Monthly Archives: August 2017

Romanian A-Z: D

Even a cursory glance at a Romanian dictionary shows that a lot of words beginning with D resemble English ones. Delicat (delicate), desperat (desperate), dezgust (disgust), dispărea (to disappear), discuție (discussion), doctor and durabil (durable), to mention just a few. So my first word today is document – chosen in honour of the Romanian bureaucratic system.

In Romania, you need a document for everything. For example, to obtain a Registration Certificate (proof of residence), you need to have a Romanian bank account. But when you go to open a bank account, they want the number on the Registration Certificate that you don’t have. That’s in addition to your passport number. There are ways round this, as the bank clerk eventually discovered, but it gives you an idea of the kind of thing I mean. As EU citizens, obtaining the Registration Certificates still proved relatively straightforward for us. Buying a second-hand car, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say it’s likely to be Christmas before all the paperwork is finally completed. And I’m not joking.

Bureaucracy 1s

The whole thing has been complicated by the fact that the car we have bought originated in Germany, but it’s not a simple matter even when that’s not the case. This gives you an idea of the amount of documentation that is required to complete the process, including face-to-face appointments with at least two different administrative bodies. In our case, the process has currently stalled pending an ‘urgent’ appointment with the police on 7th September. Even then, the registration (if it goes ahead) will only be temporary, the first available appointment for the ‘roadworthiness’ test being in December!

My second word is drum. Always helpful if you have wheels:


This one is newly surfaced, having been little more than a dirt track earlier in the year. However, potholes are a common sight on most of the roads in the area. In fact, they are not unlike some of the back roads across the Somerset Levels, just without the subsidence! But whether the roads themselves are good or not, the words ‘drum bun!‘ (literally, ‘good road’) are used to wish people well on their journey – similar to the British ‘farewell’ and the French ‘bon voyage’. So it’s a word worth knowing.

My third word is actually a collection of words, all with the same Latin root:

Domn: gentleman
Domnul: Mr
Domnule: Sir (e.g. Scuzați-mă, domnule – Excuse me, sir)
Doamnă: Lady, woman (polite), madam, Mrs
Domnișoară: young lady, Miss
Doamne: God/Lord
Dumnezeu: God (from Latin Domine and Deus)
Dumneavoastră: polite form of you/your (literally your lord/ladyship)

All these are important to know and distinguish between if you want to be polite. The last is used in a similar way to the French polite form, so you hear it a lot on aeroplanes and in offices, for example.

In contrast, God is addressed with the familiar form tu, just as s/he used to be in English:

Sfințească-se numele TăuHallowed be Thy name

This is a paradox that English is no longer capable of expressing in the same way; that we can be on intimate terms with the one whom Christians call Lord or Doamne.

Doamne. Not a word we’ve heard very much. For various reasons, we haven’t had the opportunity to explore much in the way of church services yet. Nor have we heard it used as an expletive. However, one evening, when we were in the city of Cluj, we heard the sound of chanting issuing from the Orthodox church; a strangely haunting melody (if you can call it that) that moved me to worship even without being aware of the words. So I thought I’d leave you with this similar-sounding cry from Psalm 141:

Lord God, I call to you! Hear my prayer! Set a guard over my mouth. Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil…




Romanian A-Z: C

Continuing with my Romanian alphabet, first up today is coasă (pronounced co-asa):



This is another word derived from the Slavic. In Bulgarian, it looks like this: кося (pronounced kos-ya?) and it means ‘scythe’. This is of one of our neighbours cutting fodder for his animals, which was later thrown into a stack (capiță) by the women of the family. That’s what the wooden structure is for – to support it.

Here’s the completed stack:

Haystack 2s

Also on the cutting theme is one of my favourite Romanian words. May I present the ‘cuts-it’!


The Romanian word is actually cuțit, where the ț is pronounced ‘ts’ and the u like the ‘oo’ in ‘book’. (Folks in Yorkshire get a head start in learning this word!)

Interestingly, our word ‘cut’ is thought to be Germanic and is related to the Norwegian kutta (to cut) and the Icelandic kuta (to cut with a small knife) and kuti (a small, blunt knife). The word ‘knife’ also comes from Norse origins. However, cuțit and the French couteau are thought to be related to the Latin acutus (sharp, pointed, acute) and/or culter/cultellus (sword/dagger). All of which makes me wonder if the word ‘cut’ in some form has been around for a very long time!

My third word returns to the cottage farming theme. It’s capră:

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This is another of our neighbours. She and her mother have provided us with plenty of entertainment, suddenly taking it into their heads to caper around the yard or nose over the fence to see if what we have tastes better than what they have. Apparently, honeysuckle is very good!

Romanian A-Z: B

My three words today are bicicletă, biserică and buruiană.

One of my reasons for choosing these words is because they all end in ă. This is a letter that does not appear in the English alphabet, but which is found after ‘a’ in the Romanian one. There are not many words that begin with ă and those that do are very mundane sort of words, like ăsta, meaning ‘this’, so I didn’t feel that the letter really warranted a post all to itself. Suffice it to say that it is pronounced ‘uh’ or ‘er’, as in the word ‘weather’ and that it is frequently found at the end of words.

I have chosen the word bicicletă for its resemblance to the English and French and because I like the sound of it. In Romanian, ci and ce are pronounced as the English ‘tch’ and i is a longer sound than in English, more like ‘ee’. So the whole sounds something like ‘beechicletta’.

I’ve also chosen it because it has come up a number of times in conversation. Having one of the family’s old bicycles mended and made roadworthy was one of the first things Duncan did when he arrived. Also, my mobility scooter has attracted quite a bit of attention since we arrived. Just the other day, an elderly gentleman commented that bicicleta e foarte frumoasă (the bicycle is very beautiful). His hesitation as to what to call it might be explained by the fact that over half the people in the village speak Hungarian as their first language. However, another lady, whose husband is disabled, went further and admitted she’d never seen anything like it before. She was very excited and wanted to know all about it; what it was called and where I had got it from. Not an easy conversation when neither of us speak Romanian as a first language. Oddly enough, talking about mobility scooters doesn’t seem to be a priority in most language learning courses!

My second word is biserică:


This one is Romanian Orthodox. However, we also have a Reformed church and a Baptist church in the village, both of which are Hungarian speaking. Church history is complex in Romania, with influences from the Byzantine (Orthodox), Hungarian (Roman Catholic and Reformed), Ottoman and Russian empires as well as communism. As a result, most Romanians identify as Orthodox and Protestants make up a tiny minority, over half of whom speak Hungarian.

My final word is buruiană, which means ‘weed’. Unlike bicicletă and biserică, which have their origins in Latin and Greek, this word has Slavic origins. Hence it is yet another example of the multicultural heritage of Romania.


I’ve no idea what the above flowers are called, but they are clearly related to the thistles, dandelions and daisies of weed fame, so buruieni will have to do for the moment. If you have any insight into what their names might be, please say!

Romanian A-Z: A

What better way to learn about Romania than through the language of the people? With this in mind, I have decided to join in with a blogging friend of mine, who is hosting an A-Z word challenge. In response to this challenge, I will aim to post three Romanian words here each day, accompanied by photographs and anecdotes about the country and what we have found here. You are welcome to join in by adding your own words, thoughts or comments.

Today is A (pronounced ‘ah’), so we will begin with amidon, or to be more precise, amidon de porumb:

IMAG0026 (2)

The reason for this is that this elusive beastie took quite some tracking down! For British readers, it’s cornflour. American readers will know what I’m talking about if I tell them that amidon means ‘starch’. To confuse the issue even more, on this box it’s called something like ‘fine edible starch’. Exactly what we had on the shopping list!

So far, we’ve only been able to find it in one supermarket. The shop assistants in the others knew what we were talking about (once we’d worked out that we needed to ask for amidon and not făină) but were unable to find any on their shelves. Despite what it says on the box, it seems using it for preparing cakes, biscuits, desserts or sauces isn’t a thing in Romania.

My second choice of word is albastru. This is because it’s my favourite colour and because we have seen rather a lot of it since we’ve been here:


Blue sky: Cer albastru

It’s also an interesting word because, more literally, it means ‘whitish’ or ‘off-white’. So perhaps it refers to a sky lightly veiled with wispy white clouds?  Whatever, alabaster, is a kind of gypsum or calcite, a whitish rock that can be carved to make ornaments, jars and vases. The word originated from the Latin, prior to that the Greek and prior to that, possibly Egyptian.

My final word is apus:


Apus de soare

This means ‘sunset’ ‘sundown’ or ‘dusk’ . It can also mean ‘west’, with apusean meaning ‘western’. Hence Munții Apuseni – The ‘Mountains of the Sunset’ or ‘Western Mountains’.

The above photo was taken a week or two back, a couple of hours after we’d had thunder and lightning (but no rain). The clouds slowly clearing away made for a fabulous display of colour.

Apus – chosen because there is little in this world that is more beautiful.

Wild about Transylvania 2

It’s been cooler here this past few days, so I’ve been able to get out a bit more and take some photographs. I continue to be fascinated by the similarities and differences in the local wildlife as compared with the Somerset Levels.

Farms on the Somerset Levels were once major producers of teasels for the wool industry. These were cultivated teasels, Dipsacus sativus, which are better for that purpose than the wild type, Dipsacus fullonum. They were grown up until the 1980s, but have since disappeared, leaving only the wild type, which are pinky, mauve colour:

Common Teasel Suffolk geograph-2520655-by-Shazz

Here in Transylvania, we have found a different type altogether. This is the Cut-leaved Teasel, Dipsacus laciniatus:

Teasel 3s

Cut-leaved Teasel: Dipsacus laciniatus

Laciniatus refers to its toothed leaves, but its bracts are also straighter, giving a more spiky effect. This is how it looked from the top:

Teasel 2s

Cut-leaved Teasel: Dipsacus laciniatus

The Cut-leaved teasel is native to this area. However, the Black Locust tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, is not. It’s native to SE USA, but has been widely planted and naturalised elsewhere, including Romania. It thrives in hot, sunny weather and can be recognised by its compound leaves (with many smooth-edged leaflets) and by its thorns:

Black Locust 3s

Black Locust 2s

Black Locust: Robinia pseudoacacia

One of the reasons it has become naturalised here is because it is grown to produce honey. Apparently, it’s very good honey, too, which might explain why there are so many beekeepers:

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Bee hives at Luna de Sus

The Black Locust is not in flower at present, however, so the bees must make do with  a plant that is much more familiar in Somerset:

Birds-foot Trefoil

Bird’s Foot Trefoil: Lotus corniculatus

As for the bears, who knows? They may be down in the woods picnicking on honey at this very moment…


Forests of the Apuseni Mountains


City of contrasts

We had some paperwork to sort out in Cluj today, so took a wander round the lake near the Julius Mall.



This is the most recently developed part of the town. The Julius Mall itself is all shiny and new and looks very Western. Then, across the lake, there is the ‘Riviera Luxury’ – a newly built luxury apartment block:

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And the development is ongoing, as the presence of the cranes testifies.

Yet, in the midst of all this, there are still a few ramshackle houses with the ubiquitous beans, tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the garden. Not rows of terraces, cottages or suburban houses, like you’d see in England. Just a small single-storey village-type dwelling marooned in the midst of the city.

And then, in other parts of the city, there are the huge, grey, factory apartment blocks of the communist era, many of which make the likes of Grenfell Tower look like paradise. Here’s one in Manastur, next to the bus stop where we changed buses:

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It was factory workers from blocks like these that marched into the centre of Cluj on 21/22 December 1989, a couple of days before the revolution climaxed in Bucaresti. 26 people died and 57 were injured when the security forces opened fire in Cluj.

So Cluj, like so many others, is a city of contrasts. It’s also a city with much more to it than I have shown here, dating as it does from before the Roman conquest of 106 AD. But there is only so much of it one can see at once!

Wild about Transylvania

One of the first things I noticed on our ‘walks’ in and around the village was the abundance of wild chicory:


Wild chicory: Cichorium intybus

We’d seen this in Worcester before we left, but it had been planted specially, as part of a wildflower mix. Here, it is simply part of the landscape, as can be seen in the following pictures:



These conical haystacks are also to be found everywhere – in both fields and gardens. And the white flowers are mostly wild carrot, which also grows in abundance:


Fields in Cluj County, Romania

You can tell it by the purplish coloured flower at the centre of the white umbrel:


Wild Carrot: Daucus Carota

And because it curls up into these wonderful bird nest shapes when it is going to seed:


Wild Carrot: Daucus Carota

I also spotted some knapweed up on the hill amongst the wild carrot. I think this is the brown variety:


Brown Knapweed: Centaurea Jacea

Of course, the abundance of wildflowers attracts bees and other insects, with the bees being particularly fond of the knapweed and chicory:

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I saw a number of butterflies as well as other wildflowers on my excursion this morning, but the former had clearly taken lessons in avoided the paparazzi and flitted away before I could get close enough to identify them!

However, I was able to catch a good enough view of the red-backed shrike to recognise him before he disappeared. This was a ‘first’ for me, as these are now a very rare sight in the UK, having only bred there a couple of times since the 1960s. However, I understand they are a common sight here, so I’ve borrowed a photograph in order to show him off:



Male Red-backed Shrike: Lanius Collurio: Photo by Antonis Tsaknakis (released under a Creative Commons License: