As I told you in the Facebook posts from last weekend’, I went back somewhere in time, into an old, authentic, fascinating and beautiful Romania. That made me nostalgic and I remembered moments from my childhood when I ran barefoot through the grass, when I was sitting near the stove, when I ate donuts made by my grandmother … That’s what happens at the Astra Museum in Sibiu, the largest outdoor museum in Europe.
Yes, it is so large that a single day here is not enough for visit each cottage (plus their interior, most of them are arranged as in the times they were built) and each technical ensemble – and see what’s going on there, because many are still functional! I think I’ve already made it clear to you that this is not a museum like any other, a common one or dusty one… but a living museum in which you can have special experiences. Beyond meeting the Romanian history and traditions in all areas of Romania, nothing compares with milling, wood-painting or straw-stitch workshop.
Cheerfulness for the Sassen
We arrived at the Astra Museum in Sibiu when it was a great celebration, more precisely were the Days of European Heritage. And the museum prepared a weekend of special events. So on Saturday, the tourists were expected to see the three Transylvanian Saxons houses (from Cisnadioara, Şeica Mică and Hamba). The local community was invited here and, at the same time, responsible for the artistic and culinary program, which delighted everyone!
In the front of the house from Şeica Mică, two ensembles – a music one and a traditional dance one – lit the cold and cloudy day. So, the tourists had the chance to learn more deeply about this wonderful community. The Transylvanian Saxons came with their craftsmen who held workshops of carpentry and painting furniture.
We entered the house from Şeica Mică, which is arranged as in the nineteenth century (the period when it is dated, although some parts of the house were dated in the 17th century). The door is original and the museum refused to repaint it, having at least six layers of different colors: “Who are we to decide what color to be now?”, said Mirela Iancu, Cultural Marketing Director. The terracotta stoves were warm, the front room seemed to tell you to take a seat on that high bed, and the back room was turned into a furniture painting workshop.
(click on the picture to see it 360 °)
This lovely home was moved here in months. Mrs. Mirela Iancu told me how it was disassembled piece by piece, brick by brick in order to be built the same way. “As they dismantled the house, the specialists discovered the method of construction, which we replicated when we brought the house to the museum.” It took four months to dismantle it! And the reconstruction … “More bricks were broken or grinded by time and we want to use the same type of material for reconstruction. So we had to look into the debris from other demolished houses of the same period and area, made by the same technique, to fill our gaps. “God, how much work so you can keep something authentic!
A wedding like in the Zarand Country
On Sunday, the farmer’s house from Almaş (Arad County) was in the spotlight. It was the fourth house opened to the public that weekend. The villagers from Almaș came at the museum cheerfully, in traditional costumes. They proudly showed the world the traditions and values that define their life. We enjoyed mostly the donuts with plum jam and pies with cheese, the rosé wine from the countryside and the chicken stew, a specific meal from the Zarand Country. Ah … and the viršli (sausages with goat meat or sheep mixed with pork)! I can’t tell you much about the plum brandy, you know I don’t drink this kind of alcohol, but it was extremely appreciated!
Well, the people of Almaş recreated the tradition of a wedding as in their village. They went to the house that was about to be inaugurated that day with all the attendance, with the flags before the crowd, with music and happiness. In the courtyard of that house, the community gathered around the most important people: the mayor, the former deputy mayor, the priests and those who were involved in moving the house from their village to the heritage of the museum.
After the little sanctification service, people ate and danced as being at the most important wedding in the village!
A milling workshop
We had a lot of fun, but we also worked hard … making wheat flour! We arrived at the largest mill in the complex – a mill from Timiș that looks like a pavilion from far. This mill was driven by the power of the animals (horses) that were – from my point of view – tormented to continually spin. Today, there are no more such mills and this one at the museum, although functional, is not put into operation. Here, two millstones were waiting for us: “the stone that stays and the stone that runs”, as the museum specialist explained. He also showed us how to make small ditches on the stone to grab the wheat grains. After that, he put us to work! 🙂
Well, we worked! 12 people made nearly 100 grams of flour.
About the Astra Museum
It was opened in 1967 when it had about 35 monuments (houses and technical ensembles). In 1963, the first mill was brought here. During the communist era, the museum grew hard, because it was difficult to rent trucks to transfer monuments because all were involved in the communist industries. But today, the museum counts over 300 monuments that are divided into sections according to the occupations of the people who lived there or how used the ensembles. The buildings have been donated by communities or purchased by the museum. The houses are from all over the country, reconfiguring a miniature Romania of the old times.
In its full name, the Astra Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization has 96 hectares, and the houses are located around a lake. The museum’s patrimony includes over 16,000 pieces, mostly displayed indoors.
The museum is constantly developing and evolving not only in the number of exhibits but also through the activities it organizes: festivals, craft fairs, art fairs, culinary fairs, folklore shows of various local communities, holiday services, film screenings, educational workshops for children and adults. For future events, check out the program on the Astra Museum website! Do you want to follow ethnic minorities? Get a guide and follow them!
The museum has about 170 employees and the majority are working on the field to make everything look impeccable. Soon, various cereals will be planted, and the community will be invited to collect, along with visitors, for an authentic journey through this tradition!
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ATTENTION! After you will see the pictures, you will want to go to Sibiu:
I went at Astra Museum thanks to an info trip organized by the Travel Focus Association.
Thanks for the invitation!
This article was published in Romanian on corinamatei.ro
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