On the Village Green 110 Years Ago

A Sunday dance, "hora" in Romanian, with the participation of all local classes, on the village green sometime in late 1890s in Southern Romania. (Old postcard - Valentin Mandache collection)

The old postcard above shows a typical village green from the lower Danube plains region Romania at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. The scene is that of a Sunday dance, or “hora” in Romanian, an energetic round dance where eligible young peasant men and women met and danced together in their Sunday bests (homespun and richly embroidered with ethnographic motifs costumes). The custom is still present in many of Romania’s villages, especially in the more isolated mountain communities. The Sunday dance was a very important village event, even more important than the church service, at which often also participated the local landlord, the estate administrator and their families. The photograph above shows on the left hand side a covered horse carriage, which most probably belongs to the local land owner, the “boyar”, the wealthiest local, who came from his nearby country mansion, or “conac“. Next to it is another somehow more modest carriage which probably belonged to the estate administrator, the “arendas” in Romanian, and further to the right is another really modest horse drawn carriage which probably belonged to one of the local state officials like the teacher or policeman. In the middle of the round dance is the orchestra, usually a gypsy band composed by musicians from the local gypsy community, descendants of the former estate slaves, an ethnic group that was freed by the state only in mid-c19th, after half of millennium of slavery. They play at the usual instruments in this region like a portable zimbalon, violin and lute, etc. There is a group of two ladies in c19th town dress on the right hand side of the photograph who keep a formal distance from the peasants; they are presumably members of the landlord’s family. There are however some in the crowd in town dress that mingle happily with the peasants. The village green is surrounded by an assortment of peasant houses- in the foreground two modest, basic houses with thatched roof, typical of very poor peasant families. Next to their right is the fence surrounded courtyard of a wealthier peasant with a better house, that has a shingle covered roof. In all the image is a wonderful glimpse of a happy moment in the life of a Romanian village at the height of the Victorian era, and a good document that nowadays helps in understanding the psychology and way of life of the Romanian peasants for anyone interested in visiting these areas or buying a traditional house there.


I endeavor through this daily image series to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural heritage.


If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.


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