On Horezu And Pottery

Ah Horezu.

We went here for a day trip, when Jess had a chest infection, to see the Horezu monastery. We spent three hours on a bus to visit this speck of a place. Using the maps on our phone we walked over to a monastery and had a good look. We didn’t go inside as a service was on. The monastery we came for is the pinnacle of Brâncovenesc style. A unique Românian architectural style.

The Byzantine empire was demolished by the Ottoman empire. What is now România fell under the Ottoman influence. What was Byzantine architecture morphed into Ottoman architecture. This part of România called Wallachia was less affected and because of that Byzantine style went a different way.

A monastery

We were underwhelmed. Still, nice photo.

So we went for a walk to see a few more monasteries that were all kind of the same thing. One of the behaviours of note is that the locals; whether they be driving or walking, always sign the cross whenever they pass a church.

Another thing of note was this strange painting on the outside of a church. It appears in Two Men and a Bear. A pilot of a Russian show that doesn’t feature Charlie Sheen and didn't make it.

Two men and a bear

We kept walking and came across a nearby pottery town and admired the many different but roughly similar patterns. Lots of intricate designs involving spirals and concentric circles. Jess felt guilty for the grumpy guy who opened up his shop for us and bought two small trinkets that cost barely anything and will probably make it home in one piece. The grumpy guy offers us to see the workshop. Maybe he’s not grumpy at us but life itself.

inside the smelly claustrophobic cell is a woman hunched over a pottery wheel painting designs. A thickness hangs in the air from smoke or chemicals or something. It’s not a pleasant place to be but the woman is very friendly and her son or grandson translates rudimentary how it works. Their paint ‘brushes’ are the horns of cows with a tube attached to it. The wheel is used to get enough speed to get a consistent ring on the design. The old woman is very good, no doubt from a lifetime of practice. We hope she doesn’t have a lifetime of cancer.

We sat farewell and walk back down the hill. When we reach the bottom a man comes across from the bus stop and starts talking to us.

"Are you tourists".

We inwardly groan at the question. Here comes someone to sell us something we don’t want or need.

"Have you gone to the UNESCO town of Olari?"

We haven’t. He is shocked. How can you come to Horezu and not go to the UNESCO pottery town. We are unsure how either; perhaps because we’ve heard of it and because it’s not a UNESCO site.

He wants us to take a ride with him and he flags down a car to show his intention.

"I have tourist brochures you can have. They are in Românian but you can look at the pictures. I will get them for you. I am a promotor".

We decline. He keeps pushing. We decline more forcefully; saying we are going to walk back up to the town.

We walk back up the hill and when we reach the top, he goes past in a car. He was at a bus stop going away from the town but now he’s come back. Just for us. The dear.

When we reach the town. He waves to us. We grimace politely and walk past him. He’s now making idle chat with someone.

"This man is the head of something or other" he yells out as we walk past.

"We’re going to go up this way now." We yell back and we keep walking.

After we’ve gone about fifty metres, I look back and see him walking up the hill after us. I want to stop and take photos but that’ll only let him catch up. Jess pulls into one of the many pottery shops selling roughly the same thing. She buys a small cup because she feels bad for the old lady out selling goods on a day when the total number of tourist in the town is three. Jess, myself and a Chinese-American woman who doesn’t feature in this story at all. We gather from what Mr Pushy said about having brochures only in Românian that most of the tourists to the region are Românians.

While we are in the shop our friend goes past. It was a like a chase seen in slow motion. We peered around the corner of the shop. The way was clear so we continued up the hill. Within a few minutes Pushy is back, walking down the hill to meet us and carrying something.

"You are ignorant!"

Not the most polite conversation starter.

"The museum is down the hill. There is nothing further up the hill."

"I have got these pamphlets for you. For free. Take them."

We pushes the pamphlets into my hands. And walks on down the hill.

We have a calendar, a map for a region we are leaving tonight by bus and a multimedia CD-ROM that we can’t play here or at home. What is a CD-ROM anyway? The youth ask. They are all in Românian but true to his word, we can look at the pictures.

The calendar is the most important thing as we realise the church we want to today was not the one we came to see.


He walks off and we search on our phones for the location of the monastery. It’s about 2.7km away as the crow flies. Or about 6km if one is flightless. Fuck Buttons. We enjoyed seven hours of bus travel to see a stupid building. With our return bus leaving in two hours and we’ve not seen the one thing we came to see. It’s not within walking distance. On another time we might run it as we have in many holidays prior, but not with a chest infection.

We head down to the museum. It’s one with the picture of a woman out the front. He is waiting at the museum. This museum doesn’t have the word ‘museum’ in Românian, or any language. We’re not sure how people are meant to know it’s a museum. To get in you need to knock on the door, speak Românian and then a woman comes out and unlocks the padlock for the museum shed.

We tour the room, which is a collection of pottery from several generations of the same family. The only remaining member is in France making 1,000 euro vases. The pottery is nice but we can’t get enthusiastic beyond: these would make nice plates.

Outside the museum we say that we have to get on to the monastery.

"You don’t have time. I will get you a lift." This lift will be a random person that he’ll flag down. Românians are nice people but we’ve heard that riding in cars with strangers is dangerous.

"It’s ok. We’ll walk back into town and catch a taxi."

"There are not enough taxis in this town to take you. I will get you lift."

We concede and sit down. It takes five or six minutes. Each passing minute is weighing on us as we lose what time we have. When a car does arrive it has boxes on every seat. I offer Jess my lap. I get in, Jess sits on me and we race off. The woman takes us to the monastery dropping us at the gate.

The monastery is a much more impressive complex than the church we visited earlier. This place has gardens, a huge white wall surrounding the main complex and the church itself is impressive. The artwork inside doesn’t appear to be any different to the other frescos I’ve seen across Romania. The place is, however, very detailed. Every surface inside the main church is painted.

The actual monastery

After ten minutes look around we have to leave. We have no plan for getting back to Horezu other than to walk and hope for a lift. No lift comes and we walk all the way back into town. We set a cracking pace of 6km an hour and cover the distance in half an hour.

With twenty minutes to spare, we gobble some bananas, buy another bottle of water and relax.

Jess has progressed to not being able to speak.

when: Sunday, June 29, 2014