THE GORGE MOUNTAINS. Nowhere else have I seen so many white gorges. On the map, the Trascău Mountains appear striped, crisscrossed by narrow limestone formations from Northeast to Southwest. Water flows out of them following a diagonal course, each stream carving a sheer white gorge. The remote and isolated village of Cheia rests in a deep basin between four such gorges and is altogether without electricity. A raspy-voiced matron stands guard at a log-bridge; smooth and narrow, it is the only path to the homes on the other side. Buildings here are the most peculiar in all of the Trascău Mountains. The deeper you forge into the mountainous terrain, the higher the roofs of dwellings become. Thatched and many times taller than the houses themselves, they appear like haystack resting atop low ceilings. Man and beast gaze from the windows of these fairytale huts, bread ovens stand before each home, and wells have painted roofs. There is a sacred spring in the Râmeț Monastery, which lies below a gorge and can only be reached by fording deep water between high cliffs. We must have looked like beggar pilgrims, for the old women of the monastery brought us baskets of hot donuts to feast on. We ate them gratefully, feeling both Mediterranean and medieval. The white cliffs towered above the ancient monastery like the Holy Mountain of Athos as the sun sang to them its sultry song.
Some say the Trascăus belong to the Munţii Metaliferi, the Ore Mountains, where the Romans had their most impressive gold mines. There are many remarkable places there, little brother. Huda lui Papară is a rare and beautiful cave well worth a visit, though you will not see much more than the front and the back of it. Two streams pour down into an enormous basin, one flowing into a clear pool, the other plunging from the heights above where alpine swifts wheel and call. The waters rush round the base of a towering white wall and spill into the cave – there is nowhere else for them to go. During spring thaws, the entire basin fills with water twenty-five meters deep; on the other side of the ridge, a torrent gushes from a crevice in the cliff, and the only way in is to swim. A valley, lone and peaceful, spreads out below full of flowers, bleached water-worn sheep paths, sunlight, silence.