Romania: Viscri – Changing Paces

June – August 2016

Something is different; the price to enter the latest fortified church, for starters. Viscri is still very ‘out there’ for a British traveller, but there is a change of tone after three weeks in the remote lanes of Richis and Mesendorf. Viscri has tourists, German mostly, come to celebrate the land of their ancestors, or buy traditional Viscri socks, or pull up on the roadside and ask me directions to Prince Charles’ house.

Yes, he keeps a property here. Somewhere. I am never quite sure which one it is, but the church itself is grand and timeless.

Viscri church

Tourism has not ruined Viscri by any standards, but it has some subtle impact. My routine post-survey survival kit of chocolate and melon-favoured icecream is more expensive here. More seriously, the local farms are sliding towards modernisation, which is already showing signs of throttling Viscri’s biodiversity. I’m expecting to find far less on the transects than in the first three villages.

First, though, I need to explore the village itself. Here puppies greet horses.

The Watching Puppy

And tourists or no, milk is still gathered in the traditional way.

Milk run

Every evening the cows bring themselves home, right home, each turning into her own gate. Swallows swoop over the water provided for livestock right in the centre of town.

Viscri drinking trough

Home for the week is a room, not a tent. I’m staying in one of the many guesthouses, a short walk from the heart of all things: Gerda’s lovely farm. A small army of ducks, geese and guinea fowl wander noisily out of her gate every morning, and back again every night.

Morning at Gerda's

Guarding them is the smallest of watchdogs, and he seems far more interested in playing with the nets used by the butterfly survey team.

Blackie and the butterfly nets

As for wild mammals – one is very close at hand. Livestock and puppy are joined in this farmyard by a wild hedgehog!

Hedgehog

It is a very peaceful hoggie, but causes a taxonomic debate. Officially, there are only eastern hedgehogs Erinaceus concolor here, but this individual, and all others that we’ve glimpsed, are clearly the western species Erinaceus europaeus. The mammal information book has erred.

It remains to be seen what surprises Viscri’s transects will bring.

8 thoughts on “Romania: Viscri – Changing Paces

    1. Most critters can do pretty good jobs of handling familiar tasks, Robin … I’m reminded of the horse-drawn milk wagons in the city when I was a boy: the milkman would leave the truck with a couple of wire baskets full of milk to be delivered, walk from house to house, dropping off full bottles and replacing them in his basket with the empties from the houses. By the time the portion of his route had been serviced, he’d head back to the road. where the horse and wagon were patiently waiting, the horse having pulled the wagon up to where he knew the man would be coming out to meet him. The horse knew the route as well as the man did.

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  1. Adele, I love this post! You’ve managed to get a wonderful, warm set of photos to illustrate it. That dhurch is magnificent, the puppy and the horse’s relationship is charming, and the man with his geese a bright spot in the narrative. And who could resist the ‘edge’og?

    Thank you!

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    1. Thank you! 🙂 We had fewer students in Viscri so I had more time to get out and about and observe the small details of everyday life in the village.

      We’ve very few hedgehogs left in my part of England now. Pesticides and habitat loss have turned them into an endangered species in the UK. It was good to record so many in Transylvania.

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  2. Something else caught my attention: by the height of the windows in could of the photographs, I would say that winters might be very harsh in that area, with a lot of snow. Also, by the look of them, the walls seem to be pretty thick, which also refers to cold weather and the ways people are protecting themselves.

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    1. Yes, the height of the windows is curious. I’m not sure how deep the snow gets, but no doubt in all seasons having high windows helps protect against opportunistic thieves, too. I seem to vaguely recall hearing something along those lines when I was there.

      Apparently it hit nearly -40c in Brasov one winter, so yes, solid houses are a bonus; probably they help keep the intense summer heat out, as well.

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