One of the most interesting artisans is Marinel Györfi, who has revived the traditional blue Saschiz pottery in the Saxon village of the same name, 20 km north of Viscri. In a workshop at Atelier de Ceramică Saschiz, at the end of a narrow lane opposite the village’s tall fortified church, I watched him deftly strike and roll clay into pots and plates that were then glazed a rich cobalt blue. He scratched the motifs into the glaze, rather than painting them, a graffito technique that Saschiz’s earlier potter used before him in the late 18th century. What Marinel does depends on the weight of the clay – and how he feels during the day. “Making a pot is more about the journey than the destination,” he told me. “It’s about the emotions you feel along the way.”
Saschiz, like Viscri and all the other villages in Târnava Mare, has remained relatively unchanged since the Saxons first settled here: it consists of two parallel rows of pastel-colored houses, built in a line on either side of a stream. The villages were originally organized in different neighborhoods, or neighborhood; supporting communities that worked together to carry out communal tasks, a practice that continues today. Cattle owners, for example, are still required to spend a certain amount of time (depending on the number of cattle or sheep they own) clearing pastures and meadows of bushes.
It was a creaking horse-and-buggy ride to the scrub-cleared pastures between Viscri and Criț. Liviu Damian, the man chosen to look after the village flock this season, was spending the whole summer in the sheepfold here, his only company a few local shepherds and the wild sheepdogs that (mostly) keep away wolves and area bears. . His temporary home was a bare-floor shed where he cooks, eats, sleeps and – in the next room – makes cheeses using a variety of wooden troughs and trays. Under his watch were about 180 sheep, which his shepherds milked by hand every evening; most families own between 10 and 20 sheep and all receive several kilos of cheese from Damiani every week.