Tag Archives: Transylvania

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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

 

 

 

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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…

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Forests of the Apuseni Mountains

 

New beginnings

It’s been almost a year since I last blogged. There have been a number of reasons for this, not least that I have been trying to learn Romanian – something that takes some considerable time!

The reason? Well, it all started with a sense of restlessness. The Bible says of the wind that it ‘blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ And that’s how it felt with us. Then, last summer, my husband returned from a two-week excursion to Transylvania with the possible offer of a job and we decided we’d go for it.

So here we are, a year later, in Romania, having spent the last couple of months packing up our belongings and getting our house in Somerset ready for rental.

We flew out on Monday, leaving a suitably chilly England to land at Cluj-Napoca airport in temperatures approaching 40 degrees centrigrade. We were met by a Romanian pastor and his family and taken to their home in a village a few miles outside the city; the place where we are now living.

We were given a wonderful welcome in true Romanian style – a good meal and everyone talking at once! This is a particularly interesting experience when more than one language is being spoken!

Since then, we have mostly been unpacking and sorting things out. We’ve not had a lot of opportunity to explore yet, partly because the weather has been so hot. (I’m allowed to say that because even the Romanians think it is hot at the moment). Here in the village, we are a little cooler than Cluj itself. Nonetheless, the temperature reached 37 C in the shade yesterday and is now 38 C. Thankfully, it is not that warm indoors, although the temperature has been rising all week and the house no longer feels cool. Just cooler than outside!

Meanwhile, our adjustment to the 2-hour time difference has been helped enormously by the cockerel in the garden next door, who wakes at about 5 am and clearly thinks that everyone else should too! He shares his plot of land with some hens, a cow and a couple of goats. Also, two dogs. We thought we heard geese the first morning, but we haven’t actually seen these. It could be that they live next door on the other side.

This traditional way of life exists side by side but in direct contrast with the hypermarket up the road in Floresti. This is bigger than any I have seen in the UK, although it has to be said that I’m used to rural Somerset, where such things simply don’t exist! The last time I saw something of a similar size was in Texas.

The city is also undergoing a massive expansion, with buildings going up everywhere, often with little thought as to how they will look in their surroundings. Floresti is also growing fast, with the result that the road between here and Cluj becomes heavily clogged with traffic and it can take well over an hour by bus or car to cover the 10 miles to the city centre.

So we have come to a country of massive contrasts, more about which I will share in future posts. For now, just a few pictures; snatched in the morning and evening when the weather is more tolerable:

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Biserica Reformata-Calvina, Luna de Sus, dating from 1320

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Horse with haycart drinking at ford

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The road goes ever on and on: Looking over the village, with Cluj in the distance