January 16, 2012

A Painted Church and Graveyard in Transylvania

There must be a fascinating history behind this amazing painted church and its graveyard that I am posting for Monday Mural and Taphophile Tragics. It pains me that I cannot find anything about it (online)!

On the start of a long weekend last June my brother and I drove north from Bucharest a bit over three hours, then got off the main road at Boita to explore a string of 18 traditional Romanian settlements in a special area called Mărginimea Sibiului in southern Transylvania. Earlier I posted village scenes from this well-preserved ethnographic area along the foothills of the Cindrel Mountains.

We spotted this little Romanian Orthodox church not far from Boita, driving east toward Tălmacel (map below). Unfortunately, this is all I can tell you about this particular painted church and its graveyard. My photos will have to tell the story.

However, there are a great number of such architectural treasures - painted churches and monasteries - in Romania and Moldova built in the 16th and 17th centuries; many are listed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites.

It's quite possible, since we did not see headstones predating the 20th century, that this is a more recent church and graveyard. But it is still a marvel to behold.

Post script: Thanks to fellow blogger Traveling Hawk from Romania, I can now tell you a little more. This church was erected between the years 1775-1784 in Tălmacel, first recorded in 1488 as a small hamlet of ten families. Along with 246 others in Romania, the church was dedicated to the popular Saint Paraschiva. It was built and financed by the community, who made the bricks and transported them to the site on horses. Legend has it the money ran out before winter 1779, but the next spring a woman found a tub of gold coins. With this the interior was completed and painted by local masters. Restoration work was done 1975-80. [Sources: here and here.]

The main interior of the church was locked, but in the small entranceway we were greeted with a ceiling to floor fresco depiction of hell or purgatory.

Location: You can see all the towns on this map, with the highlighted orange area showing where this church should be.

The orange rectangle on this second map shows the approximate area of Marginimea Sibiului (meaning margins of Sibiu) in relation to Sibiu and Bucharest.

For more marvelous murals and fascinating burial grounds, follow the links in my opening paragraph. (Monday Murals now has a home; YaY!) I will visit as many as I can before I must close down for my trip to China. From there, accessing blogs is very difficult, thanks to an overzealous Big Brother.

January 13, 2012

Fence Along Tanjiang River

Along the Tanjiang River in Kaiping is a long stretch of walkway where pedestrians are separated from the river by a unique fence. Here are three shots featuring the fence taken at different times of the day.

Kaiping, 2011

In this last photo you see a boat-shaped restaurant that I first posted here.

The fence is for Friday Fences.

The sunset is for Skywatch Friday.

The reflections are for Weekend Reflections.

The fence shadow is for Sunday Shadows.

I am returning to Kaiping early next week, so after this weekend my posting and blog hopping will be interrupted until I find a way to pierce the Great Firewall of China... or leave China. I can always be reached by email.

Location... the red bubble marks the spot:

January 12, 2012

H is for Hair in Huangluo

We were en route to the Longji Rice Terraces in Guanxi province when we stopped to have lunch in a small village called Huangluo. 

The village is inhabited by the ethnic minority Yao and it has become a popular stop for tourists. Hence there was an array of minority clothing, jewelry, artwork and intricate embroidery for sale

What makes this Yao village unique is that its women have the longest hair in the world. Really, it's been certified by the Guinness World Records.

We had no inkling of this when we stopped here, but just as we were finishing lunch, I heard a bit of a commotion outside. I grabbed my camera and this is what I saw: a row of women standing on the edge of the river modeling their long hair and how they style it.

By tradition the Yao women cut their hair only once in their lifetime, at an age between 16 and 18 when they are considered adult and ready to get married. The cut hair is kept as a headpiece and is twisted into their standard hairdo.


The longest of the women's hair can grow up to 1.9 meters (6 feet) and the average is about 1.2 meters (4 feet). Imagine washing that every day... in the river!


Seeing these women later in modern street clothes tells me the tradition won't remain pure for long.

 Longsheng, Guangxi, 2007

Location - the red bubble:

If you would still like to see the hair being piled up, there is a short video (not mine) HERE. I posted an earlier photo of a Yao woman HERE.

The letter at Alphabe-Thursday is H.

January 11, 2012

Z is for Zhongshan

For the last letter of Round 9 at ABC Wednesday I'm bringing you to a favorite market of mine, the Zhongshan Antique Furniture Market.

When I first visited this market many years ago, there was no fancy gate like this to greet us and no real buildings, just a small loose group of vendors in makeshift structures selling antiques collected in villages near and far. (It's a pity I did not carry a camera in those early days!)

The market has expanded significantly over the decades and today it is an enormous formal complex of vendors selling antiques real and reproduced. Not only furniture, but you can find garden decor, home decoratives and knickknacks here... in stone, metal, wood and ceramic.

I am going to let my photos tell you the rest of the story.


Zhongshan, Guangdong, 2009

The red bubble between the City of Zhongzhan and Macau marks the spot where this market is.

January 10, 2012

Graveyard by the Franciscan Monastery of Pridvorje

Today I am participating in a new meme recently started on a topic that fascinates me: burial grounds. Taphophile Tragics is the title of the meme and will be posted on Tuesdays.

Quoting from Julie's blog:
Taphophilia is an interest, morbid or otherwise, in graveyards and cemeteries. Graveyards were attached to churches, whereas cemeteries were specifically set up for the burial of the dead.

A taphophile is one who finds they are attracted to walking around cemeteries, reading the headstones and musing upon the family history contained therein.
Yes, that describes me. There is something a little curious about that, too. 

My biological father, a Morocco-born Frenchman (whom I did not grow up with, but met as a young adult), had an absolute horror of cemeteries. When we traveled together, he became visibly upset whenever I wanted to go explore one. He never could adequately explain that aversion to me. I surmised it might stem from a fear of death. So I find it intriguing that my inclination is so opposite.

My first post on this topic is a tiny strip of graveyard on the side of a small Franciscan monastery near the village of Pridvorje on the slope of Mount Snježnica. It is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) up the hill from Cavtat, the gorgeous town on the Adriatic Sea where we lodged in May of 2009 for four nights when my mother's car broke down (see earlier post).

The monastery with the church of St Blaise was built 1423-1429. I can only guess that it is former resident Franciscan monks who were buried here. Had I known I would one day post for this meme, I would have paid more attention to details and taken more photos.

While we saw no one in the monastery, the many fresh flowers left on the graves, as well as in the courtyard, told me this place was not deserted.

Croatia, 2009