Friday, 9 September 2011

Romania Part (1)

In the latter part of the 1970s we travelled, as a family, to several of the Iron Curtain countries.  It was possible to have a very good and reasonably priced holiday, it revealed a different view of the world to our sons, and lets face it, we found it a bit of excitement and an adventure.  We knew of only one other family who did the same as us. Most people took a family holiday in the UK or the Costa Brava in Spain.
We had no idea, at the time, that Ceauşescu subjected his country to a reign of terror and ruled in a dictatorial manner. It was not until his downfall in 1989 that the terrible atrocities were revealed to the world.
When flying to a communist country, it was perfectly obvious that things were not quite the same as other countries.  For a start apart from the Air Hostesses, there was extra security in the form of men wearing uniforms and carrying guns.  When everyone was seated they would do a patrol of the plane giving the passengers a hard look.  On our Romanian flight, H sat with the boys, and I was put beside a young couple.  When I started to talk with them I discovered that they were on their honeymoon.  I asked them if they had been behind the Iron Curtain before. The girl visibly turned pale and then white, and said in an anxious voice, are we going behind the Iron Curtain? I was very surprised that someone would travel to a communist country and seemingly not realise. I do hope that I did not ruin their trip.
The local people were desperate for hard currency and we were warned not to exchange money with them. It was not possible to take any of their money out of the country so you had to purchase it when you arrived. When you did the official transaction you were handed  the lei (their currency) along with a certificate which you had to keep safe in order to transfer the money back again.
The first morning after our arrival, we were heading off to the beach, I was trailing behind as usual, when I heard a .... psst.... psst from behind the bushes. A little chap was wanting to change some money. There and then on the spur of the moment I decided to give it a go. I remember I ended up with a great fist full of notes for very little hard currency, but of course I had no certificates to be able to change it back. By the time I caught up with H, he was shocked, but also found it highly amusing. We were given special vouchers in the hotel for our meals, and there was nothing very much to buy in the shops, so I began to wonder if I had, in fact, been sensible.

Bran Castle home to Dracula
courtesy Huffer via Wikipedia
Medieval city of Braşov
courtesy AndreiNicusan via Wikipedia
Carpathian mountains
courtesy Dezidor via Wikipedia
Our sons on the right when I travelled with them to visit Bucharest and then on to Dracula's castle.
Our guide thought that he was very trendy in his flared trousers, and Beatles haircut, even though he was more than a decade late. Travelling through the countryside to Transylvania with the boys, it soon became obvious how backward everything was. People were using primitive tools to tend the land, there was no modern agricultural equipment to be seen anywhere, and all of the side roads were tracks.  
The explanation for H's absence will be revealed in Part (2)
I scanned these pictures, which were taken recently, from a Saga Magazine, regarding an article on Transylvania. It would appear that in the rural areas nothing much has changed.
Apologies for the poor quality.

Link  here for Part (2)


  1. Hello Rosemary:
    How interesting all of this is. We desperately want to explore Transylvania further but there is just so much to see and so little time to fit it all in. But, how wonderful that you have seen all this before the Iron Curtain was lifted. Adventurous indeed.

    We find absolute parallels with Hungary in what you write and, even today, the Hungarian countryside and the everyday life of country people has changed little from decades or even a century earlier. Traditional dress is still worn, indeed, it can even be seen in women who bring produce to the market close to our apartment in Budapest.

    We shall spend a few days holding on to the last of summer at Lake Balaton, fondly known as the Hungarian seaside. We shall catch up with you on our return. Have a happy and relaxing weekend!!!

  2. Dear Jane & Lance - I believe that there are still many Hungarians living in Transylvania, descendants of the original Magyar tribes who arrived there during the 9th century.
    I hope that you have a very pleasant stay at Lake Balaton, and that the sun shines for you - a relaxing weekend is just what we need having had a house full of visitors.

  3. I didn't know it had even been possible to travel to such places in those days! I am very impressed by your sense of adventure and it must have given you some amazing experiences and memories!
    Have a good weekend!

  4. Dear Alix - When writing down these memories, I am thinking that the grandchildren might find them of interest. However, your comment has made me realise how the world has changed in my lifetime.
    Enjoy the christening.

  5. A great post and some very beautiful imager. Wonderful work and thanks for sharing.

  6. Fotokarusellen - I am so pleased that you found it of interest. I have had a look at your blog, and your photos are wonderful.

  7. Hi, Rosemary - Your mention of Ceauşescu reminded me of his sudden Christmastime downfall and the chilling stories that came with it. You were certainly adventurous, and I'll bet your sons felt really adventurous to be visiting Vlad's castle! They were the perfect age for that.

  8. Hi Mark - In the castle I remember a man suddenly joining our party, and secretly taking photos of our group which spooked us a bit. I questioned the chap that was leading us, and he said it was someone from the tourist agency getting photos for the following years brochure!!!

  9. Dear Rosemary,
    I missed the february post somehow.. I am browsing through your other wonderful posts
    They read like a book.
    I have a dear friend in S.A that more or less did the same trip for 2 months to that region in the 70's..
    I have never been to the countries in the east.. One day i hope too. !
    I can now understand, why the Romanians love to come here to our little village!! its a bit like home!
    I'll let you figuere the rest.

    xx val

    1. Dear Val - is that quaint and rural? Going to the East is different today of course, ever since the wall came down, and people are allowed to travel out. They were very, very suppressed when we visited and had no idea about the rest of the world.


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