Spring? Hurrah!

Amazing what 24 hours can deliver… First thing this morning, this was the sight from my window. Note the snow all over the main ridge, dusting the trees. But also note the sunshine, blue sky and green grass.

First thing

First thing

Three hours later, the snow on the trees had melted, leaving only the rock abve 2,000 metres covered in snow. Spring is here – official. There will be plenty of rain ahead, but maybe, just maybe, we’ve finally seen the last of the white stuff.

Midday, and spring is here

Midday, and spring is here

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Spring? Bah!

22nd April. Should be green and balmy, blossom bursting, bees a-buzz, lambs leaping, ad inf. Is it?

Is it diddley.

Here was the weather on my birthday, two days ago. The morning’s offering of snow having melted, this was the next white dump on its way.

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And here we are this morning, back to winter clothes. Bees and birds are back by their firesides, blossom is struggling to get back into its shell, lambs are shuddering with cold and the cats are snoring by the blazing fire in my study.

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Spring – WHERE ARE YOU?

Come on, baby, light my fire!

A blaze of Transylvanian excitement on 25th October! Julia Leescu tells us about an event you won’t want to miss…

fire, bonfire, Sumedru, Saint Dimitriu, foc, pagan festivals, fire festivals, Transylvania, Carpathians, Romania

Sumedru’s fire in Sirnea – come and join the autumn festivities in one of the prettiest villages in the Carpathians.

While most of Europe burns festive fires on Midsummer’s Night, Romanians of the Bran-Moeciu area do things differently and celebrate their Bonfire Day in late October.
Not a bad decision, we say: all work in the fields is done, sheep are back in the villages, shepherds are back with their children and wives, huge piles of local cheese and dried meat are prepared and palinca (local strong alcohol) is distilled for winter. Time to party! Winter is coming: it’s time for Sumedru’s fire (Jim Morrison would be proud).
If you thought that Romanian rural tourism is all about Christian orthodox traditions, your tourist guide might be just wrong. Scratch the surface of many traditions and you’ll see pagan roots. Same goes for St Dimitrie’s holiday – the pre-Christian god Sumedru has transformed himself into Saint Dumitru over the centuries, but the meaning of the old celebration stays the same. The great fire in each of the nine villages of Bran means the death of one season and the birth of the next: the start of a new cycle of life. The bonfire is also said to protect the village against lightning strikes. With wooden houses, this is an important consideration…
The ‘funerary pyre’ of the dead summer purifies everyone around it: dancing and singing children, old folks with boxes full of homemade pastries and chocolate bars, flirting teenagers with torches, daring youths leaping through the flames, locals and tourists.
The fire is usually built on a high hill so everyone can see it. The celebration may last well into the night with concerts around the fire and late festive dinners afterwards at someone’s house.
Visiting any of the Nine Villages on Sumedru’s night offers charming surprises: last year we attended the night celebration in Sirnea village, where local school professor Radu Fruntes organised a great concert with local children lighting the fire, singing and dancing. Later there was a huge party at Radu’s house with hot wine, authentic shepherd-style food and treats and long talks about life with the local police and the mayor.
This year we’re going to Sirnea village again to charge our batteries with authentic Carpathian earth energy, and enough good food to survive the long fast until Christmas.
If you feel a bit cold this Autumn – join Sumedru’s celebration and feel the heat…

Would you like to join us in Sirnea? the evening is Saturday 25th October, but we’ll confirm other information (how to get there, where to stay, what to bring etc) as soon as possible. Leave a comment here, or send us an email with your contact details and we’ll be in touch soon. Please note: this is a traditional and local event, unlike the big commercial thing happening in Bran, so there will be a limit on how many can come to Sirnea. Let us know you’re coming as soon as possible See you there!

Spring kitten

Spring blossom mountain cat

Hobbs in blossom, Magura, Transylvania

Hobbs the mountain cat takes a nano-second’s rest in her Spring leaping among the blossom. The mirabel (corcodus) trees in the garden are in full flower, with bees and other insects going mad with spring fever. It’s infectious: the cats spend a lot of time in the air at the moment, feet touching ground (or branch) only rarely as they fly about in the April sunshine.

Singing in the rain

There has been a long collective sigh of relief at the two weeks of rain we’ve had this month, and as far as I’m concerned I’d be happy for the rain to continue all summer. Two years of drought, long hot summers that run till October and the first shock of snow, have been tough on a dairy culture that relies on plenty of rain and vigorous growth of knee-high wildflowers in the meadows.

I love sun, and the long summers have been wonderful, but the water running out in October is no fun especially when the snow comes in December along with plummeting temperatures and frozen pipes. Worse is the drastic drop in the hay crop which means that sheep and calves face autumn slaughter rather than winter starvation.

But this June, the wildflowers are knee-high, the fruit is swelling on the trees and veg springing up in the village gardens. It’s fabulously green, and long may the rain continue, especially if we get bursts of sun between showers. Watch out for loonies leaping between thunderbolts and ssinging in the downpours.

Piatra Craiului National Park, Brasov County, Transylvania, Romania

Magura means ‘little hill’, and here you can see it very clearly, from the southern end of the village looking towards Piatra Craiului

Spring has very definitely sprung

We’ve just had Easter here, and this week the usual greetings of ‘hello’, good morning’ etc have given way to the exchange “Cristos a înviat” (Christ has risen) to which the response is ‘Adeverat a înviat”  (truly he is risen).

The cherry blossom is over, and the apple blossom is fully out; dandelions carpet the new spring grass meadows, and violets hide under new yarrow leaves.

Spring lamb, Magura Transylvania, Romania, mountains, Carpathians, Easter

A Magura lamb in clover

Some of the lambs have disappeared, becoming Paschal feasts on Sunday morning after the long Lent fast. The village flock of sheep has gone up to the high pastures for the summer, and the cows will go this week, leaving the village meadows uneaten to become sweet nutrient-rich hay for the long winter.

Thunderstorms threaten after warm mornings – Magura temperatures reached an unusual 30°C on 1st May, normally what you’d expect in July and August. But the air is so fresh that the heat doesn’t sap your energy, and it’s easy to sleep through the cool nights.

Don’t wait for summer – now is my favourite time of year in Magura, and perfect for walking in the brilliant green beech forests.

Magnificence on our doorstep

Have a look at this glorious photo of Piatra Craiului guarding the northern borders of Magura and Pestera! The village you can see is Magura, starting to wake from winter as the snow melts…

Click here to see.