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!

A beer in Biertan

A few miles north-east of Sighisoara is the Saxon village of Biertan. Its quiet isolation gives no clue to its importance in medieval Transylvania, which was considerable; the only evidence immediately obvious is the fortified church which looms over the village, too substantial for a sleepy place in the middle of nowhere.
We stayed at Pensiune Unglerus, a house in a quiet street a couple of minutes’ stroll from the Unglerus restaurant nestled in the skirts of the great walls of the fortified church and decorated with weapons, armour and pastiche furniture from the chivalric Middle Ages.
The church needs time for proper exploration and it would be worth reading up on its history so you know what you’re looking at.
About 2.5 hours’ drive from Brasov, so three hours from Magura – an easy and excellent weekend sortie.

A Prod towards the Transylvania Horse Show

… at the Transylvania Horse Show. A soggy Sunday on the May Day holiday weekend saw us in a tiny village called Prod, not far from Sighisoara, for the last day of an important event in the horse world. You wouldn’t know it, given that spectators stayed away in droves due to the soft weather, but the three-day show included international standard cross-country, dressage and show-jumping contests; Friday and Saturday had been sunny, glossy and buzzing with spectators, but we had the pick of waterlogged grandstand seats and a fine view of muddy horses and riders leaping for gold.
The misty hills and the steady rain could have been Cumbria, Wales or the west of England, but the duelling knights were from a Transylvanian order, and the food was entirely Romanian: mici and varza (meatballs and cabbage salad), and lots of Ursus beer.
Next year we’ll be there for the whole weekend – maybe this most hidden-away of international events will have been outed and the secret revealed. Why don’t you come too?