THE BUZᾸU MOUNTAINS. Surrounded on three side by the lazy Buzău River, these mountains are entirely deserted aside from an occasional shepherd. Dog shacks and green alders stand near sheep tracks. Clear springs bubble beneath grassy ridges, forests turn to pastures, pastures to alpine mists. The basin between Tatar and Siriu peaks grows dense in wild, far-reaching forests. Above our heads a clearing stands, partially overgrown with beech so impenetrable, the path through it has become a tunnel, home to millions of aphids. With nowhere to turn, the mud of the path has collected animal tracks, one printed atop the other: evening hooves of sheep, nighttime paws of bears, morning prints of boots. Piles of bear droppings lie strewn across the path. Bear tracks lead us steeply upwards to the Sirian plains above, where we are met with astonishing vistas, grasses and pine groves. As we draw nearer Winds’ Gate, trees diminish, grass remains. Beneath the windy portal lies Dry Lake, Icelandic in appearance, a little further on, silvery black Eagle Lake. At day’s close, we find ourselves far below the ridge amidst silky fir-beech forests, dry and light. Towering trees, fast streams, scree and enormous mushrooms. We burn entire tree trunks at our forest camp, then depart the mountains where pure Sirian waters join the lazy Buzău River. Fringe of hot Wallachian lands, we head for realms of mud volcanoes that lie not far away.

Do not omit this corner of the world, little brother! On drylands near the village of Pîcle, oil pumps rock like storks hunting with their beaks; no longer disrupting the view, they have become the landscape. Amidst a barren fallow, an alien planet: soft, salty sludge bubbles from the earth, pulsing to the top of muddy cones. Everything strangely colorful and bizarre, it is the only place in all Romania where salty nitre bushes grow. In the distance, feather grass waves upon steppes and air shimmers with heat.