A visit to the tiny Romanian town of Türé (or Turea) is like travelling back in time. Horse drawn carriages packed full with freshly cut hay trot along bumpy dirt roads. Craggy old people with craggy old faces make picture perfect postcards of a simpler time. Grandmothers milk cows, churn butter, have wells in their backyards and know their way around a plow.
If it wasn’t for the anachronistic satellite dishes growing out of houses like mushrooms on cow paddies - you’d think it was the early 1900’s. A surprising amount of people here lack running water and indoor plumping but, with the wonders of modern technology, can tune into stations like MTV.
Having just come from cosmopolitan Bucharest - a capital city where Ferrari lined streets, fashionable coffee houses and could-be-supermodels are common - this was the “simple life.”
I found myself in this Transylvanian village as part of a two-day home-stay run by Carpathian Tours. Australian-owned, this company offers customized cultural vacations through the Hungarian, Slovakian and Romanian countryside. It’s a chance to learn about the music, dance and social practices of the area – all with the help of a translator/knowledgeable guide. Accommodations may be humble (my room was door-less and the bathroom looked more like a tool shed) but, by staying with the local people, I’m able to get an insider’s view.
My crash course in traditional Transylvanian culture starts with breakfast. Here in Türé, early morning risers enjoy buffalo cheese, thick slices of white bread, pork sausage and a shot of Pálinka. This local brandy brew gets the day started off right and is sipped on with each meal. It’s considered rude if you turn down the offering, so, despite having just brushed my teeth, I reach for the shot glass and started boozing. It goes down my throat in one gulp, burning my insides with the pang of cheap Tequila.
Pleasing my host, the guide and I (admittedly a bit tipsy) venture into town.
Shepherds guide buffalo into the village so they can be milked by their owners. They make their way down a mist-covered hill, mooing and jangling their cowbell necklaces. It’s gives new meaning to the cliche saying “until the cows come home.”
Though I’m excited by the prospect of milking one myself, I find out the buffalos are quite skittish and don’t let strangers ogle their utters.
From there, we visit a traditional ‘good room.’ It’s an elaborately decorated living room used for entertaining guests and matching prospective boy suitors with unmarried girls. The room is stacked with embroidered blankets, tablecloths and doilies, all hand spun from wool, cotton or hemp. Cabinets are hand-painted, stenciled in red, white and green (a symbol of the Hungarian flag) with recurring motifs of roses, tulips and green branches. Though it’s impressive, this crafty form of home-making has been abandoned by the new generation.
In the time of Ceausescu (the corrupt Romanian dictator) expression of Hungarian culture and music was forbidden. As a result much of local culture was lost. My two day tour of Transylvania had me tossing hay with a pitchfork, step-dancing to live village music and picnicking with Pálinka under a full moon.
Carpathian Tours offers customized cultural vacations through the Hungarian, Slovakian and Romanian countryside. Visit carpathiantours.com.au
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