Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Lunch with the shepherds

Yesterday I rented a bike for a ride up the Iza Valley, which more or less follows the border between Romania and Ukraine. The ride was a bit of a let-down - the bike seat resembled a medieval torture instrument, and the standard of driving makes Northland look civilised - but I had a great experience on the way back when I hit a traffic jam on the highway into Sighetu Maramatiei. It turned out the traffic jam was caused by a flock of sheep. I followed the shepherds for a few kilometres, having strange scrambled conversations in a mish-mash of languages while they offered me swigs from a bottle of tuica (the local firewater made from plums). When they reached their pastures they shared their lunch with me and demonstrated their shepherds' bugle, which they seem to use to rouse the dogs. It certainly did that. A lovely bunch of fellows. They graze their sheep in the hills along the border, mostly for milk and cheese but also for wool.

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