I arrived back from Romania ten days ago and am still assimilating my experiences there. It was a wonderful trip, rich in rural and urban culture. We participated in village activities with Romanians from Gîrbovița, a village in the Apuseni mountains in central Transilvania. They were welcoming and generous with a good sense of humour.
Our trip was an exchange visit organised by the Arch Network as part of the FILE project – Festivals for Informal Learning and Education. The local host organisation was Satul Verde. Three countries are involved in this exchange; our contingent from Scotland visited Romania with a group of Slovenians. Some Scots and Romanians have already been to Ivanci in Slovenia and we will be hosting both Romanians and Slovenians in Comrie from 23–30 July.
We stayed just outside the town of Auid, where we visited the animal and vegetable markets, and the fortified church. From our guest house we had a view over the town to the limestone range of mountains, in which we spent much of our time.
During our time in Gîrbovița we literally made hay while the sun shone, scything and turning it in gloriously bio-diverse orchards and hill meadows, full of wildflowers. We explored our hosts’ ‘farm’, which was somewhat like an extremely fertile croft. Behind the adjoining house and barns, where they kept chickens, rabbits and pigs for meat, they had a lush vegetable garden. Higher up was a vineyard and orchards of peach, cherry, apple and walnut trees. Some parcels of their land were distributed around the hillside, interspersed with those of there neighbours. Each day their two cows joined others in the village and were taken by the cowherd to higher pastures to graze; the herd returned for a break at lunchtime to suckle the calves, drink from the river and rest in the shade.
On the Sunday we drove a long and winding dirt road ever higher into the dramatic mountain scenery, to take part in a village festival on a plateau near Rîmeț. We could see steeply thatched houses and barns way off beyond the track, accessed only by paths. Maybe 200 people came from surrounding villages to celebrate rural culture with a religious service followed by feasting, singing, dancing and displays of folk costumes. Both we and the Slovenians prepared some of our countries’ dishes for our hosts to sample, and they truly entered into the spirit of the event by giving a display of their traditional dance in national costume. Needless to say, none of our group wore a kilt!
Our packed programme gave us a flavour of Romania’s rich cultural heritage. It included many side trips to visit:
- the medieval city of Sibiu, where almost every building appeared to be listed
- Astra Village Museum, an extensive collection of traditional buildings set in parkland – the largest such open air museum in eastern Europe
- Dumbrava monastery where colourful water gardens surround churches with magnificently painted interiors
- Salina Turda, a salt mine, where long passageways lead to an enormous bell-shaped cavern, which has a lake with rowing boats in its depths
- a scenic limestone gorge with villages such as Rîmetea with fabulous Hungarian architecture
- the historic city of Alba Iulia, which is dominated by a vast star-shaped Vauban fortress that contains two cathedrals, a university and many other public buildings
The photographs below are a very small selection from the many I shot during the week. Click on any to view them at a larger size.
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