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Travel Writing Competition

Flossie Baker: Romania

In fifth place in our Travel Writing Competition 2015, Flossie Baker experiences the kindness of strangers in the small village of Maramures, Romania

Flossie Baker: Romania
Maramures, Romania. Image: Getty

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The village behind me had become a small speck in the distance and the road ahead ran straight and empty through fields of freshly harvested hay.

The sound of my footsteps on the hot tarmac was interrupted by the stuttering of a struggling engine. A decrepit yellow car pulled up and an old man with huge hands and missing teeth rolled down the window, elaborately gesturing that I should get in.

Judging by his endearing smile, his age and the age of his vehicle, I concluded I wouldn’t be going anywhere fast, so, overriding the usual feelings of trepidation, I did.

We sputtered off, and glancing back I saw that the boot was full of sacks of soft, white cheese. Minutes later, we pulled into a farm and under the dozy gaze of lethargic cows, I was ushered into a wooden hut adorned with ancient farming tools and brass pans.

Squatting on an upturned bucket, I was handed a tin bowl that was promptly filled with huge spoonfuls of cheese and then liberally sprinkled with sugar. I ate the contents of the bowl as quickly as possible, trying not to linger on the unpleasant taste, but it was quickly replenished.

The sacks of cheese began to be unloaded from the car and dragged towards my feet, so I closed my eyes and finished the bowl and acted as satisfied as I could. An elderly lady appeared at the door. Her black headscarf framed her face; moon-shaped and deep-set with wrinkles like craters.

As she saw me eating she broke into a wide smile and with gentle force took me by the arm and marched me towards her house. As we approached, exquisite carvings came into focus; a huge veranda, expertly carved of black wood, effused all the flavours of fairytales gone by.

She proudly spread her arms at the sight of her home and ushered me into a sunny kitchen, plonked me down on a chair, thrust a tin bowl in my hand and began filling it with cheese.

“Eat, eat!” She exclaimed passing me the sugar. “You stranger. I feed you.”

When it was impossible to eat any more, the yellow car and its driver appeared and I was delivered back to the exact spot where I’d been found wondering an hour earlier.

The other runners-up and winner will be announced on natgeotraveller.co.uk this week