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Day 5: Return to the country

By Folk Combo, Jan 4 2015 04:57PM

On how Folk Combo took their first steps in the colossal Romania, discovered the Oas Country of Maramures, their people, music and traditions

We finally arrived in Romania. After a small stop in Satu Mare, where we exchanged our euros for lei, we drove on to Baia Mare, a small city in the north. We stayed a couple of days, visited the library in search of folk music books, roaming the bars and restaurants to find musicians and inquiring with the locals about their folklore. We were directed towards the Oas Country; a corner in the Maramures region where traditional forms of music-making and rural life had remained and people still live in folkloric ways.

We went to Breb, a village full of wooden cottages with beauteous handcrafted gateways. After driving trough the village, we found ourselves on the outskirts of the town where the road had stopped and nothing but stone and mud was left in front of us. We tried to reverse but the Villa was having a lot of trouble to move and it got stuck in the mud, badly. We tried to turning and twist the wheels, but everytime we pushed the gas we were only digging deeper into the muddy ground. After serveral attemps to free the Villa, using sticks and stones and pushing and pulling the car from all sides, it got dark and we gave up. We walked back to the village to look for help. A young man, called Florin, was willing to help us. He didn't speak any English but when we mimicked the situation with our hands he quickly got the point and mumbled "Fuck!". He took some iron cables from a barn and with his car we drove back to the Villa. Florin was not able to pull the Villa out of the mud and the situation seemed pretty hopeless. We would have to wait until the morning. Suddenly we heard voices and saw a light coming nearer and nearer. Florin started talking to the darkness and the next moment, two horses, accompanied by a couple of men arrived into the picture. Without any further introduction the horses were inmediatly placed in front of the Villa and the men connected the cables on to the carriage behind the horses. A moment later, the Villa was freed of its trap with one powerfull pull. Once the Villa was back on solid ground we stood there for a while, dazzled by the amazing scene that had taken place and not believing the conclusion to this adventure. We gave the men our last beers, which they drank eagerly, and aferwards said goodbye to Florin, the men and our four-legged saviors. We spended the night at the Babou Maramures, campsite ran by a Dutch couple: Evelien and Mathijs.

The next day we went to Hoteni, another small village, where we wanted to find a famous musician by the name of Ioan Pop. He and his Iza Grupul play traditional music from Maramures and he would be the perfect guy to show and teach us some tunes. But first we had to find him and since we had no adress whatsoever it was a bit unclear how to to proceed. We asked a man who was standing outside if he could point us in the right direction. He spoke English very well and told us he was aquainted with the musician we were looking for. He said that Ioan Pop and his group would be performing at the Brasana monastery the following day for a special television broadcast for Christmas. He advised us to stay at the local hotel, ran by the brother in law of Ioan. The Tepei family runs a beautiful hotel built up with the tradtional wooden decoration. They kindly offered us to park the Villa in their garden and use their living room and showers, which was great since we were still a bit dirty from playing in the mud. The day after, we drove to Brasana, to see Ioan Pop perform. The monastery turned out to be a huge religious complex of Orthodox Church. The place was filled with nuns, priests and children in tradtional clothing, all rounded up to present their music to the national tv in a precious scenario. At first, it seemed a solely religious event, but we soon found out that there would be a whole program of music: a children's choir, a choir of nuns and priests, and finally, after all the church music, traditional folk music. So we waited it out and recorded every single bit of music that was presented.Finally, at midnight, when everybody except the camera crew and us had left, Ioan pop and his Iza group arrived on the scene. We met Ioan and his wife after their performance and we got an invitation to come to their house in Hoteni the next morning. Together with Christi, his nephew whom we met at the hotel, we spended a whole sunday afternoon at Ioan Pop's house. He had a beauitiful place, full of traditional instruments: guitars, flutes, violins etc. Christi did the translating and we learned about the life of the man who had been a folk musician since he was 18 years old. He showed us the music of Maramures, sang us songs and explained how his life as a musician had developed; the years of communism, his tours in Europe and America and the role he had aquired as one of the last preservers of traditional Maramures music. It was a fascinating meeting and a very inspiring man.

That night we celebrated the conclusion of the first month of our trip with a huge dinner seasoned by folk music preformed by a saxo, a keyboard and a female voice at such a volume that we weren’t able to maintain a normal conversation. Back in Hoteni, we had a great night with the Tepei family; Christi and his brother were sharing more traditions, music, legends and jokes/sayings which alltogether create the clear identity of this genuine Romanian region: Maramures. We also had the chance to taste a homemade pálinka and to wear the traditional costumes as you can see in the previous post.

The next day we left Maramures via a tricky road trough the snowy mountains. We arrived in Cluj Napoca, a large student town in northern Transylvania. We met Bobby from the Old Shepherds pub, who got us drunk with pálinkas after playing a spontaneous session. After which we said goodbye to Bobby and even before deciding our next destination we were in the middle of the street playing again for an ethylic audience who decided to reward our music by inserting lei bills in our pockects, instruments or whatever hollow spot they could put in the money. Before we knew what was happening we were invited to dance and go crazy that night...

For Christmas's eve we gave a little concert in a place for the homeless, who attentively listened and applauded our music trip. We had our Christmas feast at a restaurant in town which we could afford by our profits from busking on the streets. On the first Christmas day we drove to Hungary via a beautiful road trough Transylvania which was, due to the many national roads and absence of highways, quite a time consuming undertaking. The days in Romania ended there, for now, but we will definitely go back soon.

See you later Romania!

Jan 4 2015 09:02PM by Patrice

Nice stories guys, enjoy and write more and more....
Xxx Patrice

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