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August 2011

A Crash-Course in Hiking and Romanian Village Life (written by Kate Clinnick, Journalism Volunteer, Australia)   (published in Romania)

August 30, 2011 by   Comments(0)

 

Let me explain to you what I have learned about Romanian hiking. It is not ‘hiking’ as someone like me, from Australia, would know it. For one thing, there is no such thing as hiking trails! Instead you will pull yourself up slippery fields of dewy grass (by your hands if necessary), you will scramble over bare rock face covered in stones, or if you are lucky there is a muddy, puddle filled groove left by oxen-pulled carts that you can trudge in; and always, always there is a rock, root, or cow patty there to slip on!

 

While I knew that many people choose to travel to Romania for its excellent hiking opportunities, I had little experience (or desire to do) such activities and had foolishly assumed that I could avoid having to hike myself while in Romania; there are so many things to see and do in this country that I believed could easily go three months here without doing so. Imagine the look on my face when I was told that my first journalism assignment was to follow a small group of amateur photographers who were hiking in the mountains! The group was being led by Satul photographer Ana A. Negru, and we were to go to villages near the Trascau Mountains to meet and photograph the people who lived there.

A Trip Back In Time 

My first glimpse of the village life was in Valea Manastirii, and it was here that I found myself astonished; to reach this village our group had only travelled 5 hours by car out of Brasov, and yet I was already struck by the stark differences between city and village life.  Brasov is very much a town of the 21st Century and is therefore full of modern conveniences, such as bus stops and KFC stores; not so far away in Valea Manastirii, however, people live in homes that are built from stones or wooden planks that are sheltered by thatched rooves, and have yards being pecked over by chickens and grazed on by cows. Aside from the smallest signs of modernisation here and there (such as a satellite dish bolted onto the side of a home), it felt as if I had been transported back into the past. The villagers seemed to be living in the same manner in which the farmers and housewives of the previous generations had lived for centuries.

What also struck me was the happy smiles and friendly nature of the people we met.  All of the villagers we greeted were amicable and welcoming – they were all perfectly happy to pose for the photographers, and to open up their homes for our inspection. One woman in particular, a part of the Ignat family, was eager to share stories with us. Quick to announce how good her life was now, she recounted the days of her youth when she would have to worry about things such as having no clothes to wear, and the Communist years when there was no food to eat. Now, however, this woman feels as if she has everything she could need. This kind ofpositive attitude I found to be common amongst the villagers we met; that despite a lack of electricity or running water in their homes, there was prevailing sense that everyone was happy and satisfied with the way that they were living their lives.

 

The next morning we rose before the sun, as one of the villagers we had met in was going to shoe his oxen that day and we needed to begin hiking early if we wanted to watch. Our first stop was in Valea Uzei, where Ion Ignat and his sister Tina were kind enough to let us camp on their property. We quickly dropped our packs, grabbed our cameras, and began hiking to our intended destination in Valea Inzelului, where we would be able to watch (and photograph) as two men assisted the farrier in hoofing their oxen.

The fact that three men alone can shoe an ox with some equipment, wood and ropes was astounding. Until that day I had never seen an ox in the flesh, but they are quite imposing, and are naturally solid animals. When the farrier was nailing on the shoe and hit a tender spot, the ox would start to thrash and you could hear the trees it was tied to begin to groan. I could only eye warily its two very large horns; hoofing oxen seemed to me to be a very dangerous task indeed! The farrier himself had no such concerns; he has been hoofing oxen since he was 10 years old, or for the past 64 years! In fact, he seemed sad to explain to us that the ability to hoof oxen is rare, and that he believes that when he dies his knowledge of how to do so will die with him. 

Moonshine and Milk

By the time we stumbled back down to where our packs had been left behind, it was past midday and we were starving! Lunch was a picnic spread out under the shade of a walnut tree and our host, Ion, was quick to come out with a plastic bottle to offer us some of his home brewed Ţuică. For those of you who don’t know, Ţuică is a plum brandy and locals everywhere in Romania take to brewing their own versions, which can range from 25% to 60% proof. Not one to back down from a challenge, I took a shot when offered. There was a distinct, fruity taste, though I found that if I sipped more than a few millilitres at a time my eyes would start to tear up, and half a shot glass was enough to make me feel very warm indeed!

The second home we visited in Valea Uzei was by accident; whilst hiking we came by the farmhouse of a middle-aged man named Jenu and his teenage relative as they were tending to their herd of cows. We had a look around their home while Jenu took the time to teach some of us how to milk a cow, which resulted in my drinking a cup full of very fresh cow’s milk! Jenu seemed very proud of his herd, and was taking the time to pass on to the teenager the knowledge about dairy farming that he had learned over the years.

Afterwards we hiked to the blue-painted home of Lucretia, who happily came out to greet us. At 68 years old, she lives alone and without electricity; and while you would perhaps think that Lucretia may have some difficulties living in such an isolated home by herself, she was in good spirits, and I could tell that she kept all of her home clean and in good condition.

 

Roaming Ramet

The next morning I woke up in my sleeping bag with stiff muscles and a large spider dangling down in front of my face from the tent roof; perhaps the one down-side of camping in the Apuseni Mountains would be the rather active insect population! We began the day’s hiking before breakfast, in order to watch our host Ion herding his cows along the narrow and treacherous paths that cut across the hillside. Despite the early hour we were once again offered some Ţuică, which most of us were quick to decline!

After a quick breakfast, we hiked back down towards the Monastery guest house, and ventured to the actual Ramet Monastery in order to explore.  The buildings that made up the Monastery were all a pristine white, causing them to stand out amongst the scenic mountainside backdrop, and surrounding the Monastery were green lawns and well-maintained gardens of brightly coloured flowers. Inside the Monastery’s church there were painted vivid scenes from the Bible, as well as various artefacts, such as bones of different Saints, entombed in ornate cases. We took our time to stroll around the Monastery’s grounds and as we photographed various scenes we watched the occasional black-robed nun mingling amongst out fellow visitors.

Soon enough we heard the roll of thunder and saw black clouds looming overhead, and taking this as a sign for us to leave, our group gathered together to say our farewells before we were to split up and head home.

Whilst many of those who visit Transylvania settle for passing through Brasov and a few of the outlying towns, I strongly urge you to venture further out and see all of what the Apuseni Mountains have to offer you. The loss of modern conveniences for a few days (and aching leg muscles for a few days more!) is a small price to pay to view the beautiful mountain scenery, and most importantly, to meet and befriend the local villagers and see for yourself their unique way of life.

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A Crash-Course in Hiking and Romanian Village Life (written by Kate Clinnick, Journalism Volunteer, Australia)https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/131705/a-crashcourse-in-hiking-and-romanian-village-life-written-by-kate-clinnick-journalism-volunteer-australia
A Crash-Course in Hiking and Romanian Village Life (written by Kate Clinnick, Journalism Volunteer, Australia)
 

Through the Eyes of Romania (By Natasha Potter, Journalism Volunteer, Australia, March - May 2011)- article published in the Village Magazine, Issue no 9)   (published in Romania)

August 22, 2011 by   Comments(0)

 

 

There are many different perceptions of Romanian culture, people and landscape that exist throughout literature. Reading travel guides and information on Romania reveals its mountain peak glory and its stunning cobblestoned town squares, yet doesn’t properly prepare you for the real Romania. It doesn’t outlay the vast differences in the Romanian classes and the obvious struggle between eastern and western life. Neither does it really illustrate the traditional and picturesque coloured houses which dot the mountains, lush plentiful green pastures, the foggy mist lining the horizon, or a horse and cart which trot by.

 Nothing can equate to living and experiencing Romania at its core.

Working as a journalist for Satul allowed me to research the Romanian country and its traditions but also enabled insight into real everyday lives. It was the people in Romania who welcomed me into their homes and shared their personal stories. Without their help and willingness to talk and share about the past, present and future of their country, such a magazine as Satul would not be possible. Before you delve into the latest edition of Satul I would like to acknowledge some of the passionate people I have met on my journey who propel and inspire the plight to keep true Romanian identity alive.

Authentic Romanian traditions are living an evanescent existence in modern life. Whilst technology and consumerism infiltrates into society, often it is difficult to capture the essence of Romanian cherished customs. Luckily there are people such as Maria. During a travel journal trip to Pestera Village in the mountains of Romania I was privileged enough to meet and speak to an elderly lady called Maria. I questioned her about her sewing crafts and she warmly opened her doors for us to enter her home. The inside of Maria’s home was adorned with coloured carpets on every surface. They were embellished with intricate flowers and decorations and were sewn in rainbows of coloured thread. Set against her pale aqua walls, Maria’s talent and skill was a true picture of Romanian traditional craft. Maria’s creations are a symbol of Romania’s beautiful crafts and are evidence of the importance in keeping these traditions alive for the future.

Additionally without the help and dedication of figures such Professor Sorin Apan the plight to preserve skills such as Maria’s would not be possible. Professor Sorin Apan is a passionate teacher and a powerful advocate for the education and recognition of past Romanian traditions and customs. He welcomed me into his classrooms, introduced me to his talented students and spent hours of his time informing me about the importance of traditional Romanian culture. Professor Apan runs the ‘Mini Satul Project’ where he educates students on a range of traditional Romanian activities and rituals through workshops, spanning from egg painting, sculpture, pottery and glass painting. Professor Apan’s success and influence is most evident through the dedication of his students and their enthusiasm in restoring and sustaining their country’s culture.

Overall Ana Negru must be personally acknowledged for her creation of Satul Magazine. I know both rural Romanian tradition and culture lie close to her heart and she does an incredible job in expressing her passion to the public.

Whilst Romania lies in the flux between east and west and is continuously advancing into a modern future, fortunately there are an abundance of people trying to keep Romania’s heritage and traditions alive. Passionate and talented people such as, Maria, Professor Apan and Ana are an indication of the hope of preserving Romanian identity. With the continued work of inspiring people there will be assurance that Romania’s rich culture will continue and be cherished for future generations to come.

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Through the Eyes of Romania (By Natasha Potter, Journalism Volunteer, Australia, March - May 2011)- article published in the Village Magazine, Issue no 9)https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/129195/through-the-eyes-of-romania-by-natasha-potter-journalism-volunteer-australia-march-may-2011-article-published-in-the-village-magazine-issue-no-9
Through the Eyes of Romania (By Natasha Potter, Journalism Volunteer, Australia, March - May 2011)- article published in the Village Magazine, Issue no 9)
 

Finding Romania’s Bride (by Li Min Teng, Journalism Volunteer, Malaysia, February - June 2011)   (published in Romania)

August 22, 2011 by   Comments(0)

 

 

Love understands all languages.

(Romanian Proverb)

 Discovering the richness and tradition of the evanescent traditional Romanian wedding

There are millions of young girls living all around the world who dream about their wedding day. Whether they fantasise about the handsome prince they are going to wed, ponder over luscious wedding gowns of creamy silk and glittering jewels, or envisage their Cinderella carriage, they all picture their perfect day accompanied with the perfect accessories. The concept of a ‘happily ever after’ ending plays less and less in their fresh and untainted minds, where images of beauty and extravagance infiltrate into the construction of their majestic wedding event. The onslaught of Western ideals and escalating demands to conform in our society has infiltrated cultures across the globe, forever changing traditions, beliefs and attitudes. Mass media and western culture has channelled into existing as a way of life and future, and not just a passing fad. Living in this parallel universe to the past, one wonders if there has been anything kept alive from the ever crumbling and disappearing notions of tradition in weddings. Countries are rapidly becoming more westernised and there is a fear that rich eastern tradition will be lost within the fast paced race towards affluence and conformity.

 

Fortunately not all is lost. My search to explore the remaining tradition in Romanian weddings reveals past traditions currently being appreciated and more aptly utilised within the rush towards a modern western future. I was fortunate enough to interview Professor Sorin Apan during my first few weeks as a journalist in Romania. A man exuding knowledge and passion, the interview provided me with a wealth of understanding and insight into traditional Romanian weddings and what has been passed down and treasured in modern Romania. The interview was situated within Saguna High School in Brasov where Professor Apan runs the ‘Mini Satul Project’ educating students on a range of traditional Romanian activities and rituals through workshops, spanning from egg painting, sculpture, pottery and glass painting. Additionally the project involves the students and the public in orchestrating traditional exhibitions in museums and performing forgotten folk ceremonies. While our interview took place three Romanian students quietly watched, patiently and intricately painting their traditional Easter eggs with small and perfect strokes. Their respect and appreciation of Professor Apan was apparent, as was their love of being involved in their Romanian historical past and cultivating and carrying on its traditions.

 

The knowledge Professor Apan was willing to share with me has been priceless, words from a man whose passion and understanding of tradition does not transcend into all Romanians opinions or lives. Professor Apan’s feeling towards the importance of Romanian traditional weddings outlines the real reason for the long rituals and ceremonial sequences that existed. Within our westernised society weddings occur and end more frequently than ever before. Comparing them to customary eastern weddings such as in Romania reveals their often transient existence. Professor Apan expresses the importance of the Romanian wedding traditions where the customs and rituals enabled a guaranteed institution of the happiness of the couple and the longevity of their marriage. Most specifically, weddings following traditions within villages followed the people’s natural beliefs and thus certified that the marriages lasted a lifetime. Professor Apan expresses that is crucial to continue traditional wedding ceremonies especially for when a child is born. If they are born into a family who were married in a traditional way they are grow up more protected in the world. Additionally he states; “The family and village will present for him an intimate and magical circle of values and protection”. The progression of ritual acts within a Romanian wedding were and often still are vital to marriage for many people and are formed as a cultural memory of the village. It is also interesting to note that wedding traditions in Romania varied according to the village district or area. The progression of rituals described vividly by Professor Apan outlines ceremonies and sequences of weddings from the villages of Dacía in Brasov County and Lāpus in Máramures.

The Courting Phase

There are millions of different ways couples have met and subsequently married in our history. However the preliminary customs of a couple meeting and decision to marry in traditional rural Romania is like nothing I had every heard or encountered before. Professor Apan provided me with the information which is imperative to Romanian culture to advance from forming a couple to getting married in the village.

While the decision to get married has always been of ownership of the couple in the Dacía Village and Lāpus Village in Romania, there are many rituals which must be adopted before final decisions can be made. To begin, a group of unmarried boys will sing carols to the unmarried girls in the villages. Once one of the boys decides he likes a certain girl in the village, he then becomes the most prominent member to have the main role within the group. This way it enables him to be at the forefront of discussion and socialisation and make presentable impressions on the girl, her parents and family. Another important custom is to send an old woman through the village to go on a pursuit to gather information about the couple and their families. Acting as a somewhat like matrimonial figure the woman’s opinions are very influential in presenting her view of the ‘match’ of the couple to the parents and family. The role of family and village opinion rates highly in the beginning stages of the Romanian wedding tradition. Symbolically this is because the village people and their values will play a strong part in the wedding culture. While these traditions may seem like they live in the distant past of our modern civilisation, in many villages they still form an important role in traditional Romanian weddings and are recognised as the necessary rituals to abide by to certify the lasting of a fruitful marriage.

The Wedding Preparation

The planning of a wedding in today’s commercial and abundant society can take months and months of organisation, research and sourcing. It is the couples one special day and there is usually a great amount of pressure for that day to be perfect. The flowers, venue, menu, wedding rings and in particular, wedding dress play a crucial role in making sure the event is remembered as a highlight of the social calendar. Significantly traditional Romanian weddings also place a strong emphasis on creating their weddings as an important cultural and family milestone. There are many traditions within the villages which played very symbolic parts in orchestrating the final passing from the previous life status, into the realm of marriage. In accordance again to the Dacía Village and Lāpus Village, the symbolism of arranging the brides’ hair and preparing the wedding flag is crucial to the advancement to the wedding ceremony. The soon to be bride will be surrounded by relatives and girlfriends who will elaborately style and arrange her hair, and additionally create a crown made from flowers, fir tree and different vegetation. In particular the crown is very symbolic in representing femininity and the symbiosis between the girl and nature when she passes from the ephemeral state to her final state of marriage. During the same period of preparation the groom’s friends and families will undertake the decoration of the flag at his house. The flag consists of a wooden axis which acts as the masculine symbol, which is decorated in coloured scarves, vegetation and feathers. Each addition symbolises different meanings, the scarves as chastity and protection against bad spirits, the vegetation, acting as a representation of the tree of life and the cosmic tree, and the feathers symbolising the ‘flying’ from one life state to the next. These symbolic elements to the wedding and the preparation involved are extremely important in recognising and marking the transition in becoming married and thus assuring a spiritually whole and complete marriage to prevail.

Here Comes the Bride

Before exploring the daily ceremony and customs of the wedding day, one cannot forget the bridal gown. While the Romanian bridal dress and clothes are traditionally white, the colour is chosen for a different symbolic meaning than today. The clothing marks a symbolic death and revival at simultaneous times. Once again this ritual represents the movement into a new life and status for the bride.

 

The traditional Romanian wedding event is of royal extravagance with the amount of music, singing, dancing, food, drinks and ceremony which makes up the two to three day festival. Before the church service can commence there is a succession of processes the bride and groom must advance through. Such an example of one of these acts is when the groom will be accompanied by his group and his spokesman will ask for the bride through the lyrics of a poem. The lyrics are very traditional and old and are passed down from past cultural memory in Romania. After the poem is recited, usually the female spokesperson for the bride, a close friend or relative, will act like she hasn’t seen the whereabouts of the bride. Soon after, the bride’s group will send out a little girl and then an old woman before sending out the bride. By playing a joke on the groom and sending out two females who aren’t his bride is actually an act against the demons, tricking them into being confused about who the bride is. This purpose is to protect the bride and the marriage from the demons who border the two worlds of the unmarried and married life, striking woman who are existing in between. The bridal veil will also protect the bride from being exposed to the demons.

When arriving at the church for the religious ceremony the village people will dance the traditional Romanian ‘hora’ dance in front of the church. This dance is usually enacted by the boys of the village, accompanied by the music of local instruments. A variety of spiritual rituals and customs are crucial for the bride and groom to take part in to mark the transition into pure and untainted married life.

The Party Begins

The reception party of a western wedding can go on until the early hours of the morning. Romanian weddings are no different. The duration of the wedding party will usually depend on the region and also as to how much food and drinks there are to last for the guests. Traditionally the entire village was involved within this process where the woman spent many days cooking and preparing for this cultural event. Arriving to the party there are additional ritual acts in which the bride and groom must take place. Two rituals are vital in representing the passing of the unmarried to the married state, symbolising a new beginning and acting to protect and send away the bad spirits. To commence the party a pot will be broken on the wall, followed by the rotation of a table three times, while someone says; “Let this to get the enemies or the evil out of the house!” During this the group of the groomsmen will dance around the table. Significantly the table depicts the cosmological symbols of the world. It pictures four poles which act as a symbol of the universe, uniting the sky with the earth. The table also has an axis which is illustrated as a flower arrangement and representative of the tree of life. Another very important ceremonial sequence is ‘Cantecul Gainii’ which is translated as ‘the song of the chicken’. This custom begins by the cooking of a chicken which is decorated by a range of vegetative elements. Following this a friend of the bride and the women who have cooked the chicken and the wedding food will sing a song, often continuing until midnight. The lyrics within the song are created to tease the couple about a relationship existing between the bride and the groom’s godfather. At the end of the song the godfather has to pay money, and thus is teased again as he pays too little. The song is enacted as entertainment for the guests and to create a light and fun atmosphere.

 

The song of the chicken was actually sung to me by Professor Apan’s students during my interview. While the language differences provided quite a barrier for me in understanding what was about to prevail, I was very surprised when I heard the belting of this loud and strong song coming from the quiet students who had been painting the eggs. Professor Apan accompanied the vivid song with his accordion as one of the girls rang a string of bells to compete the traditional song. It was a small insight into one tradition of Romanian weddings but enabled me to see the importance of the strength, passion and dedication which was apart of the wedding event.

 

Learning about the traditions of Romanian weddings is crucial in thus understanding their importance, not only to past rural villages but also to many people living different walks of life in Romania today. I asked Professor Apan why these rituals in Romanian weddings were so important to him and so many others. He outlined that the villages in particular believed that the ceremonial sequences were something that could only be done once in a lifetime and were necessary to therefore preserve the marriage to last forever. As they treasured good values of being hard working, honest, respectful, to have faith and to love nature, the customs thus expressed and harnessed their beliefs.

The Modern Bride

After learning about the rich cultural history and tradition behind Romanian weddings, one may speculate as to what still remains alive and is practised in today’s contemporary society. While the 21st century brims with millions of modern wedding options, will Romanians actually decide to continue tradition and illuminate their ancestors past? While many of the traditions still thrive within the more rural villages in Romania, too further this study I realised it was essential in discovering the opinions of the teenagers and young adults who flourish in the technologically avid realm of our modern 21st century. Two young Romanian women I interviewed most aptly explained their views on traditional and modern weddings, and thus spoke for many of the friends opinions. Iulia Vedislav is a 21 year old Romanian student studying Public Relations at one of Brasov’s universities. When questioned about her future wedding she described the common quest to balance modern life and traditional Romanian culture. “We still keep some traditions, but I would also like my wedding to also be more simple and elegant”, she states. She explains that many of the modern traditions have been adopted from American culture, and are generally liked for their modern simplicity. Iulia also expresses how she hadn’t actually thought of why Romanians don’t all have traditional weddings in our current society. The balance between having a wedding which acknowledged and celebrated her past and also allowed her to have her own decisions in her creation was very natural for her. Additionally Alexandra Ichim, a 25 year old dancing instructor outlined that it is nice to be able to make your own choices for your own wedding day, and not having to abide by every custom and ceremony which is strictly traditional and doesn’t have a significant impact on your own beliefs. Alexandra explains; “I would love to have my wedding on a beach or outside as the traditional church venue doesn’t appeal to me”. She does however note that special rituals that she enjoys, for example traditional dancing would still play a large part in her wedding day. Significantly she also explains that some traditional rituals are difficult to orchestrate while living a city life. Traditional dances outside and trips to different houses to perform a range of customs can be difficult when they are not being performed within village life. Overall the balance of the traditional and modern wedding day was emphasised in both interviews, significantly revealing independent women who would like their wedding day to appeal to them personally to make them happy.  

 

 

In a world where everything goes, there is an evident struggle which exists in moving forward and advancing into our bright and techno savvy future and simultaneously keeping our past culture alive. Romania lives in the crux of these two worlds and with a rush towards modernity and westernised civilisation there exists a realm of people trying to hold on to traditional treasures and their beliefs in spiritual customs and rituals. Strong and passionate figures like Professor Apan fight to preserve these culturally rich traditions and subsequently educate about the values, beliefs and spirituality which are richly embedded within the customs. While Romanian wedding rituals vary in different regions, they all are focussed on constructing an intimate and magical circle of values and protection, and thus providing a spiritual bond to protect the marriage, family and future children. While there is strong evidence that there is a rush towards a westernised future and traditions are becoming lost, there is also a firm plight to hold onto what has been preserved and respected for centuries. Rural Romanian villages still exercise and celebrate the culturally rich and beautiful Romanian wedding traditions and with this knowledge the customs will continue to prosper for many years to come. While there is no doubt that western extravagant and modern weddings will continue to infiltrate eastern culture, young Romanians such as Iulia and Alexandra play an important part in holding onto and preserving something special from Romanian wedding culture. Every small ritual which is exercised or more importantly respected and rejoiced will help enable the richest traditions stay alive. While Romanian wedding traditions are evanescent in their daily plight, I hope that the balance of past and present lives will continue to take hand in showcasing the customs Romania has to offer. Ultimately as long as that one special day in couples lives is as magical as they dream as a child, and love continues to understand all languages, beautiful and culturally rich weddings will continue to lie forth in our ever progressing and advancing future.

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Finding Romania’s Bride (by Li Min Teng, Journalism Volunteer, Malaysia, February - June 2011)https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/129172/finding-romanias-bride-by-li-min-teng-journalism-volunteer-malaysia-february-june-2011
Finding Romania’s Bride (by Li Min Teng, Journalism Volunteer, Malaysia, February - June 2011)
 

A Country of Contrasts (by Kate Clinnick, Australia, current journalism volunteer)   (published in Romania)

August 10, 2011 by   Comments(0)

I was bleary-eyed and dazed as I stumbled into Bucharest airport, my energy having been sapped after a grueling journey of three flights and over 30 hours to make it there from Australia. Despite this, as I buckled in for the drive into Brasov, I prized my heavy eyelids open and craned my neck to peer out of the car window, anxious for my first glimpse of Romania.

 

At first the highway was edged in dust, and alongside it prowled a handful of scrawny dogs; further back still were wide stretches of green grass and fields of crops, dotted by the occasional farmhouse. The further in towards Brasov we ventured, however, the more homes sprung up, with the houses of an older design and yet all well-maintained, with fresh paint and fronted by well-kept gardens.

 

As we passed through, my eyes caught on images that revealed the divergent nature of the country I had just entered. To the left, I glimpsed the golden arches of a McDonald’s for a moment, only to turn to my right and set eyes on a small horse-and-cart ambling its way onwards. There were small, wooden stalls where farmers were selling a handful of their produce to those who passed by, when only meters away construction workers and machinery were holding up the traffic as they upgraded the roads. Scattered around me were visible signs such as these of the old and the new existing side-by-side, of traditions and ways of the past that are surviving within the rapid modernization that is sweeping through Romania.

 

Eventually we reached Brasov and drove in towards my new home near Old Town, and I was immediately struck by the beautiful architecture of the buildings, which were set before a backdrop of the lush, green Mount Tampa and framed by clear blue skies. Coming from a country where the oldest building could not exceed more than a century or two in age, the view of medieval buildings, churches and distant fortifications was thrilling.

 

By now desperate for rest, I was quite grateful to greet my hostess, Rodica, who was quick to show me to bed. As I lay there in the quiet with my body aching for sleep, I nonetheless found my mind racing, turning over the new sights and sounds it had encountered. Already I had the impression that Romania was a country of contrasts; ones that I couldn’t wait to explore.

 

 

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A Country of Contrasts (by Kate Clinnick, Australia, current journalism volunteer)https://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/romania-social-manager/read/124935/a-country-of-contrasts-by-kate-clinnick-australia-current-journalism-volunteer
A Country of Contrasts (by Kate Clinnick, Australia, current journalism volunteer)