When I say Călărași, I imagine green forests, monasteries and carpets. This destination promises to taste the true Moldovan life. Will it keep the promise?
Text: Maria Axenti
Photos: Tanya Obuh
Two bottles of water, plăcinte, plums, covrigi, the guide book, the trip checklist. We are ready for departure. We leave in the morning as Mrs. Tatiana Popa is available only until midday. From time to time, I check the map, to be sure we are on the right way.
Călărași district is famous for Moldovan forests, named in a special way “codri”, for the monasteries lost in the greenery and for traditional villages, so that one can say this region is the cradle of Moldovan culture.
We arrive in Palanca, our first village to visit. On the central road we see a sign showing right to arrive to Casa Părintească. First what we see is a wooden church. One can feel the breath of the just from a sight. The wooden gates, a black carpet with red roses hanging on the fence, another decorated gates say clearly we arrived at the right place.
Casa Părintească (Parent’s House) is a private museum of traditional crafts and objects (http://www.casaparinteasca.com/). Tatiana Popa is the founder and the main driven force not only of the museum, but also of the entire community. I learned about this museum from a magazine years ago when I had no idea that I would be a guide. Last year, in a programme I came across Casa Părintească again (http://www.europalibera.org/a/27253915.html). I was impressed by the talent of these local women that keep the old traditions. Our next destination within the Căruța project was easy to choose.
“Please take your shoes off. This is an old Moldovan tradition, to enter a house without shoes”.
Mrs. Tatiana Popa is very busy. A group of photographers shall come in an hour to take photos of this nest of genuine Moldovan spirit. Nevertheless, in all the rush of preparations, she finds time for us to tell how the things are going at the museum. The wrinkles on her face betray her age, but for sure not the speed and the energy she is moving back and forth from the old house to the courtyard.
When I enter the house, with its blue limed walls, carpets on the walls, I have a well known but forgotten feeling – being at home, at my grandmother’s home. One can stay hours and watch the numerous objects in the big room of the museum: traditional clothing with different ornaments (each region, even each village used to have typical ornaments), a piano, a basket with lavender, masks for New Year processions, every object has a story to tell. We stop in “Casa Mare” – Big House, where the most precious things for dowry are kept. Knitted socks, carpets and blankets, embroidered shirts, all made by local women are exposed for potential buyers.
“We prepare a special meal “sherbushka”, a shepherd soup typical for our region. We also can show different rituals and traditions, as wedding processions. Soon, our open kitchen will be ready, and people will see and participate in the meal preparations”, Mrs. Popa is sharing her plans.
The programme for tourists is almost ready in my head. The back courtyard where some women are cooking for the guests to come is not less impressive. An old carriage, with new kids drawings, a big table are like an oasis of rest and inspiration.
We are invited to stay to see how the local children will welcome the group of photographers. I postpone our next meeting and we fill our time with visiting the old wooden church. It is from 17th century, and restored around 10 years ago and replaced near the museum.
Unfortunately, the guests are late and we cannot stay more. We leave this warm place with a firm decision to come back soon.
Călărași district is also known as a religious region. Four old monasteries are located in the district: Frumoasa, Hârbovăț, Hârjauca and Răciula. The thick forests are perfect for solitary life dedicated to God. Within time, villages with the same name appeared nearby. Hârjauca Monastery is on our way and we enter for a refill with peace and faith. On a bench a man is talking to a monk. Today the monastery has a small territory. In soviet times, as for almost all monasteries, the lands of Hârjauca monastery were nationalised. In 1959, on the monastery land a sanatorium was opened. By the way, the sanatorium is working even today. Just on the right from the entrance, some steps lead to the Museum of the monastery. It is small, only two rooms but the objects there: old books, crosses, priests cloths bring us centuries back.
Our final destination, neighbouring with Răciula monastery is “Casa Mierii” – the House of Honey in the village with the same name – Răciula. Mihai Stegărescu is a beekeeper with 40 years experience, his wife – Tamara is the initiator of the pension and collects traditional objects (today her collection of old traditional towels numbers more than 200 pieces) and their son Constantin is continuing the family business being the guide and administrator.
“Through this beehive made of glass you can see how bees work” says Mihai Stegarescu.
The idea of having a transparent beehive came some years ago and it worked out perfectly. Guests are able to see the honeycombs, the bees and the drones.
Our tour continues in the cellar with perfect conditions (constant temperature and humidity) for honey products built two years under the left wing of the house. Along the years, Stegărescu Family came out with a large variety of products: acacia honey, flower honey, honey wine, balsam, combs, bee-glue, candles, all organic and collected with dedication by the family. And available for sale, of course.
Every meter of the courtyard is valued. Some chairs, some objects lay here and there. We go on the right from the entrance, along the house. We enter a room with long table and the same black carpets with red roses on the wall. Here we taste three types of honey and one type of honey wine. Remembering the lecture in Oxentea and with this tour at the House of Honey we feel like real specialists in honey-making.
At home, I am taking out of my bag two jars of nuts in honey and I smile. Yes, Călărași kept the promise.