Well, you learn something new every day. There was I thinking that coal came from the ground – as in the famous Castlecomer coalmines in Co. Kilkenny. I had never heard ‘making coal’ until a recent visit to Transylvania exposed me to a whole new world.
From as far back as the 19th century, the process of ‘wood charring’ was practically a home industry in this part of the world. Piles of cut wood (boksa) are covered with soil and leaves. The hollow inside is filled with dry branches. The boksa is then lit from the top and burns very slowly for about a week and half. Then the soil is removed and replaced with coal powder and left until the fire goes out. And voila – you have coal. Or more technically, charcoal. You can even do this at home!
Now, if this wasn’t enough for my mind to take in, we stopped in the village of Corund (Korund) where apparently 5000 craftspeople make their living from pottery. And 90 families make their living by making ‘things’ from mushrooms – hats, bags, magnets, toy mice, ties – it reminded me a little of the cork craft in Portugal but this is a lot more like leather/suede. Simply amazing.These craft traditions are handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, and despite the growing amount of kitsch that’s appearing alongside the handcrafted stuff, it’s pretty impressive. Although like so much of the craftwork in this region, because the same patterns and colours are used, it looks a little mass produced even if it’s made by hand.