Romania is a country of diversity. Various cultural influences have marked the evolution of this Eastern country, a country located at the intersection of Eastern and Western influences. Thus, in today's Romania, we find surprisingly different regions, starting with the economic level of development and up to the lifestyle of the inhabitants. Along with the majority Romanian population, 19 historical national minorities live on the territory of the Romanian state, which amounts to 10% of the population in Romania. It is known that minority ethnicities complement Romanian traditions and culture, providing an overview of the spread of different minorities in Romania and how the traditions of minorities and majorities have influenced and enhanced each other over time.
In many of the villages in Romania, the locals, together with the ethnic minorities, joined forces to create a real cultural heritage in their village, while also participating in the development of sustainable tourism in the area.
In Transylvania, in villages such as Viscri, Saschiz, or Crit, groups of Germans in Romania have made a special contribution to the development of society, culture, and the arts. The Saxons from Transylvania had a system of elementary schools since the 14th century, and their gymnasiums are the first in Romania. In the 18th century, the primary education of the Saxons became compulsory, the Saxons being the first in Europe in this respect. After a sustained development of crafts and trade in the 14th and 15th centuries, due to the Turkish invasions, the Saxons were forced to build a defense system, building over 150 fortified churches and church fortresses, which are still unique architectural monuments today.
Today, the Transylvanian Saxons is a minority that has always been present in the development of the local community.
In order to keep their traditions alive, the locals join annually at the "Haferland Week" - a festival that aims to attract Saxons returning home, locals, and tourists who want to discover a fairytale area, as it is one the largest events dedicated to promoting Saxon culture from Transylvania.
One of the participants to this festival is 'The Women's Neighborhood of Saschiz' a non-governmental organization without heritage purpose, which carries out activities and projects for the benefit of different social categories in the community and for the promotion of local cultural and natural heritage and aims to promote and enhance the local cultural and gastronomic heritage.
"Rhubarb Holiday" is an event organized by these lovely women, dedicated to promoting local values of local cultural and gastronomic heritage, with the participation of housewives and producers from Saschiz. Throughout the event, visitors can taste and buy local rhubarb dishes (and more): rhubarb cake, rhubarb pizza, jams, syrups, ice cream.
Speaking of good food, coming from the south on the Transalpina - the famous "King's Road" that crosses the mountains - you will reach the villages of Mărginimea Sibiului, famous for their crafts and industries related to sheep breeding, for authentic folklore, folk costumes full of charm, for popular holidays and occupations preserved from generation to generation. The border of Sibiu is one of the few destinations in Europe where agro-tourism blends happily with mountain and leisure tourism.
One of the main associations in the region whose main purpose is to develop communities through education and creativity, reconnecting them with their own territory is Asociatia My Transylvania, whose gastronomic events such as the famous Transylvanian Brunch have helped in supporting the development and sustainability of rural areas by promoting local products, recipes, and culture.
Malancrav, an isolated village almost detached from the grandparents' stories, preserves one of the largest Saxon communities in southeastern Transylvania. Of the almost 1100 inhabitants, most are Romanians, and the rest are Saxons, Roma, and Hungarians, which is why it is considered a living multiethnic heritage. Well-known for preserving the authenticity of its built heritage, for its idyllic landscapes, traditions, and customs, for the biodiversity of the area, the village is one of the best places to visit while in Romania!
Here you can visit many of the local craftsmen who have kept most of the crafts in the region alive, have a traditional lunch, and also overnight in the beautiful the Apafi Manor, built in the 15th century by the Hungarian Royal Family. The Manor was recently restored, and the restoration process was a meticulous one, carried out to high standards, with the involvement, among others, of local artisans for embroidery and furniture for interior and exterior.
To obtain a sustainable development of the community in the village, the Mihai Eminescu Trust Foundation initiated the cultural route project "Mălâncrav - living multiethnic heritage", by creating a cultural route to enhance the intangible heritage and local multiethnic material.
Now, visitors have the opportunity not only to spend the night in the traditional guest houses in Mălâncrav but also to know the nearby attractions and have a complete experience by participating interactively in learning the local culture.
In Rimetea, a beautiful village set at the foot of the Trascau Mountains, the local and cultural heritage is determined by the traditions of the Hungarian community, which is the most substantial part of the population, but also by the remaining locals.
The village is distinguished by the unique architecture of the houses from the 19th century, which we can see even now. After a century and a half ago, a fire destroyed almost all the houses, the village was reborn, and the new houses were built according to the same architectural model - tall houses, with white walls and green-painted window frames, with high gates, with garden and orchard in the back, some of them being transformed into boarding houses. In order to preserve its architectural values, Rimetea received the "Europa Nostra" award from the European Union in 1999, through the European rural restoration program of the same name.
Did you know?
It is said that in Rimetea, the sun rises twice: the first time at the horizon, and the second time after the Szekler Stone, which is the mountain that can be admired from any part of this beautiful village.
Dobrogea is the region located in Southeastern Romania, and it is well known for its openness to the Black Sea through the Danube Delta, which made access easier for communities that today still live in small numbers in some villages. The region represents an authentic model of interethnic coexistence, together with the local Romanian population, settling here, living, throughout the historical periods, which have influenced the local culture very much.
In Dobrogea, along with the locals, live in harmony with 18 ethnic minorities, who enrich and color through their traditions and customs.
However, the cultural heritage of Central Dobrogea territory is rich in archeological sites, the oldest objectives dating back to ancient times. The crafts practiced in this territory caused a large influx of tourists before 1989, which is why the Central Dobrogea GAL, a local private-public partnership paid huge attention to the conservation of cultural resources, including museum collections, archives, sites, and landscapes.
Traditions and customs that are found on the territory of the region are important. Women from the Turkish and Tatar communities in the Dobrogea region meet frequently and discuss the cultural identity that defines them, so that it is not lost in the century of speed in which we live and in which young people often want to keep up with fashion, forgetting their roots.
In Bucovina, although many minorities have lived and still live in the region, the village remained relatively authentic, and the culture developed due to the Romanians attached to the land.
Dolheşti is an authentic settlement that transformed its eternal heritage into a unique experience, making tourists from all over the world feel like being part of the local community by welcoming guests into their homes. Although there is no hotel in Dolheşti, accommodation for villagers is intended to be the recipe for the success of the locals, which have been actively involved in developing rural tourism in the region. One of the persons to contribute to the development of the area and to carry on the traditions is Mirela Nechita, who founded the Șomuzului Valley Promotion Association. The project "Tourist in Dolhești" is a model in rural tourism and heritage tourism, transforming tourism into something magical to those eager to know the Șomuz Valley, local culture, and taste traditional food.
Tourists who stop in Dolheștii Mici can visit the Hatmanul Șendrea Church dating from the 15th century, peasant households, the mill that is over 100 years old, visit the local craftsmen and participate in cooking, sewing or pottery workshops.
In order to keep alive, the traditions but also the cultural heritage, the local communities in Bukovina organize the festivals, such as the National Dance Festival annually -"Hora de la Prislop" or The National Easter Eggs Festival, considered some of the best national festivals in Romania.
Did you know?
Local guides say that in Dolhestii Mici, the whole forest is full of trenches from the Second World War!
Another example in which the Romanian culture was little influenced by other ethnic minorities in the Maramures area. The villages of Maramureș have become famous all over the world for their beauty and authenticity. The fairytale landscapes, the architecture of the place, the simplicity and kindness of the people, the decade's old traditions, and the local culinary dishes have transformed Maramureș into an area that attracts more and more tourists.
Prince Charles is the one who brought the fame of the village of Breb throughout Europe after he bought some old houses in the area, which he rehabilitated. In love with the beauties of the place, with the settlements built about a hundred years ago, with the local traditions, Prince Charles had only words of praise for Maramureș and the area also presented in the documentary Wild Carpathia.
Here, the villagers have the same preoccupations as in the past, the men doing woodworking, carpentry or carpentry, and the women with the spinning of wool and weaving.
In Maramures, the locals have been actively involved in preserving the culture and the beauty of the wooden churches in Ţara Lăpușului is transposed into the virtual world at the initiative of the County Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture Maramureş, through a wonderful cultural project "BISERICI DE LEMN DIN ŢARA LĂPUŞULUI", meant to promote the most important cultural monuments in the region.
However, due to the cultural and ethnic diversity specific to Maramureș in the past, in some communities of Maramureș, there are wooden churches with various features such as the wooden churches from Verhovina Maramureșului of the Ruthenians, and the churches of wood from Huțulșcina Maramureșului of the Hutuls from the springs of the Tisza.
The traditions in this beautiful area are maintained with the help of folk craftsmen, who kept alive the memories and customs of the elders, but also with the help of a cultural institution whose purpose is, among others, the preservation of traditions and perennial values of popular culture, defending it against pollution and degradation.
In addition to the extremely valuable information that it provides, Centrul Județean pentru Conservarea și Promovarea Culturii Tradiționale Maramureș, started in August 2007 the "Fotoetnografica" project, as a necessity to "scan" from a photographic point of view all the ethnic-folkloric areas of the county of Maramures.
Also, because of the rapid disappearance of the generation that practices customs, traditions, folk costumes, traditional crafts, as well as area-specific architecture, the project is significant for Romania and our future descendants who will be able to learn and who knows, maybe revive some of the traditions and crafts. Check out the beautiful photographs here!
Are you curious about the Wooden Churches of Maramures, but you cannot travel at the moment? Although the website does not have an English version, just click o the pictures and then on the 'Acceseaza Tur Virtual' section and enjoy!
Click here and explore!
Whether you are interested in experiencing a raw culture or a cultural mozaique, Romania is happy to welcome you!