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May, 2017

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I spent ten days in Romania with Cox and Kings. I wrote a separate review about the trip and itinerary “here.”:

This review describes my impressions of the country and what we saw.

Romania is a land of mountains, rolling countryside and flat plateau. The Carpathian mountains which form a semi-circle around Transylvania are serious mountains with peaks over 2400m. The tops are bare rock with snow in the gullies. The slopes are covered with forest which is home to wolves and bears as well as smaller mammals. They are cut through by deep river valleys.

In May, false acacia with its long pendulous white flowers, was in full bloom along the roadside.

Romania is still very much a rural agriculture community. The farms are in the villages which straggle along the edge of the road with the church at the centre. Many have a police station, even if they don’t still have a shop.

There are few isolated farms until the high mountains where there is some summer settlement.

Traditionally houses were built of wood with a yard at the side, reached through large gates. Later, some of the houses were rendered with painted plaster. Traditionally blue paint was used as it was supposed to keep insects away.

The yards contain the farm buildings including the stable, sheds, hay barns and a kennel used by the dogs guarding the sheep. Many houses also have a summer kitchen. In winter the large wood burning stove in the house provides heat as well as being used for cooking. In the summer, it is too hot to use the stove in the house and all cooking is done in a separate building.

Although nearly all houses have electricity from HEP, 40% of the houses still do not have running water and are dependent upon well water.

Many of the houses have a bench outside, to sit and watch the world go by, or to sit and knit. Houses in the villages near Bucharest often have small stalls outside them selling home grown produce.

Storks are often found nesting on top of chimneys or telegraph poles. They are considered to bring good luck and many telegraph poles have wire baskets on the top to encourage the storks to nest.

The rural economy is based on small family farms. It is very much semi-subsistence farming. Traditional farming methods are still used and have hardly changed over the centuries. Many families are still dependent on the horse and cart for transport. Hay, particularly on the steep upper slopes or around the villages is still cut by hand. Men are seen working in the fields. This has preserved a landscape that is virtually unseen elsewhere in Europe, with extensive areas of flower and insect rich hay meadows and pasture. This way of life is increasingly coming under threat and their are a number of “trusts”: are being set up to preserve it and to provide markets for the farmers.

The houses are surrounded by small plots of land that are used for growing fruit and vegetables for family use. Many grow vines for shade as well as producing wine for family consumption.

The fields surrounding the village are divided into long thin strips, growing food for sale in the local markets. There are no field boundaries and the landscape probably resembles our Medieval field system.

The valley slopes are used for hay meadows and pasture. At the end of May, the hay meadows were yellow with buttercups. The low level hay meadows are cut twice a year by machine. The upper slopes are cut once a year by scythe. The hay is dried on wooden racks in the fields before being brought back to the village by horse and cart of tractor. Saxon farmers traditionally used a hay barn for storage, Romanian farmers store the hay in beehive shaped stacks outside.

Many families still have a cow and a few sheep as well as hens, ducks, and geese. The animals are kept inside during the winter months and are fed on hay. In the summer, a local shepherd is paid to look after the village sheep. Flocks of sheep and sometimes goats can be seen grazing the hillsides with the shepherd and his dogs. At night the sheep are gathered into a sheep fold, safe from bears and wolves.

Cattle graze on communal pastures round the village during the day in the care of a cowherd and return each night to be milked. This is either used by the family or collected from the village to go to the local milk processing factory. The sale of milk is one of the main sources of income.

Hens, ducks and geese scratch around in the yard or along the road side verges.

In Moldavia, many farmers take their cows to the high pastures for the summer months. There are hay barns in the fields. Unfortunately there are few planning restrictions and increasingly the area is increasingly becoming popular with many holiday houses.

The woodlands are an important source of wood for fuel as well as building. Villagers forage for fungi, fruit and nuts in the autumn and pigs roam in search of acorns.

Rural Romania is changing and changing fast. Go, before it changes for ever…

My full trip report with all the pictures can be found “here.”:


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