Slow cycling through a country stuck in a time warp

“Our rest for the night was in a home converted into a luxurious guesthouse by its Italian owner in the neighbouring village of Copsa Mare. Three old women sat on the main street outside overseeing coming and goings and admiring the newly paved pavement, but wondering if it would actually last a winter when temperatures plummeted to -30C. No cars drove down the road, just an occasional horse and cart. The only sound was that of people chatting and laughing on their doorsteps and swallows chirping overhead. 

In the evening – after a dinner of smoked aubergines, soup, fried pork and divine chocolate cake – we hitched a lift to the top of the rolling hills outside the village with views over to the Carpathian Mountains. At the summit we stopped at the dilapidated shack of a Hungarian-speaking shepherd who spent summers looking after his flock with a ragged but fierce array of sheep dogs and a menagerie of puppies, pigs and cats. He offered us some cheese he’d made that day and talked about the bears and wolves that inhabited the area. “I’m not worried about wolves taking my sheep. As long as the bears are around, wolves aren’t a problem.” ….

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