On a fine, sunny fall morning, we are bouncing around in the back seat of a van as we drive along a rocky road leading into the dense, leafy forests of Romania’s Cozia National Park. After 20 minutes, we round one last bend.
Before us lies a hidden valley. A tiny church stands nestled in a dell against steep, forested hills. Wisps of early morning mist still shroud the grounds.
We jump out of our vehicle and descend the winding path to the church. As we approach the chapel, admiring the delicate woodwork and perfect geometry of its hexagonal central tower, an elderly church warden in a long, black robe and bushy, white beard emerges into the empty courtyard. He greets us cheerfully, urging us to come in for the service about to start.
He then hoists a large, yoke-shaped plank from a hook by the door onto his shoulder and begins striding around the church, clanging a high-pitched rhythm on the wood with a mallet to announce the start of prayers.