From the village of Botiza, a church bell sings out over the green, sunny hills. Chatter of birds, a buzzing bee, a cowbell clanging. Few sounds beyond a single, beautiful bell.
In Botiza – and across the Maramures – are Europe’s last thriving peasant communities.
Living as the rest of the continent did, 100-200-300 years ago. Fields are stilled cropped by hand with scythes, hay gathered with wooden pitchforks, and transport is mostly horse and cart.
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 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, and asked me in Romanian for directions. She was somewhat dumbfounded to encounter a foreigner.
Infact, this how I got to Botiza, hitchhiking with a young couple out on weekend drive from Bucharest.
He was very chatty, his cute GF very quiet. He spoke Romanian and Spanish, as he had worked some years in Spain. I fumbled to remember enough Spanish from trips years ago in Latin America. But we managed to chat on a simple level.
Transport is very slight in this region, maybe one mini-bus daily in and out and going about 30 km to the next major town.
Earlier in the day, I had visited a monastery. But then sat stuck for some time on a road without public transport.
Yet the first ride took me all the way to Botiza; very lucky, since it was well off the main route. And it was this couple who also found me a local homestay, before continuing their trip.