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Europe’s Thriving Peasants – Botiza, Romania

A church bell sings. Birds chatter, a buzzing bee, a cowbell clanging. It’s a pleasure reserved for the countryside – really, just a single, beautiful bell across the valley.

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Botiza village from a nearby hill.

In Botiza  – and across the Maramures – Europe’s last peasant communities still thrive.

Living as Europeans once did, 100-200-300 years ago. Today, fields are cropped with scythes, hay gathered with wooden pitchforks, and village transport is largely horse and cart.

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Across Maramures there are 100s churches with these typical towers. This one was built in 1694.

Seemingly, the only modern vehicles moving are occasional domestic tourists on a weekend cruise of the countryside, stopping for 10 minutes to check-out the church, and then go.

One such visitor got out of her car as I was sitting at the outdoor table of the village shop, having a beer. She asked me in Romanian for directions. But was dumbfounded to encounter a foreigner. Yet I gave her directions, anyway, pointing – “Just go straight”.

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Locals of Botiza

In fact, this how I got to Botiza.

Directionless.

I had hitchhiked with a young couple on weekend drive from Bucharest.

He was very chatty, his cute GF quiet. He spoke Romanian and Spanish, as he’d worked some years in Spain. And I fumbled to remember enough Spanish from years ago in Latin America; but we managed on a simple level.

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Botiza, and in fact the entire region, is a very religious community; Sunday church is a big social occasion, lasting well into the afternoon.

Transport is rare in this region.

Maybe, one mini-bus daily – in and out – going 30 km to the next major town.

Earlier in the day, I’d visited a monastery. But then, sat  for ages on a road without public transport. However, the first ride – that young couple – took me all the way to Botiza (lucky, since it was well off the main route).

And it was also this couple, who found me a local home-stay, before continuing their trip.

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Traditional houses in the region have huge, ornately carved gates, with shingle roof. Carvings include: suns, wolves teeth and coils of rope for protection of the family

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