Village Scenes: Life in Rural Romania

“It's like stepping back in time.”

How often have you heard this phrase? Probably plenty. But how often has is actually been true?

Well, in the rural villages of Romania, this phrase rings incredibly true — when you visit, you really DO feel like you've done a time warp and been transported back at least a handful of decades, if not more.

During my time in Romania, I had the pleasure of experiencing it all — cities, tourist hot spots, and, yes, even tiny villages. Having gotten a taste of the contrast between city and country life here, I think I'm better able to appreciate the way life moves a bit slower in rural Romania.

I'll be writing much more about traveling through post-communist Romania in the future, but for now I want to share some of my favorite village scenes with you. Because, in Romania, I really think it's the villages that will steal your heart and your imagination.

Vadu Izei, Romania

The view from my guesthouse room in Vadu Izei.

Romania is full of small villages like the ones I'll describe to you here, where little wrinkled old ladies sit out on their front benches to gossip in the evenings, where shepherds still tend sheep and cows, and where you're more likely to be awoken by a rooster than morning traffic.

Yes, electricity, satellite dishes and cell phones abound here, but you are able to easily look past them to the essence of life in the Romanian countryside.

Life is still blissfully simple in these regions.

You can still find fresh homemade bread, cheese, and butter on the table each night.

Farmers still use horses and carts to do farm work and transport everything from hay to firewood.

Kids still play OUTSIDE instead of on smartphones or in front of the TV.

Viscri, Romania

The blacksmith's daughters

Yes, these regions are poorer — people live with very little here, and have to be resourceful to survive. I was humbled to see some of the small homes and watch some of the back-breaking work (like building hay stacks by hand) that form the reality of life in rural parts of Romania. But, in seeing all of this, I was also able to appreciate the honest simplicity of it all.

Here, then, are some more of my favorite village scenes from my time in Romania:

Green fields and haystacks in Maramures:

A tiled house in a Maramures village:

A “traditional room” in that same Romanian house:

A local man building a set of wooden stairs inside a bottle of palinca (a local liquor):

Morning in Vadu Izei, a small village in the Maramures region:

A woodcarver's shop:

A horse and cart in Vadu Izei:

Rolling Romanian countryside:

Two little girls in traditional dresses at a village festival near Viscri:

The main (and basically only) street in Viscri, a village in Transylvania:

An old woman on the street in Viscri:

Old windows:

And the cows coming home at night to be milked in Viscri (more on this later!):

These are scenes that may very well disappear in the not-so-distant future. As mentioned above, paved roads, electric wires, satellite dishes, and cell phones are swiftly starting to appear in these villages in abundance. New, modern houses are being built next to the remains of more traditional homes. It probably won't be long until every village cafe and guesthouse offers free wireless Internet.

This is no surprise, of course. Romania is swiftly developing now that it's shedding its communist past, and these advancements are just par for the course.

It's silly to expect these places NOT to develop. I would never want to see a place be denied modern comforts just for the sake of tourists who want to see a “traditional Romanian village.” Rural Romania will develop, and probably will do so quickly as the older generations are replaced by younger ones.

So the bottom line is, if you want to see Romania like this, you'd better go now.

Viscri, Romania

It won't last forever.

 

Which of these photos most makes you want to visit rural Romania?

 

*Note: I am on a complimentary “Explore Eastern Europe” tour with Intrepid Travel, but all opinions are completely my own.

84 Comments

  • Rachel says:

    Lovely pictures! I’d really like to go to rural Romania now.
    Rachel recently posted..Expat Life

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Thanks, Rachel! It’s a very easy place to take photos of – it’s so pretty!

      • melissa says:

        Hi, I am thinking of moving to this village I am currently living in Mexico with my husband. We are 25 years old with 2 young kids. Is there a possibility that we can live in the village?

        • Amanda says:

          There are photos from more than one village in this post, so it depends on which village you mean by “this village.” Some of the villages in Romania are VERY small. I guess it depends what kind of lifestyle you’re looking for!

  • James Abroad says:

    Rural Romania looks quiet and peaceful. You took some beautiful photos Amanda!
    James Abroad recently posted..Touring Mayan Ruins: Tulum, Mexico

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It is definitely the place to go if you want peace and quiet and some friendly locals. Glad you liked the photos!

  • Rural Romania looks like the place to be. I have always been one who preferred the countrysides than the cities – and these photos describe why perfectly. Great photos!

  • Lori says:

    Romania, my country, has many enchanting places to visit, big cities or small towns, like the ones you recommended. Maramures is indeed a special part of the country, and we still have many traditions in place here. I like the people dressed in traditional costumes going to church, I like houses and let’s not forget Romanians are famous for their ospitality.

    I’m very glad you liked rural Romania – and that you shared your impressions here 🙂
    Lori recently posted..European City Breaks to Suit all Tastes

  • Laura says:

    There is something so intriguing and charming about rural Eastern Europe. It’s really neat that you got to spend so much time in the Romanian countryside! Sounds like a great tour for sure!
    Laura recently posted..Las Vegas through my iPhone’s Lens

    • DangerousBiz says:

      The tour was fantastic, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see these countries differently (i.e. not just the big cities). Rural Bulgaria was also lovely, but I especially enjoyed Romania!

  • Am I the only one who looks at the brooms in the last photo and thinks of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”? 🙂

  • wandergirl says:

    Wow. Such a different way of life and so beautiful. It makes me want to build a house with my bare hands and live off the earth. But you’re right – it wouldn’t be fair to deny them modern advances for our privileged romantic fantasies. But I hope I get the chance to go and there is still some of this beautiful culture there to explore. Thanks for sharing.
    wandergirl recently posted..Things we don’t have pictures of: going to the wrong airport

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Quite a few times a couple of us on the tour said we wanted to buy a run-down house in the Romanian countryside and retire there. Even with satellite TV and cellphones, it would still be peaceful and quiet!

  • Shivya says:

    Beautiful pictures, Amanda! I’m just back from Turkey, and visited a lot of small villages in the north of the country. I fell in love with the warmth of the people =) But just like in Romania, things are changing fast, and younger people are opting for change. Fairly so, from their perspective, which means the best time to go back in time is indeed now.
    Shivya recently posted..So Long, Turkey.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I’ve heard great things about rural Turkey, so that’s very cool you got to experience it! I’m sure it’s similar to rural Romania and Bulgaria — simple way of life and lovely locals.

  • ANGLO/Dale says:

    Romania isn’t strictly on our itinerary but wonderful posts like this one make us grab the map & often reconsider where our journey really lies ahead.
    ANGLO/Dale recently posted..Why I Travel (by ITALIAN)

    • DangerousBiz says:

      You should most definitely consider adding Romania to your itinerary!!! It’s actually really easy to travel through (most people speak English, and the infrastructure is better than you’d imagine), and is absolutely worth it.

      • ANGLO/Dale says:

        As you’re with the tour I guess your taking a coach/bus throughout Romania?

        Wonder how much train travel is, etc.
        ANGLO/Dale recently posted..Why I Travel (by ITALIAN)

        • DangerousBiz says:

          I was on a tour, yes, but we actually used public transport (trains and buses) the whole time – no big coaches for us! However, our guide always bought the tickets, so I’m not exactly sure how expensive they were. Not too pricey though, as traveling through Romania is quite cheap!

          • alex says:

            price for train ticket?
            about 10 euro for 166Km in 2:37h
            5 euro for 166Km in 3:39h
            (Bucuresti – Brasov two of the most important city)

            sorry for my bad english

          • DangerousBiz says:

            Thanks for that! (And for the warning about taxi drivers – I was warned of the same thing in both Romania and Bulgaria.)

          • alex says:

            *and be aware of taxi drivers, they always try to take advantage of tourists

  • Ele says:

    I am very fond of this post of yours. The landscape, the view from the hotel, everything ring a bell to my trip to Romania two months ago. It was much better than I had imagined.
    Ele recently posted..Capture the Colour Photoblogging Travel Competition

  • Jenna says:

    Beautiful scenes. I’m sure your experience there is one you will not forget. I would love to spend some time there; I’m sure the people are lovely. I lived in a very rural area of the Czech Rep. and though it wasn’t as back in time as this, it was different, much simpler and slower than what most of us are used to. Moldova is also a great place to see this kind of life.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      No, I am definitely not likely to forget Romania anytime soon. The trip was so amazing! Bulgaria was also really nice.

  • Beautiful shots! I’ve never really thought about visiting Romania, but you might have just put it on my radar.
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Hong Kong: Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (Part 2)

  • Andrea says:

    Omg….that cheese. I am so jealous.

  • Ali says:

    I’m definitely a city person, but I do love seeing the countryside when I’m traveling. This looks amazing. It’s almost crazy that places like this can still exist so close to modern cities.

    That tiled house is both incredibly tacky and really awesome at the same time!
    Ali recently posted..The Time I Thought Our Plane Might Crash

    • DangerousBiz says:

      It IS almost crazy! But I’m glad places like this still exist.

      And yes, those tiled houses were apparently very popular in the 1970s and are now considered quite tacky. But I kind of loved them!

  • Arti says:

    I just love villages! Your description tells me so much about India itself, our villages are pretty much similar…
    These are beautiful shots of Romania!!
    Wish you a happy weekend Amanda:)
    Arti recently posted..Where to Stay in Tokyo: Hotel Villa Fontaine Roppongi

  • Jojo Paul says:

    loving the villages Romania..& life…….beauty of Nature…….

  • I keep writing this, I had no idea it was so beautiful there. And so interesting. I wouldn’t want a society to change or stay the same for tourists’ sake, but rather I hope Romanians go the path that fits them best. Looking forward to reading about the cows.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I think there are a lot of misconceptions about this part of the world, and I’m glad I’m getting a chance to address some of them!

      (And the cow post should be coming soon!)

  • Cat says:

    I spent a week in Romania a few years ago and was shocked to find out how much I loved it! We camped out in Botiza, Maramures, intending to spend a night and staying a few more, completely crossing the Black Sea off of our list. Beautiful shots that really speak to what Maramures is like.
    Cat recently posted..Places with Encanto: Casa Hernanz Alpargateria

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Isn’t Maramures stunning? I LOVED the time we spent there, and will definitely be recommending it to anyone going to that part of the world! Glad you hear you had a good experience there, too.

  • Alex Farca says:

    I’m very glad to see your impressions about Romania and especially about the country side. Indeed there are not so many countries in Europe that still have unspoiled and not so “organized look” . Don’t get me wrong, I like Austria as an example, but for some people there is to much “order”. Dobrogea with Danube Delta, monasteries from Bucovina and Neamt and of course Maramures and so many other places, needs to be discovered and not only by you as tourist but also from us as locals. We have to discover the beauties of our own country, and I feel that this is true also for you for your own country :). Next time you travel to Romania I will be glad to assist you.

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Very wise words, Alex! It definitely is important to be able to appreciate the great things our own countries have to offer. It’s been so great to get feedback on my Romania posts from Romanians – it’s wonderful to see people so passionate about their country!

  • Erika says:

    Well said! I find myself saying “its like stepping back in time” all too often as well when I travel, but in Maramures, there are no other words that capture the sense I felt when traveling in the region last summer. Visiting Maramures reminded me of my grandmother’s stories of growing up in rural Italy.
    For better or for worse, things will probably change, For now, I think those who are looking for a taste of the “old” Europe, should look no further than Romania.
    Erika recently posted..WorldTeach Namibia Pre-Departure Update #1

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Agreed – there’s really no better way to describe it! And I also agree about telling people to head to Romania if they want a taste of “old” Europe. It’s not one of the top places I recommend to people who want something different than Western Europe!

  • MARY says:

    I am so happy that you loved our country. Next time when you visit Romania please come and stay with my family for couple of days. We just bought a beautiful house at the countryside. I can send you pictures from the region where we live.

  • This post just helped me decide my next trip! The photos are amazing and Romania sounds like an interesting place to visit.

  • Dan says:

    As a tourist in Romania, the north of he country if definitely a place to go that you will never forget, but if you go to Maramures which is North-West, you should not miss Bucovina (north-east), same beautiful people and places as in Maramurest, but in the same time totally different in looks, traditions, food and way of living. Don’t miss Bucovina, you will not egret it!

    Here is a photo album from Bucovina that I found online: http://www.comunitatefoto.ro/fotografii/tag/Bucovina/

  • Steve says:

    Wonderful photos, and wonderful write-up. But please try to imagine those same villages in winter. Minus 20c or colder, snow 6′ to 9′ or more (some areas have the houses completely covered! Then remember that many do not have running water – this is obtained through a well, or communal spring; and the average bathroom is a bowl in the house, with toilet being a pit dug 15yds or more away from the house. What do you DO in winter?

    • DangerousBiz says:

      Very good point, Steve! I”m sure winter in these villages would be very harsh indeed.

    • Alex says:

      if they survived over 2000 years, they can adapt easy, its not like we can’t survive if we don’t have a touch screen button to flush the toilet, Water from well is cleaner and winter is best time.
      In Romania we don’t leave in tree or in tent.
      Or no one force you to stay in a village where they dont have toilet, can stay in 5 stars hotels or you can go in Germany, France or any other place where they have clean road on top of the mountain, it’s like staying home and watch photos on pc(Same thing)
      Romania have 90% of wild animals population in Europe, why? because we dont flush the toilet from iPhone and we don’t eat only fast food.

      And i am sorry for my bad english.

  • Marcos says:

    I liked this post so much
    I´m going there with friends next october!! Any tips,specific villages,places or regions etc.?
    Will the weather be a problem? I apprecciate any help,thanks

    • DangerousBiz says:

      I didn’t visit all that many, but I would sugest the Maramures region which is very rural and pretty. I also enjoyed visiting Viscri and its fortified church.

  • Sim says:

    This is such a great post! I love rural Romania and I actually plan to move there before it all changes. Beautiful simplicity is what it’s all about. You’re a great writer and you captured it well, thank you for this post!

  • Sim says:

    May I also suggest that you visit the Dobrogea region, you’ll love it! Thanks again.

  • Brenon says:

    I went to Sinaia. My God I like the architecture, I guess it’s called Brancoveano.
    Next time I ant to get me a girlfriend there with Ink black hear and green eyes.
    Oh yaaa

  • Hi Amanda,

    I’m an author endeavoring to finish my memoir to be published next year. I wanted to ask you if I could use your url to reference as the site I found today when googling. Your beautiful photos (i won’t reference them as I’m not using them just the url site) swept me off my feet. Much the same way I felt that momentous day in 1975. We visited Bucharest, Brasov and Maramures as well as other cities. I was fifteen when I saw that picturesque scene. Thank you so much. I wanted to share with you what I wrote today. I would also love to stay in touch..:-) Here it goes!

    “I don’t exactly remember the route we took to visit Maramures, but I realize now that the rural road we passed had a profound effect on me. Little did I know that I would be lost in a time warp? After all, I unfortunately have no memory of visiting Maramures wooden churches dating back to the seventeenth century. So today I researched on google and uncovered yet another déjà vu. I wouldn’t be offering Romania the justice that she so deserves if I didn’t offer you a peek.”

    “We cruised through the heart of Transylvania and uncovered a rural jewel during the Communist era of that time. This section of Romania tugged at my heart like a long forgotten Brothers Grimm fairytale. Yellow and white houses with red roofs and flower-filled wooden balconies mimicked Hansel and Gretel’s. Undulating lush green hills and grazing sheep lay tucked against the Carpathians. Grass-growing valleys dotted with bundled hay shaped like Nestles Kisses and sprouting church spires made me smile. I was lulled into a fairy-tale sleep of hills alive with ringing church bells and horse-drawn buggies.”

    “There is no doubt in my mind that the heart and soul of Romania prevailed in the landscape. I witnessed that pulse of life—the ebb and flow of rural Transylvania—where provincial culture survives and embraces medieval manners.”

    Warmest wishes and Happy Travels!!!

    Carina Sue Burns
    Carina Sue Burns recently posted..I Felt Embarrassed-Blog Post #2

  • Megan brown says:

    I loved seeing this. I have visited Romania before. Was this near the castle in Bran?

    • Amanda says:

      These photos were taken all over Romania, not just in one location! Most of them were from the Maramures region, and from Transylvanian villages like Viscri.

  • jefrey tarantino says:

    My freind and will be spending the first two weeks in october exploring Romania…your articles have increased our excitement on our upcoming adventure…… Jeff from Long Beach California.

  • Andreea says:

    I loved the pictures, the colour that they gave to your article. The natural way of sharing your experience captured my attention. Beautiful!
    Transylvania is a land of many wonders and the place with the largest cultural diversity in Romania, where for centuries, Romanians, Germans and Hungarians have been living together.
    Andreea recently posted..Reviews Transylvania – Land of Transylvania Tour

  • I am currently spending 8 months in Romania and I agree, the villages are the best experience. It’s like being thrown back in time, and so beautiful. You could shoot Western movies in many places here.
    Andreas Moser recently posted..Video Blog: Why Mountaineering?

  • Malta says:

    Just returned from Romania, it was an awesome holiday. Looking forward to visit again next year.
    Malta recently posted..Maltese Citizenship

  • Alyson says:

    Did you visit “our” village, Breb, Maramures? Some of the photos look very similar, but not quite right, maybe. We’ve been living there on and off for a year now, we just visited and fell in love. Such a beautiful place.
    Alyson recently posted..What is Romania Like? Maramures County Video

  • Andrew says:

    I was lucky to visit Romania twice. Once back in 2011 when I was in Bucharest, Sighasoara and Sibiu. Then again in 2015 when with my girlfriend we visited Maramures county, Brasov, Sibiu, Sighasoara and Viscri.

    It is truly a beautiful place. Really our favorite trip ever.

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