Friday, 17 August 2012

John visits the fascinating Saxon villages of Romania

Shepherd  moving to new pastures

In July of this year, John visited Romania to see how it would fit into our walking and photography programme in the coming years. John was based around Transylvania for a week and visited a number of intriguing villages during his time there.

Transylvania has a fascinating history dominated by the Saxons. Under huge threat of invasion from the Turks, the Hungarians, who were living in the area at the time, invited the Saxons to live in their villages and protect them. The Saxons were awarded great privileges and in return fortified the villages with incredible walled citadels and fortified churches, where families and food were kept safe.

The villages are much sleepier since those days, especially since a mass exodus in the 90's after the execution of overthrown communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, in December 1989. Many of the Saxons were of German heritage and returned there as the regime of Ceauşescu came to an end.

Carpentry is supported by Prince Charles'
Mihai Eminescu Trust

In recent years, The Mihai Eminescu Trust, set up by Prince Charles, has had a fantastic effect on the villages surrounding Transylvania such as Viscri and Sapartoc, both of which John visited. The trust's aim is to enable villagers to maintain their way of life and to create work for them. Blacksmiths, carpenters, craftsmen and jam producers are all supported by the trust. This creates a wonderfully charming and friendly atmosphere around the small, picturesque villages and somewhere that is ideally suited to the Authentic Adventures ideology.

A great example of the trust in action, was in Viscri, where John and tour guide Adina, met a gypsy who made charcoal for a living. The process of the job is quite incredible, huge piles of logs are burnt under a layer of hay and mud (in order to starve the fire of oxygen) to produce 15 tonnes of charcoal at a time. The man would usually have three burning at a time, each for a ten day period.

Hay ricks in Sapartoc
Once John had got settled with Adina and the locals, he set off on a trial walk, up through the forest heading for Sapartoc. Being July (later in the year than our tours will operate), the heat was blistering, reaching temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius, but the scenery made it worth while.

John headed through the glorious rolling hills, flower carpeted meadows and giant beech trees, buoyed by the promise that he would be unlikely to meet a local bear! John came across an old bailing machine working on the hills, a bee-keeper roaming the lands and a shepherd accompanied by an extraordinarily loud herd of sheep, whose combined chewing made a huge, deep chorus across the fields.

The well in Sapartoc

4 litres of water later, a parched John found himself in the especially quiet town of Sapartoc, which had almost no sign of life. He eventually came across a house that looked occupied, from where a Hungarian man came to greet him. The two struggled with the language barrier at first, until finding common ground in Spanish. He was extremely friendly and, after fetching John some water from the well and showing him around his house and garden, sent him on his way with 2 litres of home-made lemonade and the recipe for it to boot.

Romania provided a wonderful adventure for John this summer and we can't wait to set off for the Saxon villages next year in the company of Adina Camara and our brilliant new photography tutor Hamish Scott-Brown. We will be running photography and walking holidays in May and June of next year respectively and would love to treat you to an adventure of your own.

For information on our holidays in Romania and a range of other fantastic destinations please visit our website at or call us on 01453 823 328 with any queries or to request a 2013 brochure!