As has become customary over the past few years, I recently went on another trip to Romania. This time I wanted to do a thorough recce and plan for future expeditions to Transylvania, but I also wanted to do extensive recording and occasional photo/videography. In short, I spent three weeks driving around (more than 2000 miles on the clock) and visiting breathtaking places. I also did a little recording (more than 400GB, that is).
The first week - Moldova
I spent the first week at my country house in North East Romania, recording nature ambiences and trying to source and old tractor. The first part went smoothly as I was quite close to a densely wooded area nestled between mountains. I managed to get a few good recordings of Ural Owls calling at night, plus decent dusk and dawn choruses. I also recorded a number of cuckoos quite cleanly as they were in full mating mode and didn't seem to mind a sound recordist.
The tractor sourcing part proved to be more difficult. When I grew up in Romania this specific model used to be found everywhere, but lately all the farmers seem to have upgraded to John Deeres and other modern vehicles. I did find a couple of them, but they were either not working or their owner would not want to get them on the road anymore.
After a few days I found the exact model I was looking for. The owner had kept it and a few other old models just because they remembered him about the good old times. To my surprise, he simply handed me the keys as soon as I told him what I wanted to do. I spent about an hour wiring it, with two DPA lavs on the engine, two in the cabin and an MKH8040 aimed at the exhaust. As you can see in the video above, I was quite excited to have finally found one! If you like what it sounds like, the library is up on my website already so go get it.
The second week - Transylvania
After a week of nature recording and tractor sourcing, I drove West to the city of Cluj in Transylvania to pick up Richard at the airport. He was going to join me on the week-long recce through this beautiful region. I had previously recorded in the area so we were cautiously optimistic about recording and photography opportunities.
We headed further West and aimed for Apuseni National Park. While the places looked great, we spent a whole day trying to find good recording spots without much luck. Everywhere we went, there were holiday houses and even whole villages inside the actual park. These came with noisy dogs and party people (did I mention it was the May day long weekend?). Overall, not a good start to our trip.
We visited a very interesting underground glacier/cave, and immediately thought about recording it. I approached the person in charge and asked him about recording the place. At first he seemed quite interested and said we could drop by just after closing time. Happy to have arranged a recording session, we decided to stay at a cabin close by. To our surprise, the guy called us a few hours later and said that the whole thing was off for "safety" reasons.
Disappointed at the news, we went out again to look for forest to record in overnight. We found a spot on the side of a hill overlooking a huge valley and set up there. I managed to get some decent recordings of foxes and dogs barking in the distance, but not much else.
The next few days we drove from national park to national park hoping to find better recording spots. Sadly there was something wrong with all these places. They all looked great, but they either had noisy creeks everywhere or were situated under flight paths. On one occasion we spent 5 hours driving on mountain tracks to get away from the creeks until we reached the top of a hill that offered decent recording conditions.
Overall the recording opportunities were slim even if there was plenty of wildlife. We did not give up though, and recorded on each and every night we were in Transylvania. While the dusk and dawn choruses weren't always good, there was plenty of activity at night, like this following Owl duet with dogs barking in the background:
On the last 3 days in Transylvania we managed to find rather decent places to record. We bumped into a mama bear and two cubs while driving like it was the most common thing. Afterwards we bumped into a ranger who took us to a bear hide where we saw not one or two but more than 8 bears (that's when I stopped counting).
Sadly the bears weren't too vocal, but to make up for it there was an incredible amount of wildlife. We spotted various raptors, countless songbirds, Corn Crakes, Black Woodpeckers, huge boars, even a Horned Viper. Each of these three spots looked and sounded different to one another. There were thick coniferous forests, mixed and deciduous forests, even alpine forests and meadows.
This time around it was slightly easier to get away from villages and creeks, but the wind had picked up so it wasn't quite 100% all the time. Still, it was preferable to the first few places we had visited, and we started getting seriously usable recordings. After a quick skim through my recordings I'm confident I have enough material to update the Eerie Forest library.
Overall, Transylvania was a blast, and now that I know which places are good for recording I will probably start organizing sound recording expeditions there. I will make sure to post an update once I start planning these trips.
Week 3: Back in Moldova
After a week of driving in Transylvania, I drove back East so I could drive around some more looking for good recording spots. I found a nice place up in the Mountains, within reach from an Eastern Orthodox convent that we spent a night in. I left the rig out around 9pm and by 10 we were taking shelter from a massive downpour accompanied by nice and meaty thunder.
I was quite worried about my rig, but there was no going back to it in the dark and torrential rain. I had left the recorder in a dry bag, but I hadn't sprayed my Cinela blimp cover with Nikwax in a long time. To make matters worse, it rained all night so I was understandably worried the next day when we picked up the rig.
To my surprise, not a single drop of water had made it into the blimp, and the mics were nice and dry. I had also recorded a good start and ending to the storm, although the middle parts are mostly distorted since I had set up my levels for birdsong.
During this part of the trip I also had the opportunity to record a cargo truck. A friend of mine said he could arrange it but I only had one hour to get it done. I had to move fast, but that didn't prove a problem for me. I was done wiring it up in less than 20 minutes, which left me plenty of time for recording and then taking my mics off. The recordings have already been added as an update to the well received Cargo Trucks library.
Romania, and Transylvania particularly, is a region well worth exploring for sound recording. Good places away from civilization may not be as easy to find, but it's certainly much better than the UK or many parts of Western Europe. I will surely go back there, and I will probably take others with me as well if there is sufficient interest.