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Cordiality and Craftsmanship

I spent an entire day in the car driving from Poprad in Slovakia to Romania, where I arrived at 6 p.m. local time. Troubled by back pain, I drove into Vasile's backyard in Oncești and parked in front of his spring onions right next to the vegetable patch. The fact that I truly arrived there and that I would even stay for almost a week, was not planned. But from the very moment when I drove through the gate to this backyard, the world moved slower and faster at the same time.

A Garden in Maramureș

I opened the door and had an immediate visitor. A small boy jumps around me and so did the dog of the house. Vasile arrived right after them and he could not have been more cordial, right from the start. He proudly showed me his "museum": a small barn with all kinds of old tools used for different craftsmanship. Immediately afterwards he showed me the dressing room inside the house with various traditional costumes, where his wife Mariana is already waiting with schnapps, self-distilled of course.

The following days I spent a lot of time in this garden. On the one hand and above all I worked, read a lot and played the guitar, but on the other hand I was also spending a lot of time around the people there. The little boy from my arrival soon turned out to be a faithful companion and as soon as I opened my bus door in the morning, he was right there waiting for me. We looked at tadpoles, walked through the garden over to the playground and sometimes I kept him busy with my sweets from the car. But above all, we talked a lot and didn't understand much from each other. Turns out that German and Romanian are quite different, I realized. One thing I did learn from him though, even pretty quickly, is "De ce?" - "Why?"

Almost every day Vasile took me along and introduced me to everyday life in Maramureș. On the first day after my arrival, he showed me a traditional laundry for carpets that works only with water power, and attached to it, a distillery. "Horinca" is the name of the liquor and comes from the word "horin", which means "to sing". "First you drink, then you sing," Vasile said. Makes sense to me.

He also explained to me how the hay in the area is still harvested and layered by hand, without machines. Apart from that, we visited an elderly lady spinning wool into yarn by hand, and men cutting shingles - each piece of wood individually. We looked at old houses from the inside, some of whose rooms are barely bigger than my Fred. "It's possible to take picture," Vasile said again and again. But what impressed me even more than the crafts themself is their pride associated with it.

I get to try traditional dishes from the Romanian cuisine, for example "Ciorba", "Mici" and "Gogoși". Vasile also showed me a bright yellow mushroom on the trees along the river, which is said to be rare, expensive and very tasty. After a little research I dare to try it myself.

Ever since I told Vasile that I write professionally, I officially became "Maria the Writer" and seemed to not only deserve even more of his attention, I he also introduced me as an author (of course a bit exaggerated) wherever we went and in addition to all the previous food samples, I even got coffee delivered to the bus every morning. What an incredibly kind host. As a farewell, I wrote a haiku for Vasile about Maramureș. He particularly likes these Japanese poems with a strict syllable pattern.

Rodna Mountains

Ever since I started planning this trip, the Rodna mountains were high up my list of to-dos. But since I didn't want to hike it all alone, I checked the surrounding profiles on Workaway and met Ray:

"Although I'm still pretty spoiled by the Tatras, we were rewarded with great views and smooth valleys, blue mountain ranges and a soft variety of colours. We talked a lot about property and borders, consumption, belonging and identity, but agreed on most points. On the way back in the car, we listened to a wild mix of 80s and heavy metal - a ride unlike any other."- Diary, 3.06.23

And we shared this joy with many others, because our little car party also brightened up many of the people who often sit next to the roads during the day, watching the goings-on. "Spicegirls," Vasile calls groups of four or more women who often exchange the village gossip with yarn and spindle in front of the wooden gates of the houses, which are typical for Maramureș.

Second Pentecost this year

My last day in the region was not just a regular Sunday, it was Pentecost. A week later than in Germany, I am lucky enough to experience the holiday here in a very traditional way. Mariana's room for traditional costumes now becomes our place to get changed: All the female guests, two more besides me, get dressed traditionally. Before I know it, I'm wearing a skirt, a blouse, a headscarf and heels. I haven't felt so "feminine" in a long time. But at the same time, I now blend in perfectly on the way to church in Oncești and later in Bârsana. A woman even asked if she could take a photo with me and has probably chosen the very person in the village who is the very least Romanian. I feel flattered.

Although, as an atheist, I have never been very embedded in religions, at least spiritually, I am usually very impressed by such events. I listened to the deep, monotonous chanting altering with a nuns' choir and observed the immersiveness of those present and praying, while I can also find peace for myself here. It's the calm before the storm, the dancing at village festivals afterwards had only just begun.


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