More Romanian villages and other out-takes

Continuing with the topic of cuts to the 7th edition of the Rough Guide to Romania and my mission to put much of the lost text into the public domain (see my previous posts here and here), in the Maramureş chapter the villages of Giuleşti, Berbeşti, Glod and Petrova were cut, and I’ve put the text below. In the Banat and Crişana chapter I was happy to cut most of the villages northeast of Arad (Salonta, Bârsa, Ineu, Pâncota and Moneasa), whch were included only because of their very minor festivals. as well as Lesnic (east of Arad), but I did manage to add a few further south, such as Oraviţa and Sasca Română/Sasca Montana.

As for the chapters that I wasn’t involved with, the coverage of Bucharest is still undoubtedly exemplary, but even so the Russian church, the Museum of Old Western Arts and the Museum of Popular Arts have been cut, as well as Căciulaţi and Căldăruşani in the city’s outskirts. From the Wallachia chapter Breaza, Cheia, the Rucăr area, Călimăneşti-Căciulata, Polovragi, Bistriţa, Arnota and Tismana have gone; from the Moldavia chapter Galaţi (a major city), Brăila, Focşani, Mărăşeşti, Bacău, Panciu, Odobeşti, Oneşti, Slănic Moldova, Târgu Ocna and Vama have been lost. And Niculiţel, Babadag, Basarabi, Medgidia and Murfatlar (one of Romania’s best-known wine-making areas) were cut from the Delta and the Coast chapter.

Contexts (the background section at the rear of the Rough Guide) got squeezed, of course, and Alexander the Good has vanished – a shame as he pops up in the Moldavia chapter, so let me just say that he was the ruling prince of Moldavia (Moldova) between 1400 and 1432, who may have earned his honorary title (Alexandru cel Bun) by ousting the Turks from the eastern marches, though it could well have been bestowed by the Basarab family, whom he made feudal lords of the region subsequently known as Bessarabia.



Further north on the main road to Sighet is GIULEŞTI, a larger village which has a stone church and, like many of these villages, an ancient watermill: its two mill wheels grind wheat and corn, the miller traditionally taking one cupful of each hopper-load. Everything is made of wood, right down to the little water channels lubricating the spindles of the wheels, and it doubles as a fulling mill, its large wooden mallets beating the cloth clean.

On the northern edge of BERBEŞTI, a 300-year-old carved wooden crucifix (troiţa), adorned with four mourning figures and symbols of the sun and moon, stands beside the road, a reminder of a time when travel was considered dangerous; no journeys were made on Tuesdays, which were deemed unlucky, and it was believed that after dark ghosts and vampires roamed the highways, seeking victims.


Giuleşti and Berbeşti are on the Baia Mare–Sighet road, served by fifteen buses daily.


From Poienile Izei, a poor road leads on to the tiny and unspoilt village of GLOD (more easily reached by a 7km road from the Iza valley just east of Bârsana). It’s known for its folk beliefs – for instance in werewolves and spirits of the night – and associations with the outlaw Pintea Viteazul; tales tell of his treasure buried under a spring and protected by a curse. There’s also a wooden church, dating from 1784.


From the Autogara Jan in Sighet, there’s one daily bus to Glod, at 15.45.


Pensiunea In Poiana, no.81; 0262/332 367, 0720/071 787, Behind a traditional wooden gateway, a modern four-storey block houses a surprisingly welcoming guesthouse with a small swimming pool, and a large and adequate restaurant. €18


Romanian cinema

Various bits of Rough Guide text about Romanian film-making were amalgamated into a new Film section, but this also got cut at a late stage of the editing process, so here it is:

Romanian film is currently on a roll, its highly acclaimed New Wave beginning in 2005 with Cristi Puiu’s Moartea domnului Lăzărescu (The Death of Mr Lazarescu; 2005), the tale of an elderly man being trawled around Bucharest’s hospitals as he faces imminent death; this was followed by Corneliu Porumboiu’s A fost sau n-a fost? (12:08 East of Bucharest; 2006), a fabulous deadpan comedy surrounding the events of the 1989 revolution; Radu Muntean’s Hârtia va fi Albastră (The Paper Will Be Blue; 2006), a tragedy brought about by confusion and misunderstandings during the revolution; and Cristian Mungiu’s Palme d’Or-winning 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; 2007), a tragic story of illegal abortion set during the final days of the Ceauşescu regime. In fact, Puiu had already made the low-budget road movie Marfa şi Bani (Stuff and Dough; 2001), now regarded as one of the classic Romanian films, and the short Un cartuş de Kent şi un pachet de cafea (Cigarettes and Coffee; 2004), which won a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival; Muntean had made the thriller Furia (The Rage; 2002), while Mungiu’s Occident, a tragicomedy about young people moving to Western Europe when they can not make ends meet in Romania, had come out in 2002, and Porumboiu had already made prize-winning shorts.

They’ve continued to make excellent films, mostly with a touch of black humour, such as Puiu’s Aurora (2010), the tale of an ordinary man cracking up, and Sierra-Nevada (2016). Porumboiu has had Polițist, Adjectiv (Police, Adjective; 2009), a masterfully crafted tale of choosing between the law, bureaucratic authority and a personal sense of justice, and Comoara (The Treasure; 2015). Muntean’s excellent Boogie, about Romanians in their 30s who try to reconcile marriage and partying, freedom and responsibilities, teenage and adulthood, came out in 2008, while Marţi, după Crăciun (Tuesday, After Christmas; 2010) is a domestic drama set against a backdrop of rampant consumerism, and Un etaj mai jos (One Floor Below; 2015) a slow-burning psychological drama. Finally there’s Mungiu’s Amintiri din epoca de aur (Tales from the Golden Age; 2009) and După Dealuri (Beyond the Hills; 2012), which won the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes.

These directors have inspired a younger generation, such as Cristian Nemescu, whose California Dreamin’ (2007) has a group of Americans soldiers stranded at a tiny Romanian railway station on their way to Kosovo; Marian Crisan with Morgen (2010) and Rocker (2012); Calin Peter Netzer, whose Poziţia Copilului (Child’s Pose; 2013) won a Golden Bear in Berlin; Tudor Giurgiu with Despre Oameni şi Melc (Of Snails And Men; 2012) and Why Me (2015); Florin Șerban with Eu cand vreau sa Fluier, Fluier (If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle; 2015) and Box (2015); and Radu Jude’s Cea mai fericită fată din lume (The Happiest Girl in the World; 2009), Toată lumea din familia noastră (Everybody in Our Family; 2012), and the black-and-white Aferim! (2015), which has been compared to Steve MacQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave, with its hunt for a runaway Gypsy slave – it won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin festival.

It’s not just feature films that show a typically dark and sardonic sense of humour: documentaries are also revisiting Romania’s recent history, such as Alexandru Solomon’s Kapitalism – Rețeta noastră secretă (Kapitalism: Our Improved Formula; 2010), with Ceauşescu returning after twenty years to see how things have changed, and Ilinca Calugareanu’s Chuck Norris vs Communism (2015), about how smuggled videos of action films may have helped to bring down communism.


And finally – I’ve always cared strongly about boosting local family-based rural tourism, and when village guesthouses started to appear in Romania but were failing to market themselves or to create a decent system for making available information about places to stay, I tried through several edition of the guide to give what links I could. That is no longer necessary, and my background text has now been cut, so here it is too:

Rural tourism

Ceauşescu’s systematization policy, aimed at demolishing many of Romania’s villages and moving the inhabitants to concrete apartment blocks, had hardly got started before his downfall, but it had attracted protests from Prince Charles, among others, and the Belgian charity Opération Villages Roumains. The programme was immediately scrapped by the new FSN government, but far more irresistible forces were about to strike Romania’s rural lifestyle.

Many people who had lived largely cash-free by subsistence farming learned about consumer goods and a more modern lifestyle from the suddenly omnipresent television, leading many to go abroad in search of paid work. This money, plus ludicrously generous and unchecked EU agriculture grants, led to many older houses being demolished and replaced by ugly new piles, ruining the traditional vernacular appearance of many villages. Meanwhile the villages were dying as young people left, while EU-inspired regulations aimed, for instance, to end traditional cheese-making and remove horsecarts from the roads. Even in 2015 shepherds were protesting in Bucharest against proposed restrictions on the number of dogs they can have with them and, ludicrously, to stop them grazing at all from December to April.

Rural tourism was an obvious way to bring cash into the villages and keep people on the land; but with a government interested only in beaches, skiing and Dracula tourism, it was left largely to foreign NGOs to put together networks of guesthouses and help owners bring them up to acceptable standards. The OVR took an early lead, together with the Mihai Eminescu Trust, formed to support dissident intellectuals, which had then joined the fight against systematization. Prince Charles entered the fray again, both as the MET’s patron and buying and restoring houses himself. The Lutheran church, with German support, has worked hard to save the Saxon fortified churches and opened guesthouses in parish houses, while the Transylvania Trust and various Hungarian bodies did a fantastic job at Rimetea, turning back the tide of modernization and creating delightful guesthouses, now serving as a model for other projects. ADEPT, working to preserve Transylvania’s landscape and biodiversity, was involved with local tourism projects, while the Association of Ecotourism in Romania also has a few guesthouses among its members, together with various hiking and horseriding agencies. However, much is being achieved by individual foreigners (often Dutch, for some reason), settling in a village and catalysing its revival with projects for campsites, authentic jams and the like.