Tuica definitely doesn’t agree with me. What with the moonshine and heat I didn’t sleep so well last night, meaning that I was rather fuggy headed when Rich greeted me with a cheery “happy birthday!” He would say that I was downright grumpy, but I beg to differ.

Whilst I played the lady of leisure role and opened some very well traveled birthday cards, Rich prepared a special breakfast of what looked like a Romanian version of Cumbrian sausages, fried eggs, and gherkins. Only then I was allowed to open my pressie. He’d adoped a llama called Monty for me, from this place! As you may have gathered, I’m slightly doolally about llamas. Monty lives in Somerset and we’re going to go and visit him early next year, when the weather will be perfect for llama snuggles.

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We’d decided to make today a lazy day, which was probably a good thing given my bear head, and after breakfast watched Nico’s little ones playing in the road – very delicately moving stones from one pile to another. Who needs expensive toys when you have an active imagination?

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So that we didn’t make it too lazy a day we then drove to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity near Orlat. It’s a beautiful building even on the outside, surrounded by lush gardens. As we’d missed the service we were very pleasantly surprised when a nun came rushing over to let us in so that we could admire the frescoes. They must have taken years to create! I’m not a religious person but the paintings took my breath away, and I felt that I had to buy a small print of one part of it as a souvenir, as photos just wouldn’t have done the artwork justice. At least not my photos.

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From Orlat we drove back to Sibiel to look around the Icon Museum. It’s the largest collection of glass icons in Romania, and again it was so very easy to appreciate the passion and artistry in the works. The guide didn’t speak any English but she was enthusiastic and eventually we settled on communicating in French. I’ve always loved gypsy style designs and use of colour, and it was fascinating to learn how each region has its preferred patterns – demonstrated perfectly by the painting of egg shells! I treated myself to a small ceramic plate that looks like wood from the tourist shack outside, and after admiring Sibiel’s resident storks we headed home for a quiet lunch in the cubby hole.

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Feeling the need for a swim, I made the mistake of asking the young German boy staying opposite if he could show me on the map where they’d been going swimming. He’d pointed to a reservoir and apparent parking spot, so without further ado we’d fired up Lulu and Dervla. Unfortunately, the only way of reaching this so called swimming spot was to climb over a barbed wire fence and warning sign and then launch yourself over a 30 foot drop into the reservoir below. Realising a little too late that young German boy may not be a seasoned map reader, and that he probably panicked a little upon having a map thrust in his face by an excited Welsh woman, we accepted that we weren’t where we were supposed to be. Feeling optimistic we thought we’d look a little further down the track, just in case, but the potholes and puddles were more like caverns and ponds and Lulu struggled. So we gave up and decided to find the outdoor swimming pool in Saliste instead.

Whilst the idea of an outdoor swimming pool sounded lovely. The reality is that we stood out like a sore thumb, and immediately felt like outsiders. Which we were of course, but sometimes you’re able to pretend otherwise. The pool was small but full of teenagers on heat, with one lifeguard who seemed more interested in staring at boobies than stopping the dive bombing which is obviously the done thing. Rich ventured into the water, ignoring everyone’s stares, but as I was feeling a tad too self conscious I stayed on the grass for a little while, playing with the very furry resident dog, who’d decided that I made a very comfortable seat, even though he was a similar size to me. This then meant that I was able to count his fleas up close.

When the heat got too much I too braved the water, trying less successfully to ignore the stares. We noticed that not many of the teenagers could swim. Instead they dive bombed into the shallow end, and then did a sort of frantic doggy paddle to get back to the side. This at least meant that we had the deep end largely to ourselves, although we decided enough was enough when some of the braver kids started dive bombing us. I know that we were strangers n’all, but really? Then again, would Romanians receive similar treatment if they visited a small town in Wales for instance? I’ve certainly felt uncomfortable with the way that outsiders are treated in the UK, so I shouldn’t be surprised. And yes I know that I’m a sensitive soul, but it still hurts when you sense hostility. Not that I don’t understand it of course. I’d be extremely wary of strangers too if I’d lived through what their parents and grandparents had.

As we were leaving one of the lads who had tried to dive bomb us did strike up a conversation thankfully, but with no English on his part, and only a phrasebook on mine we struggled to get past hello and goodbye, much to the amusement of his friends. Still at least we’d broken the ice, and they’d realised that we didn’t have any ulterior motives for being there. If you’ve not ever travelled beyond your home town I suppose it must be intriguing, if not a little scary to meet people from a long way away who speak, act and behave differently to you, especially if they’ve not had a good reception from other tourists in the past.

We opened a bottle of sparkling peach wine as soon as we got back to the cottage. Who needs champagne! Rich cooked a delicious birthday dinner of pasta with a tomato and olive sauce, sheep’s cheese, and chicken fried in local honey, and by 9.45pm we were ready for bed. It’s sleepy work is traveling.

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