Speechless in Transylvania

I have been here, in Transylvania, for almost a week. I am still at a loss for words. It is beautiful, and the hills have not yet become green. Imagine the beauty yet to unfold! I was amazed to find the climate and type of crops grown here to be almost identical to home, and yet, I am high up in the Carpathian Mountains (from 700 to 1200 meters, depending on my whereabouts).

The Carpathian Mountains in early spring

The Carpathian Mountains in early spring

The Szekely land of Transylvania is an almost exclusively Hungarian part of Romania. Its history, like for most of Europe, is significant, defining the culture and lifestyle of the people who live here. The difference is that the way of life is unchanged from over a hundred years ago. I had a great day with a young farmer who aspires to live and farm the traditional way and to build a traditional home. When he talks about his plans, they are not unlike a young farmer in Ontario, who wants to operate a direct-to-consumer farm.

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Today, I received a history lesson about Hungarians and Transylvania. It is very much worth learning more about; its fascinating! and one entrepreneur is making a business out of telling the stories and legends of the area. You can almost see a story unfolding in the frost covered trees below. It’s magical!

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I am getting to know a very special person, Barbara, who has dedicated herself to this area rich in so much from culture to rare plant speciess; the area of Pogány-havas, which includes the Csík basin and the Gyimes mountain area with deep and narrow valleys. It is because of her and her work (https://sites.google.com/site/barbaraknowlesproject/), that it is possible for me to be here. As the tourism booklet to this area states: it can be difficult for someone, who doesn’t speak Hungarian to visit and appreciate this beautiful and remote region, and all that it has to offer. Barbara’s circle is filled with remarkable people, who I am meeting, from young aspiring farmers to scientists studying this area for its biodiversity. Have a peek at the association’s website! http://poganyhavas.hu/main.php.

When I told people in Canada that I was going to Romania, I heard stories of warm, friendly and hospitable people. When I told Europeans that I was going to Romania, I got raised eyebrows. I think Europeans need to get to know their neighbours better – at least in Transylvania! I cannot speak for the rest of Romania.

As my guidebook, ‘Europe on a Shoestring’ said (I love lonely planet guidebooks!): “con artists have birthed exaggerated stories about Romanians, but in truth you’re far less likely to be the victim of crime here than in much of Western Europe.” It describes this area especially, as “singularly beautiful, beguillingly simple and utterly fascinating rural landscape, where aesthetically stirring handploughed fields, sheep-instigated traffic jams, and homemade plum brandy still endure.” And as I wrote those last words, my ‘housemate’ returned, and I asked, is this true of the brandy, and he offered me some! My first drink since leaving Canada. It is delicious. Cheers!

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About Kaytlyn Dale

#nuffield13 scholar passionate about sacred agriculture and holding space for transforming ourselves so that we can help regenerate the land, soil, Earth and our food system. Pursuing an MA that brings spirituality and agriculture together in the conversation.
This entry was posted in Nuffield Scholarship, Traditional Farming Practices, Transylvania and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Speechless in Transylvania

  1. Mark Cassidy says:

    Hi Gayl, enjoy your blogs … really glad you’re doing this … you were a champion when you left … I can’t wait to see what you’ll do after all this!
    cheers

  2. s o m m e r pauli says:

    Hi Gayl

    I’m curious about your thoughts on the challenges of doing traditional farming, which as you said is ‘direct to consumer’ and leading edge here in Ontario, on land parcels that are beyond a certain size. In Huron County, land use planners are reluctant to reverse the trend toward larger parcels of land, making it harder and harder for a non commodity oriented farmer to handle a mortgage. The end result is that Ontario’s prime agricultural province cannot even feed its own people a variety of fruits and vegetables. It seems inefficient to me to be having to import food in a county that could grow almost 100% of its own food.
    The scale that you’re exploring seems to be so much more conducive to farming practices that are traditional/less damaging environmentally.
    I’d appreciate to hear your thoughts on this.

    Pauli Sommer

  3. Hello Pauli, The first thing that comes to my mind is how we are so dependent on others to provide for our food. Even many Huron County farmers can´t eat what they grow. In Transylvania, this is one of my biggest realizations. These farmers are taking responsibility for their own need for food, and sell any extra as a source of income. As one of my hosts stated, should anything happen to our global food infrastructure, this is where you want to be. The farming here is in many ways similar to the way Huron County Mennonites live and work. Note that I also recognize Mennonite families as being our major producers of the fruit and vegetables you mention, but I could be wrong. For them to have to do this on a 100 acre parcel is a burden to some of them. They don´t need that much land to grow vegetables. But if we allow farm land to be continuously severed for large homes to be built, we also have a problem. Here, in Transylvania, you don´t live on the parcel of land that you farm. Perhaps this is the solution. Homes should not be built on productive farmland, anywhere.

    • s o m m e r pauli says:

      I understand what you’re saying about preserving prime agricultural land and the need to limit severances in certain situations but are you suggesting that farmers should not live on their farmland?
      This would create a real sense of industrialization.

      • This is how it is in Austria and Transylvania. It actually is less industrial, because in both these countries, the lots of land are small, so if you want to farm a lot of land, it will be scattered in small pieces all over the place. And if you want to retire from farming, you can stay in your home and make your land available to the next farmer. Now that makes sense! And since the parcels are smaller, a new farmer can enter more easily, buying one piece at a time. Think also, that some lands are suitable for different things, so in one region you might have ideal pasture land and in another, ideal wheat growing land, etc.

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