Romania: Nou Săsesc – The Land of Up

June – August 2016

My colleague: “And how was your day?”

Me: “Steep.”

The hills look innocent; there are worse cliffs in the North Downs. And yet…

I’m glad – immeasurably glad – that my red hiking pole was rescued. Nou Săsesc, like all Saxon villages in Transylvania, is firmly embedded in the very lowest part of a valley. It is a lean network of dusty streets straddling a river flush with knotweed. From afar, it exists only as a smattering of red rooftops.

Nou Sasesc arrival

We’re now almost exactly in the geographical centre of Romania. Horses ferried us half the journey from Richis, pulling open wooden carts – their drivers shouting cheerfully as they overtake each other, tethered horses on the roadside calling to their brethren as wheels rattled by.

horse taxi

The horses stopped at an ancient fortified church, giving us a moment to ponder deeper mysteries.

Church statue

Then the journey continued on foot, high into meadows abloom with colour.

NS flower

Several hours later, we approach Nou Săsesc, our base for the next week. There are more vehicles here than Richis; a young girl speeds past on a bicycle with no hands on the bars. One house even has tennis courts, and a helicopter regularly buzzes overhead. There is a village shop which sells Lays crisps and chocolate, but it opens at a different time every day.

Our two survey transects loop outwards, east and west. And outwards, in Nou Săsesc language, means Up.

They start so gently…

NS transect

But those hills are far grimmer than they look.

It is, sometimes literally, a case of one step up and three back. Gravity argues with anyone trying to look for mammal sign on these transects. I stab my hiking pole into mud, edge upwards, scanning the forest floor for bear tracks while posed on what feels like a vertical path. The hills tumble into improbable ravines and sheer-sided gullies. Scrambling, we win the ridge – and see the high Carpathians lining the further horizon like the jawbone of a monstrous beast.

Carpathians from NS

Up here there are bear and badger tracks; there are also dazzling longhorn beetles that would fit well in the tropics.

Longhorn beetle

I have a datasheet with fieldsign of bears recorded on it; today’s survey is completed. We contemplate getting down.

Walkable land simply ends, tumbling into a dusty waterfall of beech leaves. We sit down and slide off it, down, down, down…into a maize field.

That, at least, is flat.

7 thoughts on “Romania: Nou Săsesc – The Land of Up

  1. Hi, Adele! Interesting that you visit Nou Sases, especially since according to oral sources, the first settlements were somewhat upstream of the current village, in a place called the Stone Fountain. There used to live the first livestock farmers in the village centuries ago!

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    1. Hi Luminita, welcome to my blog 🙂 How interesting about Nou Sasesc. I wonder why the village was moved.

      You have a nice variety of tours available on your site. I was actually in Romania working with an international conservation group, collecting data on bears and wildcats in the vicinity of seven Saxon villages. It was unforgettable to experience both the wildlife and the culture.

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  2. Adele, amazing! Looks to be a beautiful countryside! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the Longhorn! I wonder what that great long antenna are for?

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    1. Romania has a strong claim to be amongst Europe’s most beautiful countries 🙂

      According to a bug conservation charity, longhorn beetles use their antennae to sniff out nesting sites and mates! You’d think it would upset their aerodynamics when flying, though.

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