Romania - Me and the family went to Romania recently for a road trip. This is a country that makes you realise just how diverse the European Union is. A bit like Azerbaijan being in the Eurovision song contest one can't help feeling that it's a bit of a stretch. I mean, why not Chad as well? Or the Dominican Republic? Anyway, we had a little bit of trepidation at first, after all this a country famous for, in no particular order:
Mistreating Orphans horribly
The worst recent dictator this side of Pol Pot
Gangsters, corruption and criminal Gypsy gangs
The worst drivers in the Western Hemisphere
As it turned out the Romanians are very friendly, hospitable and everyone under the age of 30 speaks English. They do have some shocking drivers though. Never mind people overtaking on blind corners, this is a place where you'd often have people overtaking the people who were overtaking on the blind bends. This might date from the fairly recent time when one bought a license rather than going through the rigmarole of lessons, etc. The poverty was startling at times but at no time did we feel unsafe on the streets apart from the occasional threat from packs of stray dogs. (Top Tip: they are generally OK but be very careful not to wake them if they are asleep).
Of course, being in the church business I had to drag the wife and kids into a few places of worship. This church here is in the Northern village of Vishki, a place where Prince Charles, no less, has 'property'. He has been quoted as saying he would like 'ordinary people' to live a life similar to that of the Vishkians. Having seen the unpaved roads of mud, the pigs chasing the children with the running sores away from the street water pump (indoor taps are a luxury here) and other mutilated animals lurching about I'm not sure what this tells us about our future King.
I loved the church. It is possibly my favourite ever in terms of atmosphere and fittings. Approximately 700 years old it used to be the 'German' church from when the area was mostly German speaking. (One comes across memorials to the thousands of ethnic Germans who were shipped off by the Russians to be killed by lack of food and overwork. Tit for Tat I suppose.) Note the Gallery benching arrangement where you a) Have to be small to fit and b) have to be careful not to tip over the balcony onto the floor below
The old lady who was caretaker at Vishki Church said we were welcome to climb to the top. Health and Safety wise I am not sure it would make the cut over here. There were loose ladders, missing sections of floor to fall through and wobbly or no existent railings. The children liked it, my wife had kittens and the views from the top were fantastic.
Note: Readers will be able to meet Laurence Skilling to chat about Romania, Prince Charles, Health & Safety, burning pianos and buying church antiques on Chancellors stand at this year's Salvo Fair at Knebworth on 24 - 26 June
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Antique Church Furnishings
Chancellors: Start of the Romanian postings
Chancellors: Antique Church Furnishings
Story Type: Feature