Romania part 6
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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