The Value of the Simple Life

Modernity gives us very convenient lives. But is that all about? What do you think about stopping by in a Romanian village to find a taste of the simple life?
The Value of the Simple Life
Custom on Boboteaza, in the village of Sibiel. Photo by Daniela Spinu
I am a city boy, through and through. I was born in the urban sprawl, raised in the concrete jungle, so I had all the conveniences of modern living right at my fingertips, like air conditioning, fast food, public transportation, shopping malls, supermarkets, and internet access. And of course, one must not forget the tens upon thousands of people, living right outside my door. In some ways, that is a nice life. It is a convenient life. But modernity can also complicate things. Life is more stressful, the air smoggier, and the claustrophobia of living in such close quarters with so many people can be suffocating. And when the city crowd of thousands surrounding you remain nameless, the loneliness of one’s own anonymity in a sea of humanity is a truly depressing thing. But Romania has so much more to offer than her cities. Indeed, leaving the city is the first step to finding the heart and soul of Romania. From the lush peacefulness of the Danube Delta to the jagged peaks of the Carpathian Mountains, nature is in abundance. And in the middle of all this, as though hiding away from the ravages of modernization, we can find a taste of the simple life. In villages dotting the wild plains of Transylvania, Bucovina and beyond, many people still live the life that urban folk have long abandoned. In these villages there are no traffic jams; cars are few and far in between. The air is untouched by exhaust fumes and the smells of industry; breathing in the fresh air is like savouring champagne. The rolling fields of Romania are in the window, not the cosmopolitan bustle of the city. It is the perfect place for a city boy like me to get closer to nature, to look at things again with childlike delight, and to get in touch with one’s own humanity. And the traditions that define Romanian culture are alive and well in the villages. Where else can we go to see grown men dive into a freezing river to retrieve a wooden cross on Boboteaza, but in a village in Transylvania? Where else can we find boys throwing buckets of water on sleeping girls on Easter, but in a village in Bucovina? And where else do we go to try Romanian food specialties, handmade from scratch with loving care, rather than being bought in a super-market? But most importantly, it is the sense of community and intimacy in the villages that has left the deepest impression on me. The mad rush of the city seems to be forgotten when you see village people stop to greet each other, taking their time to appreciate each other’s company, and enjoying being part of a loving neighbourhood. I am a city boy, through and through. But the life of the village is one that seems to me more coloured, more human. Heading into the villages is like stepping into a piece of history, where time stands still, where life is simple, where it will hopefully continue to remain so in our mad struggle for progress. It may sound horribly clichéd, but in our ever present rush to keep up with the times, once in a while, it is a wonderful thing to stop and smell the roses. And where better to do that, than in beautiful Romania! by Gabriel Ku

Gabriel Ku
Gabriel is from Singapore and he studied at the Lund University from Sweden. Now he lives in Berlin, where he is Research Intern at Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law.
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