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A hike through the hills of Atel (Hetzeldorf)

Atel (Hetzeldorf) is a larger village in Southern Transilvania with a beautiful fortified church. The church is undergoing renovations and is closed to the public but the hills surrounding the village were certainly open and welcoming today, as we took a short hike to enjoy nature. In case you’d like to visit the place yourself, here’s a link to the spots we saw.

We’d come to get a bit of fresh air and as we were walking around with Sophie, exploring the flowers and the bugs and the birds and listening to the various sounds the latter two made, we spotted a building up on the hill, looking somewhat deserted. We decided to pay a visit and see what it was. It turned out to be the somewhat deserted church of the Saxon cemetery which overlooks the village.

If you don’t know the story of the Saxons of Transilvania, you need to read this. It tells only part of the story and obviously none of the heartache of the departure from their places of birth, but the deserted graves, tilting and knocked over by time, including the cobwebs on the church door, tell the story of a people that are no more, with only remnants here and there. These people built these magnificent structures and sturdy homes that have stood the test of time and now they are here no longer. Atel is only one of the many, many Saxon villages spread throughout Transilvania but for some reason, seeing all those graves in disarray made me realize how few Saxons there are left and what good work they’ve done over the many hundreds of years they were here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the photos and as usual, if you’re interested in using any of them, please see my licensing terms.

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Juliet awaits

Historic sights from Tg. Mures

There are so many interesting historic buildings in Tg. Mures, Romania. When you’re downtown, pretty much everywhere you look you can find a building that has stood the test of time and presents various architectural details that catch the eye (or the lens). I think what sets this city’s architectural heritage apart from other cities I’ve visited is that its historic buildings are so varied in their architecture and decorations, unlike other towns where most of the architecture sticks to common themes. Complicated reliefs and daring color schemes adorn these buildings and most of them are remarkably well preserved over time.

Here’s a collection of photographs I think you’ll like. I took them in 2007 and 2009. I snuck in a couple of modern sights which sadly detract from the beauty of the city. Do what I do, try to ignore them…

Should you be interested in licensing any of these photos (or any of my other photos), you might want to read through my terms.

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A quick intro to the Dacia 1100

Have you ever wondered what one of the first cars made in Romania looks like? It was first made in 1968 and it was called the Dacia 1100. It was a faithful copy of the Renault 8 and it was, in my opinion, a beautiful car. Perhaps it was under-powered, but given its chassis, suspension and brakes, that was a good thing. The production of the Dacia 1100 lasted from 1968-1972, after which it was replaced by the Dacia 1300, itself a copy of the Renault 12.

I always found the design of the 1100 much more handsome than that of the 1300 and since only 44,000 of them were sold, they’re quite the rare sight. There were almost 2,000,000 Dacia 1300 models made but given their age and poor construction, they’ve become a rare thing these days as well.

The Romanian Dacia 1100 Club paid a visit to Medias today and several beautiful Dacia 1100 cars were on display, including a couple of the more powerful 1100S variant. That’s where I took these photos, which I hope you’ll enjoy!

Here’s more info on Dacia cars, on the 1100 model and also on the 1300 model.

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A drive through Mures County

A few weekends ago, we took an afternoon drive through the Southern part of Mures County (in Romania). We wanted to drive on side roads and get a better sense of the countryside. We mapped out the itinerary ahead of time. Here it is:

  • Târnaveni
  • Seuca
  • Ganesti
  • Mica
  • Idrifaia
  • Suplac
  • Odrihei
  • Croisânmartin
  • Balauseri
  • Fântânele
  • Viforoasa
  • Sângeorgiu de Padure (Castle Rhédey)
  • Lacul Bezid
  • Fântânele
  • Bordosiu
  • Vetca
  • Jacodu
  • Soard
  • Vânatori
  • Albesti
  • Sighisoara

Road quality is an issue of concern in Romania. A lot of them need repair, a lot are under construction and a few are in pretty good shape. The state of a road doesn’t always correspond to its importance — in other words, an important road isn’t always in good shape, though it should be. We were surprised to find that a country road in the middle of nowhere was in really good shape while one of the main county roads was in bad shape; more on that later.

One of the places we wanted to visit was Castle Rhédey in Sângeorgiu de Padure. When we got there, it was closed due to renovations, so we drove on.

Castle Rhédey

The next place we wanted to see was Lake Bezid. It’s a man-made lake, created by flooding an entire valley and a village in order to have a large water source for the surrounding region.

Lake Bezid Lake Bezid Lake Bezid

There were day campers on the shore of the lake and lots of people were enjoying the nice weather. We stopped a couple of times and walked around. Sophie was curious as always.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ruins of some of the buildings from the old village of Bezid, now buried under the lake, can still be seen.

Church ruins Ruins

We drove around the lake, hoping to find a side road back to the main road, but there wasn’t one, so we had to turn back; keep that in mind if you visit it.

The map shows a country road that links Fantanele to Sighisoara. It goes through the village of Vetca, going through Jacodu, Soard, Vanatori and Albesti. If you should decide to take that same road, know you’ll get to a point (past Soard) where only the most able offroad vehicle will be able to continue, so plan on turning back and using the main road from Balauseri to get to Sighisoara.

We didn’t regret trying that side route at all though. The village of Vetca is made up of three smaller villages (Salasuri, Jacodu and Vetca) and it’s such a beautiful place that it’s worth visiting even though it’s out of the way.

As soon as you enter the lands that belong to the village, you’ll notice the difference. Most notable is the quality of the road, which is in fantastic condition compared to other country roads we’ve driven on. Then you also notice there’s no garbage on the side of the road, that the fields are tended to nicely and most importantly, that the villages themselves are clean, well landscaped and the houses are well maintained. Some of the houses are downright picturesque, right out of a story book. See the photos below.

Wheat RPOP-2013-07-1262 RPOP-2013-07-1264 RPOP-2013-07-1263 RPOP-2013-07-1274 A restored house in Vetca. A restored house in Vetca. A restored house in Vetca. Sculpted gate A restored house in Vetca.

As we drove through and marveled at what we saw, we met someone by the side of the road, cutting the grass. We stopped to ask him what he knew about the beautiful houses. It turned out to be the mayor of the village of Vetca, Mr. Fekete Pál. We got to talking and found out he’s the man responsible for the quality of the road, the cleanliness in the village, and the little storybook houses you see in the photos enclosed here.

Mayor of Vetca

There are a total of 800 families in the three villages under his leadership, and they’re in the middle of nowhere, not in a major city. The revenues are what they are. Yet here is a man that managed to get a decent road built through his villages, to encourage the people to keep their houses and streets clean and also to renovate all of the beautiful houses I’ve shown here. So when I hear some mayor in a town or larger city complain about not having the funds needed to do his or her job, I’ll think of Mr. Fekete from now on. If he could do it, then it can be done. What these other mayors are lacking is the willpower and the inclination, not the funds or the help.

Mr. Fekete is clearly a man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty doing the actual work. Not only is he a builder, he’s also a sculptor in wood. The sculptures you see in front of the houses, the gates (including the big wooden gate at the entrance into the village) and all of the other woodwork was done by him.

When I left, I told him he’s achieved amazing things and  he should be proud of them. I was glad to shake his hand and wish him the best.

If that country road had continued on from Soard to Vanatori, Albesti and through to Sighisoara, we wouldn’t have turned back, I wouldn’t have taken these photos and we wouldn’t have met Mr. Pál. Isn’t it interesting how things work themselves out? What you initially think is a setback turns out to be an interesting adventure!

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Classic Solo Shoes

Classic Solo Handmade Shoes

Late last year, I ordered a pair of handmade shoes from Stefan Burdea, a shoemaker from Bucharest, Romania. I’d like to show them to you now. They’re the Classic Solo model, a beautiful and understated pair of shoes made from a single piece of leather.

Some of you may already know that it’s fairly difficult to make these shoes, as it requires much greater skill from the shoemaker to get it right from a single piece of leather than it is to make them from multiple pieces, which can be fitted much more easily around the boot tree.

I’d like to show these shoes to you now via a video I made (part of my Elegant Gentleman series). I’m happy with them, especially since they meet a very important criteria for me: they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time. That’s the most important criteria for me when choosing shoes. They have to fit me very well. All other aspects: design, finish, materials, are secondary. Sure, I first pick up a pair of shoes based on how they look, but if they don’t fit me well, I’ll put them right back down on the shelf and move on.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a pair of handmade shoes made for you, but you should if you get the chance. They’re much more comfortable than machine-made shoes. And because they’re handmade, there’s usually more attention to detail and a higher level of workmanship, as you’ll see from the photos. It’s rewarding to wear shoes that you know were made just for you. Try it sometime!

De Vorba cu Ligia: the first four shows

De Vorba cu Ligia

As I looked over my site archive today, I realized that I haven’t yet told you about Ligia‘s latest show, which is called “De Vorba cu Ligia“. Translated from Romanian, it means “Talking with Ligia”. It’s a simple name and a lovely show where she interviews various interesting people doing good things in Romania. It’s a show where we also talk about raw food, which is what we did in the fourth, most recent episode. We publish each episode to Ligia’s YouTube Channel in full 1080p HD. We started filming it in December of last year, when Ligia was about six months pregnant with Sophie, and we filmed the last episode this last weekend, when Sophie was 2½ months old.

I’ve posted the first four shows here for you. They’re in Romanian, but I know that at least a few of you subscribed readers know the language, so you’re fine. As for the rest of you, the last two episodes will be of interest, because we’ll show you stuff, not just talk about it, and that’s easily understood in any language. Besides, you’ll get to see our little Sophie in the last one, and babies are adorable in any language!

Episode 1 (12/20/12):

Episode 2 (2/5/13):

Episode 3 (2/14/13):

Episode 4 (5/22/13):

Enjoy! :-)