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The ‘Land Beyond the Forest’ - Exploring Transylvania on our Romania Tour with Astrid McGechan
15th February 2023
Let’s forget for a moment the vampire and Dracula stories you might have come across – beyond them, Transylvania still feels undiscovered. Travelling around this most beautiful region is like stepping back in time. Horse-drawn carts, families making hay on their fields, and shepherds up in the hills tending to their sheep – here, life has a romantic feel to it. Of course, these are also signs that life is a struggle for many.
Gheorghe, the shepherd
Being driven up the meadows by horse cart, we visited two shepherds, who tended all their village’s sheep. They live in a hut on the meadow for around 8 months of the year, sleeping in no more than a box near the sheep pen at night. Wolves and bears abound in this area, and apart from the usual sheep dogs, a pack of huge livestock guarding dogs helps to protect the herd. The shepherds produce cheese, both for their own needs and for sale.
Higher up still, in the mountains, haystacks and old barns abound, and, at first light,mist rises from the valleys and drifts across the hillsides.
Transylvania is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, and languages – Hungarians and Germans settled here hundreds of years ago and left their mark. Ethnic Hungarians still make up just under 20% of the population in Transylvania. Although a lot of the Saxon architecture survives, most people of German ancestry have left, many just after the collapse of communism in the 1990s.
Meeting a family of Romani coppersmiths gave us the chance to learn more about their lives and heritage, and it proved to be a fascinating experience!
There are many sides to Romania in general, and Transylvania in particular, that are unknown to us. Visiting the country is an excellent chance to learn more about it and its people, make new friends and return with photographs to treasure for years to come.