Cities / Towns Visited: 65
Countries Visited: 19
Steps Taken Today: 22,100
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,251,795
Our day would be another spent within the loose vicinity of the city of Brașov, and with the weather being sunny and it already being in our plans, we decided to use the cool of the morning air to go on a hike out to Solomon’s Rocks. Thus with breakfast in out bellies, walking shoes on our feet, and a good slathering of sunscreen on our skin we headed out. Now, to be fair Google can actually locate the rocks on the map, it just seemingly has no idea how to get you there in real life. Their system is generally pretty good at road directions, although it does not always seem to know which direction you can go down one way streets legally, however it is most certainly not adept at walking paths, and even less so at walking paths in the far reaches of Eastern Europe. Regardless, we did eventually make it to the base of the hiking trail, albeit with a good measure of confusion and general wandering down the road hoping we’d find it soon.
As we walked into the nation park at the start of the trail, we passed through an area filled with picnic tables and camp fire pits equipped with wire grills. With locals using the beautiful weather as an excuse to do a little barbecuing, we were met with the tantalising smell of grilling meats and gentle smoke. Once we had passed through the gauntlet of delicious aromas, we finally reached the base of the trail, and beside it, flowing out from amongst the lush green foliage, was a cascading waterfall pouring down onto the rocks below, and running of in a stream.
From here we trekked up the steepest part of the path until we passed between two towering slopes of rock, and reached a more open section, with the creek that fed the aforementioned waterfall running lazily down one side. The space was dotted with some of the most scenically placed picnic tables I’ve ever laid eyes on. It was almost as though they has been accidentally dropped there. There was even one sitting on a tiny spit of land while the two halves of the creek passed on either side, as though parting just for it. Springing up amongst the lush green grass was a smattering of wild flowers.
After a little wandering to place ourselves on the exact GPS location of the rocks we would soon discover, despite there being no signs, that they were the two sloped ones we had passed between before. A couple of blogs ago I promised I would share with you the story of Solomon, so here goes. Legend has it, that King Solomon was cursed by his mother for killing his brother. The curse was made so that he would die the first time he was recognised by a commoner. On his way to go into hiding as a hermit in the very mountains we now stood amongst, he came across a farmer who recognised his identity. At that moment, a lightning bolt tore the rocks and ground asunder and Solomon fell into the crevasse to his death, along with his horse. However, before this chance meeting and the fulfillment of the curse, he had cleverly hidden his crown close to a tree in the forest. In 1901 it was reported that a villager went into the forest to collect wood and found the crown sitting atop a tree. This is why the towns coat of arms is a crown resting on a bare rooted tree stump. The relic is now stored in the Black Church in the old town centre. How much of that story is true will never be known, but there was definitely a King Solomon, there is most certainly a crown, and it in no way just fell on the ground in a forest of its own accord.
Realising that the walk took much less time than we had anticipated, and given the amount of effort it took to find this place, we decided to continue walking in the national park for a while, as the track continued into the forest. As we walk onwards, we came to another rock face, except this one had two rectangular doorways and a hallway between them carved into it; and outside a lonely stone cross. Perhaps Solomon had been a hermit here, or perhaps this was built for any number of other reasons; regardless of its purpose, it added greatly to the tale surrounding the area.
Into the forest we wandered, meandering down the winding paths, dancing in the dappled sunlight filtering down through the canopy of bright emerald foliage above us, and listening to the joyful babble of the stream trickling over the rocks. It was a welcome and soul reviving change from the hubbub of tourist filled streets; with nought but a few stray cyclists and dog walkers to remind us that we hadn’t, in fact, slipped into an alternate dimension where we were the only people left. As a self professed introvert, I will admit that I struggle with the constant daily social requirement of talking to strangers and spending every waking moment with my partner, whom I love dearly, on this trip. As any introverts reading this will understand, we need alone time to recharge our social batteries; to quiet our minds; to relax. Thus although it may have seemed odd, the silent walk we shared hand-in-hand in the woods calmed me, it revived me, if only a fraction.
Eventually we turned around and headed back down, stopping by the base of that first waterfall to eat the lunch we had packed ourselves. From here we made the somewhat less pleasant journey to town once more, in the blistering heat of the midday sun. My mind was only drawn away from the constant trickle of sweat running down my back by the sound of howling coming from some distance into the forest across the road. It warmed my heart to hear the sound of what I can only imagine was either a wolf, or a lost dog which has perfected the art of howling in the exact tone of a wolf. My spirit animal called, and with my energy revived I finished the long trek back.
We had but one more stop left on our days plans; the First Romanian School. However, as we arrived beside the small white building we were disheartened to find the doors locked. With no note explaining why it was closed today, and with our visit being well within their normal opening times we decided to wait a short while, as we had an inkling it was probably a one man show running the tiny museum, and he’d probably just stepped out for lunch. With this in mind we took a second to wander around the exterior of the pretty little church beside the school; St Nicholas.
Before too long, our suspicions were confirmed and a little old man returned, opening the school and letting us in. The building, like I mentioned, is small, and is only made up of two rooms and a hallway on both of its two floors. However, there is still plenty of history crammed within its cosy walls. This quaint little slice of the past was the first school in what is now modern day Romania, and was built in 1495. It was also the first school to teach the Romanian language, although that didn’t begin until 1583. As with most schools at the time, it was mainly used to educate the clergy, as they were often the only literate people besides the aristocracy. Later on, though, villages from far and wide in the country would send one student to learn here, before coming back to teach in the village.
The little old man was to be our guide, and he tried his best to convey the history to us in somewhat broken English; something he apologised for profusely. I assured him it was fine as I stood in awe of the fact that he knew five other languages aside from my own. The first room we were shown was decked out like an old school room, with individual wooden desks at which students would have sat eagerly with ink pot and quill at the ready to receive the days lessons.
The other three rooms were filled with a large collection of rare books, both those used in the school, and others from across the country. They include the first Romanian Bible, which is printed on goats skin and is bound with an intricately carved metal cover depicting biblical scenes and weighing a whopping seven kilos; as well as the first Romanian letter written using the Latin alphabet, as it had previously been only Cyrillic used here. There was also a number of old handwritten sheet music from centuries past. On the walls hang the centuries old portraits of former teachers, headmasters, and scholars of the school, and sitting unassumingly in the corner of one of the rooms sits the oldest printing press in Romania from the 1500’s. It only printed 39 books during its use, but considering the fact that it took twenty men and eight translators months to complete just one book, it seems less unwarranted. It is made doubly as impressive when you get closer and realise that the printing block is not a collection of small metal letter blocks in a frame as with most presses, but instead it is a single piece of wood with the words to be printed carved into it. I can’t even begin to imagine the reaction should the carver make a spelling error or forget to inverse a letter on something so delicate and time consuming. By the time we left, we had seen countless rare and one of a kind books, and had a greater appreciation for what this school had meant to the country.
With some time to spare we decided that we would take a moment to step inside St Nicholas Church before our journey home. Although you cannot take photographs inside, it will take some time before I forget the beauty of its interior. Whereas the Black Church in the town centre has crisp white walls, there is not an inch on the walls or ceiling of this house of God which is not covered with richly colourful hand painted biblical iconography and Ottoman style patterns. This, coupled with the offset of tasteful gilding and shining golden chandeliers, made for a luxurious feel to such a small church. Even the floors are strewn with a selection of equally as colourful Persian rugs. Although ornate it sings the appearance of a truly functioning local church, and place of peace to the faithful locals, as opposed to a trumped up site designed to amuse and educate the common tourist.
Our day of sightseeing may have been over but our social obligations were not. My brother and his friend had kindly offered to return the favour of a home cooked meal (provided we brought dessert and drinks), and before too long we were walking in the door of their Airbnb just as my borther’s roast veal and vegetables was being placed down on the table. Another evening was spent eating, drinking, and being merry, as we recounted the tales of our day, and they talked about their plans for the next week or so. If we were lucky we might just happen to run into them again in Sighișoara in about a week. At this point I will say that it looked like we we may miss them by a day or two, but as fate would have it the very next day my brother’s laptop would break and they would be forced to stay in Brașov for a couple of extra days to sort out a replacement, thus although we would not catch up again during our duel stay in Brașov, you will hear about what we got up to in Sighișoara in a few blogs time, and let me tell you it’s a cracker of a story.
As I finally lay down to sleep after a rather lengthy late night and slightly intoxicated walk home from theirs, I allowed my mind to wander and I thought, once more, about the effects this trip is having on me as an introvert with social anxiety. As helpful and constructive as going outside of your comfort zone is, in this instance at least, it is equally as tiring. As much as I am enjoying seeing the world and all of the wonderful people who reside in it, I also sometimes find myself longing for the quiet solitude of my apartment on a Sunday morning, when my partner has gone to work, and I can rise at my leisure, sit on the balcony with a cup of tea and let my mind drift off on whichever wild tangent of thought it desires, with no distraction or interruption. To be able to escape from the hustle and bustle of the world into my own sanctuary, even if only for a day. I miss being able to sit silently, with no obligation to talk; I miss having even a blip of quiet time to recharge. This trip has and is teaching me a lot of things, both about the world and about myself. It is challenging me, sometimes inescapably, to enter into social interactions I would otherwise avoid, and as important as these lessons are, I, at times, find myself weary in a world which seems to fail to understand that it is perfectly okay not to fill the silence. To all of my fellow introverts, and anxiety sufferers out there, may I simply say … nothing.