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A Country Festival In Rimet, Romania

Travelling to Rîmeţ from our hotel in Aiud took first through the town on a fairly decent road out into the countryside. After only a few miles the road narrowed and became a rough unmetalled road with many ruts and pot-holes. It wound its way up through trees where people foraged for mushrooms, through cultivated strip fields growing crops of maize and on up to the higher meadows where sheep and cows with clanging cow-bells grazed. Rimet straddled the road, a collection of a few houses, a school, a Mayor’s offices, health centre, unmanned police station and a shop-come-pub. We could see the wider community of Rimet spread out below, a collection of thatched farm-houses and barns and a church with a spire all connected by rough roads and tracks. All of this was surrounded by unspoiled wildflower meadows full of insect life and birds.

Festival at Rimet

The author (left) meeting villagers, “..enthusiasm for their culture was obvious.”

 

It sounds idyllic but it takes a lot of physical effort to maintain these meadows and trees. The hay is still cut and stacked by hand due to the steepness of the slopes and small size of fields and the brush and trees are cut back regularly too. This is where Rîmeţ and other mountain villages have a problem. The population is aging and the younger generation are moving to the towns to live and work. Travelling home to work on the family farm is not easy due to the poor condition of the roads. Who is going to look after this landscape for the future or is it going to be overgrown and lost?

The festival we were going to see was to take place on Sunday in an open area between Rîmeţ and a neighbouring village. Normally this festival is held for the local villages but this year was different. 7 villages were invited to take part in a competition to demonstrate their skills in country crafts. The categories they were to be judged on were dancing, singing, music, cooking, house-keeping skills, textiles and crafts. The prizes were generous! €10,000 for 1st, €8,000 for 2nd and €4,000 for 3rd. Sums of money like these could make a huge difference to these communities so there was a lot to play for. We visited the site the day before and found a few men setting up a stage, 7 square canvas tents set up in a line and some marques due to become food stalls. Outside one tent men were constructing a clay forge. The cattle, curious about this intrusion into their peaceful life, were chased off the site regularly. It was hard to imagine that all would be ready by next morning!

Festival Tents

All the tents were receiving finishing touches and were fronted by tables with wonderful displays of local delicacies

Sunday was a lovely sunny day. Cars and mini-buses trundled up to the festival site. Incongruously there were even several coaches that had made it! All parked at the side of the road or near the site. People milled about dressed in traditional costume or their Sunday best. All the tents were receiving finishing touches and were fronted by tables with wonderful displays of local delicacies. Craftsmen and women were setting up beside their tents demonstrating all sorts of things from marquetry to basket weaving. Inside the tents amidst the colourful textiles and ceramics were women showing the processes of carding, spinning and weaving the sheep’s wool. Before the competition began there was a short service at the war memorial to remember those who were lost in the First and Second World Wars. The priests and Mayors made short speeches and wreathes were laid.

Following this judges who were well known and respected by the people took their places and the competition began. All the dancing, singing and music took place on the stage and judges visited each tent in turn to mark the displays inside and the cooking skills. Everyone was welcome to visit the tents and it was obvious that they took great pride in all that was on display. Even with the language barrier, as not many people spoke English, it was clear that they were keen to explain what they were doing and anxious that you had a chance to sample the many tasty foods on the tables. The enthusiasm for their culture and that we should appreciate it was obvious. Sadly again though, it seems that it is the older generation who do the crafts and only a few younger people are learning the skills from them. This does not seem to be as true for the dance, singing and music as all ages were taking part in these.

Eventually the vats of communal food were ready ( I chose venison goulash), the forge was up and running ,the horse was shod, the ice-cream sold out and all the wild strawberries on the hill-side had been foraged. The festival continued on through a thunderstorm and eventually the victorious team cheered their way home back down the dusty road in the early evening.

Craftsmen and women

Craftsmen and women.

Can festivals like this continue? Perhaps not for too much longer as the skills and craftsmanship are gradually lost unless the people of villages like Rimet realise how much they have to offer. In my local area there are a few festivals where we can see that this is possible. The Fife Show is essentially a show-case for farming but amongst the stalls there are some displaying crafts such as spinning, willow-weaving and dry-stane dyking. Seeing these craftsmen in action encourages some people to take these up as a hobby going along to courses or classes to learn the skills. Also there is the competitive element of best jam or scones alongside best tup or pony! There is a wide range of items on offer drawing in visitors from all around the area. Our Bruce Festival, which is based on the life of Robert The Bruce, brings tourists to Dunfermline to see historical re-enactments, crafts from arrow-making to bread-making as well as the town itself. Smaller festivals like the music festival in Culross attract smaller numbers of visitors but still add to the local economy as they all need places to eat and stay. Perhaps there is an opportunity for rural villages like Rimet to look at the wonderful scenery and culture of the area and see how it can be made more accessible to the wider community. Could it draw in visitors to stay and spend time and money there helping improve the local economy and encourage younger people to be involved nearer to home and give them prospects of a more affluent future? It would be good to know that the meadows and farmsteads will still be there for future generations to enjoy as much as we have done.

by Pat Gardner

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