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July 10, 2013 / TAB

Romania- Tea with the Gypsies

      An enterprising young woman named Karla has opened her home and culture to visitors and risked censure from the Gypsy community at large. Her parents are supportive but she is isolated within the community because of this activity.

     She has recently escaped from an abusive relationship and returned home with her young son. After participating in a project exploring the Gypsy culture, she decided to start a  business which gives the world access to what is usually closed to outsiders. She offers a unique experience and answers any questions openly.  She explained the tradition of girls leaving school at 11 to go in “training” to become a good wife, usually at 14. She objected to the concept of enforced “slavery” and blind obedience to a husband who is expected to keep things in line with violence. 99% of first marriages (always arranged by the parents) fail. We discussed how she feels when she is automatically rejected by outsiders just because she is a Gypsy (a term she prefers to Rom).

     I was unaware that the Gypsies have their origin in India and the society is set up in a caste system. Karla’s family belongs to the Gabor caste, the highest one. They are assimilated into regular village communities and the children go to the regular local school until they drop out to go into the family business (boys) or start the road to an early marriage (girls). The lower castes are the ones found begging or scamming. There are few nomadic groups anymore.

      Her mother and grandmother welcomed me into a modern house for tea and sweets made by the local woman who bakes for weddings and other celebrations. On display was mom’s dowry items which have never been used. They will stay on display until Karla’s younger brother brings home a wife. 

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IMG_0948 Karla’s father is a metal worker and was making rain gutters and supports, heating the metal in a forge and pounding out the shapes, on the day I visited. 

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"moustaches"

“moustaches”

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It was an amazing experience which I’m so glad to have been offered. 

More photos of Romania at: http://www.alwaysonefootoutthedoor.com/europe/romania/

 

May 31, 2013 / TAB

Romania- Do you have…?

In Romania, when you ask for something, “Do you have…? “, the positive response is, “There is.” So for a look at some of the things I’ve seen, Romania, do you have?

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completely fiction, no vampires here

completely fiction, no vampires here

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traditions…

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welcoming cities and towns…

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churches…

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castles…

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landscapes…

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animals…

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roadside markets…

homemade wine and plum brandy

homemade wine and plum brandy

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what’s in the garden today

fish for sale, this big

fish for sale, this big

resources…

cement plant

cement plant

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farmlands

farmlands

a legacy of Communism…

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great food…

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and of course, friendly people…

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the best!

the best!

There is! Go!

 

More photos of Romania at: http://www.alwaysonefootoutthedoor.com/europe/romania/

May 30, 2013 / TAB

Danube Delta

The Danube Delta is the “newest” land in Romania and the Ukraine. As the Danube flows from its source, it picks up silt and soil which is deposited at the mouth. Over the course of time, the delta has formed islands of fertile land. It is home to large numbers of wildlife, including a feral “raccoon dog”. I spent the morning of my last full day in Romania on a lazy boat ride through the area.

leaving Tulcea harbor

leaving Tulcea harbor

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brighter leaves are wild grape vines

brighter leaves are wild grape vines

The wind kept most of the critters in protective hiding but we heard many bird calls (cuckoos, woodpeckers) and knew they were there. It was a futile attempt to try a photograph the flying birds which swooped back and forth across the water but I think I did get some of the pelicans. I know I missed the swan pair. Other birds we saw were terns, storks, rollers, and cormorants, the birds most problematic for the fishermen. The trained eyes of our guide spotted some of the small wood deer watching our progress from the bank.

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egret

egret

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mallard

mallard

squacco heron

squacco heron

pheasant

pheasant

heron

heron

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We enjoyed a boat cooked lunch of fresh fish. 

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Tucked back into the trees and fishing camps, just waiting for the season to start.                                                The river is frozen and abandoned during the winter months.

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The Danube branches out into 3 main routes which are used as the highways to/from the Black Sea. River cruise boats, daily ferries, tugs and barges bring supplies and passengers to the sparsely populated villages. It also forms the border between Romania and Ukraine.

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More photos of Romania at: http://www.alwaysonefootoutthedoor.com/europe/romania/

 

May 27, 2013 / TAB

Traditional Romania

Romania is a place of traditional ideas and actions. It is where storks return to bring good luck. One of the first things you notice out of the cities are the horse carts still used as the main transportation for the farmers.

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Then there are the people working and living the way their grandfathers did and usually with the same tools. 

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washing clothes

washing clothes

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Animals graze by the houses.

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There is a style of dress kept mostly by the older women, with scarf that usually matches their skirt.

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home made sour cream

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Along the road you can see the representative gates and tiled and wooden houses. Most houses have a bench or two where the news of the day is passed along by and to those who wait.

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Most houses have a bench or two where the news of the day is passed along by and to those who wait. There’s always time for a good gossip.

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And at the crossroads, the cross reminds people to stop and ask for safe passage.

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More photos of Romania at: http://www.alwaysonefootoutthedoor.com/europe/romania/

May 25, 2013 / TAB

Romania- Painted Monasteries

In the Bucovina area of Moldavia, there are many fortified monasteries which were built during the reigns of Stephen the Great and his son, Petru Rareş. It is said that they constructed to celebrate victory in battles. The most famous are the painted monasteries with frescoes illustrating bible and battle scenes all done in a naive style. I visited 4 of them.

Humor has a predominately red color in its backgrounds. Its main frescoes show the siege of Constantinople (those pesky Turks are trouble!) and the Akathistos Hymn to the Virgin Mary. 

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Flight to Egypt

Flight to Egypt

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Petru and family presenting the church

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Voronet has a blue theme. It was built on the spot of a hermitage of the hermit, Daniil, who encouraged Stephen the Great in his battle with the Turks. Today it is dedicated to St. George. 

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Last Judgement

Last Judgement

the soul leaving the body

the soul leaving the body

Moldavita’s color theme is yellow. It, too, has frescoes of the Jesse Tree, the Journey of the Magi, and the Siege of Constantinople. 

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Sucevita is the most heavily fortified monastery. It has a green color theme. A significant fresco here is the Ladder of Virtue. 

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Ladder of Virtue

Ladder of Virtue

In the bible scenes, white backgrounds indicate the time before Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden.

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More photos of Romania at: http://www.alwaysonefootoutthedoor.com/europe/romania/

 

May 24, 2013 / TAB

Romania- Maramures

    I had been warned that the people of Romania weren’t a “smiley” group but I have found them to be warm and welcoming to a stranger and ready to leave you as a friend, especially in the Iza River Valley of Transylvania. The people of Maramures have developed strong community ties and are willing to give someone in need whatever is required. They are a strongly religious people, mainly Christian Orthodox, whose social activities center around the church. They are hard working, honest, and sincere. They will always offer you their best. There is a simpleness to their lives which brings peace even to a visitor determined to see it all. My biggest regret was the ongoing rain which made it impossible to show the true beauty of the places I visited.

  There is a huge artist heritage in this region. Here are some of the representatives.

My host and his band and local folk dancers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRy4UoOOP24&feature=youtu.be

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Each couple makes their costumes in concert so they are coordinated. The man’s belt has a “peacock” effect. The bigger the belt, the manlier the man. The poor married man is reduced to 3 buckles.

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He also gets a smaller hat.

The area is famous for their wooden gates with competition over “whose is biggest”. I was privileged to visit the workshop of a master carver who has projects all over the world and was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1999, Teodor Bârsan.

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chain made from a single piece of wood

chain made from a single piece of wood

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gate top in progress

my favorite

my favorite

A visit to the market is always a good way to see the local culture, this one is in Sighet.

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sour cream

sour cream

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Which of course brings us to the subject of food.  Breakfast was fresh bread, thick slices of ham or turkey or chicken, eggs, homemade jams, and vegetables. I’m not sure peppers, pickles, and onions would work for me that early. Other meals always included soups, grilled meats, and more fresh vegetables. It seems to be a healthy way of life.

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Vio, my fearless leader

add a little sour cream for interest

add a little sour cream for interest

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not to mention cheescake

not to mention cheescake

and the local jet fuel, pear brandy...noroc! ( a toast)

and the local jet fuel, plum brandy…noroc! ( a toast)

A tourist center has been established to showcase some of the traditional activities. Niculai’s Mill has a plum brandy distillery where the craft is practiced in the old way with the still tended 24 hours a day.

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A water wheel moves the agitator so the plums don’t get stuck together and burn.

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A stream is harnessed into large barrels creating a whirlpool to wash heavy items like carpets and upholstery which are cleaned as part of the Easter renewal ritual. 

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There is also a water driven press for wool.

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Here, the people are still associated with the land. The cart and horse is the main transportation for farm work. The entire family is seen working the fields or garden. It is very much a family business.

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plum brandy barrels

plum brandy barrels

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Romanian sheep dog, bread to fight bears

Romanian sheep dogs, bred to fight bears

My wonderful hosts, thank you for sharing with me!

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Ioan and Silvia

More photos of Romania at: http://www.alwaysonefootoutthedoor.com/europe/romania/

 

April 26, 2013 / TAB

Offida- City of Lace

Offida is a small town in the Marche region of Italy and is known for their tradition of lace making going back more than 5 centuries. As you enter the town, you begin to see lace designs for sale and examples of pre-made lace in the windows.

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As the lace making business evolved, now there is even jewelry from lace.

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A street is devoted to the lacemakers and posters along the walls give the history of the development of lacing making in Offida. Even the house numbers demonstrate the importance of lace.

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then...

then…

now

now

Even the Angel of the Annunciation in the church of St. Augustine wears lace trim on his robes.

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The commune has built a special monument to the tradition being handed down through the generations.

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