Riding old decrepit bikes with clunky and half used brakes. We trudged on towards Breb after being rocked and hammered by a freak thunderstorm with hail as large as ice cubes. Finally, a vast open field of hay and densely wooded forest filled with evergreen foliage, along with the occasional, wood roofed house of distinctive Maramureș design opens up in front us, a familiar sight. We rode into a wet, muddy, road of rock and thriving, overgrown weeds.
A carriage full of hay being dragged by two horses rocks its way past us as we come up to an aged log cabin with a massive walnut tree full of fruits that are ready to fall to the earth. The sounds of roosters cuckooing echoes into the in the glistening sun as its gentle rays slowly blanket the wet grass underneath.
Inside the cabin, there is nothing for entertainment, no television, not even a telephone. The only signs of technology are a gas burning stove that looks like it might have survived through the Cold War. This cabin has been my home for a month in Breb, Maramures, Romania.
On some days I run through the hay fields to watch the fluffy clouds slowly drift across the light blue sky and turn red and pink into the sunset. Some nights, I sit on the porch and listen to frogs croaking and crickets chirping while enjoying a nice cold glass of beer. As night falls I stare into the sky and watch the Milky Way stretch across the endless expanse of the universe.
A month living in the village was an experience that I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life. Life there is simple. There’s a happy compromise between the natural and artificial. There’s a happy strike of balance between man and nature. It’s the most natural way of life for human beings that are detached from the concrete jungles, the social media, the flood of selfies, and the headaches of a hectic life.
The villagers are satisfied having only the basic essentials of life. They need no preference for luxury. They do fine with only a few items of clothing. The villagers eat plain food. They plan it. They grow it. And they eliminate their societal duties in the most basic way possible. The villagers are neither rich nor wealthy. But they have enough and are content with what is endowed by nature around them.
Breb is a panorama of the charming scenes of nature, with rolling hills and stacks of hay at nearly every plot. The vistas of the ever-changing seasons have a powerful influence on the village life. It delivers a divine touch into the human mind. The people here work the fields without the aid of machines most of the time.
The villagers take to farming and tilling the Earth, cutting and stacking hay for the long winter ahead. They can sustain life without any outside intervention. They can trade without the use of money the same way it’s been done in the Medieval times.
They don’t like progress.
What has progress really done for them?
The rampant capitalism. The mass produced bullshit that trickles down to your plate. The cancer causing corn fed meat that you’re addicted to that will eventually make you sick so you can spend all your money on medicine that is pushed on you by pharmaceutical companies who’s getting richer and richer because of the flawed healthcare system.
You buy the culture killing produce that’s displacing local farmers who can’t compete with the machines and growth-inducing chemicals that make the produce cheaper by volume. This is progress, there’s no stopping it, and it’s slowly strangling the village way of life.
The inevitable tsunami of progress combined with greed and bureaucracy will eventually wash away hundreds of years of tradition. Bu you can still witness and experience the culture right now. Now is the time to visit Romania to check out the villages in Maramureș and witness grand synergy of history and tradition at play. Most tourist will visit the commercial mess that is Bran that’s pissing on the culture of the country. Romania not just about Dracula. I urge you to get off the beaten path, visit Breb instead.
Visit and Stay in Breb
- Maramureș is famed for its villages and centuries-old churches. It’s a must-visit if you’re ever in Romania.
- It’s a 3-hour bus ride from Cluj-Napoca to Baia-Mare the biggest city in Maramureș. From Baia-Mare you can catch a bus to Sighet and you can tell your bus driver to drop you off in Breb. From the top of the hill, Breb is just 1.5km walk. Alternatively, you can hitch-hike your way to the village, it’s very common in this area to hitch-hike so don’t be shy (offer a few RON after the ride).
- You can find accommodation at the Village Hotel, tell Penny or Duncan I sent ya.
- There’s a bus during Thursdays that will take you to a town called Ocna where’s an open-door market selling various goods and produce. The only other way out of the village is by hitchhiking.
- There are no restaurants to speak of. Eat out with a local instead. Ask around.
- Barsana monastery is very close by, you can bike or hitchhike your way there. If you go south towards Ocna, just follow the sign towards Barsana. 30 km one way and full of hills should keep you honest.
- The Merry Cemetery is also close by. It’s 20 kilometers west of Sighet.