Chapter 13: Jeez, I'm Glad We're Nearly Done Here, it's Getting Really Hard to Think Up Any More of These Oh-So-Clever Titles...

Friday, August 20: our last full day in Romania. The plan for the day was to check out some wooden churches around Dej, in northern Transylvania. Also, we'd read of a hand-poled ferry across the Somes River which sounded interesting. But none of this stuff was in cities or even big towns, it was waaaayyy off the beaten track, in little tiny villages that didn't even appear on most maps. Radu was skeptical that one town even existed, but Lucy managed to locate it on an old map she had.

We drove through the Transylvanian countryside, which was mainly farmland. Along the way, we stopped a few times to look at haystacks, which are not simple piles, but elaborately-built structures constructed on a special frame.

Eventually we got to the first town, but didn't see the church. We stopped and asked a woman about it, and she pointed us up a small dirt road in back of her house. Turns out she was one of the caretakers of the place.

She and the two other caretakers led us up to the church, located in a weedy, overgrown field. The church was not in very good shape; the caretakers don't get enough money from the government to properly care for the place, and the national restoration organizations can't keep up with all the historical sites that need help. We were told that this church was probably doomed to crumble into ruins.

The door to the church had a truly bizarre lock on it. It was sort of a wooden combination lock, with the mechanism inside the wall. The key was a wooden cylinder with some protrusions on it, and the lock is opened by inserting the key and then rotating it back and forth in a certain pattern.

The graveyard at the church, with grave markers of both stone...

and wood.

The church caretakers

Up in the bell tower

Then we set off to find the village of Podisu, the location of another wooden church. To get there, we went way off the main road, and across gravel and dirt roads and through cornfields. This church was in considerably better condition, and appeared as though it might still be in use. It was locked up, though, and we couldn't find a caretaker, so we didn't get inside.

The church at Podisu

Not too far away, down at the end of a dirt road that almost wasn't a road at all, we found the ferry across the Somes River to the train stop at Ileanda. This was a simple flat wooden barge anchored to a cable running across the river, and propelled by a single ferryman with a long pole. Although the ferry is designed to carry cars, we thought better of trying to fit both our Dacias on it, and opted for a quick round trip. This ferry is just the everyday transportation for the local people, and I think the ferryman thought we were a little nuts to just want to ride it back and forth for no reason.

Then it was back to the barn, back to where we started, Cluj. We checked back into our familiar apartment, and had another dinner (this one a bit more relaxed) with Doru and his family.


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