Chapter 9: The Only Whacking These Monks Are Allowed to Do

A stork nest in the town of Joseni
Wednesday the 18th was mostly a travel day, with a few sightseeing stops along the way. We headed northeast out of Sighisoara up into the Carpathian mountains, passing through many small towns. Along the way, we saw several places where storks had built their nests on chimney tops or utility poles.

Three storkettes waiting for chow time

Although the weather had been quite comfortable for the past several days, we nonetheless took every opportunity to fill our water bottles, and there was no shortage of mountain springs available. At one we stopped at a couple of guys in a van were filling up huge plastic barrels from the spring. Turns out they were from a small beer brewery, and the spring was the source of their water for the beer.

It's in the water...that's why it's yellow.
The beermakers wait their turn for spring water.

We headed up further in the mountains, aiming for Moldavia, and passed through some spectacular mountain scenery around the Bucin mountain pass and emerged at Lacu Rosu ("Red Lake"). The lake was formed in 1838 by a landslide, which dammed the Bicaz River, and eventually flooded the valley. A little up the road, near the town of Bicaz, was the much larger Lacul Izvorul Muntelui ("Mountain Spring Lake").

The Bucin pass

Lacu Rosu

Lacul Izvorul Muntelui

Late in the day, we made it to Moldavia, and stopped at Neamt Monastery, the first of a seemingly never-ending string of monasteries we would visit in the next few days. Neamt was originally built way back in the 12th century, and is Romania's largest. Today, they generate revenue by printing religious texts.

Neamt Monastery

The monks in Romanian monasteries have an interesting way of signaling the call to prayers. Instead of ringing the church bells or something, they whack on a board. A monk carries a long, slender piece of wood, about 2.5 meters long, around the monastery grounds, and beats a rhythmic pattern on it with a small mallet. There is also frequently a much larger piece of wood--about the size of a railroad tie--permanently mounted in a tower or on the grounds that is sometimes used.

A prayer call board and mallet
WAV files of Romanian prayer calls:

The sound of the small board

The sound of the large board

The Casa Arcasului hotel

We drove on into the town of Targu Neamt ("German Market Town"), and got a surprise: no fold-out sofa beds for us tonight, we were staying in a real hotel, the Casa Arcasului, the first actual hotel we'd stayed at since we'd been in Romania.

It was a nice enough place, nothing fancy, but livable...almost. The room that Radu and Lucy were in had mold on the walls, and Lucy caught a mild respiratory infection from breathing it. Indeed, the whole hotel seemed to have a problem with dampness; the towels in our room weren't quite dry.

The shower in our room was a tad tricky. Like most European showers, the shower head was not fixed to the wall, but rather a handheld nozzle. After a lifetime of fixed shower heads, I find these things a little hard to get used to. But there was also one more kink: the shower stall consisted of the entire bathroom. The walls and floor were tiled, and there was a drain in the floor. That makes for lots of room to move around (and the possibilities for group shower fun just boggle the mind...), but you have to be careful where you aim the shower head, or you wind up (as I did) soaking the towels, the toilet paper, everything.


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