October 13, 2010

The Living Spirit of Transylvania

Filed under: Food and Farms, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:55 am

I don’t trust these academics, though.

Link here.

In this part of Romania, villagers live in handsome old homes — washed in bright blue, green and ochre colors — on winding cobblestone lanes lined with pear trees. The houses are set close together, which makes the streets pleasantly walkable, but each family enjoys considerable space in the long courtyards behind their homes enclosed by walls and timber-frame barns. Beyond the barns lie vegetable gardens, orchards, walnut groves and small farm plots. Farther out are meadows and pastures used cooperatively by the villagers for grazing animals and making hay. They are carpeted with wildflowers, including some varieties said to grow nowhere else in Europe. Finally, one reaches the oak and beech woods that cover the steep hillsides, where people gather firewood and building materials….

It was cows, however, that seized the imagination of almost everyone in the ND group. After grazing all day in pastures on the outskirts of the village, the cows ambled home at dusk on their own, each returning to its own barn to be milked. Who knew cows could do that? It seemed to symbolize the possibilities that modern society misses in not paying closer attention to the cycles of nature…..

……Professor Krusche first visited the Saxon villages as a graduate student in Dresden. That initial encounter was part of a project sponsored by the Prince of Wales, whose work with the local Mihai Eminescu Trust has promoted economic incentives to maintain the region’s distinctive culture. The Romanian organization had bravely opposed Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s plans to level the villages. In recent years it has funded the restoration of 300 buildings and encouraged some 1,000 Saxons to move back into the region from Germany.

Other initiatives train villagers how to use traditional skills — weaving, folk dancing, tilemaking, baking and the production of jam, cheese, honey and garden vegetables — to make a better living or start new businesses ranging from bed-and-breakfasts to a commercial organic orchard. The Trust also drove a proposed Dracula-themed amusement park out of the area.

The students’ work supports this kind of local economic development by offering ideas for how craft workshops, visitor centers, cafés, guesthouses or shops might thrive in existing buildings, bringing needed services and jobs to the villages while ensuring the preservation of a valuable way of life.



  1. Thanks for this post and link!

    P.S. Are you familiar with John Robb and Global Guerrillas?


    This is right up their alley! (As is much of your work…)

    Comment by Tom Crowl — October 13, 2010 @ 7:59 am

    • You’re welcome, Tom, and thanks.

      I only recently started regularly checking out Global Guerrillas, though I’ve clicked on links from there from time to time. P2P, which I know you also follow, is another site I need to work into my daily itinerary.

      So much to read, but I’m steadily whittling it down to a routine.

      Comment by Russ — October 13, 2010 @ 8:28 am

  2. Thanks much for this one, and I am going to hit the link on the Holy Spirit too.
    This hooks right into what I’ve been saying about WHY I am in Europe. Among other reasons, because our buildings are still standing. Our history is all around us in a CONTINUOUS form. It helps to give US continuity too.
    Among all the things that we could be doing.. learning how to construct to LAST again. Not being in such a hurry to tear our buildings down.
    Learning how to cook from scratch.
    Reorganizing our existences to be able to TAKE TIME to do things that we have forgotten how to do.
    We need to change our perception of time again, for it to go SLOWER.
    I will forebear.. (hehe) from any triumphalism on the “feudal” way of life.
    I like the comment that these people SEEM poor, but that they are not necessarily. Poverty really is very very much a PERCEPTION of poverty.
    And the man who said “man does not live by bread alone” was proclaiming a profound truth in my book.
    It is our belief that man can be reduced to SOMETHING that lives by bread alone, and that our bodies can be reduced to THINGS that is contributing to taking us down.
    As for the academics.. gotta believe SOMEBODY these days. Not believing SOMEBODY is even worse than.. believing somebody who you eventually decide is telling you stories.
    What’s wrong with stories, anyway ?
    Hey…I’m spending more time at your place these days…
    Bees are fun. Not as cuddly as cats, but they purr pretty nicely too. Particulalry when you breathe gently on them to warm them up. They get cold at night when they don’t manage to regain the hive in time…

    Comment by Debra — October 13, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    • This is not the “feudal” way of life, the elements being celebrated here. It’s a cooperative way of living. Feudalism, as I told you, is a top-down mode of political and economic organization, domination, and extraction.

      I’ll probably see some bees today at the herbal medicine garden. The New England asters are still in resplendent bloom, and as of a few days ago they were still bustling with bees. Today’s colder, though.

      Comment by Russ — October 13, 2010 @ 11:16 am

      • Have fun petting your bees.
        Looks like our definition of the word “feudal” is STILL DIFFERENT, huh ??

        Comment by Debra — October 13, 2010 @ 12:01 pm

      • You’re just bizarrely using the label “feudal” for any pre-/post-oil practice. I’m using the normal definition, which refers to a mode of economic and political organization.

        It was a beautiful day. There were bees practically swarming over the flowers yesterday.

        Comment by Russ — October 14, 2010 @ 6:05 am

  3. I read the link to the Holy Spirit. Good. It brought down my hubris a little bit.
    Gotta go apologize to someone…

    Comment by Debra — October 13, 2010 @ 10:16 am

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