Romanian Grace

The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem

30 November, 2006

another Magura ascent

My latest and greatest ascent of my favorite mountain. Sorry for the length. I need an editor.

I went hiking with a couple of gypsies the other day. I had met them in their community, called Malin, way out on the outskirts of town, of course. I don’t know how it came up, but they both said they could make it to the top of the Magura in one hour, which I thought was a pretty impressive feat. I had made it myself in about an hour one time, but I was running, and I did not think that was their gig. So we arranged a time, 1:30 on Wednesday, and they would meet me in the middle Malin.

“You will bring some meat,” they said. I agreed that I would do so. All of a sudden I was not just their hiking buddy but their pack horse as well. I could see where this was going, but I can seldom pass up an opportunity for a good hike, especially on this beautiful, local mountain.

So. At 1:30 I was in their village, and they were nowhere to be seen. Doamna Mariana, the mother of one of these guys and the village matriarch had apparently been alerted of my arrival and came out to greet me. Not much gets past that lady. I told her I was looking for her son, and she sent this little boy off to find him. A crowd began to gather around me as I stood there with my pack on in a white t-shirt. Everyone else was wearing a jacket, but I had been figuring on staying warm while hiking.

There I stood, catching about every tenth word that Doamna Mariana said. I did not want to seem a total dolt, so I said, “It sure is a beautiful day.” Her son, Claus, showed up (he must be in his thirties or thereabouts) and she yelled at him to change clothes. I have no idea why he needed to change clothes for a hike up the Magura, but I was in no position to question Doamna Mariana. Her son located, she then turned her attention to finding Dan, my other hiking buddy. He was in his house, from whence he soon came out with his three year old son latched onto his leg crying that he, too, wanted to go.

I don’t think either of those guys thought I had any real intentions of actually showing up the day we made the plans. They figured, I guess, that I was just being polite. I think they wanted to back out, but I don’t think Doamna Mariana would have let them. They would have been publicly ridiculed, and perhaps beaten up by her. As we snuck away from Dan’s son, whom Doamna Mariana was distracting for that purpose, I told Dan that I had brought fleica (fatty pork), slanina (smoked pig fat) and ciucas (a popular sort of energy drink in Romania), but that I had forgotten the bread. I think his enthusiasm for the hike improved tremendously when he learned of my provisions. He said he could round up the bread, which he did upon ducking into their local general store, and we began our ascent.

What really amazed me was that, as we went, the only direction they really seemed to agree that we should go was up. I am not convinced that they had been up the mountain in some time, but I tried to keep my mouth shut. They were, after all, gypsies, renowned for being quite savvy in the woods. We passed a couple of folks, a goat herder and a lumberjack, on the way up, and they made sure to tell each of them, “We are hiking up to the top with our friend, FROM AMERICA.

We crested the mountain in a little under an hour, but were still about a half mile from the true summit. I guess they got me on a technicality. In theory, that was the top, but only in the same way as sitting on top of your house qualifies as being on top of the world. But we made it to the top a while later, though Claus contested that where we were was just fine. The actual summit was beautiful.

At that point, I proudly pulled out my camp stove, thinking, “Man, these guys are going to be impressed.” Dan began cutting up the fatty pork and the pork fat, and I demonstrated that he could cook it in the pan I had brought along. And it was doing a pretty good job, I thought, but when Dan finished the first batch, he said to Claus, “Let’s start a fire,” then indicated that I should turn off my stove, that we wouldn’t be needing it anymore. Once we had a decent fire going, Dan emerged from the woods with three green branches he had shaved down into points on the end, cut some slanina and slid it onto the stick, followed by a chunk of fleica. Then it was rotisserie over the coals. The outside blackened and liquid fat dripped out and burst into flame. Dan pointed the stick toward me and motioned for me to try it. I felt like a caveman pulling the hunk of meat off the stick he offered to me. Char clung to my fingers. It was one of the more delightful bites of meat I have tasted.

As if the spits didn’t feel primordial enough, what Dan and Claus did next cinched it. Picking up the remainder of the meat, which was probably a half pound or so, they smoothed the coals out with a stick, then carefully laid the fleica right on top of the coals. They would then pick it up about every two minutes and turn it over, flicking off the coals that had stuck to the underside. In that manner they cooked the remainder of our meat.

We ate until the sun had sunk behind the distant mountains, then scrambled to gather our things so we could make it down before dark. I had thought about bringing a flashlight along, but I did not want them to think I was a wimp, so I left it at home. Turns out they would have thought it was pretty clever to have some light for our descent, which became treacherous only for the last mile or so. I am pretty sure we were not on an actual trail for most of the journey down.

Thus ends my sixth Magura voyage to date. More to follow.


At 4/12/06 20:50, Blogger b. smith wallace said...

Grate Things is now serving sweet potato pancakes and mimosas for Saturday brunch. Nathan and I think the sweet potato pancakes would be an enjoyable meal for you, and we wish you could sail over for the day and eat them with us. --Brandi


Post a Comment

<< Home