Get Wonderfully Lost

July28th

Being that my heritage is Romanian, I always enjoy visiting the country since it seems that I am going “home” and I will inevitably learn something about myself with each trip.  Romania has a rich cultural heritage, originating with the Dacians who originally occupied these lands, followed by the Romans who brought a written language, food, and lifestyle, the Ottomans, and, in Transylvania and Banat, where my family is from, the Austro-Hungarians.

The forced and premature industrialization of Communism (1945-1989) had many negative impacts on the pastoral traditions of the people, particularly the villagers, who were required to relocate to cities.  Many villages died off, leaving only remnants of a simple, though happy, people.  The remaining villages seem to struggle today, housing a people that still hold dear to their traditions but show signs of frustration as they attempt to integrate these traditions into an increasingly modern world.

I was able to visit with my grandmother in her village, Bogodint, where she spends each summer, and discovered that it, like many other villages, was emptying of life as people moved to cities in search of better opportunities.  Porches stood empty, fruits remained on trees begging to be picked, and grape vines sprung free from their vineyard constraints.

This photo essay serves as an attempt to capture the life and traditions of pastoral Romania, before it is completely conquered by modernization.

Religion is Ever Present

Despite the influences of Communism, religion is still very important to villagers. Each village is centered around at least one church, and signs of the Christian God appear everywhere.

Walking the Cow

Taking the cows out to pasture is as common a sight as walking dogs in cities.

Homemade Treats

Bunica’s (Grandma’s) homemade Langos, a dessert similar to funnel cake, that is typically served with granulated cane sugar or plum jam.

Horse Power

Horse-drawn carriages are still used to transport hay, vegetables, and other produce throughout the country.

The Apprentice

This man works as an apprentice and craftsman for the village of Bogodint. He was kind enough to show us some of his (and his “master’s”) handiwork.

The Master

An expert craftsman, The Master produces fishing “nets” made of wire designed to trap fish in a basket, preventing them from escaping.

One Black Sheep

Mandated by the EU, shepherds must now watch their flocks at all hours, during all types of weather. Previously, shepherd would allow sheep and cows out to pasture and the animals would return on their own in the evenings.

The Cheese Man

Borduf is a popular cheese made from sheep’s milk fermented in the cleaned and dried sheep stomach (left) or in birch tree bark (right). This man is selling the products of these labors at an open market in Bran.

The Roma

The Roma people (also known as gypsies) can trace their origins back to India. They have a nomadic lifestyle and use an oral tradition to pass down history and culture. They have gained a negative reputation throughout Europe for their lifestyle.

What Remains

As people look for better opportunities, the villages empty out — and with the people, leave the possibility of passing on important traditions to the next generation. These types of traditions include craftsmanship, farming, music, and art.

The Lady

This Lady is a friend of my Grandmother’s in her village, Bogodint. Born and raised in this village, she has seen generations, governments, and people come and go through her small world. She tends to her sheep and her farm; her life revolves around the church and the seasons. She is soft-spoken with bright eyes that have seen much despite her small world.

The Dacia

Dacia is the name for the original settlers of this part of Romania and also happens to be the name of the first major car produced in Romania (now owned by Peugot). This broken-down car sits in front of a village house in Bogodint.

The Goose-Keeper

Geese are either allowed to “pasture” in the front yard, if one exists, or someone is responsible for taking them out and bringing them back home.

The Foundation of Village Life

Farm animals, grains, and vegetables are the pillars on which these villages are built. Many of the pre-Christian traditions honor the gifts of the earth through celebrations, and many of the current pious Christian villagers honor the earth in similar ways today.

Companionship

Whether loved, orphaned, or stray, dogs and cats find a place in the Romanian village. Population control is not a priority, and many animals are injured or killed when roaming into cities — even they look for better opportunities.

A Past Life

Peeling paint reveals the past life of the village — a once vibrant place of prosperity and colorful people. The hope of the people is still evident, however, as color is gradually being added back to the village, despite the outflux of human life.

~JKM

4 Comments

  • Comment by Brad Fine — July 28, 2011 @ 6:34 am

    Well done Jaime….entertaining & educational 😉

  • Comment by William Chou — July 28, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

    Very much enjoying this “photo essay” concept… it was very well done! The website is looking quite snazzy too, very cool.

  • Comment by Preston — July 28, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

    Jaime, great photos! Looks like the trip is going well!!

  • Comment by admin — July 28, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

    Thanks for looking at the photos and your generous comments :) ! Hope you are all doing well and I’m looking forward to sharing more of this trip with you! ~ Jaime

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