In Touch With The Past
Transylvania, a well-preserved twilight zone of European history -a unique place in time – is about to slip away.
The land that now lives in relative obscurity still remains closely connected to a medieval atmosphere with architecture treasures, history and a spirit worthy of preservation and protection.
It is a world away from the ravages of progress that too often has become the accepted way of life for the rest of the world.
In southern Transylvania, a high plateau of wooded hills and valleys shielded by the Carpathian mountains, where Saxon settlers and their descendants have farmed, traded and fought to preserve their land and traditions for more than 800 years, life continues on as long ago.
With horse-drawn carriages and donkey carts rocking along the rutted roads and their drivers wearing handlebar moustaches and floppy felt hats, it has become a time capsule for the Europe that was … over a century or more ago.
Great Britian’s Prince Charles wrote “The area represents a lost past for most of us – a past in which villages were intimately linked to their landscape.”
Not much happens in these villages. Depending on the season, most people are in the fields tilling or harvesting small plots of hay, oats and potatoes with horse-drawn implements handed down through generations.
The most common form of transport is the horse and cart, designed to carry crops, logs, people, sheep, tools, and anything else that needs to be moved.
However, time is changing for Romania. Life is taking a dramatic jolt to the tranquility and link to the past.
With Romania’s entry into the EU earlier this year, these village and communities now face monumental challenges and changes.
In hamlets where women still draw water from wells and shepherds guard their flocks by night from wolves, there is confusion and concern over impending rules and regulations that threaten their livelihoods.
Romania’s seven-year construction plan for the national motorway network means the Government needs to claim large sections of land, cutting through what has been unchanged for centuries.
Around 12.8 billion Euro is scheduled for investments in road infrastructure in the next seven years with 4 major highways crossing through the heart of Romania.
Authorities have issued laws banning horse-drawn carts from main roads in a disastrous attempt to bring the country into line with European Union laws.
Consequently, horses which for centuries have pulled wooden carts along the city’s streets or worked in the fields are now being abandoned by their owners.
The horses and their owners have become victims of a poorly conceived and politically derived path of progress. And in the wake is the destruction of a hallowed way of life in Romania.
With a sense of preservation, plans could have been derived where both progress and the protection of the past could have dwelled together.
That is, unfortunately, not the blueprint for the future of Romania.
No one person knows about this enevitable devastation to land and lifestyle better than British Engineer and Equestrian, Julian Ross, owner and operator of the Stefan cel Mare, the longest-established equestrian centre in Romania.
Often quoted in various news media on the subject, Mr. Ross states that the police have been too quick to blame animals for the high accident statistics.
As he clarifies, “The ban was slipped in stealthily,” he said. “There are some villages where farmers cannot legally get to their fields any more.”
Not only was this lifestyle pretty to look at, it was the ideal method of transport and no danger to anyone in the quiet lanes of the village.
The problem is that Romania’s horses and carts, adorned as they often are with bells and lace, are not just picturesque, they are a crucial way of life for many in the countryside.
Julian Ross maintains a blogsite known as The Transylvanian Horseman.
It is a must read for all those interested in a country and lifestyle whose touch with history is running out of time.
For those who would like a personal trip by horseback through the historic beauties and serenity of Romania, check this website for Stefan cel Mare.
For those viewing Romania from home, enjoy these photographs taken by Julian Ross and remember this place and this time.
Photos posted by permission.