Romanian A-Z: M and a taste of grandeur

Today we woke up to a light sprinkling of snow – a prelude to the icy Siberian blast that is about to overtake Europe – so we decided a visit to the mountains was in order. This was convenient because, while munte (plural munți) is perhaps not the most exciting of Romanian words, it does begin with M!

Of course, mountains have featured before on this blog, but this is the first time we have been up to the local ski resort, which, at a height of 1600m, is the highest we’ve been. On the way up, we found ourselves shrouded in cloud, but the top was clear and most of the mist had rolled away by the time we came back down. It really was a perfect day for it:





The vastness of the snowy landscape, the deep valleys of the Apuseni and the panoramic views from ‘the top of the world’ (or that bit of it!) lead naturally to my next word, mare. At its simplest, it means ‘big’, but it can also be used in place of ‘grand’ or to describe an older child or a higher temperature or…

The sea! That is, as a noun, rather than an adjective, that’s precisely what it means!

Now, it so happens that the only sea that borders Romania is the Black Sea, to which I have never been. So I can’t show you a picture of that without cheating, so, instead, here is a picture taken from the SW coast of England:

Looking West

A picture chosen because that’s the great big Atlantic Ocean out there. (Sorry, Romania, you may have higher mountains, but we get to win this one!) And this is definitely not cheating because, of course, it’s a photo taken in Marea Britanie!

Meanwhile, mare comes with several related words, such as măreț (magnificent, mighty, lofty), măreție (grandeur), mărime (size), the verb mări (to enlarge), not to be confused with mări (seas), măr (apple) and mere (apples).

Magnificence. Grandeur. These are among the characteristics I love about both mountains and sea. Others include wildness, beauty, majesty, power (in the case of the sea) and the feeling of size and space. Being in the presence of such beauty and grandeur feeds my soul. It causes me to pause, to breathe, to wonder. Which is why I love living in a village in Romania! And it’s also why the sea is among the things I miss most!

So here’s just a few more pictures, this time from the Welsh coast – and with them the words that being there inspired:

Be still!

Feel the heartbeat of the universe:

In the breath-taking grandeur of earth and sky,
In the awesome power of wind and wave,
In the deep darkness of a starless night
In the bright splendour of a new day

Be still!

Feel the heartbeat of the universe:

In the still silence of an ancient church
In the resounding song of a Cathedral choir
In the buzz and murmur of a meal that’s shared
In the piercing cry of a new born child

Be still!

Feel the heartbeat of the universe:

In the smile that lights
In the tear that falls
In the anger that disturbs
In the passion that ignites
In the grace that liberates
In the love that enfolds

Be still!
Feel the heartbeat of the universe
Deep in your soul

Awaken to its movement
Dance to its rhythm
Rejoice in its melody
Live to the beat of God’s heart.





Romanian A-Z: L and a visit to the Parc Etnografic

Yes, I know. Neither ‘Parc‘ nor ‘Etnografic‘ begin with L. Also, it’s been some time since I last blogged… and even longer since we visited said park! Before Christmas, other things in life took over and it’s taken me a little while to get back to where I left off…

In this case, L for lebeniță:


I chose to talk about this because its popularity at the end of last summer led me to discover that it has a number of different names in Romania. Language apps will tell you that it is un pepene roșu (a name that comes from Latin). The family here tell me that, in Transylvania, it is called o lebeniță. Others will tell you that it’s o lubeniță. (Both these are related to the Bulgarian). Then, up near the border with Moldova, it’s un harbuz (from the Ukrainian).

Whatever you choose to call it, unless you have grown it yourself, you will need some of these to buy one:


The leu – plural lei. The word also means lion, as might be guessed from its resemblance to the Latin leo and the Welsh lleu. In pronunciation, though, it’s more like the Welsh llew, a vowel sound not really found in English. The above note is equivalent to 100 bani and worth about 20 pence, so you’d need an awful lot of them to buy…


Lemn. In many senses, the life blood of the people of Romania. The above pile is just part of what has been keeping us warm through the winter and horses pulling carts of wood were a very common sight in the villages through October and November. Duncan has commented more than once about so much ‘quality wood’ (beech, for example) going up in smoke, but the fact remains that one burns what’s available when one’s life depends upon it.

Meanwhile, a visit to the Parcul Etnografic Național in Cluj-Napoca in October showed us the huge variety of uses wood has been put to in Transylvania in the past 300 years, apart from lemn de foc (firewood).

Gospodărie – Imper, jud. Harghita, 1678 (2)

The above cottage dates from 1678 and has been constructed from logs.

Gospodărie – Jelna, jud. Bistriţa-Năsăud, 1789 1s

100 years later, when this was built, the preference had shifted to planks. This is a Saxon cottage, of a similar style, though much older, to the one we stayed in last summer.

Gospodărie – Cămârzana, jud. Satu Mare, 1725s

A farm outbuilding from 1725 (above) and gateway from 1882 (below).

Gospodărie – Almaş 1882 1s

We’ve seen wooden houses of a similar plank construction still in use in villages in the Apuseni – as well as more modern ones.

Gospodărie – Almaş 1882 2s

The well inside the above gateway (above) and from 100 years earlier (below):

Gospodărie – Berbeşti, jud. Maramureş, 1795 4s

The park also has various items of wooden machinery on show that were used for grinding and processing both food and minerals.

Transylvania is also famous for its wooden Orthodox churches, particularly in the Maramureș region. Most were built in the 17th to 19th Centuries as a response to the prohibition against the building of stone Orthodox churches by the Roman Catholic Austro-Hungarian authorities. There are three on show at the Ethnographic Park, but the light was failing, so I wasn’t able to get a good photograph. Instead, here’s one we stumbled upon in Bica, a village not far from Huedin, which was built in 1674/5.

IMAG0132 (3)s


The wooden tiles on these churches, the gateway and one of the wells above are a work of art in themselves (click on any of the pictures to see a larger version):


Lemn. Wood. A significant feature in the landscape of Transylvania, not least because a fair bit of it is still covered in forest. My hope is that, despite its continued use, those forests will remain for future generations. But I’ll come to that when I get to P…


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 😉

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 🙂 We’re going to need something to keep us warm!

Romanian A-Z: J

This will be a short post. My dictionary doesn’t have a huge number of words beginning with J and I couldn’t think of anything much to say about most of them, so I’ll start with this:


It’s our local parc de joacă. It caught my attention the first time we walked through the village because it seemed so out-of-keeping with the single storey village houses, semi-subsistence farm holdings and the ‘vehicle’ we saw crossing the ford:

Hay Cart 1

Interestingly, I have yet to see a child use it. Either I haven’t been around at the right moment, or they have taste!

Joacă. It’s a noun meaning ‘play’. A juca is the verb, corresponding to the Latin joco, from which we get the word ‘joke’. Un jucător is a player. The j is pronounced the same way as in French – a softer sound than in English.

My second word is județ. This refers to an administrative district, much like the English county. Hence Jud. Cluj on our address refers to the district in which we live. The comuna is a smaller administrative district comprising one or more villages. Village addresses in Romania are interesting in so far as they don’t usually require a street name. The number of the house is deemed sufficient, with the result that we have already had someone stop and ask for the whereabouts of number four hundred and eighty something! In contrast, if you live in a block of flats (apartments) you can expect to have a flat number, a stair number, a block number and a street number. That’s communist efficiency for you!

My final word is jumătate. This means ‘half’. When giving the time, it is often shortened to jumate. Hence both the following mean ‘it’s half past five’.

Este cinci și jumătate
E cinci jumate

And that’s it for today, except to note that some words that you might expect to begin with J do not. Examples include ianuarie (January), iunie (June) and iulie (July). As a result, their pronunciations are closer to the German equivalents than they are to the French.

My next letter will be L as K does not exist in the Romanian alphabet and is only used for words borrowed from other languages, such as kilometru, kilogram and ketchup.

Romanian A-Z: Î

Having been occupied with other things, not least letters ‘home’, my blog has been silent for a while. However, today I return with a letter that doesn’t exist in English. It can be written as both î and â, the former being used at the beginning and end of words and the latter in the middle.

It is pronounced as ‘oo’, but without the rounding of the lips and hence resembles the way one might say ‘rude’ in the posher parts of South East England. This is a sound not generally found in Western European languages, being of Slavic origin, though it is also found in some North Welsh dialects. Examples are given here.

So, now that you have met î and â, I am ‘delighted’ to introduce you to the word încântat, which means just that: delighted, pleased or excited. Încântat de cunoştinţă, for example, is the polite way of saying, ‘pleased to meet you’.

It’s a word that I’m particularly fond of because of its connection with the verb a cânta, which comes from the Latin cantare and means ‘to sing’ or ‘to play’ an instrument. (Both the English word ‘cantata’ and the French chanter come from the same Latin root). This  connection appeals to me because I love to sing and I love to listen to music. Music and delight seem to me to belong together.

But there’s more. The alert among you may also have noticed the similarity between încântat and incantation.


Such delight has a darker side, then. I mean, who knows what those people might be chanting in that strange language of theirs? It could be black magic. And even if it isn’t, we all know about the dangers of religious ecstacy, don’t we?!

Mwa ha ha ha ha

Something to remember next time you get lost in a piece of music you love 😉

Meanwhile, perhaps a more useful word for folks new to the country and its language is înțeleg (I understand) or, rather, nu înțeleg (I don’t understand). Închis (closed) is another useful word. It always helps to know whether a place is open or not.

However, my final word for today is câine:


This is honour of the fact that the one sound I will always associate with Romania is the barking of dogs. Often, it’s one of the first sounds we hear in the morning and one of the last we hear at night. There are dogs everywhere. Walk through any village and you will be barked at. Repeatedly. Most are kept outside, where they are either chained up, given the run of the garden or allowed to roam free. It’s rare to see one taken for a walk since their main purpose seems to be to guard property and/or deter predators. They are not, on the whole, treated cruelly, but they do seem to be largely ignored by their owners.

There are also a significant number of semi-feral dogs. Most of those we’ve seen haven’t come anywhere near us, but friends have told us that bites are not uncommon in Bucharest.

I can’t say that I like any of this very much. I’m too fond of dogs. However, as with many things in a foreign culture, there is little I can do about it. It is as it is. Nonetheless, it always warms my heart when I see a Romanian interacting with a dog in a friendly and positive way because it’s something that so many never get to experience.

I’ll finish with a dog who perhaps doesn’t mind very much being ignored. We spotted him in the mountains one day:

IMAG0091 (3)

I’m not sure how he came there, but if you ever find yourself alone in the mountains and you hear the sound of singing…

Watch out!

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: H

For H, I have decided on a single word, har, chosen because I wanted to share with you the following music video.

When I first started to learn Romanian, before we came here, there came a point where I became bored with asking for tickets for trains that I was probably never going to catch, so I decided to look into other ways of learning. That’s when I came across this song: Mărețul Har.

It’s based on Chris Tomlin’s version of Amazing Grace and it’s one of the best Christian music videos I’ve ever seen. Romanians do music well. Very well. There is no question but that the gifts of these young people have been well nurtured.

Which is interesting because, as far as I can make out (and I am no expert), ‘gift’ or ‘talent’ is precisely what the word har means in its ordinary human sense. It’s only when speaking of God that its meaning becomes much bigger; as if all that is good and beautiful finds its origin, its fulness and its perfection in God.

Amazing Grace. Mărețul Har.

Not words we hear very often these days. In fact, in the light of all that has been happening in our world of late, this might seem like a very strange choice of song. How can anyone even think of singing about God’s ‘amazing’ grace in a world such as this?

It’s a good question.

There’s a sense in which such words seem… empty… out of touch.

And yet…

As Samwise Gamgee expressed it in The Lord of the Rings film:

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo,
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were
And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end
Because how could the end be happy?
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened?
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer…

For me, it’s about hope. It’s about holding onto something that is stronger than darkness and evil and death. Ultimately, it’s about the mercy and forgiveness and justice and peace and love that have the ability to transform our world, whether we have a choir and orchestra to sing about them or not.

Mărețul Har!