Archaic, Happy Blue Windows and Whimsy Hills from Romania

happy blue windows and whimsy hills Romania

I’m bringing you an archaic home with happy blue windows and the view of whimsy Romanian hills for Jude’s July Life in Color Photo Challenge 2021.

After the idyllic Transylvanian house with blue windows and the authentic 1885 house by the Black Sea today we stroll to the north-west of Romania, to Bihor county.

On a sliver of land, between the silver crest of Biharia Mountains (Bihor Mountains), and the dark waters of Black Crișul River, homes such as this – mirroring a well established society – smile to the world.

Built in 19th century, the Biharia house was later taken apart piece by piece, transported, and rebuilt at the Village Museum in Bucharest.

I couldn’t find any information on this specific detail, but I am sure that the blue window frames with their wavy lines are inspired by the waters of the Black Crișul River…

Happy Blue Windows, whimsy hills, Blue house museum Câmpanii de Sus, Bihor
Above, the wavy line adorns the windows facing the main road. A warm welcome! 🙂

… and perhaps by the blue snowed peaks of the Biharia Mountains that often pierce the clouds. The Biharia Mountains are the highest peak in the Western Carpathians.

Blue Windows and Whimsy Hills

The river’s name, Crișul, derives from Dacian Krísos, meaning black, word derived from Thracian krs-, kres- meaning colorful. Sometimes the names of a river tell so much about its personality. There are four rivers in the Crișul family: White, Black, Fast and Rocky. I don’t know in which one I’d dare swim 🙂

A rock foundation elevates the house. The front porch has a step, for keeping poultry out, as well as winter’s nasty snowdrifts. For the same reason, the roof is slanted:

House with blue details, museum, Câmpanii de Sus, Bihor
Jovial Blue Windows, Blue house museum Câmpanii de Sus, Bihor

Because it was a mountainous area, with fresh water nearby, the rock, wood and clay would have been within easy reach. Luckily. After securing a plot, of course. The extended family would have helped, neighbors too, and the house would have been raised under the watchful eye of a master builder.

Yet a fountain would have been dug first, then an access road, and then only the home.

House with blue details, museum, Câmpanii de Sus, Bihor
The front porch has a step, for keeping poultry out 🙂

Imagine building a house such as this, turning it into a home, and leading a thankful life, while enjoying a similar view:

Blue Windows and Whimsy Hills

Only that once built the house, as well the land it stood on, entered the family. And it would have been passed on from one generation to the next as the most treasured possession. One that had to be looked after, as a way to honor one’s ancestors.

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Surprising Snow North of Karoo, a Christmas in July

Swartberg Pass near Karoo snow Christmas July South Africa

South Africans were gifted with surprising snow near Karoo, so I invite you to a Christmas in July with fresh images of snow, a Christmas tree from Bucharest and some magical doors for Thursday Doors.

While we enjoy a morning as sunny as an ice cream up here, near Pretoria, with temperatures of minus 1 degree Celsius (it is winter after all), further in the south of South Africa Antarctic pulses surprised us with snowfall.

These images were taken by members of our (very) extended South African family and we thank them for sharing the magic with us, special thanks to Cobus Pretorius.

Snow covering the road between Oudtshoorn and Swartberg Pass, South Africa, July 2021
Fresh snow covers the road between Oudtshoorn and Swartberg Pass, South Africa, July 2021

Oudtshoorn is a town in the Klein Karoo area of South Africa’s Western Cape, some 1200km south of Pretoria. Karoo is derived from the local Khoisan language, meaning ‘land of thirst.’

One would imagine that mermaids belong to the sea, and their legends are to be forever rocked by waves. It is not so.

Oudtshoorn Swartberg mountain pass snow July 2021 .jpg
Oudtshoorn Swartberg mountain pass snow July 2021

Mermaids, Watermeid, are said to inhabit ( have inhabited?) the rock pools between the Klein (Little) and Groot (Great) Karoo. That’s less than 50km from Oudtshoorn, and along the Meiringspoort mountain pass. Here, charming mermaids with alabaster hair cascading over their shoulders snatch, not lure, travelers, pulling them into their underground water holes. And ancient Khoi-San rock paintings still illustrate this legend .

Oudtshoorn pass snow July202

Further up to Swartberg Pass (Black Mountain Pass in Afrikaans) the road twists and turns, as these mountains mean business, shielding the Little Karoo to the north.

Swartberg Pass is located between Oudtshoorn in the south and Prince Albert in the north. This time, only the bravest shall pass through the foggy snowfall.

Swartberg Pass snow July South Africa
Swartberg Pass snow July South Africa

A car door covered by a layer of fluffy snow. Hard to resist the urge of tracing a Christmas tree on it, isn’t it?

Snow in South Africa
Snow in South Africa

It reminded me of a past winter holiday we spent in Sighisoara, Romania. Here, a century old house with a dragon emblem on it. I particularly like the glass bricks embedded in its door:

Another winding road, one that’s best to take on foot, as it snakes among medieval homes, and still standing (see the Historical Monument badge on the blue home?) in the upper fortress of Sighisoara:

And since we celebrate surprising snow over Karoo and a Christmas in July, here’s a Christmas tree from Bucharest:

Today the Palace of Agriculture and Domains, the edifice you see above and below was inaugurated in 1895 after the plans of Swiss architect Louis Pierre Blanc, the main building designed in the French Renaissance style. End of 19th century was a time of modernizing Bucharest.

The Palace of Agriculture and Domains, Bucharest
The Palace of Agriculture and Domains, Bucharest

I like this architect quite a bit as he also designed the main building of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Carol Davila, Bucharest, where I studied (in a different lifetime). And a gorgeous place it is too – down to the basement where the dissection labs were buried.

thursday doors, 100 words story

For Dan Antion’s exciting Thursday Doors – weekly challenge for door lovers from all over the world hosted over on his incredible blog No Facilities.

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Enchanting Solomonars, Romanian Cloud-Chaser Sorcerers

Balea Lac mountain reflected in lake

Enchanting Solomonars, these Romanian cloud-chaser sorcerers, are also called eagles or hail-gatherers, by their skills; cloud-walkers by their powers; dragon-riders to the welkin and back, by their means of transport.

The Solomonars were revered, yet feared, called upon, yet shunned for their innate understanding of nature’s forces; for their instinctive ability to read the weather, even in its wildest exhibitions; for their solid grasping of what was there, yet not seen, felt, yet intangible, life-threatening towards everyone else, but themselves.

Where do Solomonars come from?

Solomonars hail from a millennial realm stretching along the border, suspended between valleys and clouds, Maramureș, the one studded with archaic monasteries and earth-while fortresses.

Snow covered realm Maramures
Snow covered realm Maramureș

And from a land that straddles the northern crease of Oriental Carpathians, the land of Hutsul people… the breeders of sturdy ponies, and crafters of wood.

Or from within the forests neighboring Corvin Castle, the Woodsmen Land. Where inside a defensive ring of ancient forests, amongst rich pastures set around lush meadows, mid orchards layered on man-made terraces, sprout colorful huts clustered around tiny wooden churches and a fistful of gardens.

View from Corvin Castle
Breathtaking Romanian Countryside

Solomonars, like their skill that borders myth and reality, originate from such realms where the fireflies, the Forest Girl or ghosts are as real as the stories they populate. Yet none can pinpoint the first hamlet, nor the time-frame to mark the Solomonars’ origin.

Before Solomonars…

Are they descendants of King Solomon and have inherited his wisdom? Or followers of Prophet Elijah, Saint Ilie in Romanian Orthodox belief and the bringer of rain during drought? Either way, the Solomonars hold the knowledge and the powers to bring rain when needed by opening the skies; to stow away hail and tempests; or to freeze waters, or split ice. And how could they not, when they studied their craft for seven years, away from the garrulous world, locked in their underground school from where they burst again into the light by the strand of clouds they hold in their fists?

How to spot a Solomonar

Don’t believe it yet? Search for them around you and you will spot them by the tome they hold in one hand. Not an ordinary book, but an extension of their knowledge; and not tattered for use, but for the long use of their skill. And by the staff they carry in the other hand. Not an ordinary staff, but a scepter to tame the weather with, and not to show off their powers. Also a cane to lean on, as well as a club to fight beasts with-such as snakes. And, hidden around their neck, hangs a wooden plate, a toaca. Considered the voice of angels and the song of wood, toaca is played with wooden hammers as a prayer to a higher spiritual power.

toaca lemn Christian Orthodox
Toaca, whose song in wood is like the voice of angels in the Christian Orthodox tradition, is struck with wooden hammers in a rhythmic motion as a prayer to a higher spiritual power.

“With toaca I’ll halt you,
Cursed cloud, you,
Over mountains chase you!
But if blessed art thou,
Over village you shall bough.”

(Old Romanian verse, translated by Patricia Furstenberg)

Solomonars deal with forces of nature, unseen and immaterial, so they can’t be bothered with the concrete. They don’t mind their appearance, so don’t search for opulence. A white cloak secured with a birch-tree girdle. And seven vests that they keep on even during hot summers. A woolly hat, or a brimmed one, by the custom of the realm they hail from.

A story with Solomonars…

We ask for rain to come down, but only when it’s needed. And we ask for rain that’s right, and that when it rains, it does not pour… for then, when rain falls like a curtain, that’s when a dragon most probably has fallen from the sky… and when it hails, that’s when two dragons chase through the clouds, swirling past one another and causing such havoc, and such icy blasts, that all raindrops freeze.

What is there to do? For hay can only be made when the sun shines. And crops won’t sprout without blessed rain. Who can tame the weather, but a Solomonar?

So, after long debates, the villagers secretly call him. And he arrives straightaway, as if he knew he was needed. The wise men of the village nod they beards, standing together; the women cross themselves from behind door frames and pull their children into their skirts. Word goes that a Solomonar could steal one, keep him for seven years, and make him his apprentice. And none wish for such an eerie lifestyle.

But the man in the white cloak, the man whose age none can read, asked only for some milk and a few eggs as he strode to the edge of the village, to the lake. None dared follow, yet some stooped behind trees, watching. Blood curled in their veins, eyes sore from squinting. They think they saw him opening his book.
Can’t be all bad if he reads from a book?
And as he read, as the words left his lips and stretched towards the sky – ‘surely not sucked into the ground?‘ – the lake began to freeze. Some said they saw the ice creeping forward from his feet. Some said it started at the center and reached towards him, moaning and screeching like a demon of the night. But they all agreed that when the lake froze over, in the middle of summer, the man in the white cloak strode along it. With ease, with the same surety he showed striding on the road crossing their village. As if the soles of his boots were in perfect agreement with the ice on the lake. And then, after he reached the center of the frozen lake – and here the stories diverged again. Some said he pulled an axe from his belt, while others said he clenched both hands on his mighty staff. Yet they both agreed that while doing so, he was chanting:
What? What?!’
They couldn’t hear…
Oh, blast! And then?‘ Curiosity over-powering fear. And then, through the ice hole – and everyone agreed again – a mighty beast emerged from the lake. A dragon, a balaur! With a mighty tail and a sinuous body. And as soon as the beast emerged from his underworld the Solomonar, as fast as a thought, harnessed and saddled the creature, jumped on and together they reached the domes of the sky. The ice covering the lake following them.
And then? What else?‘ And then it rained. For we asked for rain.

And he was gone, the man in the white cloak, having had a mug of milk, and taking with him only a piece of cheese and boiled eggs, as many as he could fit in his shoulder bag. Few said, red in the face, that they engaged him in some banter. The few who knew better, cared not. The Solomonar was too far up the road, nearing the belt of trees, following the call of the wind. Alone.

If someone disappeared from the village afterwards, it was by their own will. And, again, the few who knew kept their mouths shut-the Solomonar out of sight already. And the crowd who did open up their ears? Why, that’s where I got part of my story from!

Bâlea Lake

“A Solomonar passed,
Mighty dragon in grip,
He struck his whip,
He straddled his beast,
They twisted and spun,
Till the rain began.”

(Old Romanian verse, translated by Patricia Furstenberg)

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Dreamy Blues, Authentic 1885 Tulcea House by the Black Sea

Window shutters painted in dreamy blues adorn an authentic house from 1885 Tulcea, a Romanian county spreading between Danube and the Black Sea.

Window shutters painted in dreamy blues adorn an authentic house from 1885 Tulcea, that dips its shores in both the Danube and the Black Sea. You can visit it now, on my blog, or at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.

We have a Romanian saying, Omul sfinţeşte locul, in English it carries the same meaning as “a good farmer makes a good farm.”

I spotted the bright blue shutters from afar. I quickened my step. I wanted to know who lived in a house with such cheerful windows, and such treasures painted on its doors. Who were they? What was their story?

blue double panel window

They say that one should never start work, or a journey, on a Tuesday for it won’t end well. The year 1654 started on a Tuesday, and it is the year when the great Russian Patriarch Nikon decided to re-examine the church books, for “the Greeks should be followed rather than our own ancients.” The schism that followed affected many during the following century, but especially (as always) the masses. Those who sicked to their old believes, the starovery, were forced to pay higher taxes, wear special clothing that will make them stand out… if not burned at the stake.

I have to pause and draw a parallel between the choice the starovery from the Tsardom of Russia were forced to make in the 17th century and the Romanian population of Transylvania who was forced by Hungarian authorities, during 15th – 16th centuries, to convert to Calvinism, “the true faith.”

Thus, the starovery migrated. Some reached as far as Alaska, others loved the serene land around the Danube and, being fishermen by skill and having the sea in their blood, settled in Dobruja, Dobrogea, at the beginning of the 18th century. Today they are known as Lipovans, or Flipovans(after their leader’s name).

Bright blues and wavy eaves in a house of a family of lipoveni from Tulcea

The Lipovans brought along their personal style, the men wearing long beards, the women dressed in bright reds, greens and blues, like the feathers of the birds, and the spring shoots, and the ripples of the rivers.

Do you see the thatched roof? The way it extends low over the narrow porch? They are distinctive architectural features, as are the wavy eaves:

The house, built as a home in 1885, came to the Village Museum (piece by piece and reassembled here) from the Jurilovca village, siting at the mouth of Razelm Lake – a freshwater lagoon on the shores of the Black Sea in Tulcea County, Romania.

The Lipovans who lived here painted the tree of life, “as in Heaven, so on earth“, on their door:

blue painted door Village Museum. the tree of life, "as in Heaven, so on earth"
The tree of life, “as in Heaven, so on earth

Originally painted in 1885, perhaps as a blessing on the threshhold of their new life, in a new land, and a new home:

dark teal painted door, Village Museum Bucharest
The Tree of Life in front of a full moon painted on a dark teal door, Village Museum Bucharest

And because it meant so much to them, the Lipovans painted it again. I like the wavy movement of the greenery depicted above and how the flowers appear to sway in the breeze.

A door with a painting in shades of green and a dark teal door frame, Village Museum
The Tree of Life again, against a happy background, a new life in Romania, a better life.

It is a cheerful house, and I hope the Lipovans led a happy life in their new home in Tulcea County, Dobruja, by the Black Sea.

thursday doors, 100 words story

For Dan Antion’s exciting Thursday Doors and for Jude’s Life in Colour Photo Challenge 2021 – weekly challenges.

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A House with Blue-Framed Windows from Transylvania

A House with Blue-Framed Windows from Transylvania belonging to the free country people, the jeleri of 19th century. A page of history.

A charming tiny farm house with blue-framed windows from the village Dumitra, Alba County, Transylvania, Romania, for Jude’s Life in Colour Photo Challenge 2021 🙂

blue framed window country house Romania Dumitra,Transylvania
A House with Blue-Framed Windows from Transylvania. The low fence, of weaved twigs straightened with clay, is typical for this lifestyle. The roof is made of sheaf of wheat.

This charming farm house was built at the beginning of the 19th century and transported to the Village Museum of Bucharest from Dumitra village, Alba County – approximately 360 km away – in 1957.

It is such a small house, only a porch and a room for everyday life, with an oven covered in Terra-cotta tiles that was used for cooking and for keeping warm during winter.

blue-framed-window-country-house-Romania2 Dumitra, Alba, Transilvania
Blue-framed window of a country house from Romania, Dumitra village, Alba County, Transylvania. The blue used here is unusual for this area.

I like this little house very much because it teaches about the life of the free peasants, the jeleri of Transylvania, those who had a bit of land to call their own and that gave them the feeling of leading a decent, free life.

blue framed window house Romania Dumitra
Framed in blue paint, although we are in the middle of the Transylvanian plateau. Perhaps as a nod towards the Tarnava Rivers springing nearby… not Danube, nor the sea…

A small house was enough, with a low fence, and a small gate at the front. A simple life, but a free one. They would have had a vegetable garden, and the bulk of work – mostly wheat farming – would have been done for a rich feudal noble.

blue framed window country house Romania Dumitra

Let’s take a peek inside. See the dish painted with blue motifs on a pristine white table cloth? On the far wall, woven carpets in white, blue and red.

I hope that, whoever lived here, led a happy, peaceful life.

More blue, and more houses, as well as doors coming your way soon.

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