Spring was welcomed with open arms in the Jiu Valley this year. Months of cold darkness had taken their toll, dragging out much longer than the year before. Though it came late, the spring’s beauty was anticipated. It was only one year earlier when I had “stopped to smell the flowers” rather, “stopped to know the flowers”. All those weekends spent outside of my close quarters helped me realize just how beautiful spring is. At this point, if someone was to ask me what my favorite season is it would be an easy answer.
The late coming of spring didn’t throw off its regularity. Nature doesn’t follow a calendar of days but rather a climate calendar and even though the warmer weather may come a couple weeks later it still comes in the same way it came last year. You can observe this phenomenon by watching the flowers. I am a beginner but even my second year into it I could see the constants. My hiking partner has been observing this area year after year since the seventies when he first set foot in the Jiu Valley. This weekend you’ll see flower “A” and next weekend flower “B”, he would say. For the most part he was right.
The first to pop its head up out of the soil is the ghiocei (snow drops). Ghiocei are used as a symbol of the coming of spring and given to ladies on March 1st. The second flower to appear is the brandusa (crocus) and in my experiences it is found at higher elevations. A couple weeks after the brandusi first appear a trip to Oltenia is in session to find a flower native to few places in the world, lalele pastrite (dotted tulip). Lalele Pastrite is a tulip which droops its heavy purple head down toward the swampy land that it grows on. The narcise (narcissus) are next to appear. Fortunately in Petrosani we have access to narcise both in the low lands of Oltenia and also narcise in the Vulcan mountains which appear a couple weeks later. This allows us to enjoy the beauty of the flower in both sight and scent, for a prolonged period of time. It seems like the salcam (acacia) appears at around the same time as the narcise but sticks around longer. If you’re walking on the side of a country road and the flower hangs down within reaching distance I advise you to break off some of the flowers to give their sweet pedals a taste. The large dark blue/purple flowers of the liliac (lilac) bloom out of the country yards for a couple of weeks in mid-spring gracing travelers on the other side of the gate with their soothing scent. Finally as spring turns to summer the large white soc (elder) flowers bloom. You can’t get within 15 feet of these plants without knowing they are there. Socata (elder juice) is a popular drink in the area and it is made from the flowers of the soc, lemon, and sugar. Last year I brewed up about 5 liters of this delicious juice and for a first try I’d say it was a success.
The flowers found in the Jiu Valley are not limited to those I have mentioned. Those that I have mentioned are the flowers most sought out, but on any given day you can enter the beautiful mountain massifs of Parang, Retezat and Vulcan to find a rich variety of flowers and other plants. If you enter some of the high peak regions of the Carpathians in the summer time you may even see the protected floare de colt (edelweiss) growing on the side of the steep rock faces.
The lowlands offer some beauties as well in the summertime. Last year outside of Timisoara I remember seeing large fields of sunflowers. That explains the towers of shells that you will see from time to time on the personel trains. Last but not least the mac (poppy) is definitely worth mentioning. Cruising from Targoviste to Bucharest you see the red gem’s lining the roads and dotting the fields. Their pedals look like smooth silk being blown by the hard flat plane winds.
Wherever you are in Romania the springtime is sure to brighten your life. The sights, scents, and even tastes will abruptly break you out of that winter depression. Just be careful not to miss it. Many of these small beauties only stick around for a couple of weeks before going to sleep until next year. As springtime rolls around next year don’t waste a moment in that small living room apartment watching TV, or checking email and surfing the net. A field of narcise is just kilometers away waiting for you to breath in its miracle.