We started our rest day with a well earned lie-in, Rich’s birthday flan for breakfast, and then sat on the terrace to read and sunbathe for a few hours. I’d admittedly been rather ignorant about Romania’s history before coming here, so found reading about it fascinating. It’s little wonder that strangers are treated with a healthy dose of suspicion.
Reading about gypsies also reminded me of a childhood spent living next to travelers, or the ‘fair people’ as we called them. They’d keep their caravans on a plot of land at the end of the street, and also owned the house right next to ours. One of their elders used to knit us clothes for our dolls and give us 10p for sweets, and we were devastated when she passed away. It angers me when people call travelers nasty names and make assumptions about their behaviour based on what they read in the tabloids. I’d rather live next door to travelers who work in the circus, or just want to travel, than anyone who believes what they’re told to believe about minority groups. Yes some travelers do leave litter when they move on, but then so do affluent picknickers when they’ve finished using disposable barbecues at scenic spots in the Lake District.
Whilst drinking the local sparkling water – Vraja Muntilor, bottled here in Valea Rece – one of the Csango villages, a wasp put in an appearance in the kitchen, prompting Rich to admit that he’d been banned from using fly swats as a child. Aged 8, he’d been given a fly swat by his gran to use on the farm. After the holidays, she’d had to spend weeks cleaning dead flies off every possible surface, including cupboards.
After a lunch of smoked mackerel and salad, Rich drove us the 10km to Ghimes to look at the customs house that marked the old border between Transylvania and Moldavia, and before that the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. It’s sited right next to the ruins of Rakoczi Castle – built in 1626, but now only the steps remain. It was well worth climbing them though for the beautiful view of the Trotus Valley, and to finally catch sight of a local swimming spot for the young people of the area.
After ambling around the magnificent church and the remains of an old monastery called Pasul Ghimes Palanca, located opposite the customs house and castle, we drove back up the valley to the Muhos Spa at Baratcos. As we drew up a tour bus was unloading. Expecting the spa to be over-run we were therefore very pleasantly surprised to get it all to ourselves, a drink each, plus brandy for Rich, for the grant total of £8. Admittedly the spa only consists of a thermal tub, a plunge pool, a sauna, and a very small swimming pool outside, but we were in heaven. At least we were once they’d finally realised that we weren’t trying to book a room. The owner and bar staff didn’t speak very much English – after all, why should they? But by miming taking a bath and repeating the word ‘sulphur’ they soon stopped saying “full full sorry”, tried to get us to drink a bottle of brandy, and left us to our own devices in the hot tub.
We were met with two surprises when we tried to leave. The friendly manager insisted that we sample his sheep’s cheese, and on the terrace some Csango dancers were practising in traditional costume. As they weren’t putting on a show as such, taking a photo seemed rude, but I regret not doing so now.
Home by 6.20pm so I took a quick walk up the footpath directly opposite the cabin until it petered out at the treeline. As early evening is probably not the best time to go walking alone in brown bear territory, I then sensibly made my way back to chillax while Rich prepared a very taster dinner of chicken in a paprika, tomato and honey sauce, served with rice.
By 8.30pm we were sat on the verandah wrapped in blankets, enthralled by a view which I don’t think I could ever tire of, when the little dog that we’d seen speed walking down the track a few times suddenly appeared at our feet. He didn’t need much coaxing to jump onto the seat for lots of doggy cuddles and a salami slice snack, before running off again into the darkness. Given that he was the size of a cat, I found the fact that he didn’t purr a little confusing to begin with. My guess is that he just works his way round the village each evening, and that the cabin is the last house on his itinerary. Sure enough he came back an hour later and when we came in to get ready for bed he was still sat contentedly on the bench, looking pleased that he’d made some new friends.
Flying beetles however, are not my friends. As soon as my head hit the pillow, one landed beside me and made me jump out of the bed in one swift move. Still, they’re not as scary as flying spiders or snakes would be. I’d need to be tranquilised to visit places where those creatures live.