Travel lovers are dreaming of where they'll go post-COVID. In this special, Rick Steves visits some European favorites he'd love to see when we can travel again. Rick shares a montage of travel delights: Sicily, Mykonos, Porto, the Cotswolds, Tuscany, and Romania. It's an adventure with remote beaches, gourmet food, and an English hike; Rick even drops in on an eccentric lord and a Tuscan pig farm
Hey, I'm Rick Steves.
And like you, I've been pretty much locked down
for the last year.
In fact, for the first time in 30 years
I've been unable to travel to Europe
to make our shows for public television.
We've all been dreaming about traveling again
once this pandemic is history.
To stoke those travel dreams,
we've assembled an amazing journey.
For the next couple hours,
we'll be travel partners, you and me.
We'll explore Sicily, Mykonos,
Northern Portugal, Tuscany,
and the remote corners of Romania.
Our theme: Europe Awaits!
We'll start in Sicily.
If you like Italy, I like to say,
"Go further south, it just gets better."
We'll join a Capuchin monk
for a coffee named after him,
We'll feast on Sicilian treats.
And we'll see vividly why an Italian word
I learned on that island is indimenticabile--
Thanks so much for joining us.
Now, let's go to Sicily!
Like so much of Sicily,
Syracuse has ancient Greek origins.
The great city-states of Greece were expansive,
searching the Mediterranean
for more fertile lands.
Athens and Sparta dominated,
but lots of other Greek cities, like Corinth,
were establishing colonies as well.
These new settlements
created a broader Greek culture,
known as Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece.
Greek culture flourished here in Syracuse.
Founded in 732 BC by the Corinthians,
it grew to become an even greater,
more important city than Athens.
In fact, Syracuse eventually defeated
the Athenians in battle in this very bay.
The Temple of Apollo,
marking the center of old Syracuse,
was the first stone Greek temple in Sicily.
It dates from 600 BC.
And Syracuse nurtured the brightest minds
of the ancient world, like Archimedes.
The inventions of this scientist, physicist,
philosopher, genius from the third century BC
helped his hometown defend itself
Modern Syracuse sprawls across the mainland,
but the city was born
on the fortified island of Ortigia.
That's where you'll find
many of the ancient sights
and most of the medieval charm.
With its shabby-chic vibe,
delightful back lanes, and breezy sea views,
old Syracuse is for me the most enjoyable
urban environment anywhere in Sicily.
Just a generation ago,
Ortigia was a rough and unwelcoming zone,
almost empty of commerce.
And today, stoked by its influx of tourism,
it has a bohemian energy that fills it
with a joyful and relaxed ambiance.
The long and narrow side lanes
are part of a street plan
dating way back to ancient times.
Balconies festooned with laundry are reminders
that this is still a real neighborhood.
I always say,
"If you like Italy, you'll love Sicily,"
and I especially feel that in its markets.
[man speaking Italian]
Each morning this street
hosts a lively fish and produce market.
This shop is jam-packed
for its beloved specialty:
To be sure we maximize
the delights of our Sicilian experience,
I'm joined by my friend and fellow tour guide,
Alfio Di Mauro.
And Alfio is expert
at connecting with the local characters.
ALFIO: Guarda, guarda, Rick.
ALFIO: Buongiorno, Angelo!
ANGELO: Ciao! Ciao! Come stai?
ALFIO: Ti presento-- bene!--ti presento Rick.
ANGELO: Grazie! Angelo.
RICK: Piacere, piacere.
ALFIO: The swordfish...
Angelo always has the best swordfish.
Yeah, he just caught it.
This was used until not long ago
to make needles to mend the nets.
RICK: Oh, for knitting the nets together?
ALFIO: Yes. And even to do knitting needle.
RICK: This is really remarkable!
ALFIO: It's very resistant.
RICK: Look at that. ALFIO: Very resistant.
ALFIO: And when you have fresh fish like this,
the meat is delicious.
RICK: Fantastic. Angelo! ANGELO: Si?
RICK: Buon lavoro.
ANGELO: Grazie. RICK: Okay. Ciao.
ALFIO: Grazie, Angelo. Bravissimo, bravissimo.
ANGELO: Bye-bye! Ciao! ALFIO: Bravissimo.
RICK: Sicily is brutally hot in the summer.
I like to visit in spring or fall.
And even in April, when we're here,
a stop for a drink at the kiosk
can be really refreshing.
ALFIO: It's a specialty. Ciao!
WOMAN: Buonasera. RICK: Ciao! Buonasera.
ALFIO: Due seltz limone e sale.
RICK: So, what is the name again?
ALFIO: It's a refreshing drink.
It's seltzer, lemon, and salt.
RICK: Okay. Good.
ALFIO: Ideal in the summer.
Molto rinfrescante, very refreshing.
Then, with a spoon... salt.
ALFIO: Perfetto! RICK: All right.
ALFIO: Grazie. RICK: Grazie. Mmm.
RICK: Nearby, the façade of the cathedral
provides quite a contrast.
Built in the 18th century,
it was inspired
by the great Baroque churches of Rome,
but amped up with
a Sicilian architectural razzle-dazzle.
The apostles Peter and Paul
greet you at street level,
while Mary blesses all from above.
you see the church is a lot like Sicily itself,
a layer cake of civilizations.
It was built into an ancient Greek temple.
The temple's 2,500-year-old colonnade
survives as part of the church's walls.
And because a pagan temple had no transepts,
neither does this church.
The fine workmanship of the capitals
survives from ancient times.
In Sicily, you hear the same basic story
of the parade of civilizations
over and over--
ancient temple, church, mosque, church.
Here in Syracuse,
this was originally a Greek temple
built to honor Athena.
Then, a thousand years later,
with Byzantine rule,
the temple was made into a church.
Next, in the ninth century,
the Arabs sweep in
from just over there in North Africa.
Christians out, Muslims in,
and it became a mosque.
Then it's a church again
as the Normans from France
conquer Sicily in the 11th century.
After a huge earthquake hit in 1693,
the cathedral was rebuilt
in today's super-charged Baroque style.
The cathedral square, or Piazza Duomo,
is a mish-mash of architectural styles.
It serves as a delightful stage
upon which the story of this community plays out.
Its graceful semi-circular design
is a Baroque trick,
designed to give the feeling
that this is a theater
for life in this community.
It's the gathering place of the town,
a magnet for all generations.
On one of the nearby narrow streets,
Alfio is treating me
to something I haven't seen since I was a kid.
Puppetry is a strong tradition here in Sicily.
This theater company puts on
nearly nightly performances.
Its young troupe of puppeteers
takes their art seriously.
The marionettes are lovingly made
and true to tradition.
The puppeteers skillfully bring
the characters to life as the plot unfolds.
[man speaking Italian]
RICK: The melodrama of an old Sicilian tale
fills the theater, captivating its audience
as this folkloric art form has for centuries.
[actor speaking Italian]
RICK: The ancient Greek city of Syracuse
is long gone.
But wandering through its scant remains
in the city's archeological park,
you pick up hints of its former power.
At its peak around the fifth century BC,
Greek Syracuse had roughly
the same population it has today:
over 100,000 people.
It was the dominant
military and economic power
in this corner of the Greek world.
With a commanding harbor view,
the ancient Greek theater originally sat 15,000.
While it dates from 500 BC,
it's still in use today.
The terrace above the theater
functioned as a grand lobby,
covered by a wooden roof
and decorated with fine statues.
The waterfall is part of an aqueduct,
a man-made underground river
carved out of the rock
allowing fresh water to flow 15 miles
from a mountain spring into the city.
The stone that built ancient Syracuse
was quarried on site
by enslaved prisoners of war.
Today that quarry's overgrown
with lush vegetation,
and, while it's called the Garden of Paradise,
it's filled with tragic memories.
It's easy to forget when marveling
at these ancient theaters and temples
that slave labor quarried and carried the stones
that made it all possible.
Back then, many soldiers
willingly fought to the death
because they knew that life as a prisoner of war
or slave was even worse.
The quarry was like
a huge underground concentration camp,
a hellish place where slaves lived out
their miserable lives cutting stone.
Gazing at the one tower of stone still standing,
imagine that this was a pillar helping support
the roof of a giant man-made cavern.
That roof collapsed with an earthquake in 1693.
A surviving quarry cavern
is nicknamed the Ear of Dionysus.
you can still see the chisel lines
showing how it was cut, over the generations,
from the top down.
A car is handy for exploring Sicily.
Once in the countryside, traffic is sparse.
Autostradas are top quality
and make getting around faster and less stressful
than smaller roads.
While most of Italy's super-freeways
come with tolls,
Sicily's are generally toll-free,
one of many economic subsidies
from the more prosperous Northern Italy.
We're heading across the island,
and we're breaking our journey
near the south coast at an agriturismo,
an upscale B&B
nestled in an olive and almond orchard.
Here in Italy, working farms with rooms to rent
are called agriturismos.
Across Europe small farms supplement their income
by renting rooms to travelers
seeking a rural refuge
from fast-paced urban scenes.
The Mandranova estate comes with a rustic
but elegant dinner,
offering a great chance for travelers
to share stories from the road.
And we cap our day
enjoying a convivial atmosphere,
where, under palm trees and stars,
our host enjoys sharing his olives and almonds
while getting to know his guests.
Our next stop is Cefal ,
beautifully situated on the north coast.
Cefal is Sicily'sbr/most romantic port town.
With a golden crescent beach
and sitting safely under its dramatic rock
still capped by a fortress,
Cefal cradles its past
in a way that's easy to enjoy.
Since the town was founded,
its streets have lined up with the prevailing wind
to catch the cooling breeze.
And, to this day, laundry flaps in that breeze.
And for a thousand years
whether ruled by Arabs, Normans,
French, or Spanish,
the women of the town
gathered here on these very stones
to scrub their laundry.
In Sicily, there's history everywhere.
In the 11th century, Sicily's Arab rulers
were booted out by the Normans from France.
This cathedral is Norman.
Built to double as a fortress,
it's crenellated like a castle
and it comes complete with slits
for shooting arrows.
Inside, columns that 2,000 years ago
supported a pagan Roman temple
now support Norman arches.
They lead to a serene mosaic portrayal
of an Orthodox Christ.
During this complicated age,
it was intentionally Eastern in style
to help make Norman rule
easier for locals to accept.
Here in Cefal ,
like anywhere in the Mediterranean,
early evenings bring out a parade of people.
It's like cruising without cars.
A multi-generational scene,
from families to grandparents.
Old-timers remain part of the action.
And anyone's attention can be hijacked
by tempting window displays.
All this strolling stokes my appetite,
and we're ready for some Sicilian cuisine.
RICK: Here, surrounded by the Mediterranean,
menus are rich in seafood,
and courses come in waves.
After the appetizers, or antipasti,
the first course, or primi piatti,
is generally pasta.
We're having spaghetti with clams,
risotto with mussels on flat bread,
and the Sicilian favorite:
pasta with sardines.
The second course, secondi, is our entrée,
and no surprise, it's more seafood.
Fresh local shrimp,
and swordfish rolls.
And, while I'm certainly enjoying my calamari,
I'm not above a little shrimp thievery
to make sure I enjoy
everything Cefal br/has to offer.
One of Sicily's quirkiest charms
nearby in the city of Palermo
is in a crypt below its Capuchin monastery.
The Capuchins, a branch of the Franciscan order,
have a passion for reminding people
of their mortality.
Historically, when their brothers died,
their bones were saved and put on display.
The Capuchins of Palermo
took this tradition a step further:
Rather than just saving bones,
they preserved the bodies in their entirety.
Back in the 16th century,
the monks here found that this particular crypt
preserved bodies almost miraculously.
They later realized
that they could actually charge
wealthy parishioners for the privilege
of being mummified here with their brothers.
And this helped raise money
to support their monastery.
This maze of corridors contains thousands
of skeletons and mummies
dressed in the clothing of their choice.
Each area features a different group:
Monks in their brown robes,
women with their favorite dresses,
priests with their vestments,
soldiers still in uniform,
and children looking
almost as if taking a long nap.
The oldest body, brother Sylvester
has been hanging here since 1599.
One of the brothers gave me
a lovely little sermon.
He explained that our time on Earth is short,
and what really matters is what comes next.
These bodies without souls, as they call them,
are a reminder that we're all mortal.
For this monk, being with all these bodies
brought him great joy and peace,
as it caused him to focus
not on our earthly existence,
but on eternity.
Today the public's welcome
to wander thoughtfully
through these halls of haunting faces,
which seem determined to tell us a truth
that perhaps we've yet to learn.
I'm not quite ready for a Capuchin crypt,
but I could go for a Capu-ccino.
And I'm joined by my Capuchin friend,
who, in good Franciscan style,
enjoys embracing the moment as well.
So, we have the same color?
BROTHER: Yes, same color. This...
RICK: Brown. BROTHER: Brown.
RICK: And the white, and the robe.
So, we've got the white and the brown.
A gondola carries us above Trapani,
to the mountaintop fortress town of Erice.
This stony town was protected
by an imposing fortress,
recalling a time when its strategic location
was worth the climb.
The stout medieval gate
leads into a remarkably preserved old town.
While a touristy shell today,
the town is fun to explore.
The church, like everything else here,
is a stony gray.
But as we step inside,
a late 19th-century interior dazzles visitors
with the over-the-top frilliness
so typical of neo-Gothic architecture.
The main street leads to a humble main square.
And hiding deep in Erice
is the venerable pastry shop
of Signora Grammatico.
Her display case tempts all who enter
with its vast array of Sicilian sweets,
including, of course, enticing cannoli
and colorfully painted marzipan treats.
But hold on. Let's not ruin our appetite.
Signora Grammatico has prepared a banquet
designed so we can enjoy
an unforgettable education
in Sicilian cuisine.
Mille grazie, Signora Grammatico.
RICK: And, complimenti.
RICK: So beautiful.
Alfio, what are we eating here?
Just give me a quick tour.
ALFIO: The most beautiful things we have in Sicily.
ALFIO: With tomatoes and the good olive oil
that we grow in Sicily.
filled with meat, deep-fried,
a specialty from Palermo.
a reminder of the Arabs that once were here.
sun-dried tomatoes, a local specialty.
Plenty of sun in Trapani.
Stuffed red peppers with breadcrumbs,
pine nuts, and pecorino and Parmesan cheese.
Local tuna, fished in the islands out here.
This is one of my favorites, caponata,
diced and fried eggplant.
In Trapani only they put toasted almonds on it.
ALFIO: Caprese salad, red, white, and green,
the colors of the flag,
a reminder we're Italians.
RICK: This is Sicily, and you even remember.
ALFIO: Even in Sicily. Sometimes we forget.
RICK: Sono molto felice.
Manco a tutto dire: Mangia, mangia.
RICK: Enjoying this feast with Alfio
is a great way to celebrate
all we've experienced here in Sicily.
And there's so much more
with its Greek temples,
and glorious churches,
all capped by an active volcano,
Sicily richly rewards
those who venture this far south.
From all that tasty Sicilian culture,
now we hop a cruise ship
to the Greek isle of Mykonos.
My crew and I jumped off the ship
and filmed the island like crazy
all within a one-day cruise stop
before sailing on.
Join us now as we see
why this many-faceted Greek isle
is such a hit with cruisers.
Up next: Mykonos!
Mykonos is another small island
with a small port
inundated by cruise ship crowds.
It's so iconic and beautiful
that it's included
in most major cruise ship itineraries.
There's a pier for only one ship,
so most ships drop the hook
and shuttle their people in by tender.
If visiting by cruise ship,
it's smart to get an early start.
We caught the first tender,
beat the crowds and beat the heat.
It's easy to enjoy Mykonos town
with no planning, no tour, and no guide.
This is a stop which lends itself
to unstructured free time,
just lazing on the beach,
wandering, and browsing the shops.
It's the epitome of a Greek island town:
a busy breakwater,
fine little beach, and inviting lanes.
While tourism dominates the economy,
Mykonos still has a traditional charm
thickly layered with white stucco,
blue trim, and colorful bougainvillea.
Back lanes offer tranquility
away from the cruise crowds.
As in many Greek island towns,
centuries ago the windmills of Mykonos
have harnessed the steady wind,
grinding grain to feed its sailors.
Five mills still stand, perfectly positioned
to catch the prevailing breeze.
A tidy embankment is so pretty
they call it Little Venice.
Wealthy shipping merchants
built this row of fine mansions
with brightly painted wooden balconies
that seem to rise right out of the sea.
Today these mansions have been refitted
as restaurants and bars
for tourists enjoying fresh fish
and romantic views.
Mykonos' status in the last generation
was as a fashionable destination
And it retains a certain hip cachet.
These days, tacky trinket stalls share the lanes
with top-end fashion boutiques.
Prices are high, and, in season,
the island is crammed full of vacationers.
But, even with four ships in the harbor today,
there seems to be plenty of room.
I love how, in the middle
of all this modern tourism,
the traditional culture carries on.
At the tiny church
built to bless those who go to sea,
a fisherman and his wife
pop in for a few meditative moments
among age-old icons and flickering candles.
Mykonos is small;
any point on the island
is within a 20-minute drive.
The windy roads feel like a fairground racetrack
busy with an array of easy-to-rent vehicles.
And, like most of them,
we're heading for the beach.
There's a range of beaches on Mykonos.
The most trendy is Paradise,
one of the ultimate party beaches in the Aegean.
Presided over by hotels
that run bars for young beachgoers,
the Paradise action is nonstop.
While the beach becomes
a raging dance floor after dark,
the DJ is busy all day as the cruise set
joins backpackers from around the world
to enjoy the scene.
As is standard around here,
beaches rent comfortable lounge furniture
Just plop onto whatever appeals.
Don't worry; the drinks will come to you.
If you prefer a quieter scene,
the more remote beaches
are a short drive farther out.
While extremely arid,
the stony countryside of Mykonos,
complete with whitewashed churches
and staggering views
is a delight for a quick road trip.
Agios Sostis, an old hippie beach
at the north end of the island,
has none of the thumping party energy
of Paradise Beach.
It offers little beyond lovely sand,
turquoise water, and tranquility.
And, for many,
it's their Greek isle dream come true.
Along with its beaches,
Mykonos offers a major historic attraction.
It's on an uninhabited neighboring island
a 30-minute shuttle boat ride away.
The island of Delos
was one of the most important places
in the ancient Greek world,
with temples honoring the birthplace
of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis.
Centuries before Christ,
Delos attracted pilgrims
from across the Western world.
Delos was important
in three different ancient eras:
first as a religious site,
then as the treasury of the Athenian League--
that was sort of the Fort Knox
of the ancient world--
and later, during Roman times,
this was one of the busiest commercial ports
in the entire Mediterranean.
Delos ranked right up there with Olympia,
Athens, and Delphi.
Survey the remains of the ancient harbor:
foundations of shops and homes,
and hillsides littered with temple remains.
The iconic row of sphinx-like lions
still heralds the importance of the place.
This was one of the Aegean world's
Imagine Delos in its heyday,
a booming center of trade:
streets lined with 3,000 shops
where you could buy just about anything.
Dazzling mansions of wealthy merchants
with colonnaded inner courtyards.
There were fine mosaics, like this one
of the god Dionysus riding a panther.
Culture thrived here,
enough to keep this theater,
which could seat 6,000, busy.
Innovative cisterns collected rainwater.
These round arches
date from the third century BC.
Plumbing ran under the streets,
and water was plentiful.
Local guides demonstrate still-working wells.
ANTONIS: One of the 200 wells and cisterns
in the city, fresh, drinkable water
from the rich aquifer underneath us,
and it was enough to supply the 30,000 people
at the peak of the flourish of the city.
So for more than 2,000 years,
water has come out of this well.
ANTONIS: You can still drink if you want.
RICK: Very nice.
About a century before Christ,
Delos was devastated by a terrible war.
It never recovered and was eventually abandoned.
After 14 centuries of silence and darkness,
it was finally excavated in the late 1800s,
and today, the ruins of Delos
are ours to explore.
I cap my visit by climbing
to the summit of the island.
One of the Mediterranean's great
As you observe the chain of islands
dramatically swirling in 360 degrees,
you can understand why historians believe
that these Cycladic Islands got their name
from the way they make a circle or a cycle
around this oh-so-important
little island of Delos.
RICK: From Coimbra,
we drive a couple hours farther north
into the mountains of the interior
to explore the scenic Douro River Valley,
famous as the birthplace of port wine.
The Douro River's steep and twisting valleys,
laboriously terraced over the centuries,
are ideal for growing grapes.
Unlike other great European river valleys,
the Douro was never
a strategic military location.
So, rather than castles and palaces,
you'll see farms and vineyards,
almost all dedicated to the production of port,
the region's beloved fortified wine.
A 50-mile stretch of prime land
is home to scores of quintas,
vineyards that produce port.
Many quintas welcome the public,
offering tours and tastings.
Visiting a family like this,
we enjoy a peek at local life.
It's spring, and the workers are busy
taming the fresh growth.
In their cellar, the sister,
who runs the vineyard,
explains how this is just the first stage
of a very long process.
Tasting the family's finest port,
surrounded by their vines,
I enjoy yet another chance
to appreciate the pride of artisans
so passionate about their traditions and craft.
The Douro River begins as a trickle in Spain,
runs west through Portugal,
and to the city of Porto,
where it spills into the Atlantic.
Porto, the town that gave the country
and port wine its name,
is the second largest city in Portugal.
And, like second cities throughout Europe,
Porto is a hardscrabble town with a rough past.
It's recently emerged
from a post-industrial funk to become trendy,
revitalized with a fresh and creative energy.
The city is full of Old World charm.
Prickly church towers dot the skyline.
Houses with red-tiled roofs
tumble down its hills to the riverbank.
Porto's a solid city;
it seems made entirely of granite.
The main drag, Avenue of the Allies,
is named for Portugal's World War I alliance
with Britain and America.
The wide boulevard,
watched over by the huge city hall,
is lined with monumental examples
of art nouveau and art deco.
As if to counter all the heavy stonework,
inviting shopping streets are ornamented
with playful architectural touches.
There are lots of lovely blue-tiled façades.
Churches that are otherwise
just more blocky granite
are beautified by these fine blue ceramic tiles,
And for a closer look,
visit the old train station.
Storefronts evoke good times
from the early 20th century.
Delightful façades decorate venerable cafés,
as Porto seems to cling to the style
of an age gone by.
Porto's romantic riverfront,
the Ribeira district,
is the city's most scenic and touristy quarter.
But before tourism, this was a hard-working port.
As you stroll, imagine the busy port scene here,
before this promenade was reclaimed from the river.
Cargo-laden rivercraft lashed to the embankment,
offloading their produce and wine
directly into 14th-century cellars.
The old arcades lining the promenade
are filled with hole-in-the-wall
restaurants and souvenir shops.
Behind the arcades are skinny, colorful houses
draped with laundry fluttering like flags.
The contrast of today's tourist crowds
amid these vivid, authentic neighborhoods
From here, a double-decker iron bridge
crosses the Douro River.
Inspired by Gustave Eiffel
when it was built back in the 1880s,
it was the biggest such bridge in the world.
Recently its top deck was closed to traffic.
Now it's just people and trams.
Across the river is a harbor
lined with traditional boats called rabelos.
Historically, these cargo boats
transported kegs of wine from the inland vineyards
down to Porto.
The boats have flat bottoms,
a big square sail, and a long rudder
to help them navigate
the twisty and, at times, shallow river.
Facing the riverfront
is a district filled with warehouses.
These port wine lodges are where
the world's port wine comes to mature.
Eighteen lodges compete,
and most offer tours and tastings.
We're visiting one to learn about the wine
that put Porto on the map.
After the year-old wine
is offloaded from the boats,
it ages even longer
here in these enormous barrels.
on the cool, north-facing bank of the Douro,
takes years, and even decades.
And, when the refined and time-honored process
is finally complete,
the beloved port wine is ready to enjoy.
What is the difference between port
and red wine that we think of?
MAN: The difference between a port wine
and a traditional wine
would be the fact that the traditional wine
has a complete fermentation,
and a port wine is a fortified wine,
so you stop the fermentation
the second day by adding
a really strong wine spirit, brandy,
that has 77% of alcohol and kills all the yeasts.
We have mainly two different styles:
rubies and tawnies.
The rubies, they age in big vats,
so they will have little contact with oak,
little contact with oxygen.
The exact same wine,
if you age it in smaller barrels,
it will have higher contact with oak,
higher contact with oxygen,
and the oxygen will change the color.
The coloring of tawny is lighter,
and, you start to understand, much older,
and much more mature fruit.
RICK: After enjoying our tasting,
a fine way to cap our Porto visit
is on a lazy boat ride.
Several companies offer
hour-long narrated cruises
along the historic waterfront.
Here in a city built over the centuries
upon the fruit of the vine
and the hard work of its people,
we ponder the impressive and salty mix
that created Portugal.
I hope we're stoking your travel dreams.
That last bit sure stoked mine.
It took me right back to Portugal;
Yes, Europe awaits,
and we're celebrating some of the places
I'd love to travel to as soon as things open up.
Up next, it's a little bit of Great Britain.
We're exploring England's epitome of quaint,
poetic hills, thatched cottages,
and lots of sheep.
The Cotswold Hills
are dotted with enchanting villages
and bucolic farmland.
And it's all laced together
by wonderful trails.
This is the quintessential
and it's walking country.
The Cotswolds are best appreciated on foot,
and that's how we'll tour the area.
The region's made to order for tenderfeet.
You'll encounter time-passed villages,
and poetic moments.
You'll discover hidden stone bridges,
cut across fancy front yards,
and enjoy close encounters
with lots of sheep.
The English love their walks
and defend their age-old right to free passage.
And they organize to assure that landowners
respect this law, too.
Any paths found blocked
are unceremoniously unblocked.
While landlords have plenty of fences,
they provide plenty of gates as well.
You'll encounter all sorts of gates
on these hikes.
This one's called a kissing gate,
it works better with two.
Lower Slaughter is a classic example
of a Cotswold village,
with a babbling brook, charming gardens,
and a working water mill.
Just above the mill,
a delightful café overlooks the millpond.
As with many fairy-tale regions in Europe,
the present-day beauty of the Cotswolds
was the result of an economic disaster.
Wool was a huge industry in medieval England,
and Cotswold sheep grew the very best.
According to a 12th-century saying,
"In Europe the best wool is English.
And, in England, the best wool is Cotswold."
It's a story of boom and bust,
and then boom again.
Because of its wool, the region prospered.
Wealthy wool merchants built fine homes
of the honey-colored local limestone.
Thankful to God
for the riches their sheep brought,
they built oversized churches
nicknamed wool cathedrals.
But with the rise of cotton
and the Industrial Revolution,
the region's wool industry collapsed.
The fine Cotswold towns
fell into a depressed time warp,
becoming sleeping beauties.
Because of that,
the region has a rustic charm.
And that's the basis of today's new prosperity.
Its residents are catering
to lots of tourists,
and the Cotswolds have become
a popular escape for Londoners,
people who can afford
thatched mansions like these.
In England, Main Street
is called the high street,
and in Cotswold market towns,
High Street was built wide,
designed to handle thousands of sheep
on market days.
The handsome market town of Chipping Campden
has a high street
that's changed little over the centuries.
Everything you see was made of the same
finely worked Cotswold stone,
the only stone allowed today.
Roofs still use
the traditional stone shingles.
To make the weight easier to bear,
smaller and lighter slabs are higher up.
A 17th-century market hall
with its original stonework
from top to bottom intact
marks the town center.
the surviving medieval workmanship.
You can imagine centuries of wheelings and dealings
that took place under these very rafters.
Continuing our walk,
we come to the quaint village of Stanton.
Travel writers tend to overuse the word "quaint."
I save it for here in the Cotswolds.
A strict building code keeps towns looking
what many locals call overly quaint.
Village churches welcome walkers
to pop in and enjoy a thoughtful break.
This church probably sits
upon an ancient pagan site.
How do we know?
It's dedicated to St. Michael.
the archangel who fought the devil,
still guards the door.
Inside, you get a sense that this church
has comforted this community
in good times and bad.
Pre-Christian symbols decorate the columns,
perhaps left over from those pagan days.
And the list of rectors
goes way back without a break
to the year 1269.
This church was built with wool money.
In fact, they say
generations of sheepdog leashes
actually wore these grooves.
I guess a shepherd took his dog everywhere,
even to church.
Throughout this region, a few of the vast domains
of England's most powerful families
The Cotswolds are dotted with elegant,
Downton Abbey-type mansions.
Today, with the high cost
of maintenance and heavy taxes,
some noble families
have opened their homes to the public
to help pay the bills.
Stanway House, home of the Earl of Wemyss,
is one such venerable manor house.
The earl, whose family goes back centuries,
welcomes visitors two days a week.
Walking through his house
offers a surprisingly intimate glimpse
into the lifestyles of England's nobility.
And the gracious and likeably eccentric earl
has agreed to personally show us
around his ancestral home,
including a peek at some touching family mementos.
EARL: Hair, cut off a member of the family.
RICK: That was the tradition?
EARL: It was, certainly in this house
it was a tradition.
And it's kept in this drawer here.
And, for instance, this is,
this says, "Papa's hair,"
My sister gave it me March 11, 1771."
RICK: This piece of paper from 1771?
EARL: And then that's the hair inside.
RICK: Oh, my goodness!
EARL: Which is just as fresh
as the day it was cut off.
EARL: And that's his hair.
Cut off on the day his wife died of pneumonia.
RICK: So this is a huge table!
EARL: It is; it's 23 feet long.
RICK: And what's the game?
EARL: It's called shuffleboard,
It was known in Henry VIII's time.
Um, this one was built, we think, in 1625,
just at the beginning of the reign of Charles I.
And you use these 10 pieces, um,
and you try and...
RICK: Let's try a game!
EARL: ...shovel them up to the far end.
That's a nice one.
RICK: It may be a game for English aristocrats,
but this Yankee commoner is gonna give it a try.
EARL: Very good, very good.
Very nice, but two foot short.
RICK: Another interesting artifact
is what was called a chamber horse,
a sprung exercise chair from the 1750s.
EARL: And you did that, you bounce up and down,
and your liver gets shaken.
RICK: For a hundred years,
fine ladies would sit on here
and get their liver done.
EARL: Yeah. And fine gentlemen, too.
RICK: Fine gentlemen, too. Yep.
A chamber horse.
I guess that makes sense, doesn't it?
EARL: It's just like
going to the gym nowadays.
RICK: Lord Wemyss has rebuilt the old fountain
in his backyard and today,
as one of the highest gravity-fed fountains
in the world
rockets 300 feet into the sky,
it's the talk of the Cotswolds.
the lord's sprawling parkland backyard
makes for a jolly good day out.
While not quite in a noble mansion,
we're sleeping plenty comfortably
just down the road
in the village of Stow-on-the-Wold.
Stow mixes medieval charm with a workaday reality.
A selection of traditional pubs,
cute shops, and inviting cafés
ring its busy square.
For centuries the square
hosted a huge wool market.
The historic Market Cross stood tall,
reminding all Christian merchants
to trade fairly under the sight of God.
And stocks like these were handy
when a scoundrel deserved a little public ridicule.
People came from as far away as Italy
to buy the prized Cotswold wool fleeces.
You can imagine,
with 20,000 sheep sold on a single day,
it was a thriving scene.
The sheep would be paraded into the market
down narrow fleece alleys like this.
They were built really narrow
'cause it forced the sheep to go single file,
so they could count them
as they entered the market.
And ever since those medieval market days,
pubs have been the place to gather,
enjoy a meal, and a pint of beer.
Tonight we're checking out a gastropub--
that's a pub known for its fine food.
While many things that pubs provide,
like the cozy ambience
and community living room vibe
haven't changed, other things,
like the quality of the food, certainly have.
This isn't your grandmother's pub grub.
Pubs are putting more effort
into their offerings.
Creative chefs are shaking up
England's reputation for food,
and you won't find mushy peas
anywhere on this menu.
We're enjoying guinea fowl
and artfully prepared fish
with fresh vegetables.
RICK: In Tuscany it's still possible
to find your own sleepy fortified village.
While tourists pack the more famous places,
little offbeat gems like this remain overlooked,
and are great places
for enjoying the traditional culture.
Hamlets like these originated
as communities of farmers who banded together
on easily defensible hilltops
overlooking their farmland.
With today's tourism and relative affluence,
it's easy to forget the fact that,
until the last generation,
this region was quite poor.
Today, while the poverty's gone,
the traditions survive.
Many rural families still preserve their own meats
and enjoy firing up their wood-burning ovens
on special occasions.
And here in rural Tuscany,
you feel an enthusiasm for tradition.
Gazing at these content sheep,
you can almost taste the pecorino cheese,
which seems to be a part of every meal.
At this farm, walls are stacked
with rounds of pecorino,
made from the unpasteurized,
and therefore tastier, milk of the farm's sheep.
Making cheese this way is labor-intensive
and takes lots of patience.
But, for these folks,
it's well worth the trouble.
To be sure we get the most out of our visit,
we're joined by my friend
and fellow tour guide Roberto Bechi.
We're visiting the noble farm of the Zanda family,
where Nicola raises a couple hundred pigs.
These pigs are a rare breed
brought back from the edge of extinction
by people who care about traditional agriculture,
people who really love their ham.
So, it's Italian justice:
We feed them, they feed us.
RICK: Now, like the pigs all eventually do,
we move on
to the prosciutto part of the farm.
Nicola artfully cures every part of the pig.
The hind legs are destined
to become fine prosciutto.
He brushes on a coat of garlic and vinegar
with a sprig of rosemary,
sprinkles it with pepper,
and finally cakes it in salt.
Top-grade prosciutto is cured
by hanging in a cool room for about a year.
During the slow curing process,
Nicola checks the progress,
employing a wooden needle and an expert nose.
And, like any proud farmer,
he invites us into his home,
not your everyday farmhouse,
for a memorable taste.
From the farm to the table,
with only a little bit of travel.
NICOLA: 200 meters, but a lot of work.
RICK: How many months?
NICOLA: About, uh... 15 months.
RICK: And then the ham is waiting?
NICOLA: The ham is waiting about 12 months.
RICK: Oh, so more than two years.
RICK: Nicola, three different meats.
Can you give me a little tour?
NICOLA: This is ham, prosciutto;
we have soppressata--
it's done with the heads of the pigs--
and we have the salami here.
RICK: You like this? NICOLA: Oh, I love it.
RICK: This is from the head
of the beautiful pigs I was just feeding.
Is it good? You eat it, Nicola?
NICOLA: It's fantastic. RICK: Yeah?
ROBERTO: Try it! Try it!
NICOLA: It's the best part.
ROBERTO: I think he likes it.
RICK: Hmm, yeah!
It's like prosciutto for beginners,
and this is for the expert.
ROBERTO: For the expert. RICK: The connoisseur.
RICK: With some good wine.
ROBERTO: Always with good wine.
RICK: Nearby is the vecchio mulino,
or old mill.
While this swan thinks this pool's made for him,
it's actually a reservoir used to power the mill.
This mill, with its ancient grindstones,
has been producing flour for generations.
Until the 1960s, neighboring farmers
brought their grain here,
while locals know stone-ground corn makes
the tastiest polenta.
ANGELO: Mills like these are a tough fit
in our fast-paced world.
Aristocratic countryside elegance
survives in Tuscany.
But for these venerable manor houses
to stay viable,
many augment their farming income
by renting rooms to travelers.
We're stayingbr/in a B&B run
by Signora Sylvia Gori.
And, like so much of what she serves,
the limoncello comes from her farm.
Signora Gori rents a few rooms
in her centuries-old farmhouse.
As is typical of agriturismos,
as working farms renting rooms are called here,
the furnishings are rustic, but comfortable.
To merit the title agriturismo,
the farm must still be in business,
and the Gori family makes wine.
The son, Nicoló, runs the show now,
mixing traditional techniques
with the latest technology
in a very competitive field.
Signora Gori is proud to show us her home.
As her family has for centuries,
she lives in the manor house.
And the family tree makes it clear:
the Gori family has deep roots
and goes back over 600 years.
So it says, "Famiglia Gori"--
SYLVIA GORI: Gori family.
RICK: All the way back to--
The family room, the oldest in the house,
in an aristocratic sort of way.
Under its historic vault, Grandpa nurtures
the latest generation of Goris
as the rural nobility of Italy carries on.
Upstairs is the vast billiards room.
For generations, evenings ended here,
beneath musty portraits, another reminder
of the family's long and noble lineage.
And grandma passes down the requisite skills
to the latest generation.
RICK: If that was bowling,
it would be very good. [laughs]
The kitchen, with its wood-burning stove
and fine copper ware,
has cooked up countless meals.
Signora Gori, happy to share the local bounty,
invites us for lunch.
Three generations gather on this Sunday afternoon
with no hurry at all.
The prosciutto and pecorino cheese
provides a fine starting course,
beautifully matched with the family's wine.
Pasta comes next,
and the children prefer theirs bianco,
with only olive oil.
And the little one?
She's still mastering the fine art
of eating spaghetti.
Food is particularly tasty when eaten
in the community that produced it
with a family that's lived right here
for six centuries.
It's memories like these that you take home
that really are the very best souvenir.
They call this a zero-kilometer meal.
Everything was produced locally.
It's a classic Tuscan table:
simplicity, a sense of harmony,
and no rush, enjoyed
with an elegant and welcoming noble family.
Tuscany is one of those regions
where it just makes sense
to sleep outside the city.
And our farmhouse B&B
provides a great springboard
for a world of side trips.
A short and scenic drive south
takes us through
some of Italy's finest wine country.
This is the land of two beloved local wines:
Brunello di Montalcino
and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
The vineyards here produce
some of the very best wines in the world.
And travelers who call in advance
are welcome to visit and tour the wineries.
Beautifully tended vines soak up the spring sun
as hardworking vintners
hope that this year's vintage
will be one to remember.
And overlooking it all
is the hill town of Montepulciano.
The town's sleepy main piazza
is surrounded by a grab bag
of architectural sights.
The medieval town hall resembles
nearby Florence's Palazzo Vecchio,
a reminder that about 500 years ago,
Montepulciano allied itself with Florence.
The crenellations along the roof
were never intended to hide soldiers;
they just symbolize power.
But the big central tower makes it clear
that the city's keeping an eye out
in all directions.
For centuries this town has celebrated
its independent spirit.
And today these young people
carry on that tradition
and entertain their visitors
with a colorful ritual.
Being a wine-producing capital,
Montepulciano is built
upon a honeycomb of wine cellars.
Palazzo Ricci sits atop
a particularly impressive series of cellars.
ENRICO: Oh, Roberto, ciao!
RICK: Joining a vintner,
we descend a long staircase.
Heading deep down into the hill
that Montepulciano is built upon,
the temperature noticeably drops,
and eventually we end up
at street level of the lower town.
Climbing even further down,
we reach gigantic barrels
under even more gigantic vaults
and a chance to learn
about the wine that's aging here.
These are very big barrels.
ENRICO: Yeah, of course.
It's a very big barrel. 10,000 liter.
It's made of wood, the Slavonian wood.
RICK: 10,000 liters. How many bottles?
RICK: For this wine,
it's the artful combination of aging
in large, medium, and small oak barrels
that gets the tannin levels just right.
Enrico, when was the first barrel of wine
here in this cellar?
ENRICO: From 1337.
RICK: 700 years.
ENRICO: Of course. Sure.
RICK: My goodness.
And, for our last stop,
a chance to taste some of the wine as it's aging.
And I'm forever the attentive student.
So how old would this wine be here?
ROBERTO: Ah, one year.
RICK: One year. ROBERTO: Basically.
RICK: So this is baby Nobile di Montepulciano.
ROBERTO: Baby Vino Nobile. Born now.
RICK: Born now. It's a little tiny baby!
And when, it's finished how long,
how old will the wine be?
ROBERTO: Ah, three years old.
RICK: Three years.
And is this good?
Can you tell when you taste?
ROBERTO: For me, the wine is how my son is.
Very, very nice.
RICK: You love the wine like your son?
RICK: You love your son like the wine! [laughs]
ROBERTO: Same. Same!
RICK: The same! Good!
The people of Montepulciano
seem to enjoy their red meat
as much as their red wine.
And this osteria
is a carnivore's dream come true.
Its long, narrow room,
jammed with shared tables,
leads to a busy kitchen with an open fire.
Giulio, his wife Chiara, and their staff
serve their hungry crowd
like a well-choreographed meat-eaters' ballet.
Weight and price is agreed upon at the table.
You know what? That's good. Bene!
Then, it's leave it to cleaver.
The meat is seared over embers
for a just few minutes
before being cut from the bone.
I can smell it already.
Oh, look at that! Nice!
And in Tuscany,
the correct way to enjoy a steak is rare.
[Chiara speaking Italian]
Mille grazie to all
who are supporting public television.
Thank you so much.
Tuscany. It's so many people's favorite.
And now, to Romania,
perhaps Europe's biggest secret.
For our "Europe Awaits" destinations,
I wanted to share a big surprise:
and that's certainly Romania!
Such a rich culture, endearing people,
people who can wear a hat like this
and make it look good.
My vote for the most vibrant
and traditional folk life
anywhere in Europe is coming up next.
Again, as you watch this,
consider the value of this station
to bring you so vividly and so thoughtfully
to places you might never appreciate.
It's quality programming you'll find only here
on public television.
Heading north for the Carpathian Mountains,
we leave Bucharest.
Stunning fields of poppies are irresistible.
And this quick roadside stop
is just too joyful to pass up.
Our next stop is Peles Castle,
the summer residence of Romania's first king, Carol.
Carol chose a mountainous and forested setting
that reminded him of his German homeland.
And he imported German architects
to create this fanciful hunting lodge.
Prickly with over-the-top spires,
among Europe's finest Romantic age palaces.
And it boasts one of the most dazzling
late 19th-century interiors anywhere.
The Hall of Honor,
with its red carpets, grand staircase,
and venerable portraits, sets the tone.
The woodwork is exquisite.
The rest of the rooms
have a grand yet somehow cozy elegance:
glittering crystal chandeliers,
King Carol ruled for 48 years.
When summering at the palace,
he took care of matters of state in his study.
For over 30 years,
the king dined with guests here.
His impressive collection of weapons and armor
The library showed off
the king's passion for education.
And today, more than a century later,
tourists from around the world
still marvel at King Carol's castle.
Just over the Carpathian Mountains,
we cross into the fabled region of Transylvania.
Trans-sylvania: It means across the forest,
and that's literally where we've gone.
We're spending the night
in the handy home base town of Brasov,
which fills a scenic mountain valley.
Most of the city's people live
in boxy communist-era apartment blocks,
many of which have been spiffed up.
But the historic Old Town is much more charming.
It's packed with locals enjoying a balmy evening.
Thriving and appealing, Brasov offers a glimpse
into a midsize Romanian city
that has its act together.
Among other things,
Transylvania is well known
for its rustic and wild countryside
and a medieval history
with a surprising German twist.
In the 12th century,
Transylvania's Hungarian overlords
needed help taming this wild frontier.
So they imported skilled merchants
and hardworking settlers from the German lands.
For that reason,
you'll find German-speaking enclaves
and delightful German towns
in this part of Romania.
One of Transylvania's
seven original German towns
perhaps the most popular tourist town
in all of Romania.
The old center is entirely contained
within its fortified hilltop.
Several of Sighisoara's watchtowers
and its historic centerpiece
is its clock tower,
proudly trumpeting the town's special status
in the Middle Ages.
Within the town's protective walls,
visitors explore cobbled lanes,
enjoy pastel German-style façades,
and sip beers on the main square.
Nearby, a statue honors
the town's tenuous connection
with an infamous Romanian prince, Vlad Tepes.
In the 15th century,
he ruthlessly fought the Turkish Ottomans.
Much later, he became better known
as the inspiration for a vampire.
Vlad had two nicknames:
Vlad the Impaler and Dracula--
that means "son of the devil."
Vlad the Impaler was brutal
in his defense of his homeland.
While he didn't drink anyone's blood,
he was sadistic, famously impaling his victims.
The popular Dracula myth came much later.
Dracula, in the myth,
is a fictitious vampire created centuries later
by the Victorian novelist Bram Stoker.
He wrote his famous novel "Dracula"
after being inspired by the tales
of this bloodthirsty prince
and other local legends.
Vlad the Impaler?
Dracula the vampire?
Just a scary fairy tale.
Nevertheless, Dracula is big business
for local tourism.
For many, when in Transylvania,
a stop at Bran Castle is considered a must.
While people call it Dracula's Castle,
it has virtually nothing to do
with Vlad the Impaler.
But that doesn't stop the tourists from coming
or locals from selling their vampire kitsch.
Past the tacky souvenir gauntlet,
a cobbled path curls up to the castle entrance.
Despite the fanciful legends,
Bran is actually a fine example
of an authentic medieval fortress,
dating from the 14th century.
Some of Romania's most memorable fortresses
aren't castles at all;
they're actually churches.
While big towns were well fortified,
smaller German villages
were vulnerable to invaders.
So what did the industrious settlers do?
They fortified their churches.
Dozens of fortified German churches,
mostly built in the 13th and 14th centuries,
are scattered across Transylvania.
Like other medieval fortresses,
they have beefy bastions,
stout lookout towers,
and narrow slits for archers.
Entire communities could take refuge inside
within these wraparound defensive galleries.
This fortified church had a room for each family
and, when under attack,
each family had a defensive responsibility.
Stepping inside these churches
feels like stepping into medieval Germany.
Decoration was humble,
pews were simple benches,
Bible quotes are in German,
and to this day, the services are Lutheran.
Today most of Romania's ethnic Germans are gone,
having emigrated in the late 19th century
or fled to Germany after World War II.
Those who remain speak a time-warp German
and work hard to keep
their unique cultural heritage alive.
And the cultural heritage of Romania
Appreciating the diversity
of the 20 million people who make up this country
enriches your experience.
The faces, as varied and beautiful
as the land itself tell the story.
Of Romania's many people, one group in particular
has struggled to fit in: the Roma.
Also known as Gypsies,
the Roma originated in India.
They were nomads
who migrated over the centuries
throughout Eastern Europe and gained a reputation
as musicians, thieves, and metalworkers.
Romania has Europe's largest Roma population.
They've had to abandon their nomadic ways
and face the challenge of settling down.
The classic Roma image
is poor people in shantytowns.
But most Roma live side by side
with their Romanian neighbors,
more or less fitting in to mainstream society.
And many Roma carry on the traditional craft
We've been invited in to learn more.
So how many years
has your family been making copper?
EMIL: 450 years ago.
RICK: Many generations!
EMIL: Yeah, many generations.
Six, maybe seven generations.
RICK: Six or seven-- EMIL: And this job is--
RICK: Your father, his father--
EMIL: Yeah, my grandfather,
RICK: Right here? EMIL: Yeah.
RICK: I love your hat! Can I see your hat?
EMIL: Yeah, sure!
RICK: So, this is a Roma hat?
EMIL: Yeah, it's Roma hat.
RICK: Do you like to be called Roma or Gypsy?
EMIL: Uh, Roma.
What is important to the Roma people?
EMIL: For Roma people it's important, uh,
it's important: family,
respect life, my people,
art, music, language,
RICK: So you speak a Roma language.
EMIL: Yeah. Yeah.
RICK: So, today, for the Roma community,
what's the challenge?
EMIL: Living modern times,
but at the same time, like, keep traditions.
RICK: Pondering the challenges
of maintaining traditions
in an aggressively modern world,
we leave Transylvania, and drive north.
At the fringe of the country,
tucked next to the Ukrainian border,
is Romania's most isolated region:
Maramures is fiercely traditional.
Its centuries-old ways endure.
Horse carts are commonplace.
The men wear distinctive straw hats.
The women are tough as the land.
People work the fields
as they have for generations.
Village roads are lined
with ornate wooden gateways.
These gateways are intentionally elaborate,
designed to show off the family's wealth.
The gates protect family compounds:
along with the home, you'll find a barn,
a garden, and an old-time dipping well.
And, if you've never tried one of these,
locals are happy to demonstrate.
Can you show me the well?
RICK: Yeah? What do we have?
Yeah? Like this.
Okay, so, into the horses.
There we go.
We're stayingbr/at a farmhouse B&B.
Our host ritualistically
closes the gate behind us.
People here are superstitious,
especially after dark.
but first we're getting a little tour.
collect their nicest belongings
into one room designed to impress their guests.
Heirloom dowries are lovingly displayed.
These are bridal gifts going back generations.
Tonight we're being treated
to a farmer's feast.
The food is typical of the region,
rustic, delicious, and farm fresh.
Our host, Ana,
is determined to feed us well.
Hearty salads, cabbage rolls.
Polenta is a daily treat around here,
and pork is big.
In Romania, like everywhere else,
food is especially tasty
when it's local and fresh.
And everything goes better
with the local firewater.
RICK: All right. Maramures.
the evening continues in the music room,
where Ana's husband gets out his violin
and shares some rousing folk music.
[singing in Romanian]
[singing in Romanian]
In this traditional community,
many homes are busy
with small-scale crafts and industry.
Just up the lane,
we meet a family who welcomes us
into their cozy yet busy world.
The daughter, using a technique
that goes back to ancient times,
gracefully spins raw wool into yarn.
Inside, her mother weaves the yarn
into bolts of cloth,
which will eventually be made into heavy woolens
for the winter.
Next door, a watermill
does the same work it's done
since medieval times.
With the flip of a giant lever,
George, the miller, sets things in motion.
All of this powers his fulling mill,
which takes the neighbor's woven wool
to the next stage.
relentlessly pummel the fabric.
With the help of hot water,
the wool is pounded into a dense felt.
The finished product is heavy and warm,
ideal for the frigid Romanian winter.
The water wheel also powers grinding stones.
To this day, villagers drop off their grain
to be ground into everything
from animal feed to polenta.
And George also has his own still
for making the local brandy, horinca.
He stokes the fire
and patiently stirs his heated plum mash
to keep it from burning.
After its steamy journey
through his low-tech water cooler,
George's beloved firewater
trickles into his bucket.
And you can't visit George's distillery
without tasting the final product.
Oh, yeah. Good?
Maramures has some of the finest
wooden churches in Europe.
Their graceful spires
punctuate the countryside.
they seem to connect earth with heaven.
The exteriors show off the quality craftsmanship
of local woodworkers through the centuries.
And our guide, Teo, shows us
how beautifully decorated the interiors are.
Teo, this is remarkable.
And how old is this church?
TEO: 17th century.
RICK: And how old are
all these beautiful paintings?
TEO: 18th century.
RICK: You know, they look more simple,
like what you would see 14th century
in France or Germany.
TEO: Yeah, it was a kind of a delay,
or a very long-lasting tradition.
RICK: And the carpets!
I've never seen a church with carpets everywhere.
TEO: They are gifts from donators,
from parishioners, from the ladies.
RICK: So the ladies want to show their devotion,
they bring a carpet?
TEO: Yes, it's a kind of devotion,
a kind of sacrifice, let's say it.
RICK: And these beautiful embroideries,
are these gifts also from parishioners?
TEO: Yes. For example, here you can see it bears
even the donator's name, Jurca Palaguta.
RICK: Oh, that's the name of the woman
who embroidered this!
Even modern churches are still built
in the traditional wooden style.
Dating from 1995, this one towers 250 feet,
with artistic shingle work
cascading from peak to eaves.
Again, the technical mastery
of the woodworkers is on display.
Chunky timbers, precisely dovetailed,
keep massive walls firmly in place.
Just up the road
is another unforgettable church, this one
with an unusually joyful cemetery.
In 1935, a local woodcarver,
reviving an old tradition,
began adorning what's known
as the Merry Cemetery
with a forest of vivid memorials.
Each one comes with a whimsical poem
and a painting of the departed
in the moment of death
or doing something they loved.
Even if you can't read the poems,
the images speak volumes:
from a lifetime commitment
to a traditional trade,
like weaving, baking, or woodworking,
a more modern one like television repair,
or to a passion for bicycles,
a sad early end by a lightning strike,
or a humorous memorial to a lifetime
spent enduring a nagging mother-in-law.
It's a poignant and good-natured celebration
of each individual's life,
as well as a chronicle of village history.
And it's all painted in cheery blue
to match the heavens,
where these souls are headed.
Traveling through Romania,
I feel about as far from home
as I've ever been while still in Europe.
Sure, it's got some rough edges.
But you'll enjoy amazing sights,
endearing people, and rich memories.
Thanks for joining us. I'm Rick Steves.
Until next time, keep on travelin'.
Ta. Ta, ta!