Sunday 20 May 2012, 8.10am, Miklosvar, Transylvania
For much of yesterday, the weather was glorious – clear, bright, and with long spells of sunshine. After breakfast, our transport was waiting in the paddock outside the guesthouse – a cart was loaded with a box of food and a basket for the water bottles and tablecloth for our picnic lunch. Two chestnut horses were in harness ahead, both with a red tassle hanging behind each eye to ward off evil spirits.
A young man from the village was our driver, and he sat up at the front along with our guide. We were at the rear on a plank slung between the two wooden sides of the cart, and softened by several layers of rugs. And so we trundled off through the village and down a side street which in turn became a track, and then we were amongst the meadow flowers in the hills.
It must have been about an hour or so before we stopped just below the treeline, and our guide took us for a short mountain walk. Mercifully we saw no bears, but we did see many wild boar tracks, distinctive as the hind hooves leave much deeper tracks than their smaller front ones. When we got back, the young man had put the horses to graze (though still in harness) and had a fire going, so soon we were tucking into a lunch of eggs, cheese, bread and grilled pork, fresh from the fire right next to us.
Afterwards, our next stop was the sheep farmers – a mother and father with a few helpers who live up in the mountains over the summer months to guard the flock (helped by their large and very vocal dogs). Milking, which takes about 90 minutes for the whole herd, had just finished, so the frothy buckets of milk were being decanted into a vat to be separated and made into cheeses. There is a hard, slightly bitter cheese; and a soft sweet cheese of which they offered us thick slices from their own lunch table.
After that is was back to Miklosvar for a very lazy afternoon, punctuated by a short walk next door to see the blacksmith at work. He was shoeing a horse when we arrived, but broke off to take us inside and make us two ornamental iron snakes in his tiny but well-equipped forge.
Then home again for a book by the fire, a glass of brandy, and the gentle lowing of the cattle as they came down from the hills for the night.
This is the sixth 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!