Sunday, May 15, 2011

Back in Maramu'

Early May. The best time of the year to be tooling about Romania with my friends Jake and Elenore. It has been about five years since I visited some of the older fiddlers here, and it is good to know some of them, at least, are still with us. "It sometimes seems that the viability of traditional music is proportionate to the amount of potholes on the road it takes to reach that music. That certainly is the case in Romania. We have been jolting our merry way across Maramures and the Szekely country over the last few days, and travelling on the back country roads is more akin to dancing that driving. Distances that seem small on the road map become long drives as one weaves between potholes and washouts and gets stuck behind horse wagons. Every evening around 7 pm the real traffic jam starts: goats and cows clog the roads on their way back to their barns in the village from the upper pastures. But if you don;t mind the slow pace of travel, and don't crack your axle in a fit of pothole jumping impatience, you can be rewarded with some of the greatest music you will ever hear. “Maramures covered with flowers... mai dorule mai...

Now that Romania is an EU member nation, so many Romanians have gone abroad to find work in Italy, Spain and France that some villages have been transformed beyond recognition by the cash sent back home from abroad. The Oas region, once one of the poorest zones in Transylvania, is now a riot of sprawling palaces, including one famously kitsch palace with ornate marble sculpture befitting a renaissance prince or a minor New Jersey mafia don.Even in staunchly traditional Maramures, the old massive wooden houses are slowly being replaced by stone houses and suburban palace fantasies now dot the hillsides. I asked one farmer how much it would cost to buy one of the old wooden houses, and he said “I don't know. We all want new stone houses now. Only foreigners come here and want to buy a wooden house these days. You know... those that have old want the new, andthose that have the new, want the old. We are still on the road, and internet access is spotty, so more to come in a few days.

2 comments:

Agnes Jansen said...

Bravo! Well posted. Apropo, we welcome people who want to join our Maramures & Mezöség tour 16– 30 july. Staying at Ion Pop and other marvelous places like Szek.

Katherine said...

I remember when we got married, everyone who saw us walking on the street in our wedding clothes yelled Casa de Piatra!" A house of stone. That was the best wish for your marriage to last...and somehow, reading your post, it clicked for me that it must have been the dream for many.