A personal account by Stephen Wass, the views expressed in this piece are the authors own and do not represent the views of the team as a whole or any other individual.
Saturday May 26th. An early start. Some of us were collected by the "Claydon Fox" from Cropredy at 5.30 a.m. then two further pick ups in Banbury and Deddington to assemble the full squad: Verna and Stephen Wass, Colin and June Street, Trevor and Vicky Stevens, Steve Priest, David Gunby, Mike Cherry, Dave Moore, Ian Harris, Tim (Squire for the Tour) Laughton and not forgetting, of course, the wonderful Nigel Bennett, for a smooth trip to Heathrow. Once there it was check in, meet Celia Stone. have breakfast - liquid or otherwise - and take a three hour flight to Bucharest. Once there we met the 'In-step' team of step and clog dancers before boarding a coach for the seven hour trip to Medias stopping at the MacDonalds at Brasov for refereshment and arriving at our accommodation: Gas School 1 around 10.00 p.m. local time. We checked in to an old residiential block that belonged to the school. The facilities were basic but free. En masse we then walked down into the centre of town with our minder Gheorghe Neagu and translator Razvan Togan for beers and Transylvanian pizza - the one that contains extra garlic - really, before staggering back to school around 1.00 a.m. for bed.
Dave Moore is clearly excited by the thought of his first Romanian burger.
Sunday May 27th.
The very early morning view from our room looking across town.
We all made breakfast in a rather bleak school canteen at 8.00 the following morning. pale bread, sliced meats and sheeps' cheese washed down with a sweetened fruit tea of some description prepared us for a 10.00 departure by coach to Craciunelu, a dirt tracked village well off the beaten path and an hours drive away despite being just a little North West of Medias.
Off the coach and looking around... and it's hot.
Dave Moore indicating in which direction Adderbury lies.
We arrived just as the populace came out of church - a remarkable sight with the men in a variety of hats and knitted waistcoats and the women in black with traditional embroidered panels lightening the effect a little. After the exchange of a few pleasantries we were invited to walk with everyone up through the village to a cross which was scheduled for blessing. This took some time and involved a wonderful blend of praying, chanting, crossing, incense burning and spraying of holy water. Despite the heat we stood respectfully still and were awarded with a blessing, slices of delicious lemony flavoured flatbread and beakers of strongly flavoured wine of unknown provenance.
The blessing begins but will it do Adderbury any good?
We all then trooped back down to the village hall where we kicked off the tour as it were with Sweet Jenny Jones and Lollipop Man. The In-step team performed a couple then the locals got going for a while and we finished off with a couple of songs before escaping into the fresh air. The hall had been packed and the temperature had soared so we were pleased to be able to walk up a lane to take our places in the yard of a village house for a 'festival' meal.
It was a remarkable occasion for the savouring of the rural location, the tendency of people to get up and dance between courses and the huge amounts of 'prune whiskey', local wine and beer consumed, sometimes simultaneously. Throughout the meal of cheese, tomatoes, stuffed cabbage leaves and cake we were surrounded by livestock. Within poking distance were two horses, one cow, two pigs, two dogs and assorted poultry. The timber constructions surrounding the yard were beautifully medieval as was the wine barrelled root rich cellar and the earth closet which drained via the midden onto the vegetable patch. As the meal drew to an end we played some more music, turn and turn about, with the three piece gypsy band. The whole event wound up around 6.30, to everyone's regret it was time to leave - what an extraordinary afternoon.
Food forgotten, the dancing takes over again.
Monday May 28th. the school is back in session with lessons starting at 7.00 a.m.! We had a little more time after breakfast as we were walking down to the town hall to meet the mayor at 10.00. We were in town as his guests and the civic authorities were bearing all the costs of transporting us round and providing the services of Gheorghes and Razvan so we felt it only right to put on a bit of a show for him and his staff. Once that pleasant task was complete we walked across Plata Regel Ferdinand I and organised an impromptu dance out next to the bar we had already patronised twice - La Rossa.
The mayor of Medias receives his Hook Norton memorabilia and other gifts.
Adderbury plan their strategy for the next dance, the locals are consumed with interest.
At last they perform with Verna on the fiddle, the locals are now puzzled.
That afternoon the town museum was opened especially for us and we were treated to a guided tour although several were beginning to flag by the end, then it was back to our accommodation to change and indulge in a little rapid rapper practice before returning to town for an evening performance in the town theatre. We were preceded by a couple of local groups largely made up of young people who performed a programme of traditional songs and dances for about an hour. Once on we danced turn and turn about with In-step and got a great response particularly with the repeated versions of Shepherds Away incorporating members of the local dance groups. Afterwards, after some initial confusion, we walked round a corner to a smart looking hotel where a back yard had been canopied over to create a large space for all the groups to gather in and be fed kebabs, bread and beer. Once again, remarkably, music and dance punctuated the serving of food and drinking of beer. Adderbury performed a rapper dance and we took a lead with one or two other dances but the evening really belonged to the young folk who dragged us through an exhausting series of line, circle and couple dances. Thank goodness we had the beer to keep us going. We were late back, again.
Tuesday May 29th. A Day off, we visited the fortified church at Biertan and the historic town of Sigisoara. After the evening excursion for a drink or two there was a dreadful ruckus in the corridor of our accommodation block involving a Hungariean handball team. The details must remain shrouded in secrecy.
A banner in Biertan Churche with a tourney horse being ridden by what looks very like an Adderbury Morrisman!
Wednesday May 30th. The day began with a tour of the school in which we were based with visits to classrooms, computer suites and the library where we were joined by a group of English speaking students with whom we talked at length. Then round about 1.00 p.m. we turned out on the school playground to perform for the whole school. Most memorable was Harry from In-step with his solo performance on a concrete landing at the top of the steps up to the school.
Harry makes a speech pleading for international understanding, world peace, an end to global warming and equal rights for clog dancers.
A pleasant interlude followed by a certain amount of hanging about until 5.00 p.m. when were joined by a group of musicians and a handful of dancers who together with Gheorghes attempted to teach us a few basic Romanian dances which we mastered with varying degrees of success. In the evening we were taken to a nearby restaurant which proved a little disappointing especially as once we had made the effort to get the music going we were told we had to leave because the neighbours had complained!
Thursday May 31st. We had a 9.00 p.m. departure for the county town and European city of Culture, Sibiu. Clearly somewhere along the line someone had forgotten we were coming as we were not down to dance at the festival at all. However, a phone call by our friend the mayor and some work in the town hall by Gheorghes and Celia did get us the necessary permissions.
After a certain amount of circling round the town looking for somewhere to leave the coach we parked behind the market. From there it was a fifteen minute walk up the hill to enter the old town by the 'Tower of the Stairs'.. The centre of the town with its vast expansive cobbled squares had been heavily restored - it was a wasteland when we were there two years ago- but forms an extraordinary arena to perform in. At 12.00 we got together ready to dance and soon had a lively crowd, including at least one school party, surrounding us despite the drizzle that continued to fall.
The perfect pentagonal platform for In-step!
Adderbury, sticks and rain in the Piata Mare
After a couple of hours to look round we returned to the bus to drive on the village of Gura Rualui where we had been engaged to dance with the village's children's team on their splendid open-sided, covered-over dancing floor - every village should have one. After putting on a bit of a show and enjoying the children's performance we were invited to Pension Maria, the home of the village history teacher where we fed and watered, although not necessarily with water, until full. What hospitality! Then we were able to go out and watch the cows come home.
Adderbury putting on the style.
The dancing floor.
The grand circle dance as we might call it.
All in for Shepherds Away, again.
Norac - cheers!
Friday June 1st. a day of chsnging plans and unexpected treats. We began by being taken over to Bazna to watch a childen's stage performance and have a little poke around the village including a visit to the hostel where Bloxham stayed two years ago, a climb up the church's fortified bell tower and a stop at the village shop. Then it was on to a 17th. century 'chateau' at Jidvei which had been set up as the marketing wing of one of the country's largest wine producers. Again we were treated to food and a wine tasting free of charge. Back on the bus we returned to Medias and then headed up a dreadfully pot holed road to the village of Ighisu, just a few kilometres south of the town. Here virtually the whole population had turned out to watch two children's groups perform on a temporary stage on the village green.
A 'Hungarian' group on the stage.
In-step made use of this too but we were concerned that our combined weights might be too much for a structure which was already bouncing around alarmingly so true to type we dragged the crowd across to the road junction at the centre of the village and danced there. This was shortly after the cows had come home so we did have to watch our footing. We had another terrific response and mass involvement in Shepherds Away.
The crowds close in at Ighisu.
The teams reconvened in the covered courtyard of the hotel where we had partied on Monday night and it was a rerun of that evening with beer and sausages laced with plenty of dancing.
Once again dancing the night away.
Saturday June 2nd. Breakfast at school was dropped in favour of coffee and pastries in town before catching the coach to take us back through Sibiu and on to Astra Museum of Traditional Folk Civilisation. Another extraordinary place consisting of a huge collection of relocated traditional buildings grouped according to function. At the heart of the site was a platform built our into a lake on which dance teams regularly performed and so did we, allbeit to a handful of visitors.
The crowds pack the lakeside seating to see if Adderbury can sink the stage.
More successful was our concluding stand of the tour outside a reconstructed village inn. After being give a final round of 'prune whisky' we danced turn and turn about and then united for an emotional last Shepherds Away and that was it, apart from a lengthy late night drinking session at the tiny bar we had adopted just down from the school.
A fond farewell to dancing Romania.
... and Bloxham did it in 2005, read all about it here.