topum (topum) wrote,

Transhumance under threat in Transylvania

The tradition of transhumance - the seasonal movement of sheep - is still practised in Romania. But shepherds say a law restricting the number of sheepdogs they are allowed to use could threaten their way of life.

Romania is one of the few countries in Europe where this seasonal movement of livestock, or transhumance, is still practised but the tradition is dying out. New roads and the enclosure of privatised land after communism have made the walks covering hundreds of miles more difficult, even dangerous.

"Do you want to see my house?" asks Ion at the door of the cowshed. I'm a bit nonplussed. We'd just been inside his house, on the sofa in the best room eating cake and poring over photo albums.

"No, no!" he says noticing my confusion. "I mean my real house!" He lifts a shaggy grey fleece off a wooden peg and throws it over his shoulders. The sleeveless sarica, as it's called, is made of four sheepskins sewn together. When I try it on, the cloak comes down to my ankles and is so heavy I can barely stand. But suddenly I'm immune to the knife sharp wind blowing off the mountains. "I slept in that even when it was snowing," says Ion. "Very cosy."

"If I don't see my sheep for more than two days and leave them with my helpers I can't stand it - I start having dreams about them," he says. "Do you have a favourite?" I ask, feeling a bit foolish. "Every shepherd has a favourite sheep - one you pick and name and feed from your hand. It is just like a woman when you like her, your eyes shine and the feeling goes straight to your heart."

But he admits he was never lucky with his chosen ones - they would either die from overeating or be snatched by wolves. "Maybe faith teaches you not to love one sheep, you have to love your whole flock," he adds.

Yesterday on BBC:
Tags: romania, transylvania
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