Moonshine Transylvania Style – Survival In Romania Part VI

We heat our home with a csempe. America has something like it, I believe you call it a masonry fireplace. Csempe’s are everywhere in Eastern Europe. They’re often beautiful, such as our Green Dragon, but they can also be small and plain as muck, yet all are incredibly efficient.

Men who build them are called ‘Maestro’. A csempe is built of firebricks, and then covered by fire glazed terracotta or tiles. There is a factory about 30 miles from us where we bought our tiles. They come in a vast variety of sizes, styles and colours, and the maestro will help design something appropriate to the home and the taste of the owner. The centre of the csempe is a firebox. Ours is about 2 and a half feet deep, and about 2 feet high inside. It will take a nice basket of wood – that’s enough I could carry into the house in one trip, and after the fire gets going with all that, then we put in a log maybe 2 feet long and a foot thick to burn until tomorrow. It will still be burning 48 hours late if everything is shut down tight. We’re having -15C outside right now (has snowed about 10 inches already today and we have another 5-8 inches in the forecast), and one load of the csempe has kept the house comfortable all day. The csempe is built like a huge maze inside. The smoke is pulled all through the tunnels, so after a few hours it is so hot on the outside no one could hold their hand on it for more than a few seconds. At least we want it that hot in the dead of winter. Spring and autumn I’m content for a small fire started early afternoon to keep the home warm in the evening. Then I’ll rely on the woodstove for the morning. Romania has vast forests, as well as small pockets of forest everywhere. People burn their own wood if they have it on their land, or buy it commercially, which is expensive by local standards, or buy it from the gypsies, who supply it cheap… but hot. Hot being stolen from the govt forests. The govt tries with pretty much total failure to regulate the forests and keep the gypsies out. Mobile telephones and inadequate policing make it a lost cause.

There are hundreds of types of wood stoves, csempe and their woodburning cousins. One of the construction necessities, as far as my experience runs, is that a wood burner of ANY sort must have three very distinct doors. Two for the firebox, and another, smaller and lower door for access to the ash falling through a grate from the fire box above. The firebox has its glass door, and then inside another metal grill door to keep logs from rolling against the glass door (think house outside door and inside screen door.) The small door must provide a means of controlling the burn, not just through having it open or closed or somewhere in between, but also it must have a sliding bar to open or close large air holes in the door. I can’t imagine how a wood stove could be properly controlled hours at a time without a little door under the firebox. The smoke from a hard burning csempe is barely warm at all when it exits the chimney. Foxy