May 27, 2015
Breakfast was yogurt, cereal, and toast this morning, and afterwards we collected our jackets and headed out. The weather forecast wasn’t promising, with rain possible throughout the day, but so far it wasn’t raining.
Our plan was to see some of the wooden churches which constitute a UNESCO World Heritage site; the nearest was in Budești, just down the road from Breb. Budești was the usual maze of twisty streets, but we saw a sign pointing down one of the streets to a wooden church. It wasn’t the one on the UNESCO list but luckily for us there was Duncan with the British couple he was guiding, and he phoned the caretaker to let us in.
Inside the church near the altar were paintings on the walls, plus numerous needlework pictures. The pictures were more primitive than those we’d seen in the painted monasteries, but then they were painted on wood rather than plaster. The log walls gave the place a rather primitive feel and even the icons at the front were wood rather than metal. According to Duncan, men worshipped at the front of the church and women at the back, and the balcony was used for both sexes.
From here we continued down the hill to the Cosău River. Duncan stopped at a mill site (later we found out that it housed a horincă still) but we didn’t stop, carrying on to the UNESCO church. It was larger than the other church, and it was also locked. We spent some time looking around the outside and around the cemetery, but just as we were about to leave two Germans arrived and they telephoned for the key. So we waited with them so we could see the interior. Unlike the other church the paintings were much better preserved and also much more extensive.
After that we followed the river through several villages. There were supposed to be more wooden churches here, but we were unsuccessful in locating them. But by now the rain was teeming down, so we headed back to Breb to have lunch. We were the only ones there, so we had the whole house to ourselves.
Later in the afternoon the rain eased a bit, so we put on our rain gear and went out for a walk around the village. The roads were very muddy but with little car traffic we didn’t get too muddy. At the large modern church we were taking some photos when one of the locals stopped to greet us. He seemed quite surprised when we told him we were from Canada and we came by airplane.
Our walk took us around a loop in the village, and coming down the last hill we were hailed by the local basket weaver. He beckoned us into his yard and showed us his wares, demonstrating what each type of basket might be used for. He also showed us a book containing pictures of him and other local artisans. Finally we ended up buying a small basket which would fit into our packs—we don’t have much space for souvenirs.
For dinner we had pasta and vegetables again, and we also organized our lunch for tomorrow. We would be driving to Viseu de Sus to go on the logging train in the mountains, and that trip takes most of the day.
May 28, 2015
We got up early this morning, at 6 am in fact, so that would be in time for our steam train trip in Viseu de Sus. The drive was at least an hour and 20 minutes, plus time for road work and potholes and getting lost, so we allowed ourselves plenty of time.
At any rate we arrived about 8:20 am, plenty of time to get our reserved tickets, go to the bathroom, take photos, and board the train for the 9 am departure. Our train was pulled by a wood-burning steam locomotive which ran on narrow-gauge tracks alongside the Vaser River. There was a mixture of new cars and old cars for the passengers to ride in, and it appeared that the bus-tour people were getting the new cars and we were being sent off to the old cars. But all of the cars were enclosed, so it didn’t matter much.
Shortly after 9 am the engine lurched into action and off we went, up the valley. For a long time we went through the outskirts of the town but finally we were out in the fields. We stopped at the 15-kilometer mark for a water stop, where they took a large tube and used it to pump water from a clear pool into the engine’s tank. The valley was mostly quite narrow and after about two hours we arrived at the Paltin station, our destination.
We had both misjudged the weather, and it was still cloudy and colder than we had expected. So we were both freezing. We bought some hot chocolate from the café there, which helped a bit, and ate at one of the picnic tables. We had hard-boiled some eggs last night, and together with some bread and tomatoes they were our lunch. The café was doing a good business selling drinks and snacks and lunches, and it was playing what we guessed was Roma pop music at high volume. There were a lot of people dancing to it.
After an hour or so we all boarded the train for the return trip. It seemed bumpier going downhill, and since the scenery was the same as the uphill ride we sort of dozed on and off. We were both glad to get back to the car.
On the return trip we went looking for more of the UNESCO wooden churches. In Ieud, which was only three kilometers off the main road, we followed the signs but they led to a road bridge which had collapsed. We couldn’t find a different bridge across the river so we abandoned that idea. Farther along the road, at Bârsana, the official sign led to an informal sign which led up a lane to somebody’s house. We could see the church on top of the hill behind the house, but couldn’t see a way up the hill. So we gave up on wooden churches and headed back to the hotel for dinner.
When we got back Penny was waiting for us. She had suggested we could move to a different room because of the loud snoring from Steve, who with his wife Alison was in the double room directly below us. The Painted House was available, and that suited us just fine. There was a small kitchen, a sitting/eating area, and upstairs a bedroom with twin beds and a full bathroom. All decorated with tapestries, needlework runners, pottery, and of course hand-painted furniture. It was actually much nicer than our previous room in the big house. (The bathroom did have a rather low ceiling, but we’re not very tall so that didn’t bother us much.)
It was still cold in the Painted House, so we ran the space heater for a while to warm it up. Dinner tonight was rice with vegetables and chips and we had cookies for dessert.
Next: Hiking Creasta Cocoșului