October 12, 2008

The Peculiar Hats of Jina
Apoldu de Sus, Romania

Stephan's VW lurched left and right as we snaked up the increasingly twisty road. Surrounded by autumn colors, we were bound for the remote town of Jina, up in the mountain foothills of the Transylvanian Alps (southwest of our tiny village of Apoldu de Sus). Our host said he'd been meaning to check out the town for ages, which was apparently home to one of the children he worked with at a boarding school in town.

Driving through progressively smaller townships, we finally arrived at Jina (with an extra person in tow—an elderly hitchhiker picked up a few towns back). I'm sure it goes without saying that few travelers ever make it up to these parts, and getting a chance to see yet another town completely untouched by tourism makes me quite happy.

Uncertain of the child's address, we bounced around the hilly town in the VW, stopping intermittently to ask random folks if they knew the family home—feeling every bit like a pinball in the process. When we finally did discover the house, it turned out the kid was out of town for the weekend!

We spent the remainder of the late afternoon in Jina walking around the sloping streets, interacting with passing adults, curious children, and an assortment of farm animals being lead through town. The skies above this part of Romania are almost busier than the streets, with white crisscrossing contrails from all the air traffic high above.

But for all the things observed this day, the two that stand out the most in my mind would be the local hats, and purchasing a block of cheese.

The Indigenous Hats of Jina

According to a local, these hats are specific to only to this town and worn at anytime (not just on special occasions).

Buying Local Cheese

Stephan had heard they made some pretty good cheese in these parts—some type of variety blended from cow/sheep milk. He casually asked around and eventually were pointed to a brightly painted home with no distinctive markings that would indicate anything was for sale from within.

As our knocks on the large wooden courtyard gate went unanswered, a neighbor popped his head out of his own doorway. Then, a conversation in Romanian, followed by Stephan motioning us to follow him next door.

Rather impressed at the interchange unfolding before me, I watched as Stephan purchased a large block of cheese from the household (weighed with a scale and all). I smiled as I snapped a photo—love those hats.

Comments:

The United States

Matt

December 21st, 2008

So, uh, how was the cheese…? =)

Bulgaria

Craig | travelvice.com

December 21st, 2008

Great — quite tasty. It crumbled when you cut it, was quite salty and a bit tart, and never seemed to melt, even when fried. The big block lasted forever, and was great for sandwiches and pasta.

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