Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

2 Dec 2016

Visit Romania part two.

I've had a struggle writing this blog post, my second about visiting Romania, because whilst this is the most breathtaking country for scenery, I really did get upset with seeing stray and injured dogs, sick and poorly cats, who had no chance of getting any vet's treatment or care.  I wasn't sure whether to mention it or not and I have been trying to get some perspective. 

We know in the UK and USA that we are crazy mad about our pets, and I'm no exception to this.  I am so cat mad it isn't true and as a wild animal rescuer I would say that this is my main passion. Back in the UK I go to ridiculous lengths to save animals every week.

I guess my point here is that for some people the animal welfare may spoil your visit. I could imagine that if I took my other half here, we would spend our whole time tracking down vets, finding food for the strays, trying to treat their wounds and ulcers and working out if we could bring all these dogs and cats home with us. We can't even drive past a sick or injured rabbit at home without taking it to the wildlife hospital. 

no this is not my other half, but a friendly shepherd with a motley selection of sheep and goats and a scraggy dog

The reality is that Romania is the most unspoilt and un-changed country in Europe, it still relies on farming with shepherds herding their flocks over the mountains as they have done for centuries. There has been very little in the way of development and the industry of wood still looks to be done in the same way, even transporting tree trunks on horse drawn carts. 

The history of poverty under previous leaderships, has resulted in a slow transition of attitude for the people.  So this authenticity of rural culture is a double edged sword, perhaps it is too much to expect that now they are in the EU they would abide by our standards of animal welfare, I can only hope that with education and charity it won't be too long.

The Bradshaw's guide for Romania written in 1913 described this area of the Carpathian mountains and Transylvania as ; snow clad granite peaks, mountain gorges, ranges of forests, delightful valleys with numerous beautiful small lakes, combine their charms in this romantic country.  Never has a country changed so little from a description written over a hundred years ago. 

It is so utterly beautiful that you cannot believe your eyes at times. It looks like a painted backdrop.  The history of the land bringing with it influences from Austria, Hungary and Turkey, having been battled over many times by these nations. Autumn seemed like the perfect time to visit with tree covered mountains in every hue from green to orange. 

The only deep scars on this land were those made during the period of 1947 to 1989 under communist control and the regime of Ceau┼čescu.
Evidence can be seen in the brutalist architecture of the tower blocks of flats which flank some cities. In some places they have preserved the old towns of red roofs and stunning architecture but it is common for even these to still have their ugly areas of concrete jungle.

One thing is for sure, this is a country of vast contrasts. Fairytale castles, palaces and peasants, chicken houses and shepherds huts. It may be our last chance to see how Europe was - once upon a time, with a sprinkle of oppression from the USSR. The old communist buildings stand out like a sore thumb, although they have some interest in their own right, others are just a carbuncle.  

I suppose my point here is 'can we have it both ways'; unspoilt like the land that time forgot but with modern views towards domesticated animals. I suppose not and perhaps it is the job of the traveller to keep perspective about differences in culture.

Tradition and regional customs are still completely untouched. Families are fairly self sufficient owning sheep, growing food, they use no pesticides and this makes Romania one of the cleanest countries in the whole of Europe. The old ways of managing land has preserved wild flowers long since lost to the rest of Europe. The small scale farming still genuinely in abundance with shepherds living on the mountains for the five summer months.

Here is a country with the largest population of wild bears, and wolves which still roam free.  So at times this place takes on the air of the Rocky Mountains too, it is truly unique. They have 6,000 bears and 3,000 wolves which has only happened because they have maintained their wilderness. 

Like other Eastern European countries there is a dichotomy between the past and the present. A country still farming the old ways which also has the internet, and so maybe they too are lacking perspective about the worth of some goods.   I am still reeling at some of the over-priced items we found, it's a shame because I like to shop but not to be taken for a fool. 

When Romania got it's freedom they had a lot of catching up to do, the EU now gives grants for new buildings and business enterprises and so the younger Romanians are ambitious and change is inevitable but at what speed anybody can guess.

The most impressive thing that I witnessed here was the landscape, I didn't get to investigate any towns but I heard from other travellers that it's not the best place for shopping, so go here to be impressed by mountains and not malls.  A perfect holiday for adults who are into photography and architecture, for people who like to travel rather than sun bathe.  I would recommend hiring a car as there are now many good Air bnbs and this gives you the freedom to stop and take photos as often as you like. Try to hunt down local craftsmen and women rather than buy in the tourist traps. Local weavers and wool spinners, leather and hide tanners seem abundant here but I was surprised not to come across any spoon carvers (I had the idea from research that fancy carved spoons were quite a popular thing). 

I hope my blog posts about the trip have given you a small taste of what you could expect to see here, just brace yourself if you are a pet owner ...
words pictures and opinions are all my own - Janice Issitt

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