Monthly Archives: September 2017

Romanian A-Z: F

F is the first letter of another of my favourite Romanian words: fluture. I love it because of its resemblance to the English ‘flutterer’ which, in this case, seems particularly apt:

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Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

These little guys rarely stay still long enough to have their photograph taken, which is why I have yet to catch one with its wings open. However, they are extremely common in the meadows and grass verges here and hence live up to their name.

This, I think, is a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas):


It’s hard to be sure, because, like their blue cousins, fluttering by is what they seem to like to do best! Again, I’ve seen quite a lot of them on my walks, but not close enough to really study them. As the summer has worn on, with the ground growing ever drier, there have been fewer flowers open for them to feed from.

Interestingly, whilst fluture is thought to be related to the Albanian flutur (butterfly) and the Latin fluito (float), the word ‘flutter’ comes from an Old English word, flote or flota (also meaning float). This, in turn, is related to both Old Norse (flota) and Old High German (flozzan). These similarities suggest to me a common root and last time I looked into this I found an article suggesting that the word originated in the Carpathian Mountains (i.e. Romania), but I cannot say if that is true or not.

In contrast, there seems to be little linguistic agreement on European words for butterfly, but I can’t help feeling that the Romanians win on this one, with their ‘flutter-by’!

Speckled Wood Butterfly (2)

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

My second choice for F moves from faună to floră and floare frumoasă (beautiful/pretty flower):


This is an Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) or Brândușa de Toamnă. We first stumbled upon some near a patch of woodland on one of the hills overlooking Luna de Sus. More recently, I came upon these, also growing wild:

They are very poisonous due to their colchicine content. The symptoms resemble those of arsenic poisoning, although the drug can be used to treat gout.

My third word for F is furtună. The reason for this is that we’ve had quite a few of these in the past few days. On Sunday, western Romania was hit by a particularly fierce one:

As this shows, the winds that accompany these summer storms can be quite scary. Linked to a sudden change in temperature, they seem to come out of nowhere, which is something I find quite unnerving. On Sunday afternoon in Cluj, the temperature was a psaltry 30+ degrees C. Less than an hour later, it had plunged to less than 20. Not weather I was particularly used to in SW England!

We’ve heard and seen quite a bit of thunder, lightning and heavy rain since, the latter being extremely good news. The above article doesn’t mention them, but other reports on Sunday’s storms suggested that the lightning sparked a number of wildfires.


Romanian A-Z: E (a note about pronunciation)

In my last A-Z blog, I talked about our expedition to the historical settlements of Criș and Sighișoara, focusing primarily on the characteristics of the Saxon buildings. As a result, I didn’t say much about the pronunciation of excursie, expediție and explorare. So, for the sake of those who enjoy the language side of things…

Romanian spelling being phonetic, the letter e is almost always pronounced ‘eh’ as in ‘bed’. Unlike English, this also applies at the end of words:

Excursie – ex-coor-see-eh
Expediție – ex-pe-deets-ee-eh
Explorare – ex-plo-rah-reh

However, there are a few instances, at the beginning of words, when ‘e’ is pronouced ‘yeh’ or ‘y’ instead:

I am – Eu sunt – yeu soont
He is – El este – yel yes-teh
She is – Ea este – yah yes-teh

As it happens, the pronouns Eu, El and Ea aren’t used much, anyway. The person to whom the speaker is referring is indicated by the verb, adjective or context instead. For example:

He is my brother: Este fratele meu
I am his sister: Sunt sora sa

This is just as well because I struggled with the pronunciation of Eu at first. I suspect it may be easier for those who speak Welsh, but I’ll come to that in a later post.


Someșul Cald

Yet another sunny day today, so we decided to head a few miles out into the hills. Just beyond the village of Gilău, there is the Gilău reservoir, formed from the Someșul Rece (Cold Someș) and Someșul Cald (Warm Someș) rivers. Just beyond that, is the Someșul Cald Reservoir, one of three formed from that river:



We took a road up the valley where this chap was fishing…


… where we found one of the streams that feed the Someșul Cald:


It was very peaceful.



The water from the stream has a long and winding journey ahead of it before it reaches the sea. First it flows East via the Someșul Cald to Gilău, where it joins the Someșul Mic (Little Someș), which continues East to Cluj-Napoca. It then turns North and joins the Someșul Mare (Great Someș) to form the Someș River at Dej. The Someș flows Northwest out of Romania into Hungary, where it joins the Tisza. This flows South through Hungary to Serbia, where it joins the Danube, which flows East along the Southern border of Romania and finally into the Black Sea.

Amazing to think of the number of creatures that this water helps to support as it makes its journey!



Romanian A-Z: E

As with D, many Romanian E words resemble their English translations, including expediție (expedition), excursie (excursion) and explorare (exploration). This is convenient because, over this past weekend, we have been on our first major expedition since we arrived in Romania.

Last Friday, our car still wasn’t on the road, so our ‘landlord’ very kindly drove us the 100 miles to Criș, a little village not far from Sighișoara. We had been invited to stay in one of the old Saxon cottages for the weekend so that we could help clear some rubbish from the garden.

The cottage had, as the Estate Agents would say, ‘many character features’:

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It also offered a number of other benefits, including easily accessible wildlife:


Swallows’ nest just inside the porch

And a prime location in a historic village.

Or, to put it another way, it had mains electricity and hence kettle and fridge, but a thunder storm on Sunday afternoon meant going to bed by candlelight and having a longer wait for coffee on Monday morning:


In fact, the whole experience reminded me somewhat of the guide camps of my youth: basic washing facilities, meals cooked on wood fires and hot sun followed by thunder storms. The only real difference was that we had solid shelter. And it was solid, too, unlike some other local properties:


The reason for such dilapidation is that Criș is in a part of Romania that was previously inhabited by Saxon (i.e. German-speaking) people, most of whom left during the Communist era or soon afterwards. (More about this here). As a result, many of their properties fell into disrepair and neglect and only now are being refurbished.

They have a number of distinctive features, including the tiling, the chimney pots and the presence of arches, which often join one property to the next:

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We also noticed that many of them have a simple Latin cross on the outside, just below the roof, although the cross on one of the above cottages is more like those we have seen associated with the Romanian Orthodox church, being more ornate and having the sun’s rays at its centre.

Criș also has a castle, which we went to explore on Sunday afternoon:

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(The photos have been ‘enhanced’ to make the stonework stand out more).

If you are interested, you can read more about the castle’s history and architecture here and here. It is now open to visitors and (as we understood it) is slowly being refurbished with a view to reopening as a Franciscan ‘House of Peace’ in a few years’ time. (The lady on the door only spoke Hungarian, so we weren’t able to find out the details).

On Monday, we took a taxi to nearby Sighișoara, where we enjoyed the luxury of a night in a hotel in the walled citadel:

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As you can see below, the citadel is also of Saxon origin. Sighișoara was first listed as a Saxon settlement in 1191 and then as a town (built on the site of a Roman fort) in 1280. The clock tower dates from around that time.

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And that brings me to the end of our Saxon adventure.

Several of my friends have commented on previous posts that Romania ‘looks beautiful’. I’m not going to dispute that because there are plenty of very beautiful places in Romania and because we enjoyed our weekend in Criș and Sighișoara very much. However, to help put things in perspective, I took a few photos out of the window on our way back:

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From these, you can see that tractors do exist here (and hold up the traffic on major routes, just like they do in Somerset!), that hedges between fields do not and that many of the hills are as bare as any in England and less green. Unlike England, lots are still tree-covered, but preserving the ancient forests is an uphill struggle in a country where the winters are cold and gas expensive. In short, as everywhere, humans have made a considerable impact on the landscape and they continue to do so.