Viscri village

by admin on 20/06/2012

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We arrived at Viscri from Brasov in the afternoon, having passed a potholed street lined with meadows, occasional deciduous trees, lots of flowers and distant hills. Then, suddenly, houses started appearing on each side of the road until we arrived at a crossroads. There, in front of us, was a creek surrounded by wide, grassy verges. Then, a wide gravel road followed by a grassy stretch with occasional fruit trees and benches and then a narrow sidewalk followed by a row of houses as far as the eye could see. On the other side of the creek, followed by a grassy stretch, there was also a narrow sidewalk followed by a row of houses. When later it started raining in a village with a similar layout, I soon found out that the sidewalks were excellent pathways while the puddles and mud on the gravel road were best to avoid.

It doesn’t take long to discover that Viscri is very different from most villages having chickens, geese and ducks walking freely around as they please! In the courtyards, it’s common to see hens pecking, while turkeys and guinea fowl do whatever they want.

Just walking along the main street of Viscri, it’s impossible not to notice lots of horse-drawn carts passing back and forth, some carts empty apart from the driver, while others may be fully loaded with beehives, milk containers, hay, and so on.

Next day at sunrise, sounds of domestic animals and people crying could clearly be heard. This was the daily morning ritual when the cows and goats, after having been milked by hand, walk out from the courtyards in order to join the cowherds who bring the animals to some pasture nearby. The same procedure was repeated in the evening in reverse with the animals returning to the village and finding their way home where they would be met by their owners.

Being surrounded by nutritious meadows, it’s only natural that sheep from Viscri spend the time from spring to autumn outside. We went by a horse-drawn cart early in the morning passing a large flock of sheep being guarded by a shepherd. Going by horse-drawn cart entails feeling all bumps along the road, squeaking from the cart and encouraging calls from the driver to the horse, while passing a beautiful landscape consisting of rolling hills and some deciduous trees. The hills were covered with high grasses and lots of flowers.

The sheepfold we arrived at consisted of a primitive hut for making cheese and preparing meals, and a short distance away, a large enclosure partly full of sheep, and an adjacent enclosure almost filled to breaking point with sheep and bordering a shed with two holes large enough for a sheep to pass through. Having closed the entrance to the small enclosure, the sheep had to exit via the holes in the shed where 5 men were waiting for them. Each time a sheep entered the shed, one of the men would grab it by the tail, pull it back and milk it. This operation lasts only a short time, maybe less than a minute, then another sheep is milked. Being a very hot day, the sheep waiting to be milked were breathing heavily making a continuous sound. When all the sheep had been milked, the milk was brought to the primitive hut and poured into a wooden container. Rennet was added to the milk in order to separate the whey from the cheese mass.

After having had lunch consisting of polenta and pork, one of the shepherds separated the cheese mass from the whey just by stirring the milk with his arms. After some time, he was able to feel that the cheese mass was being separated from the whey. He then brought a porous cloth into the container, somehow put the cloth around the cheese mass and lifted it up into another container with a sink such that the whey could escape.

Having compressed the cheese mass to his satisfaction, he tied the cloth tightly around the cheese and hung it up such that the whey could go on dripping down.

We didn’t stay to see how they treated the whey, but having watched cheesemaking several times, it seems like every cheesemaker prefer their own way of making it, even though they want to obtain the same, that is extracting the remaining cheese mass from the whey.

It may seem like milking sheep for hours in a place with no running water, then putting one’s arm into the cheese mass would  create perfect conditions for dangerous germs in the cheese. However, having tasted cheese made in more or less the same way at several places without getting sick,  these guys somehow know how to make cheese safe for consumption although their cheesemaking is distant indeed from the way the cheese most consumers are eating is made.

Going back to Viscri by the same horse-drawn cart, the driver stopped on a meadow with tall grass, brought out his scythe and started scything. After about a minute, he had cut a large amount of grasses and flowers, which he put in the back of the cart as food for the horse.

We left horse and driver at a large trough in the middle of the village where the horse could have a well-deserved drink after having worked hard.

In the evening we visited Gerda Gherghiceanu, in whose courtyard we could watch a bunch of turkey chickens mount a ladder in order to enter their home, a hole in the wall. The mother turkey waited until all her chickens had come home before she flew up the ladder and somehow entered the small hole in the wall in order to be with her chickens. Having passed the guinea fowl, we entered a barn where 3 pigs were kept, of which one of them would probably be slaughtered at Christmas.

Gerda is renowned for her delicious meals, but we visited her in order to see what kinds of jams and juices she made.She told us that she mainly uses fruits and berries from her own garden, while her husband makes wine from their grapes. Some of the berries get picked from her own orchard, while other ones are gathered from the surrounding forests.

She makes the following types of jams:

  • rhubarb
  • wild strawberries
  • blackcurrant
  • plums
  • apricot
  • hiprose
  • syrups:
  • elder
  • rhubarb

and the following juices:

  • apple
  • grape
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