When night fell, along with the rain and the cold, we had a long day behind us.
We had ventured into a wilderness and got so lost that it was a miracle that we had managed, by great good luck more than anything else, to have found our way back to civilisation. And whilst that word ‘civilisation’ might be open to debate, on that night it was so disarmingly simple: survival.
It loomed up before us, like a mirage: a small railway station in the midst of the mountains of central Romania.
Travel: there are times when a single day can seem like an eternity. When you´re amazed that so much can be crammed into such a short period of time: so many experiences….
You reach a point where you just want the day to end but when it finally does, peace of mind seems as elusive as ever as a kaleidoscope of images appears before your mind´s eye like a movie with a beginning but no end…..
I followed the trail up through a pine forest towards a peak, when it began to snow.
The snow became so heavy that I was forced to descend.
Battling wind and cold rain, I came to the outskirts of a village.
On an unsealed road, wet and muddy, I saw water flooding down channels between the houses; the sound filled the air and voices seemed to come from nowhere.
Rounding a bend, I passed a small shop.
Opposite was a blunt looking concrete hall, communist- era heritage. The door was open and the air filled with the sound of men singing. I peered through a window and saw 20, 30 men sitting either side of a long wooden table, tankards of beer in front of them.
They seemed to know the words and tune to the song by heart – they sang in near perfect harmony.
A little later, I was brought to a halt by another kind of singing: a loud clacking and honking.
Spanning the road was a large flock of geese. They were white geese, with orange beaks. They looked elegant in the grey and the rain.
They seemed strangely excited.
There was no one around. No one seemed to be leading them or herding them (herders are a common sight in Romania). But they must have been domesticated geese. Wild geese would never choose a village backstreet to land in.
Had these geese escaped from their compound?
Irresistibly lured outside by the rain and the sound of the swelling waters in the nearby creeks?
I stood there and watched them, engulfed in their music.
I edged around them.
They stayed where they were, in no mood to go anywhere.
Leaving the portal, we entered the monastery grounds.
There was no one about. The silence hung heavy in the air.
An early morning sun glanced over the perimeter wall.
What was once a fortified monastery built in a time of war and inhabited by hundreds of monks was now more like a museum.
There was a wide area of grass on our left, whitened with frost. On our right, there was a church with high turrets. We went over there and circumnavigated it slowly like two children making a new discovery.
In these precious moments of solitude, it was possible to reimagine the past and the generations of monks who had lived and died there over the last 5 centuries.
Then the silence was broken.
The sound echoed in the cold air.
It took us a while to identify where the yelling was coming from: in an alcove next to the wall was an old monk sitting in a chair basking in the early morning sun. Dressed in black, a grey beard and a walking stick. He motioned for us to go over there