Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day

If there are any groundhogs on the Black Sea coast of Romania, low clouds and snow flurries prevented any type of shadow to be seen this morning, so - great news! - spring is right around the corner. None too soon, all this snow is exhausting to walk through. It's pretty, though. Despite the snowfall, I've managed to get a glimpse of the sunrise over the Romanian Black Sea a few times now.

I had a recent come-uppance: humans are not at the top of the food chain here as I thought. A full moon the other night, staying in a remote monastery being built close to the site of historic Istria, a Greek outpost from the 5th century BC and a place visited by St Andrew. I was welcomed by the handful of Romanian Orthodox monk-priests and one elderly nun, but in saving every lei for the church they're building, they forego unnecessary expenses like meat and electricity and running water and heat. The situation for me was pretty grave - my clothes were quite wet from the snow/rain/slush from the day's walk and the temperature was dropping quickly. Without an opportunity to dry my clothes before a fire, they'd freeze within minutes of taking them off. Moreover, my chattering little body would take a long time to warm up the cold wool blankets in the cold bunkroom. I wimpered a bit to the abbot, who took pity and offered up a half bucket of coal for a brazier. When he couldn't get a fire started right away, he doused the whole thing with a liter of kerosene, filling the entire place with thick black smoke. We took refuge outside in the light snowfall. The full moon winked at us through the passing clouds. The whole scene was the picture of tranquility until the howling began. Chakals, I was told, Romanian coyotes that live on the vast treeless steppes along the sea. Once they got to howling from all directions, the multitude of abandoned dogs started their baying. There was a veritable symphony of scary wild noises. Last year, the monks told me, two men were killed by a pack of these chakals in a nearby village. Note to self, don't wander out alone a night. But the outhouse was so far away...

I visited the historic site of ancient Istria, quite expansive and otherwise similar to Khersoness on Crimea. A long walk out on the treeless swamp to get to the archeological digs and new museum (yeah EU funding!). It's closed in winter of course, but I told the caretaker that I'm a pilgrim and he and his three large dogs let me have the run of the place. Very impressive, even covered in snow. If 2,000 years ago the landscape looks like it does today, wild animals notwithstanding, I can imagine St Andrew thinking it's rather inhospitable. Maybe the Greeks planted some trees to spruce the place up.

On a long lonely stretch of lane surrounded by 3-meter tall marsh reeds to get back to the main road, a horsecart filled with many bundles of neatly cut reeds came by and the two fellows offered me a lift for the remaining kilometers. From my nest on the cut reeds, I could see much further to the distant hills and multitude of lakes. Too wet to plow, too dry to drink... no wonder it's a migratory bird paradise.

7 comments:

Sylvia said...

Oh to sit on a cart of reads and ride on to tranquility! Here I sit at my computer druling when I read your blogs!

MermaidLilli said...

The visuals I have from your description are at the same time scary and full of wonderment. How brave you are!! This Florida girl is thinking about the cold you are experiencing and shivering with just the thought of it. Buen Camino, pilgrim!!

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I envy you having unplanned ancient discoveries along your way. I would love to see an ancient archeological find just by walking along the road.

VeraErie

Ukiefriend said...

Anna, phew, so glad you are OK and still with your uncanny sense of humor! I've been out to see my mama in Ohio and no computer there...came home to a "frozen" computer. It's been exhausting to try to fix it. Each time I think it's Ok, it starts acting crazy or dying...I will shoot an email to our friend in Istanbul asap! My creative writing juices were not flowing amidst exasperating email/computer/viruses issues.
So happy you're past the l/2 mark! What a trooper and what a story!
Miss you...hello from our Thursday nite Denver gang!

明白 said...

凡是遇到困擾的問題,不要把它當作可怕的,討厭的,無奈的遭遇,而要把它當作歷練、訓練和幫助。 ..................................................

The Solitary Walker said...

Wonderful post, Winter Pilgrim! So well observed and up-beat. You find the best in people and things. Makes me feel quite a wimp with my own minor discomforts!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see what Bulgaria reveals! Keep on, the toughest part is over...we miss you! Nadja