A magical place
Dusk is falling and I am in a magical place. The sky seems huge over head. Mist covers the mountain in the distance. The uneven hillside I’m walking on is filled with the gentle music of cow bells, and the scent of wood smoke.
This is Transylvania, not far from one of the castles purporting to be Dracula's own. But no dark spirits are abroad tonight. In a rough pen made of thick branches there are about 20 cows, and they are being milked by hand by three men, with practiced assurance.
They are men who are out in all weathers. The one I talk to is wind-tanned with an engaging gap-toothed smile. He has a leather hat pulled tight on his head. He sits on a rough wooden stool, offering the animals gentle reassurance in a gruff voice, as the milk squirts into buckets.
The task finished and the frothy milk poured into urns, the men show me their wooden shelter in the middle of the rough hillside.
A simple fire made up of several stout sticks burns in one corner. In the middle of the hut, on the mud floor, stands a big aluminium urn with more milk in it. One of the men explains to me how he makes cheese and then puts it into a strange-shaped wooden trough standing by one wall, to squeeze out the moisture. He offers me cheese made three days ago. It's very fresh, sharp and crumbly.
He takes me outside, gesturing towards a wooden structure covered by a tarpaulin. Imagine a roughly-nailed-together large double bunk bed that has collapsed, so there is a gap just big enough for a man to crawl into. It’s where he sleeps. Why? To drive off the wolves and the bears, he says.
But how long can such farming methods survive, now that Romania has joined the European Union? Read more on Monday.
Mark's report from Romania will be the second in a series of three about the European Union’s role in environmental protection. The first was about a dispute over Polish plans to build a motorway through protected marshland. The third report will look at Spain's worries about a shortage of water.