“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Unlike Dumbledore, I gave a received socks for Christmas. I also gave and received books.
Thanks to Christmas in both London and Moldova, and a skit about a goat, we also made an absolute killing in bread, sweets and Lei moldovenească (Moldovan Lai)!
Socks (left) are what Hubby and I gave to our nieces on Christmas day.
28th December 2019 – 1st January 2020 – Cobani Village:
From Chișinău, a 4.5hour journey in an old Mercedes-Benz Viano people carrier with broken shocks took us to the lovely home of our friends in the northern village of Conbani. Their gorgeous little home was refurbished when they moved there into his mother’s old house from Chișinău 4 years ago. It’s a little haven in the village.
It was snowing when we arrived and it snowed (because I prayed for snow) for 2 whole days – bliss.
Eastern Europe is not a comfortable place to visit – let’s just establish that from the onset.
I promise I will not talk about toilets.
But to be with good friends, to share stories, to laugh, to walk in the snow and to see the wonderful work our friends are doing among the poor and broken in Moldova, outweighs the discomfort of every whiffly smell I encountered there.
On our first day we were flung into children’s Christmas box distribution, games, children’s stories at the community centre and cake for breakfast.
On day two we accompanied our friend as he distributed 28 food parcels to elderly people living in the most extreme situations. My heart broke as I heard about and met the man who’d had all his fingers and toes amputated because of frostbite. And the woman in her 90’s with no teeth, looking after her bedridden husband in a wood-burning-stove-smokey-mud-hut, and who loved giving us all smacking kisses on both cheeks. Or the blind woman who kept such a neat house, but couldn’t read the labels on her medicine so asked for them to be read aloud.
There were a dozen such stories. And Hubby and I were reminded how very blessed we are.
31st December 2019 – The tradition of Capra:
In Moldova it is traditional to visit the homes of your friends and neighbours on New Year’s Eve dressed as a goat – a capra in Romanian. Hubby and I were pleased to be included and our clever host wrote out a little skit in which Hubby and I played gypsies who wanted to buy a goat. His 13 year old daughter was the goat and he the goatherd. The custom involves props, dance, literary and musical texts and humour. The person playing the goat carries a hand made wooden goat head, lower jaw bone loose so it can clatter. The goat horns are adorned with mirrors, beads, coloured tassels, ribbons and bells. After the performance the performers are given sweets, money, traditional Christmas bread (called Cozonac) and mandarins. As you can see, we yielded quite a loot.
Hubby and I took a New Year’s Eve walk at sunset (photo left) before the Capra festivities and were blessed by the most exquisite sunset. Moldova really showed off for us!
It is said (by our host) that every 3rd Moldovan household in a mini winery – they make wine from table grapes and every visitor is subjected to a glass – some wines were better than others. A few households make their own vodka too. We tasted some of that as well.
Much more can be said about our visit to Cobani, but the main thing is that despite the nippy weather outside, we were welcomed with warmth and love by every person we met.
2nd December 2020 – Dancu Village:
It was my second visit to Dancu. We have a long relationship with a charity there – they are now our friends.
It was on 27th December that we learnt from our tour guide that Dancu cheese had become famous in Moldova.
Our friends began a Cheddar cheese making facility just 4 years ago. Their first batch was thought to be a failure and the cheese was buried (where is matured for a month) in a hole. One day it was dug up by a local dog. The dog seemed to like it, but it smelled rather ripe. Finally our friends tasted is and a discovery was made – this cheese was GOOD!
We bought cheese and I’m sorry to say, took it across the border into Romania wrapped in my underwear along with 5 bottles of Mileștii Mici wine and honey from Cobani bees!
Next stop, back to Bucharest … and Nicolae Ceaușescu’s palace I’m sorry to say …
P.s. One ex-geography teacher we visited with a food parcel offered us salo (pronounced sala) which is a local delicacy of raw chunks of pig fat. She thought she was offering us pastries, but couldn’t see that there were 2 pastries on top of plate of salo. We took them anyway – Moldovans are very generous and we didn’t leave a single house without a sweet, a biscuit or even a kiss.
P.p.s. Our Capra performance loot, you’ll be pleased to know, was redistributed to local children, other Capra performances and New Year well-wishers who visited our house.
P.p.p.s. I was given 2 lines in Romanian to memorise which I can still say now, but which I forgot in some form of foreign-language-stage-fright at every house we visited with our Capra performance.
P.p.p.p.s. (Left) The Secret Santa socks I got in Cobani.