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Help Exchange

All Year: Yes
Area (ha): 0.3
Persons: One, or a couple
Category: Homestay
Host ID: 13702
Country: Romania

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Last Updated: April 15, 2019

Update (early April 2019): Spring is warming up and the garden is ready to be worked. I'm planning... What about you? I'm yearning for people with these skills: making mosaics; building a gabion wall; woodwork, AND sound - I need to set up a tiny, basic recording "studio', just for voice (mine). If you could help me with these I'd cook you especially delicious grub!


Come and do the Timewarp in Transylvania... It's a little bubble of rural paradise, 1,000m up in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, where villagers still use horses and carts, make hay with scythes, use traditional smallholding skills and have a simple way of life.

I'm Arabella, a British writer who moved to this little corner of heaven in 2010. I share the place with Buster, George, Mouse and their mother Hobbs - my clan of happy cats (NB not fur-babies).

HOME: I have a modest house with a small patch of land in one of Romania's most beautiful villages, Magura, in the Piatra Craiului National Park. (NB This isn't a farm, and the only animals I have are the cats. Animals abound just over my fence, and are friendly, but they belong to the neighbours.) The unspoilt wiildflower meadows and wildlife are famous and a haven for botanists, entomologists, naturalists, artists and anyone who likes wilderness. Mountain ridges to the south and the north, and spectacular views all around. The 1,000 metre contour line runs through my house, so the air is clean and fresh and the sky enormous. It's five miles/8km from the nearest town & bus station, Zarnesti. Two hours' beautiful wild walk to Bran and its famous castle. From Zarnesti it's less than an hour to Brasov by bus or train.

LIVING: The house is comfortable, and you'll have a room and a bathroom to yourself. Please bring appropriate clothes and footwear: the weather is unpredictable (especially if you want to go hiking - boots are vital). If you're travelling light, ask me about spare clothes - I have some spare clobber here, jumpers, socks, etc. Rooms are heated by wood stoves in cold weather.

FOOD: Three meals a day - tasty veggie food. I can do gluten-free and vegan, too. I'll feed you well - check the reviews. I don't provide alcohol, though - you can buy beer in the village. Ditto snacks, biscuits, etc.

HEALTH: This is a remote village, and my house is in the middle of a huge area of wildflower meadow; the house is full of cats; so if you have allergies, you will start sneezing about a mile before you arrive... When you're working (and out walking) I expect you to take good care of yourself and tell me if the work is too heavy for you. I can always find other tasks to do, but I don't want you to hurt yourself. The nearest hospital is an hour's drive away. NB I don't have insurance! You're responsible for your comfort and safety, so do please check before you arrive what's needed for this terrain. There is a Sunday market where you can buy cheap new and very cheap secondhand clothes and boots if needed.
PLEASE NOTE: If you plan to walk/hike/climb in the mountains & forests, please bring suitable footwear, a torch, AND A PHONE with A SPARE BATTERY and CREDIT. Some volunteers have headed off with none of these things and have had close shaves. You are not immortal. It's generally very safe here, but mountains are inherently risky.

WORK: It's usually one day on, one day off (to give you maximum flexibility on your off-duty days), but it's negotiable. On normal work days I expect you to be ready to work by 9am, and finish around 6pm (earlier in winter), with an hour for lunch and a couple of breaks. Outside it's gardening, digging, fencing, landscaping, weeding, planting, grass-cutting etc. Inside it's woodwork/ carpentry, deep cleaning, painting - whatever needs doing most urgently at the time. There's always stuff to be done!

DAYS OFF: Up to 24 hours of freedom! I work from home, and need peace and quiet, so on your days off I'd ask you to be off and out , please, by 10am (unless you're having a quiet day reading/ sleeping/ whatever). Best to be back before dark, in time for supper, unless you fancy a night on the bare mountain (music joke). It's just the place for spending maximum time outside - perfect for wandering, hiking, biking and cross-country skiing, exploring the area - and there's endless inspiration for drawing/ painting and photography.

YOU: You're hardy, self-sufficient and enjoy country life; you prefer being outdoors than inside; you positively enjoy solitude and the quiet life; you're fit and healthy, don't need urban delights; you love animals and the wild world. You like to walk and love heading off into the hills for a day's hike. You're a self-starter when working and don't need supervision; and are happy to work hard when you're working. Please be honest about what you can offer in terms of help and skills it's all fine as long as I know what you'll be happy working on. NB Solitude is a major asset here: the village is quiet - there is a legendary bar, but it's not exactly a social hub. If you can speak Romanian, or are able to communicate without language, the locals are very welcoming and enjoy new people, especially if you arrive with alcohol and stories.

ME: I'm a British author and editor, living here for the peace and distance from the busy world, for the big skies and simple life. I can be a grumpy old bag, especially in the mornings - so you make your own breakfast and ignore me... I have some stories and enjoy good conversation but this is not a party house. Plenty of DVDs, books, games etc if you enjoy old-fashioned entertainment, but this is the very opposite of exciting or technologically enabled. Just so you know...

TELECOMS: There have been a few problems in the past with people not having phones - usually when arriving, or when they have problems away from the house. You can get a local SIM for 6 which will last you for ages - it's ESSENTIAL that you have a means of communication so we can reach each other if needs be, especially if you get lost in the forest. Bears won't help you much.
NB Although Romanian cities have fast 4G broadband, out here in the mountains the internet signal is not great, and my signal can't seem to sustain two devices at once. So if you want more than occasional internet access, that's another reason for getting a local SIM with data as well as phone.

IMPORTANT - no smoking here (unless you use electronic ciggies) in this wooden house. Also very important: please make sure you have enough money for your stay. I've had a few volunteers with barely enough for a cup of coffee you MUST have enough cash with you in case of urgent requirements.

ANIMALS: The four cats have the run of the house and surroundings; there are the neighbours' dogs who hang around, and the neighbours have assorted beasts who are free to roam, so you need to be relaxed around animals and positively cat-mad. NB Worth repeating: If you are at all allergic to cats or pollen, bring your pills!

LOCAL TRANSPORT: If you travel with fat-tyred mountain bikes, that's ideal for this terrain. Or a 4x4. There's a train station in Zarnesti (8km) which shuttles to and from Brasov station; there are buses (but no bus up to Magura) and people will give you lifts. I'll give you a lift, of course, if I'm heading down to the town. Local people walk, on the whole, or take the horse and cart. The road to town is mud and rock, and potholes, so a low-slung sports car is going to suffer. It's amazing what does get up the road - camper vans, as long as they're not a mile long, cope well.

LOCAL AREA: It's a great experience being in Magura - it's a little corner of heaven and a superb cure for the stresses of urban life. This is the antithesis to city living. Zarnesti has a couple of places to eat and places to buy drinks but don't expect sophisticated nightlife... If any. Brasov is a university town, with plenty of bars, eateries (even raw vegan these days) and music venues as well as medieval sights. If you want to spend a couple of days there during your stay, that's no problem to arrange. There's the Libearty bear sanctuary just outside Zarnesti - well worth 8 if you like bears up close and personal. Bran Castle is a must, Rasnov citadel is worth a look, Brasov, Sighisoara, Sinaia and Sibiu further afield but worth the trip. The principal appeal of Magura, though, is the virgin forest between my back door and the Fagaras Mountains where bears, wolves, chamois, lynx and eagles still abound. Mountain ridges and endless wilderness trails await you.

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