With tourism on the rise across Europe, it is no surprise urban centers are seeing massive numbers of visitors. With this high influx of visitors, many locations are modernizing at a rapid pace. As a result of this, it becomes increasingly difficult to find places that harken back to simpler times.
If you are the type who is looking to experience a bygone era, then the rural life in Romania is the answer for you.
With tourism being at an all-time high, ethno-tourism became a hot topic among those who want to immerse themselves fully into a country’s indigenous culture.
Romania is among the countries which are still in tune with the olden ways. By simply venturing outside of the major cities, you will get the chance to experience many cultural gems.
This article will provide you with an introduction to the rural life of Romania. It will be broken down into two sections, so as to match the two regions of the country where traditions are most prominent – Transylvania and Maramures.
From Bustling Bucharest to Pristine Transylvania
Bucharest is definitely a beautiful city and a visitor can spend an entire holiday just to explore every nook and cranny of what the capital has to offer. This is why oftentimes it can feel like a labyrinth.
This may sound great for those fascinated by urban exploration, not so much for those simply seeking peace and quiet. However, there is good news for the latter.
There is no place that captures the essence of rural life in Romania better than Transylvania.
Calling Transylvania Romania’s treasure isn’t far off from the truth, as the region stashes a trove of rural wonders which will definitely leave a mark on any visitor.
The following destinations are the best when it comes to offering an authentic traditional Romanian experience.
There’s no better place to experience the rural history of Romania than a dedicated museum. And Brasov definitely has a few!
One of them is The Museum of Ethnography which curates and maintains dozens of materials that once were part of everyday Romanian livelihood. For example, the museum holds an entire collection of traditional Romanian garb.
The pieces are organized chronologically and span multiple periods of the country’s history. This helps the viewer get some insight into how the habits and cultural norms of the population changed with the passing of time.
Other museums that offer a culturally enriching experience are the Weaver’s Bastion and The Museum of the First Romanian School, all of which are in close proximity to each other.
The village of Viscri has had numerous claims to fame in the last few years and it makes for a great place to visit.
In the entire country, the village of Viscri is highly reminiscent of traditional rural life, as it was back then.
This owes to the fact it’s cut off from the main traffic lines, making it a more secluded location, which means carriages are the main means of transport in the area.
The village is also known for the fact Prince Charles is very fond of this remote Saxon village and has bought an 18th Century guest house which he visits regularly.
As you depart, you can make your way to Bran, which is not far from Brasov. On your way, you can get the chance to stumble upon fairs of small boutiques set up by the locals who sell assortments of traditional homemade foods such as jam, goat cheese, whey cheese, or oven-baked bread.
Or, if you are the type looking for some homebrewed beverages, then luck is on your side. You will find many of these small shops where the locals sell bottles of wine, syrup, or heavy spirits such as moonshine or brandy.
Once you have reached Bran, you can visit Bran Castle, which is most known for being the setting in which the Legend of Dracula takes place. While the castle and its vampire tale don’t evoke feelings of traditional Romania, the farmhouses and peasant homes which surround it contribute greatly to the spirit of the region.
And such sights are not in short supply around the entire area.
Sibiu is an important cultural center in Romania, it manages to preserve the authentic experience of rural life in Romania. For example, the old city center along with its restaurants are great places to taste wide assortments of traditional Romanian cuisine.
Many of the villages around Sibiu can make for excellent places to spend the holiday. They provide a great introduction for those looking to know more about daily farm life in Romania.
As you travel along the mountain roads, you begin to see the wonderful land masses where thick forests meet agricultural fields.
In this picturesque scenery, it is not uncommon to see shepherds and their flocks of sheep, haystacks, and the occasional ranches which herd cattle. All of these elements add heavily to the rural atmosphere which defines the land.
Taking Maramures Piece by Piece
Maramures is a historical and culturally dense region in northern Romania. Around the country, there is a saying that the North keeps its traditions. If there’s something to be said about Maramures, it’s that culture and heritage are held in high regard.
Romania is predominantly a Christian-orthodox country and religion has a deep influence on the way people live their lives.
The people of Maramures have managed to retain many of the customs which were passed down from generation to generation.
Not to mention, the area boasts an impressive number of sights that could very well be ripped from a fantasy novel. The architecture of many of the buildings in the area is a reflection of that.
Traditional garb is common on many occasions and the people are proud to wear it.
With that being said, there are definitely many things to see in Maramures, and here are a few locations which, similar to those of Transylvania, will give you first-hand contact with rural life in Romania.
1. Sighetu Marmatiei
Meaning “island of Máramaros” in Hungarian, Sighetu Marmatiei is one of the last points of interest in the country before the Ukrainian border. The city itself boasts an impressive number of landmarks from the interwar and communist periods.
Inside the town, you can visit the Village Museum, the traditional houses of the old city center.
However, for the authentic rural experience, one must venture outside the town and into the neighboring villages where a blend of Romanian, Ukrainian, and Hungarian culture can be seen in full force.
Close to Sighetu Marmatiei lies the township of Barsana. In this area, one can see modest peasant settlements and farmhouses scattered across the fields. Add a few haystacks, a flock of sheepherding in the distance and you get scenery that evokes feelings of tranquility.
While Barsana isn’t the biggest settlement you will see, it definitely is important for traditional Romanian culture. The village itself is well-known among tourists for its Wooden Church which dates all the way back to the 12th Century.
The church is among the oldest in Romania and is a regular destination for pilgrims from all across the country. Without a doubt, the fact the church is still standing is a testament to the people’s commitment to tradition, and paying a visit to it makes for a worthwhile experience.
Situated only 15km away from Sighetu Marmatiei, Sapanta is a rural settlement that at a first glance doesn’t set itself apart from the other Romanian villages.
However, Sapanta hosts a series of unique landmarks that make it quite a special place to visit.
For starters, the village is known for the reputed Merry Cemetery, where all the tombstones are adorned with cheerful, amusing designs that closely resemble the traditional Romanian motifs.
The tombstones themselves are painted in a wide assortment of bright colors and some even have drawings on them that aim to tell a story. It may sound weird, but the purpose of this bizarre practice is to put death in a less tragic spotlight.
Another important objective to mark off your checklist would be the Sapanta Peri Monastery which can be found in close proximity to the village.
The first monastery was built around the year 1391. Being made entirely out of wood meant the monastery would not stand the test of time and it collapsed around the 18th Century.
However, the monastery was rebuilt and nowadays holds the title of the largest wooden structure in the world. The monastery is still in use and it still serves as a unifying center for the spiritual life of the area.
The Perfect Opportunity to Experience Rural Life in Romania
You can get the chance to travel and visit most of the locations mentioned in the article through our Maramures, Bucovina & Danube Delta Tour.
If you are looking to get a bigger picture of the authentic Romanian experience in all its glory, then this tour is definitely the best choice for you.
This tour is broken down into multiple regions of the country you will progressively get to visit. Among its destinations, you will get to see:
- Sighetu Marmatiei
- and many more …
In Bucharest instead, you can experience the rural life in the Village Museum which is one of the best attractions in the city. Book our Half Day Tour of Bucharest and hear the story from your tour guide!
If this opportunity has piqued your interest, then do not hesitate to contact us. We will be glad to assist!