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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.