Mountain life in Transylvania

Colourful blankets

The next day took us even higher into the Transylvanian mountains, off surfaced roads and into the alpine interior, where we met Triain, a local craftsman, and his Mum and Dad. And his puppy called Bobby. The air is clear and the landscape very beautiful here, but this is a very remote place indeed to live.Triain lives in the hamlet of Badai and his surname is Badau. People are often called after the places they live, in and this was a common practice all over the world in times gone by.

Mountain magic

Triain lives here with his parents with no car, and runs a small farm where they make hay the old fashioned way, cutting it by hand and putting it into those pointed haystacks with poles through the hay to keep it in place. The poles hadn’t been very effective on the night of the storm that week however, when nine haystacks had blown down – a serious blow for such a small holding. Water came from a local spring tumbling into a horse trough, the water everywhere in Romania is fresh and good to drink.
Triain is a craftsmen in wood working and uses home made wood working tools to make alpine horns from Spruce. He also makes mugs and bottles and churns, all without the use of any mechanical help. He has a pedal operated shaving horse, and his tools have been made by himself from what he could find, or inherited from his father.

Triain at work

We watched him make a perfect graded hollow from a split wood baton with expert precision, and then tie two halves together with twisted hazel strips.
We all had a go at using the shaving horse, and it was a very satisfying thing to do. Triain’s speciality is making alpine horns in the same way they were made generations ago. He makes small horns, medium horns and large horns.

Do I look like I know what I’m doing?

Originally alpine horns were used to communicate across the mountains. You could let people know about some event across the valleys, maybe a birth, a death or a gathering by the sound from your horn. I was a bit puzzled that Triain couldn’t actually play his own horns, but we all had a go anyway. They are very difficult to play. Chris, who was an ex trumpet player got an impressive noise from his horn, but we could only get a strangled spluttering sound, which would not have reached anyone with any useful communication whatsoever.

Alpine trio

Triain couldn’t make a living from selling his work so he’s had to take a job in the local cable factory to supplement any income The hills around the modest farmstead were covered in Bilberry and Ligonberry bushes.

Wild Lingonberry

I remember collecting bilberries as a child with my family, and they were considered a great prize as they made the best pie filling of all.
Triain’s mum, Cornelia, had rustled up an unexpected lunch for us all, in her small kitchen diner and I have to say it was a most memorable meal.

Dinner time!

Home made corn polenta boiled with fresh sour cream with salt and pepper, tasted like ambrosia from the Gods – it was amazing served with fresh bread (always a bonus) and my particular favourite here, home made plum brandy. We then had some refreshing home made spruce syrup with water – also a treat for the taste buds. The food is so simple yet, because it so fresh, it tastes like nothing you can ever get at home, unless you are a farmer yourself.
We called back at a small museum which had some interesting textiles and artifacts in it from old village life. Old village life was looking a lot like today’s village life to me.

Cabbage rolls

That night we had fresh pasta with local cheese and minced pork, rice and thyme wrapped in cabbage leaves called Sarmale. Full and happy with the day’s alpine adventures we went off to our beds in the lovely guest house, anticipating the next day’s trip to one of Transylvania’s famously ornate castles, in search of Dracula!