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help exchange   Host 13702
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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: August 6, 2018

Update (early August): No more chance for HelpX till early September, I'm afraid - but if you're around in late September/October there will be things to be done, for sure. Help welcome then!


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've had a number of HelpXers over the last few years and they've made a fantastic contribution to the house and the garden, for which I'm extremely grateful. For instance: A little gang last autumn dug out a bank in the garden and built a wall and firepit with the tonnes of limestone boulders they unearthed. A couple built a long flight of steps using beams from the old shed; Australian Dave mended fences and chopped firewood; a couple from the UK helped create my stunning wood-lined attic; a Canadian couple dug over my first veg patch from virgin meadow.. So much has been accomplished, and there's so much still to do! In return I think everyone's enjoyed their time here - see the reviews which tell their own story. I hope you'll join the honourable list of volunteers who discover Magura.

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 four cats and half a dog. Animals abound, 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.

LIVING: The house is comfortable, and you'll have a room to yourself (double bed) If there are two of you and don't share a bed, one of you will be on a sofa). Please bring appropriate clothes and footwear: the weather is unpredictable. Rooms are heated by wood stoves in winter.

FOOD: Tasty veggie food - but please note: it's up to you to buy any alcohol and snacks/sweets if you want them. I can cope with gluten-free and vegan. I'll feed you well - check the reviews!

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. That's fine - I can always find other tasks to do, but I don't want you to hurt yourself. Same with clothing, footwear and essential kit for hiking you're entirely 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.

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 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, fencing, landscaping, weeding, planting, grass-cutting etc. Inside it's woodwork/carpentry, deep cleaning, painting - whatever needs doing most urgently at the time.
I work from home, and need peace and quiet, so on your days off I'd ask you to be out of the house, please. 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 lots of inspiration for drawing/painting and photography.

YOU: You're hardy, self-sufficient and enjoy country life; 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 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 writer, 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.
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: I have four cats who have the run of the house and surroundings; there's the neighbours' dog who hangs 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 AREA: It's a great experience being in Magura - it's a little bubble of rural paradise and a superb cure for the stresses of urban life. This is the antithesis to city living: the only bar in the village is the legendary La Ciocolata - must be seen to be believed. Zarnesti has a couple of places to eat and places to buy drinks but don't expect sophisticated nightlife... 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. 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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