Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Romania: The Cottage in the Forest on the Mountain

Living up the mountains...

When I walk outside at night there is a very real chance of walking into a bear that has come to raid the apple trees. When I go to bed at night I bolt the door, for although it is extremely unlikely, there is still a tiny possibility that hungry wolves may push open the door and come slinking in to my bedroom in the dark. I am living in a place of childhood dreams, I am in the cottage in the forest where stories happen, adventures take place and archetypes take form.

By the cottage is the well, here I draw my water. The old barn is close by too. The setting is complete. The children's stories of forests and bears, wolves and old cottages contain for me a feeling of power, and although they are written of things no longer experienced in England and elsewhere they inspire emotions that are real and can shape our internal world. The reality may have faded in a lot of the west but the collective memory hasn't. Well here in Transylvania I felt that energy, that power, nothing has faded, it is alive, well, and at night at least a little scary! Having a large staff when walking in the forest, and having a fire lit in the evening both feel reassuring. Again these both seem to have symbolic relevance too, they contain meaning within stories. Something inside me must also remember that fire can bring safety.

So here I feel like I am in a place of power, something stripped from England where we took away the danger and the power left too. To me it feels as if when you take away the wolves, the bears and the forest, with it goes the air, the beauty and the strength. We have tamed nature in the UK and we are left with just that - tame nature. England at best becomes pretty much just one big garden, especially in comparison with here.

Interestingly, when the two women who own the place moved here they hadn't considered their safety with regards to living in a forest, but security soon arrived in the form of three wild dogs who they took in and who now protect them. It would seem that the wild can also protect.

So the place where I am at is called Forest Garden Sanctuary, it is the beginnings of a permaculture garden and a sustainable home in creation, and I am volunteering here. Arriving here was most amazing, it is up in the mountains and there is forest all around. It is several kilometers away from the nearest village. The air smells amazingly fresh, there are mature trees all around, and nature thrives. On a warm day walking along a path many lizards will be scurrying to get out of the way and at night you can hear animals moving around. Although it is late in the season there are many flowers growing in the meadow, and I have seen more different plants growing naturally here than I have seen anywhere before.

At the moment the two women who hold the vision of this place and have been working hard (sometimes in challenging conditions) to create it are focusing on sorting out accommodation, water and sustainable power, and although they have a small garden growing food they are leaving food production on a slightly larger scale until these priorities are dealt with. Jobs I did here this time involved a bit of landscaping including creating car parking space, helping a bit with firewood, cooking, and painting (with homemade organic paints). I will be returning here in a few weeks to help out some more, and I am thoroughly looking forward to it.

P.S. Sorry for the long time without posts, but I have been somewhat preoccupied with finishing uni, recovering from finishing uni, and enjoying my time in Romania. However more posts will come soon. Meanwhile here are a few more pictures from the Forest Garden...

A local lizard...
On the way to the main house...
Sophie and I near the main house...
Sophie and I outside the cottage...
The wood shed...
A veiw of the forest...
A neighboring hut and more forest...
A strange yet interesting plant...
Apples, 100% bearless...
Sophie and two of the dogs near the main house...
Inside the main house...
A veiw of the cottage from the back of the main house...


  1. Photos are amazing - great to hear how things are going. How's your acquisition of language going? xxx

  2. Thanks, Sophie's Dad lent us his camera and it takes very nice photos. Ummm the acquisition of language is going nem jól, err, 'not well'. I guess I am still recoving from so much learning at uni and so just wish to be lazy in my spare time instead. Still I learn some slowly. How's England?x

  3. Hello, Mark!
    The strange, interesting plant's latin name is Carlina acaulis, hungarian name: bábakalács, it means: fairy's cake, it's a protected plant.
    I wish you nice days!

  4. Wow Eszter, thanks for that!

    That is really good to know! It is a shame it is a protected plant, because apparently it is edible (, as I have just found out from you supplying the latin name!

    By the way, which Eszter are you? Sophie's Aunt or friend?

    Best wishes,

  5. Szia, Mark!
    I am the oldest one.
    Aunt Eszter

  6. Szia! :)

    Well that's great, maybe you might recognise other plants when I am stuck and can't figure one out when I am researching the plants in that area! And your country has such richness when it comes plants and animals (or maybe I just got used to the ones in the UK)

    Hmmm, but must finish this new blog with more pictures from my time in Romania, its taken me ages!



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