Houses in nearby villages are simpler in style, with wooden or metal doors often the only parts decorated. Roman and Turkish influences can be imagined. On day 1 we stopped in Ciclova Romana and Manuela went to collect sheep’s cheese from behind such a door. It was as if we’ve stepped back in time: green grass transported by horse drawn cart, hens pecking about, a cock crowing and the smell of mown hay and dung. When I went to primary school in the early 60s we passed a field with the last working horse; all farms had tractors by then. We hardly saw farm machinery in this part of Romania. Ten yards after the village of Ciclova Romana ends Ciclova Montana begins. We stayed there in a village house, within walking distance of forests, meadows and the Cheile Nerei National Park. We tried local produce and experienced other aspects of village life, e.g. as we ate our first meal we heard bells from cows being driven home for milking. One day the water pump broke and we brought in water from the well in the garden and used the toilet there (which may have emptied into the river which rushed past).
Haymaking was happening everywhere we travelled across Transylvania in Romania, from the outskirts of the city of Timisoara to the heart of the Apuseni Mountains, a few days before midsummer in June 2011. Wooden carts pulled by glossy chestnut brown horses trundled along the roads, laden with loose piles of fresh green hay. From first light to dusk, groups of two or three people laboured in the small rectangular fields, using wooden forks and rakes to turn and gather in the hay, tossing it up into conical stacks built around a central wooden support. This might be a sturdy forked branch stuck upright in the soil, a tripod or four-legged frame, or a post with several cross-bars nailed together, the top invariably poking out above the haystack like a short mast.
The objective of the Nature Exchange visit to eastern Slovakia was to provide opportunities for those who are involved in training in Scotland to exchange experience and best practice of nature conservation through the framework of the ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ programme of the European Commission.