Romanian adventure comes to an end.

Farmer And so, my very short adventure in Romania has come to an end. It was not anywhere near long enough to even scratch the surface here photographically, but I did get a glimpse into a couple of regions in this fascinating country.

The last stop was Maramures, a region which I heard hadn’t changed much over the past couple of centuries.  Perhaps it was silly to believe this, but for some reason I did or perhaps just hoped that it would be true.

In reality Maramures was both – as amazing as I thought it might be and at the same time more visually abhorring than I could have imagined. It seems that in Eastern Europe things change even faster than in Asia and just as is the case with Asia, progress here is not a thing of beauty.

For whatever reason those who have been denied prosperity for so long seem to have a very crass way of showing that prosperity once they obtain it, with disregard for anything that existed before them. Traditional villages of wooden houses which seem to have been built in harmony with the landscape with consideration for the surroundings are very  few and far between in most of Maramures these days. They are being knocked down, replaced with huge (and I mean huge) brick and cement structures, which have about as much character as you might expect a concrete slab to have.

This “modernization” thing is a story I’ve seen throughout my travels around different countries. I don’t know how it ends, but I do feel that it’s very worthwhile for a photographer to capture what hasn’t been swallowed up by the so called progress. Luckily in Maramures a little bit of magic still remains. While many of the people are living in the soulless structures, they themselves haven’t lost their souls, nor what makes them visually unique to other Europeans. Perhaps most pleasantly, a lot of them are just as kind and as hospitable as their parents must have taught them to be.

I was reminded a little of India, when the locals almost forced their hospitality upon us, only in India the hospitality takes on the form of tea and food, while in Maramures you have to drink their toxic home-made “Tsuika”, a 50 + degree alcoholic beverage, strong enough to burn a whole in your stomach. After drinking five or six shots of it in the first day I decided that in reply to future offers it would be better for  me to drink a tiny bit of it, make a face and say that it is too strong for people from my country, which is not far from the truth.

I would have liked my trip to Maramures to have felt like a trip into a different world, into the past. It wasn’t quite like that, but as I drove my car through the mountains to the Hungarian border, passing old cattle herders in traditional hats, women collecting hay in their unique attires, all while being surrounded by some of the more dramatic scenery one is likely to encounter, I realized – Maramures is still special. It’s not what I wanted it to be, but that doesn’t make it any less special in relation to the rest of the world.

Here are some images of what still remains of the magical Maramures.

sheep-in-the-morning Sheep on their way to be herded up in the hills.

terga-lapus-regionThat’s the view the shepherd has when he herds the village’s sheep.

funnymanWe met this man during a foggy afternoon in a small house, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I asked if we could take a few photos of him outside. He agreed. As I fired off a few frames, he kept asking – “Am I really that f—ing cool? Is that why you’re photographing me? I mean there are so many other people, but you chose me! I must be something special!

fog-dogThe man had quite a few “tsuikas” and just before he left he decided to chase the dog around. The dog was surprised.

Rural-boy At the same place we found this great, young character. I loved his attire – a child’s sweater with an image of a sheep and a grown man’s suit and trousers.

pigfeedingA village woman after feeding her piglets. The villagers of Maramures are very proud of their animals and gladly show them to anyone half-interested.

oldmanVlad, one of my traveling companions and I met this elder at the front of his traditional house. We asked if we could come inside and see what it’s like. He let us in and posed for a few photographs. He’s 88 years old and all alone, so I think he was happy to chat to us for a while.

magical-morningMagical morning in the hills. It’s foggy almost every day during this time of year. When it’s not cloudy, the scenery can be rather special.

cattlemarket Morning at the cattle market.

pumpkinsVillage woman chopping up pumpkins.

I feel a world away from Romania as I type this entry from my room in Krakow, Poland. It’s been a frustrating couple of days since I left Romania, as I had a lot of my things stolen from my car during my overnight stay in Bratislava, Slovakia. Luckily most of the photography related stuff was with me in the hostel room, but I did have to search all of Krakow for a new battery charger for my Canon 5D MKII.

Tomorrow I hit the road again. After being re-united with my dear wife we have decided to drive to Slovenia. If my car makes it, that’s where I’ll be for the next few days.

That’s all for now.

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67 Responses to “Romanian adventure comes to an end.”

  1. lovebug35 Says:

    interesting pics and info..

    I want to visit Romania some day

  2. Luc Novovitch Says:

    Mitchell.
    Thanks you for, as usual, sharing your images and impressions. Nice also that you introduced the work of two Romanian photographers.
    /ln

  3. mooney=mc2 Says:

    Wonderful images. You are gifted. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Rhys Says:

    Something I almost always miss out on when travelling is making connections (and therefore photos) of the local people. Were you with a translator or was this just with broken English and (I assume) a big smile?

  5. Mooloolaba resort Says:

    Fantastic article, i have spent a lot of time in Bulgaria, next door to
    Romania, and i couldn’t agree with you more that beneath the surface
    of crass affluence is a population of people who have always put up
    with their very mediocre lives by western standards and done so
    with grace and dignity. The rising middle class of younger people
    are well educated and sophisticated and will eventually provide a
    strong engine for economic growth if their politicians allow it.

  6. vagrantjack Says:

    Awesome pictures, and great site Mitchell!

  7. Kevin Says:

    Amazing how much can change in such a short period. I truly wish that your trip could have been more inspiring, though your pictures are true to the Maramures that I traveled to in 2005 and remember so fondly.

    I was greeted with horses and carriages, crops being cultivated by hand and an impression of a world long ago. It’s hard to believe that it has changed so incredibly much in such a short period of time. When I visited the area I saw maybe less than a dozen cars in the three days I was there. The people were incredibly warm and many invited me into their homes and were so proud to show me around their farms. It was amazing. Another memory was when an old man stopped my car as I was driving along an old narrow and windy road with an apple orchard, he insisted I get out of the car and there we sat along a beautiful stream eating apples in the afternoon sun. The meals I had were so carefully prepared, along with the wonderful churches amongst the countryside, the wooden gates and the funny cemetery that makes a fun memory of the dead with their colorful headstones.

    I guess it’s all in the name of progress and really a double edge sword. I have traveled extensively and know the progress you speak of. Many say it is for the better though if you speak to the people changing they generally say the opposite. All I can say is that for people reading this post, it’s important to get out there and experience all you can before globalization takes care of their greatest enemy, simply known as diversity!

    Thanks for the experience!!!

  8. dougbug87 Says:

    I am an American living in Romania. Your pictures give a great look into the culture of the Romanian country side. I love it in Romania as well.

  9. matrioskasadventures Says:

    beautiful article and images, I would love to see this region and I’ll be a tourist in my own country…

  10. blackwatertown Says:

    I like your pictures and interesting comments, and those of Kevin and the rest. It’s a beautiful poor place. I took some pics in Romania a few years ago, mainly of Csango people on the eastern slopes of the Carpathians, on the way to Bacau. They’re here if you’re interested http://www.flickr.com/photos/village_pics/sets/72157594330750310/

  11. Joseph Five Says:

    Some real incredible shots here! Kudos.

    http://loveblognumber5.wordpress.com/

  12. Veronica Says:

    Great photos! They bring back memories.

    I am originally from Romania. I moved to the US 22 years ago. I went back to visit on the 20th year anniversary of my move (I was 12 when my family moved to the US, so I did not have the money or time to go visit). My trip to Romania was bittersweet. It was the same as I left it 20 years ago. It was unbelievable! I grew up in Bucharest and the city was the same in many ways. The building where I lived was exactly the same – nothing has been remodeled. When I was there, all the stores were completely empty. You also had to stay in line for hours (sometimes overnight) to purchase food. Now there are huge Walmart like stores but no one can afford to buy anything. I think that is worse than not being able to buy something. Also, I have family who live in a few villages around Romania (mostly on the east side). These villages are also the same as I left them. Many of them still use a well to retrieve water and some of them still live in the stucco-like houses with dirt floors and no electricity. It is incredible to me that it is almost 2010 and that they still live that way.

    I feel very lucky to live in the US. I am grateful that my parents had the guts to leave their established lives, apartment, jobs, and all of their belongings and leave the country with 2 suitcases, 2 young girls, and a newborn.

    I also know all about Tuica (the drink). My grandmother made (and drank) plenty of it throughout her lifetime. 🙂 I am not very fond of it.

  13. Schwerpunkt Says:

    Wonderful pictures of a country that yes is turning to a future of crass prosperity. However, I was there in 1995 and the lives of the people long abused often take to removing traces of that abuse. A son, long beaten by an angry father now elderly, does not care for that man in his strong adulthood, but drowns that man.

  14. noelsalazar Says:

    Cool photos. I really feel you captured the essence of the country. I’d want to go there someday. 🙂

  15. eva2ava Says:

    I wonder how much the people in your photographs were affected by Ceausescu’s assassination and communist government overthrow. They seem timeless and well, unaffected.

  16. nsalba Says:

    Romania sounds like the type of place i’d like to visit too, rustic and friendly people. i have long decide to give london paris new york low priority for my oversea visit.

  17. lilabyrd Says:

    Absolutely beautiful photos! I love the colors and layering of dark and light contrasts of natures handy work! You are so blessed to be able to travel and see such wonders. I miss being able to get out anymore, but as long as there are people like you who record these natural beauties those of us that can’t go can at least live vicariously though you! Thanks for sharing….. :} … Lila Byrd

  18. yasdr Says:

    The man looks like a character from a stop motion film. It’s my dream to visit that part in Europ; the old world, rural charm is just too pretty to ignore.

  19. HurleyBurleyGirl Says:

    My god these photos and their descriptions are beautiful. I have never been to Romania but your photos have captured the spirit and soul of the places. Thank you for sharing them.

  20. Silvereyed Says:

    Beautiful images. I love your portraits- your ability to capture a person’s spirit in a shot is amazing.

  21. cinnamonhotel Says:

    Wonderful photos. Looks amazing!
    Thanks for sharing

    Dzung

  22. amandaaaa Says:

    Amazing pictures! My boyfriend is from Romania and tells me about it but nothing is as close to the real thing like pictures are =] Beautiful!

  23. armpitofamerica Says:

    What a great story and awesome pics! I love the guy leaning on the shovel. He seems like a funny and interesting person…

    Good luck with your future travels!

  24. Paul Dan Says:

    Hi Mitchell,

    I am a Romanian living in San Diego, California; I made it in US in ’84. I’ve been in Maramures. Your work is incredible. Are you an American with polish origins? Do you have any Jewish blood? Anyway, besides your photography talent you are a good writer with psychological insights. You are in your way in discovering something big and you use travel and photography for that reason. We may talk more in the future.

    With High regards,
    Pastor Paul Dan

  25. PJ Lee Says:

    Amazing & earthy.

  26. paul_sing Says:

    tanks i love best caltri i love you tanks kisses for to family

  27. Arun Says:

    These are nice pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Alice Says:

    I’m Romanian. But that doesn’t say much about me. I was born somewhere that looks just like the landscapes in those pictures you took. I now work in a huge sterile glass office building (you know the kind). And that doesn’t say much about me either. But those shades in your photos, that foggy feeling, well that DOES say a lot about this whole… Romanian atmosphere.

    We do drink plenty of tuica (or tzuica), we are hospitable because it seems so strange for us to be noticed, and we are paroxysmal because we don’t know better.
    While trying to blend in amongst painfully mature children, bitter old people who lost their entire cultural construction and perky, “sophisticated” young people, as you call them, the story goes on and we always appreciate an outside view, a reality check if you will.

    Thank you for the fantastic photos and please keep delighting our vision with captures of spirit, wherever that is.

  29. deborahmclaren Says:

    Your photos and writing are fascinating. However, I didn’t get, at least in the visuals, what you were discussing about how Maramures (all of Romania?) is developing in a worse way than Asia. Also, are you making fun of the elderly people? I am just asking because I don’t quite understand. I think your photos are amazing.

  30. nightemo Says:

    nice picture

  31. krishna Says:

    awsome pictures!
    I like the expertise put in.

  32. marisapetrich Says:

    Amazing. Seriously.

  33. ulaş Kurtuluş ünlü Says:

    Very impressive pictures. I would like to see there.Thank you for sharing.

  34. thcgirl77 Says:

    Your pictures and writing is so beautiful and emotional, I am proud of being Romanian after reading your article. I`m glad you liked my country. You worked so well with the fog!

  35. Wit Ackman Says:

    Very nice pictures.

  36. Clayton Hirst Says:

    I cycle toured around Romania last year for a few weeks. Like you I had quite an adventure. Your pictures have captured some of the atmosphere of what I found to be a hard but incredibly beautiful country – especially the Maramures. Thank you.

  37. Phil Says:

    very nice

  38. ShrirangK Says:

    Great pictures and matching description. Loved your travel blog.

  39. Toriano's "La Buena Vida" Says:

    This is by far the best, most interesting travel or any type of blog I have seen yet. I just started one a few months ago about food and starting to add in travel and a little more motivated after seeing yours.
    Toriano
    thedish22.wordpress.com

  40. Dave Says:

    Lovely series of images Mitchell. I’ve really enjoyed looking at and reading your posts of your trip. Good luck with the rest of the trip.

  41. Dumitru Vieriu Says:

    Sunt roman,in Romania am motive de bucurie,am motive de tristete.Am vazut pozele si am citit (tradus in lb.romana)articolul.Autorul a trait cateva zile intr-o lume pe care a descoperit-o si a fost (poate) fascinat de ea.Din punct de vedere emotional cred ca a simtit mai mult decat a putut scrie.Articolul l-a scris dupa ce a trait pe viu momentul Maramures.Interesant este pentru mine ce a simtit chiar atunci cand a vazut si fotografiat copilul,batrana ce taia dovleci pentru animale,batranul ce se odihnea in lopata sau se confesa cu cainele lui.Apreciez gestul autorului de a imortaliza cateva clipe din viata unor oameni si animale dintr-un tinut cu adevarat unic in felul sau.Eu cred ca in aceasta tara in care eu traiesc inca se mai pastreaza zone cu natura curata cu asezaminte si oameni curati.Nu sunt impotriva schimbarii dimpotriva promovez schimbarea si ma bucur acolo unde vad ca a avut loc.Dar apreciez schimbarea benefica pentru oameni,animale ,plante.As aprecia daca romanii care traiesc oriunde pe aceasta planeta(si eu cred ca acolo este tara lor,casa lor).isi vor aminti ca radacina este undeva in unul din tinuturile noastre.Prima zi cu soare ,prima zi cu ploaie a fost traita aici,samanta a rasarit aici.Doresc sa ma opresc aici deoarece exista riscul sa alunec intr-o zona de discutii in contradictoriu cu alte persoane si nu doresc acest lucru.Astept cu placere invitatii la discutii cu persoane care pot spune cate ceva despre locurile unde traiesc si muncesc.O zi buna .Dumitru

  42. vodkacookies Says:

    wow.. great pix.. nicely taken..

  43. mbconsulting@live.com Says:

    I am a Romanian and love my country even if there are many things to be improved.

    Your pictures are from rural area and are great!

    But still Romania is a little bit different and still beautiful in cities like: Cluj, Timisoara, Tg. Mures and Bucharest. Please do not go until you make some comments on these.

    Hope to enjoy your stay in Romania!

  44. the faltese malcon Says:

    Great photography and insight. Happy travels!

  45. alghan Says:

    very nice

  46. kevin Says:

    kaas pinda

  47. Anora Says:

    this is beautiful

  48. John Reid Says:

    Another fine example of excellent travel photography. You really do manage to capture the character of a place. I also share your thoughts on the modernization of a place – it makes me want to see the world before it’s too late.

  49. sittingpugs Says:

    I agree with what John Reid said. I really the photographs with the child and the horses.

  50. Flower Boy Says:

    really splendid photos. absolutely stunning.

  51. michelle Says:

    nice post!i did had a romanian boyfriend…and i have heard some stuff about romania from him before…and somehow im really curious about his country…but after reading your post and lloking some photos i got more interested…it is really nice!i love photography….

  52. Marcos Says:

    Beautyful

    I believe it’s possible to take pictures inspired on your images here in Brazil’s northeast! It is not about misery or poverty. The dignity of a smile, like your’s Yousef (other post) shows a good life, and teach us how miserable is our sickness for urban luxuous and superficial life. Ask ourselves: Ca we go on whethe losing everything we have? Answer should be: yes, we Can. So, don’t blame fate.

    Lovely photos.

    Marcos

  53. Lindsey Says:

    Stunning, especially the first photograph. I am an aspiring writer and traveler but, still in university, I haven’t had the chance to travel for the lengths of time that you do. I admire your courage and perseverance in such strange and ethereal lands–I only hope to end up there myself one day.

    I’ve gone through every entry. Love your work, and your blog.

  54. Samuelle Rizzo Says:

    i really enjoyed reading this. i might even give the old ‘tsuikas’ a try 🙂

  55. Mitchell Says:

    Wow folks! Thanks for all the comments, I hope that you will all visit again for future posts. 🙂

  56. Romania through the eyes of an Australian photographer « All Romanians are vampires Says:

    […] can read the full entry about Maramures here. Might want to check out his previous two articles too, the one on Holbav, a forgotten […]

  57. justsaynorefuseandresist Says:

    awsome. i happened to find your blog and it’s impressive. I have a plan for travelling Europe next year. I just want to let you know that I put your blog on my link. Thanks for the inspiring blog.

  58. dej Says:

    Great photography! Im slovenian living near Ljubljana and if you need any help or just want to meet for a beer or two send me an email. Have a great trip!

  59. pyrit Says:

    Your photos grabbed me off main street and down a secret, fantastic alleyway.
    What is around the next corner…

    La scrittura è il ritmo dolce.
    Your writing has soft, sweet rhythm.

  60. Enche Tjin Says:

    Fantastic stories and pictures you share here. Keep it up and have a safe trip.

  61. Julien Dorol Says:

    Your best post ever about your trip in east europe. I just love the photo of the 88 yo man, and that’s what iI love in your picture : you emphasis the emotion with the light…

    About the modernism topic, I’m back from a 3 month trip in Nepal, and I feel the same as you. People leave their village to go to the overcroweded valleys. They build dreadfull buildings and forget step by step their cultur…

    But steel what you can feel is that many of them realise that the modern life is not so easy as they dreamed : you need more money, you need to buy absolutely everything to get bad quality…

    I just wonder were the developpement is gonna end up for those country… sometime it’s a bit scary.

  62. Costin Mindru Says:

    Hi, Mitchell

    Great job! I was expecting that you had been stolen in Romania, and not in Slovakia. 🙂 Your luck was that you haven’t visited cities. I am a romanian citizen, and I like Romania, but I am sick of all bad people…and it seems that they are multiplie day by day. This is a reason for me and my wife to leave this country for another where people is more civilized. I am interested by your workshops in Indonesia, but now I can’t afford. Maybe in the future…

    Keep shooting!
    Costin

  63. Joy Says:

    Awesome photos. You are very professional Photographer.
    Thank you for share this.
    Would you mind if I pick you picture up?

  64. Ana A. Negru Says:

    Fantastic photos, Mitchell!

    For all romanians who now live abroad, but who still miss Romania very much, Mitchell’s photos and words can be very powerful.

    If you want to see and to read more about romanian traditional villages, you can visit this web-site: http://www.revista-satul.ro

    Best wishes!
    Ana

  65. garryriky Says:

    All Photos are really nice ,but i choose picture with subtitle “Morning at the cattle market” , my favorite
    By the way you have done really good job to take such photos

  66. Katry Says:

    The only word for this post can be ‘wow’.
    It seems you had a great time in Romania.
    I am also planning to visit here in the month of Sep with the help of southalltravel.co.uk
    I think it is the right time to visit here.

  67. Mereu aproape de tine Says:

    Firstly good web site. I’m uncertain if it could have been brought up, but when working with Firefox I can never get the entire website to load without refreshing many times. May just be my modem. Enjoy!

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