The Romanian word for forest is pădure (plural păduri). This is an important word to know if you like hazelnuts (alune de pădure) or forest fruits (fructe de pădure) or you plan to spend any time exploring Transylvania, 37% of which is covered by forest.
The word pădure is derived from the Latin paludes (vulgar padule), meaning swamp or marsh. How this came to be attached to woodland instead is anyone’s guess, but it certainly suggests a place that is wild and forbidding. As such, it differs from the word forest, which derives from the Latin forestra, used to denote managed woodland. Pădurea is also intimately tied to Romanian folklore; hardly surprising when the forests are inhabited by wolves and bears and both shepherds and sheep have been known to go missing. Venturing into such păduri alone will always be seen as a dangerous undertaking, as in all the best fairytales, with anyone choosing to live there alone being regarded as somewhat strange…
As if to emphasise the point further, the Romanian word for wild, sălbatic, comes from another Latin word sylvaticus, meaning ‘of the woods’. The word ‘savage’ has the same root, as does Transylvania (or Transilvania), which means ‘beyond the woods’. Presumably, ‘beyond the woods’ was a good place to be, if they were full of savagery; something easily forgotten in what’s left of our tame English woods. Not so much here. Some of you may remember this from last summer:
Into the woods,
Who knows what may
Be lurking on the journey?
Meanwhile, autumn and winter have come and gone and spring has now come to Transylvania, transforming the wooded landscape from dull brown and white to vivid greens. Three weeks ago, on 4th April, the forests looked like this:
Still a dull brown, although the pastures were turning green and a few of the bushes, such as hawthorn and elder were beginning to sprout:
By 9th April, a little colour was starting to appear, mostly provided by hornbeam catkins:
By 14th April, the blackthorn was in full bloom, though most of the larger trees were still bare:
Blackthorn (prunus spinosa) is closely related to plum (Latin: prunus domestica; Romanian: prun), which was also in full bloom:
The plum tree is thought to have originated in Eastern Europe and it certainly does well here. So, whilst it might not qualify for the wild woods mentioned above, it’s a very popular tree in orchards, the plums often being used to make ţuică – or plum brandy. The blossom is also very popular with the bees, as you can see. There were dozens of honey bees on this tree, as well as a few bumble bees. The latter seemed to prefer the top of the tree, so escaped being photographed!
By 17th April, the plum blossom was already beginning to fade, to be replaced by pear (Romanian: păr – tree; pară – fruit). However, the following photo, taken on 17th April, will give you some idea of just how ubiquitous fruit trees (pomi fructiferi) are in the villages:
Just a week later, even the pear blossom was all but finished, but another tree native to Romania was starting to bloom – the lilac (liliac):
And on the Tuesday of this week, just three weeks after the first pictures, the forest was looking like this:
It’s amazing to think that, just over a month ago, it was all covered in snow and there was not a spike of green to be seen. It seems primăvară comes quickly to the păduri!
More about the forests, the trees and the battles for their conservation in the next post.