Monday 21 May 2012, 5pm, Zalanpatak, Transylvania
A freshly cooked omelette at breakfast set us up for the day, and we left Miklosvar at around 10am to drive across country for about an hour to Zalanpatak. Like Viscri, the village is along a dusty track; but unlike Viscri this is a Szekler village in the mountains as opposed to the Saxon architecture we experienced earlier in our trip. When we arrived here we met Tibor, Count Kalnoky, who owns Miklosvar and is a friend of HRH The Prince of Wales who owns the guesthouse here and in Viscri.
Still fortified by our fairly late breakfast, we set off with our guide Gabor for a walk into the mountains. The climb above the guesthouse is steep, and we paused a couple of times to catch our breath, but we were rewarded at the top with spectacular views over the Carpathian foothills.
The wildlife here is truly spectacular. Rounding a thicket on the crest of a hill, we saw a lesser spotted eagle flying low just a couple of hundred yards ahead of us. As it soared on the thermals we watched it rise higher and higher until it was little more than a speck against the blue sky. Soon it was joined above us by a buzzard, and we spent several minutes watching the two of them, shielding our eyes with our hands against the bright noon sun.
We stopped for a picnic of meatballs, eggs, bread and the tastiest fresh radishes I have ever eaten. There is something about eating in the outdoors which really encourages you to take time with your food, and to taste the land, the rain and the sun that has gone into its creation. So often food at home is eaten in a rush, but the simplicity of a meal beneath the rustling leaves of a shady tree gives one pause. It is a feeling I can only try to carry back to the hubbub of city life.
From the soaring elegance of the birds of prey, we also stopped and crouched low to see the teeming insect life of the fertile soil. Ants scurried everywhere, creating little hills of fine tilth which rapidly germinate seeds and become little tussocks of meadow flowers. Grasshoppers leapt from one tussock to another, some a greyish-brown colour and others a bold and vivid green. In between them all, little earth-coloured spiders scuttled beneath the blades of grass, here and there dodging a mouse hole which delved down into the earth.
As we descended towards the village again, two further excitements awaited us. First, a tree pippet performed its spectacular display. Taking flight from the top of a tree, it climbs high above the forest canopy, then soars downwards rather like a dive-bomber, singing out a steadily descending melody until finally settling on a treetop again.
Then, once we had gone a little further downhill, we saw a huge red deer taller than a man, standing majestically on the edge of a sunny clearing. Just for a second it stood, then either hearing or smelling us it ran into the woods. By the time we ourselves made it to the edge of the treeline it had long gone, but its tracks were clear to see, leading away into the dark through the soft, damp leaf mould.
Here nature is all around you, and in its peace, time seems to stand still. The least a visitor can do is take a few moments to join it.
This is the eighth 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!