So. Must be the altitude, or age, but the scheduled posts seem to have disappeared. So here’s a briefer recreation.

We’re 10. Five flautists, three saxophonists. Two friends.

We’re in the end of the end of a valley in Transylvania – Moiecu de Sus, just beyond Bran, site of Dracula’s castle (allegedly) (allegedly Dracula’s, definitely a castle,definitely surrounded by a lot of touristy shops, but beautiful in itself).

The travel from Bucharest, only 180km, took 10 hours. This was partly due to delays with getting the rental cars, but largely due to the extraordinary road/transport system.

Having encountered cyclists cycling down our lane- towards us-, flocks of animals, a donkey and cart careering perpendicularly from the right across the traffic, into the oncoming stream before joining us and so on and so forth- we thought we’d seen it all when cresting the brow of a short rise we came across a bilateral amputee in a self propelled wheelchair hurtling towards us.

The journey was not uneventful, the most exciting bit being when our driver decided that the traffic controller with a no entry sign and a red light ‘didn’t mean it’ leading to us driving directly towards a bus coming the opposite way.

This is our home for the next week.

Whoops! That’s Bran Castle.

Try again.

Julie and Nick who run the residential courses flutesenvacances are running their second week here, at this chalet. They provide half board and tuition on wind instruments.

(Julie standing)

A typical day : breakfast, practice in groups (Sax or flute) from 09.30 to 11.45, join into bigger group, practice music together (in this course we were practising for the school concert that had been arranged); lunch locally and trip out, reconvene to practice around 5pm; soirée (including performance either individually or in duets/trios) at 6.30 pm – then drinks, excellent three or four course dinner and good conversation.

(Yes. Stuffed cauliflower. No end to the fascinoma food we ate.)

Highlights:

Climb vertically out of the valley to an eco restaurant with 360 degree views. An hour to get there, twice as long to get served. Well worth it.

Guided walk by a family member of our landlords. A 10 k walk again vertically up the valley sides. The rural agriculture continues. Each family has a strip of land running from the road across the narrow valley floor then vertically up the hillside. The home has two rooms: the kitchen (and dining room and bedroom – all in one) is to the right of the door. To the left is the room for the agricultural implements – and the dowry chest, which is still a thing.

A steep walk took us to the winter hut. Here the cows (normally two or three) are overwintered along with the sheep. The family climbs there twice a day, everyday, in winter to feed and milk the animals.

And to clear up the excrement which is saved for the pasture. It is thick snow in winter. The animals are fed with hay cut by scythe from the vertical strip of land, and stored in the upper floor of the barn, any remaining hay being stored in a haystack.

In the summer the animals go to summer pastures in the mountains where shepherds care for large flocks. They milk the animals and make cheese whilst there.

How does each family know how much cheese should be produced from their animals?? By working out their percentage of the whole on ‘milk measuring day’, a weekend day in June, when the families get together to establish how much milk has come from their cattle and can therefore do the calculation. The shepherds get paid for their work and are also paid in cheese, which cheese they sell at the market.

Next trip. To the camera museum where a French man who married a Romanian woman and left his beloved France to live at the end of a dead end valley demonstrates old fashioned photography.

…. and the use of different lenses….

(Look carefully at this pic)

Followed by a cheese and wine tasting with plenty of local cheese and wine, the cheese being made by our hosts (landlords). Cheese included feta, cottage cheese, smoked cheese and a hard cheese they store for winter. This was preceded by home made plum brandy and followed by bilberry sponge – bilberries picked from the hillside.

Next day. Concert at village school. We were prepared for this all week. The children wore their best clothes – and so would not sit down in the hall.

As did the head……

The children had not seen live musicians before, never mind a saxophone or flutes (we had four sizes of flute).

It has to be said that they enjoyed the music, but were BESIDE THEMSELVES when we played Baby Shark.

And loved the balloon dogs Tracey, one of our group who is also a children’s entertainer, made for them.

A quiet night in should have ensued. Instead we went to get exercise. And completed the day with karaoke.

Great lunch too at the Promenade in Rasnov.

Finally Bran Castle – stuff of horror movies and Dracula tales. Bram Stoker the author had never been to Romania. The castle is tasteful and human now although must have been a great deterrent at the time it was built.

And so we leave, with memories of beautiful fountains in Bucharest, awesome mountain ranges, crazy traffic and a wonderful holiday.

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