Tuesday 15 May 2012, 8am, Viscri, Transylvania
The songbirds are in full voice; so too are at least three of the village cockerels! The former are in ther trees around us, the latter wandering freely with their harem of hens along the streets of this Saxon village. I’m sitting in the courtyard of a seventeenth century Saxon house, listening; and the sweet smell of freshly brewing coffee is starting to waft across from the tiny kitchen.
We arrived in Bucharest on Sunday evening, and checked initially into somewhat contrasting accommodation – a clean but thoroughly anonymous Ibis hotel next to the Gara de Nord. The city was quiet on a Sunday night, and in our evening walk in search of dinner we encountered few of the locals, other than the ever-present stray dogs which roam the streets freely.
Yesterday morning we made an early start, catching the 8.25am train from Bucharest to Brazov. We later learned that many trains run late, so we were fortunate to be delayed by only about 20 minutes. The two-and-a-half hour train journey weaves across the plain from Bucharest and then carves through the southern stretch of the Carpathian mountain horseshoe.
Initially the landscape was flat, punctuated here and there by small groups of farmers working the fields by hand, or by a local wheeling firewood home on a bike. As we entered the mountains, the scenery became more rocky and rugged, with a curious mix of natural features such as cascading waterfalls, and concrete factories introduced no doubt as part of Ceausescu’s programme of industrialisation.
Once through the mountains, we rolled into Brazov where Csaba, our guide for the next few days, met us for the drive to Viscri. Csaba, by his own admission, is a man of the hills and of nature – we’ve yet to find an animal or plant which he cannot identify. The car is not his natural habitat, yet he navigated us safely by the rough roads and at times rougher drivers to our destination.
Viscri itself was well worth the journey – several miles down an unmade road, its collection of Saxon cottages nestles around a network of a handful of streets, all in the shadow of a huge fortified church perched on a hill in its midst. After a lunch of soup, chicken stew and pickled cabbage, we were taken by Csaba into the hills where we saw wild cherries, lime trees, true forget-me-nots, wild garlic, morning glory, wild violets and salvias. Animals included a huge variety of birds such as tits and buntings, and of course all of the goats, horses and cows herded by the villagers.
We took dinner with our guide and two other guests in the small dining room beside the kitchen. There’s no electricity in the dining room, so by candlelight we ate meatballs and cucumber salad, drank wine and cherry brandy, and set the world to rights. We shall now see what today brings…!
This is the first in a series of posts based on diary notes written on a recent trip to Transylvania; but being posted now owing to the lack of internet access at the time!