Thursday, 23 May 2013

Getting into the swing of it

On Tuesday night, Mark and I slept in a huge room in one of the Mihai Eminescu Trust's guesthouses. The view of our beautiful building from the street was not enhanced by my hanging my shirt out of the window to dry. Although the accommodation was fine, I missed coming out into a noisy farmyard thronged with birds and beasts.

Not that Crit - our village - lacked livestock: soon after arriving, we witnessed the return of Adrian and Elena Sociu's huge herd of goats (with a few donkeys added in), returning from their day pasture. We all had dinner, and breakfast yesterday morning, chez Sociu, and naturally sampled the goats cheese (but at breakfast, along with tomatoes and cucumber). A bearskin hangs on the barn door.

After breakfast, an impressive young Saxon, Dietmar, one of only seven left in Crit, showed us round the fortified church, which is being restored. We then set off on foot uphill along more beautiful forest tracks,  and down through orchid-bestrewn meadows to Cloasterf.

Work on restoring this village's fine church had finished only on Tuesday, and we looked round alongside a posse of officials from the various conservation bodies and also the Lutheran pastor, who has charge of a dozen or so churches in the area. Besides the fine paintings on wooden panels, I admired a fat pigeon with large silver wings, sculpted and fixed on the underside of the pulpit canopy. (Its prehensile claws seemed ready to descend on the head of any preachers who deviated from their allotted 12 minutes.) The church tower is separate from the church itself, but both are - as usual hereabouts - surrounded by stern fortress walls.

Our path from Cloasterf took us through more meadows (dark blue butterflies with white-tipped wings), and a herd of cattle: the cowherds stood at a distance watching us pass, tarpaulins under their arms. We must seem like visitors from outer space. Then there was more woodland to pass through, before we descended onto a tarmac lane. It ran unfenced above a vast flock of sheep, guarded by a shepherd and at least half a dozen very fierce dogs. The road eventually led past hopfields before we crossed another ridge overlooking our destination for the night, Saschiz.

Our nice guide Ionut pointed out Lesser Spotted Eagles and some of the 11 protected species of  wildflowers. He was hazy though about the way down, so latched on to a gypsy boy who happened to be nearby (remarkable, as generally we saw almost no one while walking, apart from those looking after the grazing animals). This young friend led us into the village via his family's strip of land, but it involved scrambling over a ditch - a struggle for Robin, 75, with dicky knees and anxious about his only pair of clean shorts.

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