Friday, 24 May 2013

Romania–Buildings Pt 2: Interiors

This time I thought I’d show you what the interiors of Romanian buildings are like. As far as domestic buildings are concerned, most modern Romanians like the same furnishings and fittings that we in the West enjoy, and modern houses and apartments may not look that different, although many people like to celebrate their cultural heritage and have traditional Romanian decorations. They have beautiful folk-art plates hanging on the walls, always decorated with a “scarf” – a piece of Romanian woven textile – I’d not come across this custom before and it looks very pretty.

This picture was taken inside the cabin where we stayed in Horea.

We stayed in several apartments in city blocks during our tour. During the communist era, Ceausescu had a policy of population distribution, moving large numbers into the cities and housing them in pretty awful tower blocks, all heated with communal hot water pipes that ran over the streets between the blocks. They had grim concrete staircases and were generally pretty horrible. Since the collapse of the regime, modern heating and other facilities have been introduced, and while a lot of the common areas (staircases and halls) are still pretty frightful (although unlike in the west, they do not smell, and there is no graffiti), most people have now replaced their front doors and you get a patchwork of different designs – in the same way that the gates in Maramures compete against each other for OTT-ness, in a smaller way, these front doors also compete for individuality! As my hubby was always saying, once you cross the threshold, in almost every case you enter a little palace! These small apartments are beautifully kept and decorated, with flowers everywhere, and plants on the balconies – many people continue to grow their own vegetables in containers, and several families we visited had cats. One apartment where we stayed, it was quite obvious that the parents had vacated their bedroom for us, and they had a pull-out sofa bed in the sitting room, and when we tried to insist that we sleep on that, they would have none of it. They plied us with kindness in every way. This particular family had visited us in the UK – he was a hospital consultant, living in a 2-bedroomed apartment in a tower block with his wife and little girl, on a miserable salary compared with his peers in the West. My hubby arranged for him to visit our local hospitals, and the staff were only too happy to show him around and invited him to attend operations. He went home having learnt so much, and was so impressed with everyone’s kindness, and how blessed we are here with so much modern equipment. The whole experience of getting to know this family was most humbling.

Here’s the interior of a house in the Sibiu Village Museum which I mentioned before.

This shows some traditional wooden furniture and a very simple country interior.

Here’s another interior from the Sibiu Village Museum, showing a bedroom with a simple wooden bed, a woven textile adorning the walls, some interesting portraits and a glorious painted chest. Ages ago I bought a plain flat-pack chest from Ikea which has remained in its box ever since, and when we move, I am hoping to paint it and assemble it – I may do something in this style…

These are, of course, museum houses, and I’m not sure how many houses that are actually lived in are still in this style, but much of the country remains very rural and traditional, so it is quite likely.

I suppose the majority of buildings we actually went inside in the course of our travels were churches. This is the inside of the little Lutheran church in Cisnadie, the charming faded little German-speaking town we visited. These are the choir stalls, with beautifully painted panels.

This is the simple iconostasis in a tiny Romanian Orthodox church in the Sibiu Village Museum, transported from Salaj County. You can see the use of draped woven textiles again.

Here is the painted ceiling of the same church, together with a painted wooden chandelier.

These are typical interiors that you find in the wooden churches of Transylvania. In complete contrast, here is the high altar in the Franciscan church in Cluj, which is presumably Roman Catholic, as far as I remember. I know where my own personal tastes lie, at any rate!

This painted interior and iconostasis in the Orthodox church in Baia Mare is typical of the more urban churches.

I promised I would show you some more pictures of the interior of the synagogue in Baia Mare. This is the painted ceiling, embellished with innumerable gold stars around a Magen David, with the Torah tablets painted at the further end of the ceiling, above the window. You can see the women’s gallery on the left.

This is the bimah, where the Torah scrolls are read. You can see the Magen David and Menorah decorations painted on the pillars.

Here, our lovely old guide has opened the Ark and my hubby is looking at the Torah scrolls inside.

I found the synagogue to be the most poignant and moving place to visit, redolent of its more vigorous and lively past before the Holocaust bore away most of its community. I always remember seeing Rabbi Lionel Blue on a television programme, travelling around Eastern Europe, and coming to a building which acted as a repository for rescued Torah scrolls, each one representing a community completely exterminated, and he turned to the camera and asked them to stop filming – he said, “I can’t stay in here…” and could speak no more.

I hope this has given you a taste of the very varied interiors we encountered on our travels. Next time I shall be showing some photos of how the buildings were constructed – something I found absolutely fascinating.


  1. So interesting and (for us) unusual glimpses of interiors! More please!

  2. Very interesting photos and history


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