Traditional Wedding in Maramures

My neighbor got married at the weekend. It’s great to see that some things have not changed in Breb; it’s a matter of time and it will all be different, but for now – life, and weddings, go on like they always did. Except for Johns shoes…. and the girls, they are definitely different 🙂

The Romaniain Invasion of 2014

A week is a long time in politics they say. It can be a life time in the world of newspapers.

A about a week ago I was leaving Bucharest for good and my phone rings

“ Hi, from the Mail on Sunday, can you cover the story about the Romanian invasion in 2014 for us?”
A few days later the Sun and the Daily Mail. They all want the same thing. In 2004 the Poles were allowed to come to the UK without a work permit. Tony Blairs press office said there would be “A maximum of around 17,000 would come over the next few years.”We all know he liked a bit of spin, but 1 million is quite a lot more.
Now ten years later its the turn of the Romanians and the Bulgarians. You can see the worry. The UK government has covered it’s arse and said there maybe up to 450,000 coming to the UK in the next few years.
If your English trying to get a job, what are you going to think? “WTF?”
And I can see their point. Hence the running around I have done to recruitment agencies and transport company’s this week getting quotes from the owners on the increase in numbers of people they think will go to the UK. Only… most of them didn’t even know about the new rule. This is Romania after all, we don’t plan a YEAR ahead, come on.
Most people when interviewed and told about the 450,000 figure seemed quite surprised and said something along the lines of “ Your too late, they have already gone”. The editor of Click, the paper I used to work for here said “ Duncan, this is impossible, we don’t have half a million young people”
But every one has been helpful and allowed is to take pictures and tell the story etc but have not been too happy at the way they have been portrayed in the UK press. Begging gypsy children being the first image that springs to mind.
I can see their point…. I am a photographer covering Romania for the international press, but I also run a tourist business here. So I was rather relieved and amused with the Romanian response to it, with “We don’t want to come to Britain, but you should come here. 50% of our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.”
I see both sides, and they are both true… I love my country and I love Romania. So good to see both sides coming together in the end with humor 🙂

Dancing with the Gypies

I am putting together a tour called “Dancing with the Gypsies”. It’s not easy, as no Romanian will help me. I am slowly building up my knowledge on what Gypsy tribes do what and where they all live. I am enjoying the research and am amazed at the different cultures there are within the Gypsy communities in Transylvania. A lot of the tribes have no idea the other tribes even exist. It’s weird to enter a community and know more about where they have come from, that they do themselves.

I have a long way to go, but when I do finally have the tour in place, I will enjoy taking guests to meet the characters I am meeting and beginning to understand… and who are teaching me how to dance, like a Gypsy.

If any one wants to join me on my little explorations into the unknown, let me know and we can discover together.

A walk beyond the forest

Saturday morning. Mid August, the sun is shining and I step out of my home in Breb with my camera – detestation unknown. I see the neighbors and Georgy Pop making Horinca in Maria’s Casan. We say hi and Pertu our other neighbor appears and tells me to buy his land down at the cross. This is all before nine o’clock and within five minutes of leaving the house.

Only the day before we were stopped by a guy on top of his huge Maramures gate.
” Hey, English guy, I have to take down my gate, it’s going to fall into the river other wise. You buy it?”
“How much?”
He scratches his head and says “400 euro”
A 50 year old wooden gate, hand carved and over 7 meters wide… I mean, what else can you say “OK, will bring down the tractor and you can put it on there, will pay you next week.”

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I guess Petru had heard I was buying and wasted no time. Hill Billy turned up with his sheep, he was my que to leave and I said I would walk with him.
” Where you going?” I asked as we started to walk.
” Up the mountain, in the woods” he smiled threw his caner ridden lips.
I had no plans, so the woods it would be. We walked up and out of the village avoiding the fallen fruit on the road and into the hills above. Hill pointed out where every one was neglecting their land. Not keeping the trees trimmed the way they should and how it was all changing. I call him Hill and his wife Billy as they live 100% off the land, have done all their lives. We bought their house off them so they could move out this winter and stay in the town with heating and water etc. They want to retire and so this is his last summer of working the land and he was very reflective on the whole thing.

” Look at that, the grass has turned to trees! How can you keep your land like this? The kids, they want fast cars and a job in Germany” he says as he looks down slightly and shakes his head. His herd of 5 close by, following like… sheep.

We reached his land and he proudly showed me the prune trees he planted him self that are now 10m high. He rattles the branches so the sheep can eat the sweet fruit. I am given a guided tour or his lifes work and he sits down to role a cigarette.

I hear some giggling in the distance. ” I will investigate and come back” I said. Over the ridge I find two young girls picking berry’s from a tree. They become super self concise on my approach, but after 5 minutes they are once again start to sing and fool around. I capture the moment with my camera.

” We will be on the internet” they say to each other in Romanian, the giggles turning into pain of laughter. They explain how they get 1.5 ron a kilo for the berries and calculate with some pride, that if they work hard they will earn more than a grown man earns in a day.

I realise they will earn nothing if I keep taking pictures and say my goodbyes. As I leave, Hill Billy is ready to go on to his next piece of land. We walk across the mountain slope in the flickering sunshine through the leaves and come to Claudia’s rock. He poses for a picture so I can post it on Claudia’s FB to show her the carvings are still there.

Lunch time and home beckons.

” Drum Bun Domno” I say; he nods his cap and is gone -the sounds of the sheep bells slowly drowning out into the thick of the forest beyond.

An Orthodox Easter in Romania

“I rarely go to church at Christmas, but I always go at Easter”
This is what I was told when I asked “ How big a deal is Easter here in Romania?”
In the UK Easter is, 3 weeks off for the kids and you get the bank holidays, so prime time to bugger off. Here in our village of Breb, its Christmas all over again and every one comes home from their jobs abroad. Below is a set of pics I took over the Easter weekend in Breb.

Traditional Wedding in Maramures, Măriuţa and Laurenţiu Şandor

‘So, being a God Parent, is there anything we have to do?’ I asked “Like say something at the speeches or something?’
‘Your going to be God Parent Duncan?’
‘Tomorrow? And you don’t know what your supposed to be doing?’
‘Have you bought your candles?’
‘Why do I need candles?’

Watch the film of Măriuţa and Laurenţiu Şandor’s wedding in Breb and you’ll find out 🙂

And they say 2012 is the big one?

A year ago I was living is Siwa Oasis, looking forward to a busy tourist season as there had been no troubles in Egypt for some time. As for Libya our neighbor… well nothing happens there.

I had no idea 2011 would work out completely different to how I had planned. Penny and the kids went through not one, but two revolutions, one one either side of Siwa as I watched from Bucharest; my new home, where I spent the entire year building a paparazzi team.

The kids managed to get back to Romania in March, Penny staying on for six weeks whilst Angus and Claudia lived with me in Bucharest brushing up on their Romanian before heading up to Maramures for the summer.

Penny not happy with building one, built two houses this summer with the help of Maria and Nicu our team in Breb.

I kept going with my projects here in Bucharest. We had 11 front pages in August and, my travel site for people who want to carry on their careers whilst workin their way around the word, is now finally in development. It’s a huge project and will take many years to complete, but for now, at least it has started.

We opened Somewhere Different – Transylvania in October and are staying in the Maramures mountains for the winter to let Angus and Claudia go skiing and to finish of another villa in the village so we have a capacity of 8 for next summer. We have gone from a building site to being a fully licensed Pension.

Bookings in Egypt are now coming through and Ludmila is once again busy with guests and putting up the Christmas (palm) tree in the villa as I write.

Sasha has left home. She came back for three months this summer to sort her blood sugar levels out and has managed to get her self a job, a house and, well maybe this has something to do with the fact that she found herself a boyfriend as well. She’s 19 and living in the UK with her man and all is good.

We went ice skating in Bucharest last night, Angus and Claudia enjoyed it a lot and Penny… I never knew she couldn’t skate.
Bucharest Christmas, Angus and ClaudiaBucharest Christmas Angus & ClaudiaBucharest Christmas 2012
We were invited by a load of medical students to go for a drink with them.
“ So, Angus, Claudia, what have you been up to this year?” one of them asked.
“ Well we started out in Egypt” Claudia said “and, you know it got quite bad as Mum ran out of booze and had to start making her own and…”

The students and me listened as they told their story. “ Wow, you guys are like travellers” Mo said, a tall black student from London.
Angus replied “ We’re not like travelers…” he looked over at me and smiled “We are travelers.”
And that’s what’s so great about it all, we are till on a journey, still exploring and finding out things about ourselves we never knew before.

Mo was intrigued with Angus’s reply “ So, Angus, what’s your plans for 2012?”
“ We’ll I will be taking my GCSE’s, but apart from that, dunno” Angus looked at me, and again smiled “Dad?”

The plan next year is, whilst all you guys are busy saving the world from destruction, we’re going to sit it out up here in the mountains in Transylvania and the Sahara desert in Siwa next winter where you all welcome to come and join us and enjoy the simple life.

Well that’s the plan anyway… 🙂

An October deadline

It’s been an interesting summer here in Transylvania. The weather has been great. I have made a new video called ‘The House that Penny Built’ (Part 2). It show’s what we have been up to, why Claudia wanted to buy some Viagra in Sighetu and fellow’s Penny’s ever encroaching deadline of our first guests in October. Will she be ready in time? Click the link here watch it villa in breb maramures you need to scroll down the page a bit to see the video.

A Maramures Summer in Breb

Penny and the kids have been in Maramures for the last few weeks working on the final finishes to Casa Mica, our first villa to open. Angus and Claudia have finished school for this year and are hoping to find a new teacher for them to start in Sept ready to fly south when they all go to Siwa.

Nick, a reporter from the Daily Mail came out to spend last week with us writing a piece for the Saturday Travel section. It will be in the paper in a month or so he recons. The pics below are to go with the story. We took him to the Merry Cemetery, the Communist Museum, up the mountain to have lunch with the shepherds and spent lazy days walking around the village meeting the locals and drinking the Holinka 🙂