working on the road. After Daniel chats briefly with the men, he tells us that they have informed him the road is closed up ahead so we will have to backtrack and take a different route. Was there a road sign announcing “closed road”? Nope, Daniel just noticed that he wasn’t meeting any cars and found this unusual. Now that is observant because I never gave it a second thought!

The alternate route takes us through a village where an outside market is taking place and we stop to take a look. As we wander along the line of tents we find that nearly all of the vendors are selling shoes or clothing. Although we only look at the items for sale the vendors are doing a brisk business with the locals. We walk across the street to a small farmers market. There aren’t a lot of stalls but there is a wide variety of produce for sale. Vegetables, fruits, flowers, chickens, and what appear to be herbs, but the roots are still attached so I don’t know if they are to be used in cooking or to be replanted in one’s garden.

That is a lot of apples!

That is a lot of apples!

Filling a sack with strawberries that Daniel bought

Filling a sack with strawberries that Daniel bought

Daniel looks the offerings over and decides to buy some items for the sheep herders. Daniel buys a sackful of cucumbers, some lovely plump strawberries, ripe tomatoes, apples, and we stop at a store to buy some bottles of beer. All of this is stashed in the trunk and we continue on our way.

Daniel and Paul seem to be discussing the cabbages

Daniel and Paul seem to be discussing the cabbages

That is a big sack of cucumbers.

That is a big sack of cucumbers.

We are climbing in altitude and we reach the beautiful village of Jina (maybe we bought the beer here) where Daniel parks the car because we are going to walk to the sheepfold from here. That means all the produce Daniel purchased has to be carried to the family’s’ farm which Daniel assures us isn’t too far away. Paul places two bottles of beer in his daypack (they are 1 liter each) along with our water, plus he is able to put a couple other items that Daniel bought in the pack. That leaves Daniel carrying two heavily laden sacks while I am given responsibility for the bag of strawberries.

I had to take a photo of this gentleman and his hat as he was walking in Jina

I had to take a photo of this gentleman and his hat as he was walking in Jina

The three of us walk down a street in Jina which leads out into the country. The dirt road with green meadows on either side is an uphill climb. As we trudge along I swear the weight of the sacks Daniel is carrying have lengthened his arms by an inch or so! There is strawberry juice beginning to accumulate in the bottom of the plastic sack that I am holding and I voice my concern that by the time we reach the shepherds place the ripe berries will be nothing but mush. I’m not sure how far we have walked but Paul offers to spell Daniel and take on the bulging bags of food, to which Daniel agrees. The two men continue to take turns in lugging the gift of produce for the remainder of our hike. I figured out that I can take some of the pressure off the strawberries by letting the sack sit on top of my camera bag, and although a bit awkward, this helps to prevent the crushing of the berries. The bad news is that I couldn’t take any photos of the human mules:).

The road we walked and the village of Jina in the background

The road we walked and the village of Jina in the background

Paul and I estimate we have walked about two miles as we approach the family abode. We turn left off the main road onto a less traveled track where the shepherds property is located. We happen to meet a neighbor at this point and he tells us the family has moved to their other property for the summer. Luckily the other place is across the road and not much farther to walk. It isn’t long before we reach the gate that leads into the sheepherder’s property and we walk through the pasture to the tiny cabin that the family calls home. Ileana (yep, the same name as the woman at the guesthouse) and Dinu welcome us and invite us into their one room house. The couple’s handsome teenage boys, Gabi and Nicu, appear at the door and look curiously at the foreigners who have come to visit. (I hope I have the names right but someone’s writing is a bit hard to make out).

What a view

What a view

This seems to be the only photo of the family's place. The barn is to the right and the house to the left. What a backdrop! Paul's photo

This seems to be the only photo of the family’s place. The barn is to the right and the house to the left. What a backdrop! Paul’s photo

Gabi and Nicu checking out the Americans

Gabi and Nicu checking out the Americans

After introductions, Daniel converses briefly with his friends and then pulls out some photos another client took of the family when he visited this gorgeous area. Oh yeah, Daniel was carrying the large envelope of photos on our trek here too! The prior visitor has taken some wonderful photos of the family and they are all quite taken with the pictures, often exclaiming out loud and smiling broadly as they study the photos. When they have finished looking at the photos, Paul digs our photo book out of his pack to show it to our hosts. The photo book proves to be a hit with the foursome and questions are asked and answered about various pictures in the book via Daniel.

Enjoying the photos that Daniel brought the family

Enjoying the photos that Daniel brought the family

Ileana and Gabi (I think) looking at our photo book. Paul's photo

Ileana and Gabi (I think) looking at our photo book. Paul’s photo

Ileana begins to prepare lunch, (after we have had some horinca of course) and since there are seven of us in the 8X12, (estimated by Paul); room there is no sense in trying to lend a hand as we would just be bumping into one another. It is amazing that four people live in this small space, particularly when two of them are fast growing teenagers! A small dining table sits at one end of the room, two narrow beds are opposite each other against the walls, a small table at the foot of one bed holds the three-burner portable gas stove that Ileana cooks on, and there is a cupboard sitting at the foot of the other bed. Talk about cozy!

Besides the neat old chair notice the stove in the background with the beer sitting In front of it.

Besides the neat old chair notice the stove in the background with the beer sitting In front of it.

Slicing bread. Why Black and white photos? Because the light coming in the windows was so harsh my color photos were not good. I let the computer change them to black and white to try and salvage them

Slicing bread. Why Black and white photos? Because the light coming in the windows was so harsh my color photos were not good. I let the computer change them to black and white to try and salvage them

Ileana places a pot of water on to boil and places the beef or pork links that Daniel also brought into the pan. Ileana begins slicing the loaf of bread and Paul takes a photo of her so Ileana jokingly brandishes the knife at Paul, which makes us all laugh. A large block of cheese is placed on the table along with a bowl filled with cucumbers and another dish full of tomatoes. When the meat has cooked the links are placed on the table along with a plate containing pieces of lard. There are only six places set at the table and Ileana watches as the rest of us help ourselves to the food. Paul is peeling a cucumber for the two of us and I am attempting to cut my meat up when one of the boys says something to Daniel. Daniel informs us that both of us are using the wrong edge of the small paring like knives. Well, that is embarrassing, but it really was hard to tell which side of the knives had the sharp edge.

Part of our lunch. Paul's photo

Part of our lunch. Paul’s photo

Daniel waiting to begin the meal

Daniel waiting to begin the meal

Paul and I both notice that Dinu used his pocket knife to cut up his food and he also impales the food on his knife point using it as a fork when eating the meat. Paul said the boys also used their pocket knives though I did not notice that. I did notice that the three would nearly cut off a bite of bread or piece of lard with their knives before finishing by biting the piece off with their teeth. It was really fascinating to watch this way of eating. When the six of us are nearly finished eating, Ileana puts a large bowl of the strawberries we brought on the table. Paul and I play it safe and don’t eat them but the other diners certainly enjoy them. However, someone makes a comment to Daniel about the condition of the berries. Daniel tells Paul and I that he told them that I was given the responsibility of carrying the strawberries so the bruised and smushed strawberries were my fault! Ha! When the rest of us have finished eating, Ileana sits down and has her lunch. I felt bad that she didn’t eat with us and I don’t know if that is the custom or if there just wasn’t room at the table for her.

Ileana finally gets to eat as Dinu talks on his cell phone. The slices of lard can be seen in the foreground.

Ileana finally gets to eat as Dinu talks on his cell phone. The slices of lard can be seen in the foreground.

There was one more surprise during lunch, though by now Paul and I should expect this, and that was when Dinus’ cell phone rang. Shortly after Dinus’ phone call, Ileana’s phone rang and then after lunch we found the boys, laying in the grass either texting friends or playing games on their cell phones! I don’t think there is any place in the world anymore where cell phones can’t be found!

The boys using their cell phones. Paul's photo

The boys using their cell phones. Paul’s photo

The boys going after the milk cows

The boys going after the milk cows

Taking the cows to water

Taking the cows to water

The two boys have to gather the four milk cows the family is keeping for another owner for the summer, and drive them to the community well for water. Paul, Daniel, and I decide to tag along. One boy walks in front of the cows while the other boy is trailing the docile beasts and we join the queue. The water source is perhaps a quarter-mile away where the system is housed in a tin building. A hollowed out log like those in Viscri is sitting outside the building for the shepherds to water their livestock. The cows drink a little water but they seem more intent in exploring their surroundings which sends one of the boys running downhill to corral the ring leader and herd the cows back to the water trough. When it is obvious that the cows have had their fill of water the youngsters begin herding the cows back home.

The cows drinking out of the hollowed log trough

The cows drinking out of the hollowed log trough

The cows didn't want to go back home.

The cows didn’t want to go back home.

Daniel, Paul and I decide to hike farther down the road to enjoy the countryside and the spectacular views no matter which direction you look. From one hilltop we can see Jina in the distance, the white church shining like a beacon, as it sits on the highest point of the village. At another place on our trek, Daniel shows us the general area where a monastery sits hidden by the trees far below us. Turning back, we walk a different road where a valley spreads out below us sprinkled with houses and numerous conical haystacks. This country is just stunning.

Paul and Daniel relaxing

Paul and Daniel relaxing

Walking and enjoying the views

Walking and enjoying the views

Paul makes use of his walking sticks while taking in the scenery

Paul makes use of his walking sticks while taking in the scenery

Upon our return to the sheepfold, Gabi and Nicu, are in a game of soccer with two other boys. Gabi and Nicu are playing in their rubber boots and it is amazing how they can manipulate the soccer ball despite the awkward footwear. Ileana is milking the one cow that has a calf, the other three cows are not far from calving. We go out to take a look and are surprised to see the baby calf is nursing one side while Ileana is milking out the other side of the cow. That certainly saves time.

Soccer game in progress

Soccer game in progress

Ileana milks while the cow's baby calf nurses.

Ileana milks while the cow’s baby calf nurses.

Once Ileana is finished milking and has shooed the cow back with her herd mates, we all gather on the porch of the house. Daniel, Paul, and Dinu are sitting on the bench next to the house when they begin trying on each other’s hats, Gabi(I think) grabs Paul’s hat and joins the trio as I snap photos. Ileana not to be left out dons my hat and squeezes in among the guys and I laughingly take pictures.

A variety of hats!

A variety of hats!

Dinu rises to his feet and tells Daniel he must take the sheep to water and invites us along. I decline the invitation saying that I am walked out, reminding my companions that we leave this special place to drive back to the guesthouse. Paul and Daniel forego the invitation too, saying it is time that we head back to the guesthouse. We do walk to the gate to watch the flock of sheep being driven out of the pasture by the boys while Dinu walks in front of his flock. Once the wooly sheep are out in the road the boys go back to the house while Dinu leads the sheep to water by himself. Daniel hollers at Dinu who turns to face us and we wave goodbye. Ileana accompanies us down the road for a few minutes and then we say thank you and goodbye to this friendly woman. What delightful people and what a wonderful way to spend our last full day in Romania!

The family's sheep across the road.

The family’s sheep across the road.

Dinu with his flock following him to water

Dinu with his flock following him to water

One of the boys walking back to the house

One of the boys walking back to the house

This evening at supper we naturally begin the meal with a brandy glass full of horinca. I have seen Daniel look down at his arm after he has taken a drink of the liquor before and declare that he is watching to see if the hair on his arm is standing up. I don’t know if the hair rising on his arm is a test of the quality of the horinca but I figured he was pulling our leg about his arm hair reacting to the liquor anyway. Tonight I look at his arm too and I’ll be darned if the hair doesn’t lift up. Yikes, that should tell you about the potency of this stuff. I also realized at the sheepfold that after I had a couple sips of horinca that the symptoms of my cold had lessened. Tonight, much to Paul’s astonishment, I drink about half of my glass of white lightning, (slowly) in hopes that it will alleviate my stuffy nose and head. Daniel assures me that horinca is very medicinal. I don’t know if it is coincidence or not but this is the most short-lived and mildest cold I can remember having.

Dorin, a very funny story teller!

Dorin, a very funny story teller!

After supper, Dorin tells us some stories, the guy is really funny, and the one I remember the most is the tale of his baptism. According to his mom when he was dipped in the baptismal fount he created his own fountain which happened to baptize the baptismal book the minister was holding. Dorin tells the story while on his feet and he is very animated while reciting the tale which has us howling with laughter.

After supper, we meet the couple’s son for the first time and we visit with the young man briefly. Dorin brings out his hat and his father-in-laws hat and eventually everyone in the group has tried on the hats and posed for photos while wearing them. Despite the fun we are having the day’s activities are catching up with Paul and I and we bid a reluctant good night to everyone.

Paul and I hoisting our glasses of "medicinal" horinca

Paul and I hoisting our glasses of “medicinal” horinca

Ileana modeling one of the hats

Ileana modeling one of the hats

There is no need to rush around this morning as we don’t have to be at the airport until mid-afternoon. After breakfast, Paul and Daniel work to get us checked in online using Daniels laptop as our tablet isn’t cooperating. After loading our luggage we say so long to our gracious and funny host Dorin and ask him to relay our thanks to his wife.

Paul had two "Eat Beef" hats left and these guys look good in them! Dorin really wanted Paul's Setson but it was much to large for him. Paul's photo

Paul had two “Eat Beef” hats left and these guys look good in them! Dorin really wanted Paul’s Setson but it was much to large for him. Paul’s photo

DSCF0101Daniel takes us to one last historical place, Alba Carolina fortress which was built in the 1700’s to defend against the Ottomans. Prior to the fortress this place was known as Alba Luila which was a military and economic center during the Roman occupation.

Playing the part at Alba Carolina

Playing the part at Alba Carolina

As we get ready to walk through what is known as the third gate a man dressed in a guard uniform of the 17th century is patrolling the entrance with his musket hoisted upon his shoulder and stops so I can take a photo of him. Once we enter the square we see several life sized bronzes depicting people from the 16th century scattered around e area. Many monuments have been built here over the years, including one of Michael the Brave sitting astride his steed. We visit two more cathedrals, one being the Romano Catholic Cathedral built in the 15th century. As usual the Cathedrals are beautiful inside and out.

Two bronze gentlemen conversing on the street

Two bronze gentlemen conversing on the street

Michael the Brave and some of  Alba Carolina

Michael the Brave and some of Alba Carolina

It is time to move on and the highway takes us through an area where sheer rock cliffs dot the landscape. Daniel stops at a restaurant/hotel for lunch where we look over the rugged landscape while we eat. Daniel treats us to a dessert called papanasi insisting we can’t leave Romania without eating this traditional dish. I can still taste the fried pastry that is filled with a sour cream and jam. Out of this world.

Our view while eating lunch.

Our view while eating lunch.

Daniel delivers us to the airport and walks into the terminal to make sure our flight is on time. We say goodbye to Daniel and thank him for the excellent time we had touring Romania with him. Enough can’t be said for Daniels willingness to go the extra mile to do the extra things we asked of him. Both Daniel and Cornelia were a huge part of making our Romania adventure such a success!

Our flight from Romania to Luton airport in England went off without a hitch and our driver that is taking us to our hotel near Heathrow is waiting for us. We begin to see signs along the main highway about all the long delays on various routes to the airport but our driver is savvy enough to get off on side roads and a couple of hours later our driver pulls up at our hotel.

After a good night’s sleep, Paul and I are lounging in the room thinking our flight leaves in the middle of the afternoon. Paul decides to check to see if our flight is still on time and discovers that we fly out at 12:45! Holy Smokes, it is a good thing Paul checked when he did. We pack up, check out and go outside the hotel to wait for the free bus that will take us to our terminal. While standing at the bus stop, I hear someone singing the song “I had the time of my life” behind us. Turning around I discover that two teenage Muslim girls are the vocalists. Remember that this song was playing in the restaurant where we ate on our first day in Romania. Weird, and to make it weirder the crummy movie I watch on the way home from Europe ends with this song playing during the credits. Well I guess this was a good theme song for our travel to Europe.

Our flight out of London was delayed for more than two hours and Paul and I knew we weren’t going to make our connecting flight in Dallas. When we did land in Dallas the flight attendant told us that we were lucky to have made it here as our plane landed as one thunderstorm moved out and another one was getting ready to move in. The airline put us in a hotel for the night and luckily we were able to fly to Manhattan the next morning.

When we left Kansas we were wondering if we would have much hay to put up. When we arrived home Paul and I were amazed at the lush, green landscape where ponds that were worryingly low on water were now running out the trickle tubes. It is always good to come home but this time with the drought seemingly broken it was especially wonderful. Nancy

Dinu wearing Paul's Stetson

Dinu wearing Paul’s Stetson

This young man isn't camera shy.

This young man isn’t camera shy.

You can just make out the hat pin with the American flag and Kansas flag pinned to Gabi's(I think) hat. Paul's photo

You can just make out the hat pin with the American flag and Kansas flag pinned to Gabi’s(I think) hat. Paul’s photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Romania part 7

Lonely church. Photo taken as we were driving

Lonely church. Photo taken as we were driving

Romania part 7

Daniel drives us out of the peaceful village of Viscri and the next stop on our Romanian journey is the city of Sighisoara. More beautiful landscape lies between Viscri and Sighisoara. A flock of sheep is sprinkled like puffy marshmallows across a green knob of a hill. A colorful herd of cattle grazes above a lonely church whose only company is the cemetery studded with crosses.

Looking across Sighisoara from the clock tower

Looking across Sighisoara from the clock tower

We arrive in the German Saxon city of Sighisoara where Daniel parks the car, pays the parking fee and we begin to climb many stairs that will take us to the Medieval Stronghold that is referred to as the Citadel. The Citadel is the historic center of Sighisoara.  We tour the 13th century clock tower which houses a small but interesting museum of history. Once we have perused the items ranging from old clothes to beautiful furniture, we climb more stairs that lead to the guard walk where we enjoy a 360 degree view of Sighisoara from on high. The lofty perch doesn’t disappoint as we gaze over the clay-tiled roofs of the city. On the street directly below us the people look like miniature figures as they go about their business.

Looking down at the street where the people looked like miniature figures

Looking down at the street where the people looked like miniature figures

Plaques showed the kilometers to various cities. I couldn't find Alma so had to settle for New York

Plaques showed the kilometers to various cities. I couldn’t find Alma so had to settle for New York

We return to ground level and Daniel takes us to a unique covered staircase built-in the 1600’s to shelter teachers and students from bad weather as they walked to school. The covered staircase, containing 172 steps, also leads us to the church on the hill and its cemetery. Arriving at the Church on the hill, slightly out of breath, we pay a small fee to enter the church and are told that no photos are allowed. The inside of the church is cavernous and as all churches we have visited quite beautiful. It occurs to me that Paul and I have been inside or near more churches in Romania and England on this trip than we have been in churches at home for the past ten years or more!

I loved the cobblestone streets

I loved the cobblestone streets

Leaving the church we walk through the shaded cemetery before entering the city again where Daniel leads us down narrow cobblestone streets that are lined with brightly colored houses. Upon reaching a small park the three of us decide to sit and relax on a wooden bench. After a bit I find the sunlit bench too warm so I move to a bench that is shaded by a tree. A woman is walking by and begins to speak to me in Romanian. I just smile and say, “American”. The woman gets completely flustered and puts her hand up to her cheek and says “sorry, so sorry”. I’m not sure if the lady meant she was sorry for thinking I was Romanian or that she felt sorry for me because I was an American:).

Paul and Daniel relaxing in the small park

Paul and Daniel relaxing in the small park

Our next stop is Biertan, a small village that is famous for its enormous 16th century fortified church built by the German Saxons. This imposing structure has three defensive walls surrounding it and neither Paul nor I took a photo of the imposing structure!!  When we arrive at the church entrance we find that we have arrived during the staff’s lunch hour and the church is closed! Well this is a bit disappointing but we are still able to walk the church grounds which are quite impressive and from atop this hill we are able to look over the quaint village of Biertan. We also visit with a young man who is working on restoring the frame of a window; in fact there is a lot of restoration work being done here. The craftsman speaks English quite well and we find out he also does some guiding for tourists too.

Young man that was repairing window panes.

Young man that was repairing window panes.

This interesting structure was on the grounds of the Fortified Church in Biertan

This interesting structure was on the grounds of the Fortified Church in Biertan

Looking over Biertan from the hilltop where the church was

Looking over Biertan from the hilltop where the church was

As we continue on our journey we make a quick stop at a roadside farm store which consists of tables full of wares along with items piled on the ground. The tables and the shirtless proprietor are shaded by a blue plastic tent top. The man has about everything a farmer might need by the looks of it. There are horseshoes, chains, buckets, bolts, tools, pitchforks, wooden handles and on and on. Paul had wanted to see a farm supply store in Romania, he just hadn’t figured on one that was moveable!

This store owner manning his moveable farm supply store

This store owner manning his moveable farm supply store

Farm supply store

Farm supply store

Daniel, knowing how interested Paul and I are in agriculture and that we raise Angus cattle, has arranged for us to visit an Angus ranch, one of two (I think) in Romania. Again it takes us out of the preplanned route but Daniel seems to enjoy visiting places that he hasn’t been to and is ever gracious about taking these side tours. Mountains are visible again but these big boys have much more snow on them then the other mountains we were near. On our way to the ranch we see a deer walking in the distance through a field and I zoom in on the animal to get a photo that verifies our sighting!

Beautiful mountains

Beautiful mountains

There really is a deer in this photo

There really is a deer in this photo

Daniel has called ahead just prior to our arriving at the ranch and a young man, who doesn’t look all that pleased with having to entertain visitors, is waiting for us next to the house. The snowy mountains make quite a back drop to the ranch with the green pastures in the foreground. We spot a Black Angus cow among a mixed herd but the young man says that those are the neighbor’s cattle. The ranch hand takes us to the finishing shed where there are several red Angus bulls mixed in with crossbred bulls and a whole bunch of young water buffalo. These odd-looking critters try to compensate for their poor eyesight by pointing their noses into the air as the intently peer in our direction.

The Angus ranch we visited

The Angus ranch we visited

Black Angus cow in neighbors pasture

Black Angus cow in neighbors pasture

Daniel is busy translating questions to and answers from our young guide as we curiously ask about the ranch. We are told that all the animals in this feeding floor are being raised to provide meat for the restaurants owned by the rancher. The rancher raises and fattens the beef, has a locker plant on the ranch to butcher the finished animals, and then sells the meat through his restaurants. There are absolutely no middle men in this ranch to plate operation. Eventually we run out of questions for the young fellow, who does manage one delightful smile during the whole time we are there, so we thank him for his time and leave the beautiful ranch behind.

Our guide around the ranch

Our guide around the ranch

Red Angus bull soon to be fare at the restaurant the ranch owns.

Red Angus bull soon to be fare at the restaurant the ranch owns.

Daniel is taking us to Sibiu so we can walk through the city’s historical center and since the Angus ranch has a restaurant in Sibiu, we decide to eat dinner there.  It is a little early for dinner when we arrive in Sibiu so Daniel takes us to an open air museum that has displays of different houses, machinery, and windmills etc. depicting ways of life in the past. The large park has a walkway that is tree-shaded and a small lake is situated in the middle of the park adding to the pleasant atmosphere. There is hardly anyone else in the park which is also a plus. Many of the historic houses have been locked up for the day although we are able to enter one or two. My favorite part of the open air museum was the different types of windmills we saw.

Windmills at the open air museum

Windmills at the open air museum

DSCF9823After our visit to the Open Air Museum we are ready for dinner.  We enter the restaurant which is called Hermania and the main room is airy and comfortable with its high ceiling, fireplace, and a bar in one corner. A few customers are dining in this room but Daniel takes us to a second area which is more casual. Most of the tables are full of locals who are chatting, eating and drinking. Paul and I decide to share a meal of sliced steak that is cooked in a cream sauce. The meal is very tasty although the meat is on the chewy side, which doesn’t surprise us as the bulls we saw were probably one and half years old. Also, if we understood correctly, the beef is not aged like our homegrown beef is. It was fun to follow-up our ranch visit by eating at the ranch’s restaurant. You have to admire such an enterprise.

The main dining room at Hermania restaurant. Paul's photo

The main dining room at Hermania restaurant. Paul’s photo

Daniel drives us to the old part of the city and we wander into a city square lined with historical buildings. People are strolling the square or sitting around enjoy each other’s company. As Daniel explains what the different buildings were in the past and what they are now, he points out some odd structures on the roofs of some of the buildings. I tell him the roof structures creep me out and Daniel laughs because evidently many people have this reaction to the weird roof fixtures. I can’t remember exactly what the air vents are called but they are likened to eyes that are watching you, and they do appear to be staring at you.

Creepy eyes on the roof of this house

Creepy eyes on the roof of this house

We leave this lovely square and walk into an adjacent city square where even more people are promenading. There is a band playing lively music that makes the little children dance and jump to the tune. We stay for a couple of musical numbers and join in with the rest of the people in giving well deserved applause to the band members when they finish playing a song. Daniel takes us to a bridge that is humorously called the “bridge of lies” because many people become engaged and make promises to each other that most supposedly don’t keep. There are a lot of padlocks fastened to the bridge with the lover’s initials written on them. We saw this practice of padlocks cementing ones devotion to each other in Russia too.

One of Sibius' city squares

One of Sibius’ city squares

We enjoyed listening to this band. They were really good.

We enjoyed listening to this band. They were really good.

Padlocks on the Bridge of Lies

Padlocks on the Bridge of Lies

We still have a ways to drive before we reach the guesthouse so we must leave Sibiu. I really liked this city as it had a small town feel to it similar to what we experienced in Cusco, Peru. It is late when we arrive at Ileana the guesthouse where we will spend our last two nights in Romania. Our host opens the gate for us and Daniel drives in and parks the car in front of the house. Dorin shows us to our rooms and invites us down for a nightcap. It is late and Paul and I are tired so at first we refuse the invitation but upon seeing a look of surprise on our hosts face at our refusal, we change our mind.

DSCF0075When we have deposited the luggage in our room we exit this wing of the guesthouse, walk back to where the car is parked where the entrance for the main house is. Dorin takes us into the dining room and a bottle of Horinca except in Transylvania the home-brewed liquor is called Palinea or Plinca, (I have both versions written down and I’m not sure if either is right), is set before us. Dorin’s wife Ileana and the girlfriend of their son are also joining us in the nightcap. We all raise our glasses, heartily say “Noroc”, and take a sip or in some peoples’ cases a gulp of the white lightning. I must be getting used to this alcohol because I don’t gasp quite as loudly and my eyes aren’t watering too badly. We visit with our friendly hosts and find that Dorin has quite a sense of humor. Dorin and the young woman (whose name I have forgotten) both speak English, Dorin fairly well and the young woman is fluent. We learn that she is a translator for a couple from Texas, who are ranchers that have purchased a house in Romania. The couple visited here a few years ago and fell in love with the culture and the country so they live here for part of the year. I can perfectly understand their decision to do this! Finally, we say goodnight and leave this pleasant company to retire for the night.  Nancy

 

 

 

 

 

Romania part 6

Romania part 6

Viscri villager

Viscri villager

Paul and I check emails, look at photos, wash out some socks, and take a short nap after lunch. At three o’clock we meet Daniel in the back yard of the guest house and Daniel leads us towards a part of Viscri we haven’t toured yet. It is still hot and by the vacant streets we are traveling everyone else must be hiding in their houses from the heat. We turn off the main street of Viscri and after walking a few blocks we turn onto another side street. We are on the outskirts of the village and the houses are a bit ramshackle here. Up ahead we see a horse lying flat on its side and from here it appears that the animal isn’t breathing. Gosh I hope the horse isn’t dead. We are nearly parallel to the prone horse before the animal responds to the noise of our approach and lurches to its feet. Thank goodness!

One area of the blacksmiths property

One area of the blacksmiths property

I am grateful when we reach the blacksmiths house because I am quite hot by now. The blacksmiths place looks similar to all the villagers’ homes we have seen during our travels in Romania. There is a house and several outbuildings used for livestock or other possessions, and the property is surrounded by a wooden fence. The blacksmith, who is a gypsy as was the brick maker, also has an old-fashioned well where you drop the bucket into the well and winch it back up after filling the bucket full of water.

An old way of getting water out of a well

An old way of getting water out of a well

After introductions, the blacksmith, who walks with a bit of a swagger, leads us to a small shed outfitted with an old hand bellow that points toward a simple iron table, (the table looks a little like a barbecue grill minus the hood), where a small fire is contained by two bricks on each side of it. There are hammers and other smithing instruments stuck through a handmade tool holder on the left of the forge. This puts the tools within easy reach of the craftsman as he works at the forge. Around the other two sides of the shed there is a roughly made wood plank shelf with various items scattered on them plus there are tools hanging from the walls.

Stoking the small fire

Stoking the small fire

The smithy, a cigarette hanging from his lips, starts a small fire between the bricks and begins to work the bellows to fan the flame. Pretty soon the sparks begin to fly as the fire glows hot. The blacksmith picks up a long, slender piece of iron with his bare hand and places one end of it in the flames while pumping the bellows with his other hand. It isn’t long before the iron subjected to the fire is glowing red and the man moves to the anvil where he begins flattening the hot end of the iron. Once this is accomplished the smithy then bends the malleable metal into a miniature horse shoe. The craftsman works so fast that my camera only captures the movement of the hammer in a blur of motion as he pounds on the iron.

Flattening the hot metal with a hammer which only shows up as a blur

Flattening the hot metal with a hammer which only shows up as a blur

The wife of the blacksmith must help in one aspect of making the horseshoe. The petite woman uses a big hammer to hit a sharp-edged tool her husband is holding with one hand on the horseshoe and with his other hand he grips a pair of tongs that are gripping the horse shoe. Now that is called trusting your partner! After finishing touches, such as cutting small slits and bending the ends of the horseshoe, the man presents the tiny horseshoe to us as a gift. We thank him for the good luck gift and then buy a hand wrought hook the man has crafted so we can have a unique hook to hang up the horseshoe on in our house.

A big hammer for such a petite woman to handle

A big hammer for such a petite woman to handle

Putting on finishing touches

Putting on finishing touches

The finished product

The finished product

The daughter of the blacksmith and a neighbor boy, (who has a nasty cough poor thing) have been present for this demonstration. Paul fishes a ball point pen out of his pack and gives it to the pretty little girl, while giving the boy a small hatpin depicting  the Kansas and USA flag. Paul gives an “Eat Beef” logoed hat for the Blacksmith who gladly accepts it and he asks Paul if he has another hatpin. Paul does and presents the pin to the man who attaches the flag pin to the hat. The blacksmith proudly places the hat on his head and poses for a photo with me.  As we are leaving, the wife and a neighbor woman try to sell us some wool slippers but we politely say no thank you. After thanking the couple for their time, we step back into the street. The smithy, sporting his new hat, walks out with us. A man is standing up to his chest in a huge hole that has been dug in the street(I suppose they are digging up a water line) and the smithy walks over to him, talking and pointing to his hat. It is obvious he is quite delighted with the gift from Kansas.

The Blacksmiths' daughter

The Blacksmiths’ daughter

Sporting his new cap with the hat pin.

Sporting his new cap with the hat pin.

Posing with the Blacksmith. Paul's photo of course

Posing with the Blacksmith. Paul’s photo of course

We continue on our walk and follow the road out of Viscri. The road takes us by more dwellings and a few grazing horses. After a bit we leave the road and begin hiking in the open range taking time to look at some of the plants and flowers we encounter. A man driving a horse hooked to a wagon that is holding a pile of logs passes by us and Daniel calls out to him. Daniel has asked him to stop because the Fortified Church happens to be in the background and Daniel wants to photograph the rugged fellow. The man willingly turns his head the way Daniel requests as though he is used to posing for complete strangers. The sweaty horse stamps his legs restlessly as the flies are biting the poor beast and when the three of us are finished snapping photos the man relaxes the reins and the horse eagerly clipclops off towards his destination.

The logger we met on our walk

The logger we met on our walk

A willing subject for our photos

A willing subject for our photos

Our path back to Viscri leads us over hills and down to a small stream where kids have left bare foot prints in the mud. We end up at the bottom of the hill where the massive fortified church stands and soon we are back in the village. By now all of us are ready for a beer on this hot afternoon so we go to Viscri 125, (the guesthouse where we ate supper last night) and order three beers. We sit outside on the patio and enjoy our cold brew as the early evening brings some respite from the days’ heat. Two employees are adjusting a sprinkler in the weed free garden that is located a few yards from the back door of the restaurant. There is a group of men working at rebuilding a barn the young owners of Viscri 125 bought, disassembled and moved next to their guesthouse. Some of the men are placing rocks on the half-erected walls while others are sealing the stones in with mortar. Another man, probably the low man on the totem pole, is breaking rocks by pounding on them with a large sledge-hammer. Occasionally the shirtless man raises a large rock over his head and slams it down on the other rocks in an effort to break up the stubborn stones. Paul can’t help himself and wanders over to the construction site but the men don’t seem comfortable with him so close to the action so he returns to our table and his beer. Personally, I think Paul probably could have given the work crew some pointers as the work looks a bit sloppy to me.

Paul watching the wall building crew

Paul watching the wall building crew

This guy preformed this Herculean task several times while we enjoyed our beer

This guy preformed this Herculean task several times while we enjoyed our beer

We are eating dinner at our guesthouse tonight and Ojens’ wife has prepared sarmale for us which is diced and spiced pork wrapped in a cabbage leaf. Daniel warns us not to eat too much of the sarmale as it is very rich. He relates the story of one client who didn’t heed his warning and the person was so miserable the next morning they had to cancel their morning plans! Well, it is easy to see how one could keep eating the sarmale because it is absolutely delicious. I manage to control myself and stop after two pieces but Paul eats at least three helpings of the tasty dish.

Ojen with what is left of the sarmale

Ojen with what is left of the sarmale

Paul and I decide to go out to the main street and wait for the shepherd to bring everyone’s livestock home. Daniel says normally the animals show up around 8:30 but tonight the mixed herd and the shepherd are running late. The people of the village are sitting in front of their houses as the light is fading away and I wonder if they are just enjoying the coolness of the evening.  It is past nine when the herd can be seen coming up the road at the far end of the village. Paul and I soon figure out why everyone is waiting outside their houses, they are literally waiting for the cows to come home!

A small portion of the animals coming back to town after grazing all day

A small portion of the animals coming back to town after grazing all day

Paul and I watch in astonishment as cows, horses, sheep and goats reach their owners homes and turn in the gate as their owners take stock :). The people next to where we are standing watch as first one, then two and eventually a third cow walk through the open green gate.  Pretty soon the man and woman rise to their feet and one walks into the street to the right while the other goes to the left. We are puzzled at this couples action but soon understand as they coax a young Holstein cow towards their gate. Possibly the cow is a new member to the couples herd and doesn’t yet know where she lives.  With the black and white cow safely inside the compound the man and woman shut the green wooden gate behind the Holstein and retire into their house. We continue to watch as the animals dwindle in number as they disappear into people’s yards and retire for the night. This was so cool!

A cow arriving home for the night

A cow arriving home for the night

 

It is nearly dark so Paul and I begin to walk back to the guesthouse where animals are still making their way to this end of the village. Suddenly we hear shouting and turn to see a couple of men chasing after several sheep who are bolting up the road. It looks like these sheep don’t want to go home for the night! Paul and I stop to watch the men as they sprint after the sheep that are now running in all directions. The older man corrals one wooly ovine against the wall of a house, picks the struggling critter up, drapes the sheep over his shoulders like a shawl and while holding the animal’s legs tightly so it can’t kick free, trots back down the street to deposit the sheep where it belongs.

The livestock that lives at the far end of the village continuing up the road

The livestock that lives at the far end of the village continuing up the road

The older man soon returns to help a younger guy who has turned some of the wayward sheep back and they grab another one. This time they truss the animal’s legs and put it in the trunk of someone’s car. By now Paul and I are laughing hard,( but quietly), because we are pretty sure we have been subjected to every cuss word there is in the Romanian language by the men trying to run down the recalcitrant animals! Even though the men are still chasing after a couple of the speedy sheep, it is getting so dark that Paul and I return to the guesthouse giggling all the way.

This morning I am up before six, I dress and go outside to watch the livestock parade in reverse. I watch as cows amble down side streets and turn left or right onto the main drag of Viscri. The early morning sun is glinting off the coats of three horses grazing along the edge of the road. A mixed flock of long-haired goats and wooly sheep are prancing down the middle of the road joining the ever-growing number of animals preparing to go to pasture. Many of the animals head directly for the wood water troughs or the cement tank full of water and drink thirstily. A woman carrying two buckets of milk walks against the flow of animals as she makes her way to the milk center. The shepherd appears in the distance and I watch as he roves from one side of the street to the other urging the wide variety of livestock to move on down the street. The shepherd and his menagerie pass by me but I continue to watch the livestock parade, gathering ever more participants, as it recedes into the distant boundary of the village.

A cow heading for main street

A cow heading for main street

The shepherd is in the back ground

The shepherd is in the back ground

Delivering the mornings milk to the milk collection center

Delivering the morning’s milk to the milk collection center

I return to the room where Paul and I finish packing everything but our toiletry case before we go to breakfast. When we exit the back gate a thumping noise causes us to look across the street into the open gate of someone’s property. Looking closer we see a wagon hitched to a horse where at least two good-sized calves are trussed up and lying in the wagon bed. One of the Simmental looking calves struggles and nearly stands up but a man appears, pushes him back down, and tightens the bonds on the calf. We assume that the young calves are headed for the market and we leave to go eat breakfast.

Calves trussed up and in the wagon bed.

Calves trussed up and in the wagon bed.

After eating breakfast we settle up with Ojen for the extra meals and for the clothes the family washed for us. We also tell him we really enjoyed our stay in his guest house. As we are returning to our room we notice more activity is taking place across the street. A pickup with homemade stock racks, is pulled in the driveway next to the bound calves. One of the calves is already standing in the pickup bed, the rope around his neck tied to the wire stock racks. Now the two men are attempting to load a second calf. To say the calf is unwilling to walk up the loading plank is putting it mildly. I would estimate the calves weigh 300 pounds, and this sturdy bull calf is doing everything he can to stay on the ground. One man is pulling on the rope around the calf’s head, while the other burly fellow has the calf’s’ tail and is pushing against the calf with all his might. The calf refuses to walk and eventually he just lays down so the guys must drag the obstinate critter into the pickup. Unlike the sheep chasing men last night these two fellows never say a word during the tussle with the calf.

The stubborn calf resisting the two men trying to load him in the truck

The stubborn calf resisting the two men trying to load him in the truck

Finally success!

Finally success!

Paul and I meet Daniel at the car and we stuff our luggage in the trunk of his car. Today Daniel has several places for us to visit including an Angus ranch on our way to our next guest house. We load ourselves in the car and as we drive through the quiet streets of Viscri, I feel a twinge of sadness at leaving this friendly, peaceful village. Nancy

Horses grazing in Viscri

Horses grazing in Viscri

I thought this photo of the cows under the  umbrella was funny

I thought this photo of the cows under the umbrella was funny

 

 

Romania part 5

The landscape is changing as we travel into Translvania from Bucovina

The landscape is changing as we travel into Translvania from Bucovina

Romania part 5

Daniel, Paul, and I walk to a restaurant adjacent to the gas station to grab a bite to eat before we continue our journey to Viscri. The three of us enjoy conversing with one another as we eat our lunch and one of the subjects we discuss is visiting the village where the refugees that Paul’s parents brought to Alma in 1957 had lived before WWII. The Preidts were German Saxons that lived in Romania prior to Mr. Preidt being conscripted into the German army. The family became refugees in Austria after the war ended. Paul said the Preidt’s were like a second set of parents to him the fifteen years they worked for his parents. Daniel uses his phone to google the location of Drausen and decides that visiting the village today makes sense because Drausen isn’t that far from our destination village of Viscri.

We crossed into Transylvania shortly before we met up with Daniel and the countryside was changing from mountains and forest to more open landscape.  As we travel farther into Transylvania the rolling hills look similar to eastern Kansas.  I must admit it makes me a little bit homesick for the Flint Hills of Kansas. The other difference from Maremures and Bucovina is we are seeing a lot of modern agriculture in Transylvania. Yes, there are some people cutting hay by hand or using horses in the fields but there are also hay sheds with big square bales stacked in them and round bales sitting in the hay fields. Near the village of Drausen a tractor with a front mounted swather and two side mounted swathers is cutting alfalfa! That is a rig that can cut down a lot of hay in a hurry!

Cultivating one row at a time

Cultivating one row at a time

Large square bales stacked in a hay shed. Taken from the car

Large square bales stacked in a hay shed. Taken from the car

The tractor cutting with three swathers. Paul's photo

The tractor cutting with three swathers. Paul’s photo

Daniel drives through the small village of Drausen and pulls the Ford to a stop next to the fortified church where the Preidt’s would have attended services. The three of us walk around the stone wall that surrounds the fortified church. We reach one section of the wall that is leaning heavily towards the street and Paul comments that the ancient wall won’t be standing much longer. Fortified churches are unique to Europe and in Translvania they were built mainly by German Saxons who were invited to come to Hungary (Transylvania belonged to Hungary at this time) to help defend the country from attacks by the Turks. The churches were the largest and tallest buildings in the villages and were always built on a hilltop which allowed for a clear view of the surrounding countryside. The churches had at least one outer stone wall plus the bell towers had shooting slits incorporated in them for defense. The courtyard and church were a large enough area to shelter all the people of the village when they were under siege.

The main road into Drausen. A portion of  the wall around the Fortified Church is on the right

The main road into Drausen. A portion of the wall around the Fortified Church is on the right

As we continue our inspection we walk by a woman standing in her yard and Daniel asks her if it is possible to tour the church. The woman’s replies that touring the church is possible and tells us that she will phone the caretaker.  After speaking to the caretaker, she tells us he will meet us at the front of the church. By the time we arrive back at the car, a lanky, dark-complexioned man is waiting for us. That sure didn’t take long!

Going through the gate into the grounds of the church

Going through the gate into the grounds of the church

DSCF9331The caretaker and Daniel exchange a few words after which the serious fellow walks to the gate, unlocks it, and leads us into the courtyard of the church. Our volunteer guide points out a pair of dragons carved on the stone arch over the church door. It seems curious to me that a church would have dragons etched on the door but maybe it was someone’s coat of arms. Filing into the church we see that the interior is undergoing a major restoration or was that is. Daniel translates the caretakers’ explanation that the project has come to a halt because the funding has dried up. What a shame.

Daniel and Paul discussing the work that was done in the church

Daniel and Paul discussing the work that was done in the church

Remnants of old paintings of the wall of the church

Remnants of old paintings of the wall of the church

We wander around the spacious church as our companion points out remnants of old paintings on the wall, interesting windows, plaster decorations on the ceiling and so on. We then climb some steep make-shift stairs built by the restorers to gain access to the bell tower. The view from here is awesome and if I had lived in this era I would love to have had the job of watchman. I can’t imagine of ever tiring of the views from this lofty perch, not to mention that you are on eye level with a lot of birds!

This hill reminded me of Kansas

This hill reminded me of Kansas

From the watch tower. You can see how the stone wall is leaning

From the watch tower. You can see how the stone wall is leaning

The three men walk out onto the rafters that have walking planks laying over them in order to look at the engineering involved in the roof restoration. I take one look at the situation and say no thanks. Once they have satisfied their curiosity, Daniel and the caretaker clamber up into the steeple and Paul decides to sit this escapade out. Eventually the two return and we all descend down the precarious stairs and walk outside into the bright sunshine. We examine one outside wall of the church where some restoration was done but much of the wall is crumbling away. I can’t imagine the cost of restoring this massive building with all the deterioration there is to the once majestic church. We thank the fellow for taking time out of his day to escort us through the church and Paul hands him some lei in appreciation. As we are driving away from Drausen Paul thanks Daniel for taking us on this spur of the moment tour. Paul tells Daniel that it was quite emotional for him to visit the home town of the Preidts’ who were so special to him.

Paul, Daniel and our guide. You can see the sad state of the church wall behind them

Paul, Daniel and our guide. You can see the sad state of the church wall behind them

Due to our visit to Drausen, Daniel is approaching Viscri from a different direction than he normally does and we are driving one of the worst roads I can remember being on in our many travels. The road is so riddled with potholes that all Daniel can do is attempt to only drive over the smallest potholes as we creep down the dirt road.  We arrive at the sleepy village of Viscri with its pastel colored houses lining the streets.  Daniel drives to the rear entrance of the guest house where we are staying for the next two nights, walks to the gate, and calls out for the owner. When he receives no answer, he swings the gate open, steps in and immediately loud barking ensues.  Daniel jumps back out into the street while slamming the wooden gate behind him. Yikes. I guess the dog alerted our host because soon a man appears at the gate and invites us in. We cautiously step into the backyard with Ojen assuring us the dog won’t bother us. Paul and I are shown to our room which is quite large and warmly decorated. Two windows look out on the main street of Viscri which will allow us to watch village life from our room. The bathroom, which we share with Daniel, is a convenient two steps from our bedroom door.

The front of the guest house we stayed at in Viscri

The front of the guest house we stayed at in Viscri

Our spacious room

Our spacious room

Tonight we have dinner at the guesthouse across the street. The dining area is quite beautiful and spacious. Daniel tells us that lamb is being served tonight, which doesn’t exactly thrill Paul and I. When our server, (a girl from Texas for heaven sakes) sits the roasted lamb in front of us the smell wafting from the pan is wonderful. Daniel cuts off slices of the roast for us and the lamb tastes as good as it smells. To top it off a side dish of creamy, mashed potatoes accompanies the lamb dish. I love mashed potatoes!!

The bells from these grazing cows woke us up in the morning

The bells from these grazing cows woke us up in the morning

This morning we awaken to cow bells playing next to our room. I get up and glance out the window to see cows grazing the grass in the front of the guesthouse. I watch the early morning activities unfold before me as an old man walks by with a flock of sheep following dutifully behind him. Three men parade by the window pulling wheeled carts that carry one milk can. A young man driving a horse-drawn wagon which is filled with milk cans turns his horse into the driveway of a house and patiently waits for the owners to bring him their milk cans filled with fresh cow’s milk.

The flock of sheep that was following their shepherd

The flock of sheep that was following their shepherd

Delivering the mornings milk to the milk station

Delivering the mornings milk to the milk station

Paul and I are wide awake now and since breakfast isn’t served until eight o’clock we decide to explore the main street of Viscri. We find a spring that flows through a pipe, the water running into a handmade wooden trough. The overflow from this trough trickles into a second wood trough giving livestock easy access to water. Ahead of us a large family of geese is grazing on the green lawns. Paul and I are cautious of the gaggle of geese, because we raised geese a long time ago and know how nasty a gander protecting a flock can be. We are happy to see the geese cross the street so we don’t have to worry about them as we continue exploring Viscri. A gypsy woman and her child are innocently strolling up the road and when the two pass by the geese, the dominate gander erupts in anger. The nasty gander starts chasing after the young woman and boy and the two run for their lives! The gander finally gives up his pursuit but the temperamental fowl probably ran after the people a half a block. The woman starts laughing once they are safe, but I don’t think the little boy thought it was funny at all. There are two older gypsy women following a trio of grade school kids who are dawdling on the way to school. Occasionally one of the older women begins yelling at the kids who look back at their scolder before continuing on their reluctant way. The colorfully dressed women trail the children until the kids walk through the school gate and then the women turn back towards their home. Gee, do you think these kids have skipped out of school a time or two:).

Spring fed watering trough

Spring fed watering trough

The gaggle of geese. The victims to be can be seen in the background

The gaggle of geese. The victims to be can be seen in the background

Paul and I return to the guesthouse and enter the modest dining room. Our table is set for the three of us and I happily note that a jar of muesli is on the table. I really have missed having cereal for breakfast. There is also cheese, yogurt, bread and jam.

Our breakfast table

Our breakfast table

After breakfast Ojen invites us to go with him to Prince Charles property which he takes care of. Prince Charles became enthralled with Romania after visiting the country years ago and besides this property in Viscri he also owns a property in Breb. Ojen gives us a tour of the two small houses that are frequently occupied by the Princes’ friends and occasionally by the Prince himself. In fact Ojen is preparing for guests that are coming later today. The larger place consists of one big room for sleeping and dining, a small sitting room, plus a modest bathroom. The smaller place consists of a large room and a bathroom. The homes are furnished with antique furniture and lovely ceramic stoves to heat the rooms when necessary. The rooms are nicely decorated but there is certainly no opulence on display. There is also a barn and other out buildings but they aren’t being used.

Paul standing in one of the places owned by Prince Charles . Actually I think his foundation owns the property

Paul standing in one of the places owned by Prince Charles . Actually I think his foundation owns the property

It is really warm this morning but we are going to trek into the hills to visit a brick maker. As we are walking through town we stop to watch a crew that is digging up water lines (why I don’t know) and to find the line they are using a water witcher. The man is holding two bent copper rods that face straight away from him. The witcher slowly walks the grassy area and suddenly the rods swing together. Daniel is skeptical that this really works but Paul and I tell him that this is a legitimate practice and witchers are used to find a good place to drill wells at home. We explain that only some people have the gift to witch for water. We use ourselves as an example of this because I tried witching once and the rods reacted just like they did for this man. On the other hand Paul has tried witching too and the rods were unresponsive for him.

The rods in the mans' hands say the water line is right here.

The rods in the mans’ hands say the water line is right here.

Daniel decides he wants to try witching and the village witcher tells Daniel how to hold the rods, then Daniel slowly walks the path the man directs him on. After Daniel takes several steps the rods abruptly swing towards each other and the surprised look on our guides face is priceless! Daniel insists that Paul try his hand at witching and Paul agrees to try. Daniel gives him the same directions he received on how to hold the rods and where to walk. Paul slowly walks the same area but as Paul had predicted the rods don’t even twitch. Daniel talks with the other members of the work crew and all of them tell him that they cannot witch for water either. As we continue on our way to the brick makers place, Daniel muses about how his electronics never last very long while his girlfriend’s devices never seem to wear out.  He wonders if his witching ability causes the problems with his electronics. It certainly could be a factor.

Daniel comes up with the same result

Daniel comes up with the same result

We reach the brick makers place which is secluded and lovely. The house as you would expect is made of brick. A lean, weathered man walks out of a large barn and greets us. We follow him back into the barn which is really an area where he and his family make and dry clay roof tiles. The wiry man gives us a brief demonstration on making a tile using a simple wooden form. Most of the building is filled with wooden shelves where the tiles are placed to dry before they are baked. We follow our host out to the huge oven used to bake the bricks and tiles. Daniel translates the process of baking the clay bricks or tiles, and it certainly sounds like a hot and tedious job!

Daniel and Paul approaching the Brick makers house

Daniel and Paul approaching the Brick makers house

Our host explaining how they bake the bricks and tiles in the huge oven behind him

Our host explaining how they bake the bricks and tiles in the huge oven behind him

The four of us walk to the area where the family makes the bricks. The heavy clay soil here is ideal for making bricks and so the brick makers have a small water pit to which they add the soil until they the correct consistency of the dirt is achieved.  Our host mixes up a small amount of clay, grabs a big handful of the mud, carries it over to a wooden form and dumps the wet soil into it. He punches and pushes the muddy stuff into the form and then uses a flat board to scrape away the excess. The brick maker places a wooden lid over the brick, carries the form to a board lying on the ground, presses the lid down on the mud to form the brick, carries the board and form back to the table and dumps the slick yellowish brick out of the form. The gypsy brick maker then asks Daniel our names and proceeds to scratch Paul and Nancy into the fresh made brick. Hey, maybe someday a building in Romania will contain a brick with a couple of Kansans names written on it.

Mixing up the dirt to the right consistancy

Mixing up the dirt to the right consistancy

Placing the sloppy mixture into the form.

Placing the sloppy mixture into the form.

DSCF9474

Paul pulls out the photo book and our host,( who I think slightly resembles Sean Connery), and he studies the photos intently. When they have finished with the photo book, Paul pulls a couple of “Eat Beef” hats from his backpack and asks the fellow if he would like one. The man chooses the black one and tells Daniel his daughters’ birthday is this week and she will be delighted with the ball cap. Daniel also gives the man some money for entertaining and educating us on the craft of brick making.

Looking at the Kansas photo book

Looking at the Kansas photo book

The work area for making bricks. You can see Viscri and the Fortified church in the background

The work area for making bricks. You can see Viscri and the Fortified church in the background

We take the long route back to Viscri through a flower laden meadow, wander by a pretty cemetery and stroll down a road where the fields have been freshly plowed.   Arriving back in Viscri, Daniel leads us uphill to the fortified church that dominates the skyline here. We step off the street and walk up the shady path to the impressive 12th century church which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church is still active and the members also maintain a museum in one of the out buildings. One of the rooms on the second story of this museum is set up to show how the people of the village would keep their lard/bacon in the store-room (larder) of the church and would fetch what they needed for the week on a specific day. Part of the reason the people did this was that the heavy stone of the store-room was cooler than the people’s houses which was better for storing the meat better. The other reason was that when the village was under siege they had food on site as they took shelter in the stronghold of the church.

The meadow we walked through on the way back to the village

The meadow we walked through on the way back to the village

The fortified church, well the church is inside this protective wall

The fortified church, well the church is inside this protective wall

We climb the spiral, enclosed stone staircase into the bell tower and circle the walkway marveling at the views. On this side of the church we see the village splayed out below us, looking another direction the verdant hills fade away in the distance, on this end of the tower is the tidy cemetery placed outside the rock wall that surrounds the church.

Viscri as seen from the bell tower

Viscri as seen from the bell tower

The cemetery

The cemetery

We go inside the church and where the white and gold organ over powers everything else in the room. The wooden benches for church goers are quite old-fashioned and I am sure that no one is going to fall asleep during services sitting on these hard backless seats. Paul and I decide to have a look at the other buildings that are scattered around the church yard and when we return to the front of the church the organist is playing. A few other tourists have gathered inside the church to listen and we join them. After the organist finishes his piece all of us clap for the well-played music.

The interior of the Viscri church and the organ we were lucky enough to hear the organist play

The interior of the Viscri church and the organ we were lucky enough to hear the organist play

It is nearly time for lunch and Daniel takes a different route back to the guest house. We stop by a small bakery where the bread we have been eating in Viscri is made. This bread is baked in a unique way as the baker’s place dozens of loaves in the cavernous ovens and then hot coals are banked around the loaves. The outside of the bread actually burns but after the bread has cooled the burned part is cut away. The bread is delicious by the way and I have never detected any hint of a burned taste.

An old women sweeping her side walk in the village

An old women sweeping her side walk in the village

Ojen has prepared a light lunch for us as requested by Daniel. There are slices of cheese (of course), small pieces of lard (no thanks), some of the bread from the bakery, and a tossed salad which looks delicious but we don’t dare eat it. Paul and I eat cheese and bread for lunch and after we finish the three of us exit the dining room. Ojen comes running to the door and calls out for us to return. Ojen is holding a plate of warm rhubarb cake his wife has made us for desert. We don’t have to have our arms twisted to sit back down at the table and enjoy a couple of pieces of the flavorful cake.

Since it has gotten really hot Daniel suggests we take a siesta for a couple of hours before finishing up what he has planned for us today. We agree and return to our room where I look at my photos, write a few notes in my journal and Paul checks the internet for emails. What an interesting, packed full morning we have had in this delightful village. Later, Nancy

Black and white photo of the brick maker

Black and white photo of the brick maker

The outside of the brick makers house

The outside of the brick makers house