“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.
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.
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:
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.
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.