Thursday, 16 May 2013

Romania–People and Animals

Following on from my first post on Romania, much of Romania is agricultural, and certainly 10 years ago when I visited, many of the practices and techniques seemed old-fashioned to western eyes. We have a saying, “In Western Europe, rich people own horses. In Eastern Europe, poor people own horses.” We saw lots of evidence of horses hard at work – horse-drawn wagons are common on rural roads. This is an example of an old wagon which we saw at the Sibiu Village Museum, which is a large area of countryside onto which ancient buildings and examples of rural industry have been transplanted from all over the country.

There is a modern take on these, though – these days they use old car wheels instead of wagon wheels!

This photo was taken in the charmingly faded and dilapidated town of Cisnadie, which is populated mostly by German speakers – it was curious being greeted with a “guten tag” from an old lady leaning over her garden wall! I will be showing some more pictures of Cisnadie in a later post because I was quite bowled over by the lovely worn, pastel shades I saw everywhere. This is the normal one-horse wagon you see everywhere. You also see the two-horse variety, this one in Maramures County up in the north, near the Ukrainian border:

We saw this two-horse wagon returning home laden, in a village in Maramures County – again, I shall be posting about Maramures in more detail because the wooden buildings and carved gates are like nothing I’ve ever seen before or since!

When we were in Bucovina County, also adjoining the Ukrainian border, there was a distinctly Russian flavour to the houses, and the wagons! I was surprised to see the Russian troika-style harness with the hoop over the horse’s withers – these wagons were very prevalent in Bucovina, but not in neighbouring Maramures.

During the Communist era, there were collective farms, and we saw a few surviving ones, but nowadays, old-fashioned peasant farming has returned, with small farms, often at subsistence level. There is still a lot of poverty in the country. Romania is incredibly rich as far as the variety of its agriculture and minerals are concerned, but after such a long period of appallingly bad management, they’ve a lot of catching up to do.

Travelling near the Prislop Pass in the Carpathian Mountains, we saw some village people who obviously couldn’t afford a horse wagon!

We saw shepherds in the roads, herding their sheep, often wearing the traditional sheepskin jacket. These shepherds spend all their time with the sheep, and come to know them intimately, and sing and pipe to them; the theory is that if the shepherd dresses in sheepskin, the sheep will think he is a sheep too!

These chickens were happily scratching around in the grass verge beside the road in a northern village near the Prislop Pass:

and we came across this farmer taking his cow out for a walk, leading her with a piece of string! Here, they had sat down for a rest and a quick look at the paper.

On the day we drove up through the Carpathians, my hubby chose a short-cut route, a minor road which looked like a straight line running due north on the map. However, it was anything but straight – it twisted and turned as it climbed ever higher – one of Romania’s famous “serpentina” roads – all un-made-up, and we generated a huge cloud of dust behind us as we skittered across the loose stones! It was a hair-raising experience but one not to be missed, as each turn of the road revealed even more stunning views of the mountains. I was not quick enough off the mark with my camera at one point. Out of the blue, a horse and rider came galloping towards us and was gone in a flash – the man looked like a Cossack with a large moustache and rather a flamboyant hat! It was like something out of the movies.

We stayed for a few days with some friends – a large family, who gave us a simply wonderful time. They lived in Cluj. Here we are sitting down for breakfast – the usual spread of wonderful country food – fresh fruit and veg, home-made pancakes… You can see my hubby’s hands clapping in the bottom right of the picture!!

One day they took us up into the mountains, to Beles, where they had a cabin that they had built with their own hands. We carried watermelons that we’d bought on the roadside:

and ate them in the open air outside the cabin. (You can see Humphrey, my little platypus, sitting in my hubby’s blue bag.)

Everywhere we went, people were so delighted to have us with them, and were so friendly and hospitable. This couple took us to see her elderly parents who lived in a village not far from Cluj – although they were very old, they still had a large patch of land and grew everything under the sun, and kept pigs and chickens too! People had to learn to be self-sufficient during the Ceausescu years or they would have starved to death. It was easier for people living in the country than for city-dwellers.

Finally, some pictures of the wedding. This took place in two stages, the first in Baia Mare (the home of the groom’s parents) and involved the civil ceremony, a short church service for the blessing of the rings, and a feast, and the second a week later in Focsani, the bride’s parents’ home, and included the service in the Romanian Orthodox Church, and another feast!

This picture shows people gathering in Baia Mare church for the blessing of the rings, and gives an indication of a typical Romanian church interior, with all the wall paintings.

This picture shows the couple after the exchange of marriage vows in Focsani church a week later, having been crowned, in the tradition of the Orthodox Church.

Finally, some Romanian children. At the beginning of our visit, we stayed at the home for orphaned street girls in Bucharest in which my hubby took a special interest.

Some of the children are so damaged from lack of love in the appalling orphanages which so shocked the world after the fall of Ceausescu, that they will never be able to function independently and will always need care. Much damage is also caused by the horrific street living, keeping warm in the sewers and sniffing glue, and often progressing to other drugs, and alcohol. Others have grown in responsibility and maturity, first being given tasks around the home complex, and then finding work outside, and many go on to live normal, happy, independent lives. One of the girls went to America and became a lawyer!

Finally, a sweet little girl called Iulia, whom we met in the Cathedral of Baia Mare, which was under construction (I will be posting some photos of that, in the buildings and architecture post).

So, that’s a sample of the people and animals living and working in Romania, and some of their traditions.


  1. Thank you for a wonderful insight into a world I will probably never visit. Ilove stories of the land and how hard the people work, it brings me down to earth and appreciate everything I have

  2. Thanks for that lovely blog post - I enjoyed reading it and looking at your pictures. Maybe one day I will manage to visit Romania, I certainly wouold love to do that!

  3. A wonderful collection of photos and stories - I remember some of the horror stories about the orphanages after the fall of the regime and it must have been quite harrowing to come across it first hand. It is thanks to people like your wonderful husband who get involved in charity work who are helping to heal the country. A very thought-provoking and humbling blog post - thank you Shoshi.


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