Category Archives: Nature

Romanian A-Z: N – and the coming of winter

Yes I know I hadn’t quite got to N yet. However, this morning we woke up to the view above. So I decided I would jump a couple of letters and talk about it.

Ninge – it’s snowing.



Not that it’s easy to tell from those pictures, but it is. And since sharing snow pictures is a thing in England, it seemed like time to join in šŸ˜‰

Besides which, I like snow. Whether I’ll still be saying that in February remains to be seen, but there is something about the way that it blankets the world that appeals to me. The silence. The stillness. The crispness of the air.


It certainly makes a nice change from ‘no sun, no moon…’ noiembrie:


One of the early chapters in Arthur Ransome’s ‘Winter Holiday’ ends with the words, ‘Softly and silently, the first snow (flakes?) began to fall.’ It’s one of the few lines from a book that has stuck in my mind ever since I first read it. To me, it is pregnant with possibility. The morning will bring a whole new world…

Fulgi de nea – snow flakes
Liniște – silence (which I wrote more about here)

IMAG0111 (2)s

The picture above is of the walnut tree in the garden next door. I’m growing quite fond of this tree. It looked particularly grand in autumn when its leaves turned. But it also brings me to my final word:

Nuci – walnuts (pronouced ‘nootch’; singular nuc)

IMAG0149 (3)

There are a lot of walnut trees in Romania and it seems they like it here because some even grow wild. The result?

IMAG0145 (2)

Winter stores šŸ™‚ We’re going to need something to keep us warm!


Romanian A-Z: I

Today’s star of the show comes last. None-the-less, my first word has a magic of its own. It’s izbucni, which means ‘erupt’ or ‘burst out’. It’s a word that comes from the Bulgarian izbukna (meaning the same thing) and I chose it simply because I love the sound of it. No English word sounds anything like it, which is more than can be said for indirect, indiscret and infalibil!

My second word is iepure which currently stars on one of the Romanian stamps:


It’s the rabbit (or hare) and it’s pronounced as if you were saying the i (as ee) and the e (as in bed) one after the other very quickly.

The same applies for the word ieri, which I’ve chosen for the Valerea Ierii (The Valley of Yesterday) which we visited this afternoon. Our first view of it was a few days ago, when we were on the hills above it:


Today, we went down into the valley/village itself, where the autumn colours looked spectacular, particularly where we were able to catch them in the late afternoon sunshine:









It’s a beautiful valley and the mountains, the forests and the colours were truly awe-inspiring!

It’s no wonder that experiences in the Carpathian Mountains are said to have provided the final inspiration for Stuart K Hine to pen these words:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul my Saviour God to thee
How great thou art! How great thou art!

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:

IMAG0014 (3)

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)Ā or BrĆ¢ndușa 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.

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’:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.




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?Ā  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:

IMAG0076 (2)

Bee hives at Luna de Sus

The Black Locust is not in flower at present, however, so the bees must make do withĀ  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