My most recent photo trip, to Transylvania, was an amazing experience. While I expected to be transported to another world, I was still quite shocked to see villagers living so far in the past.
Studying with the wonderful photographer Rena Effendi, and travelling with a friend, we stayed in a wood house run by a family of musicians, and walked into a world right out of Fiddler on the Roof. We wandered into villages where women worked the fields well into their 80s, harvest hay while the sun shines, cook and clean and care for their kids, while the men build houses, and chop wood to store for the bitter winter months.
We were welcomed into homes where no English was spoken, but body language sufficed. The women embroidered their clothing, cared for the cows and pigs, and gathered eggs from the chickens. There were no restaurants in the region of Maramures, but they had many distilleries where they made a lovely and potent drink called Palinca, which is produced by double distillation of fermented plums.
In the village of Hoteni, traditional houses are made of timber with steep shingled roofs. Elaborate gates distinguish the houses, with intricate carvings. Every household has its own well, garden and vegetables, and colorful pots and pans dangle from trees, as a way to store cooking utensils. Gushing streams power the water thresher for washing clothes.
There are 100 churches in Maramures, and eight of them are Unesco World Heritage Sites. We attended church services one Sunday and watched as villagers prayed at the altars. They travel by horse and cart and occasionally gypsies travel through town begging for money.
It was astonishing to me that many of the young people were on facebook, yet had no working toilets.
So I returned to the United States, happy for my TV and easy way of life, yet much more enriched and thankful for the experience.