Romania’s rolling green hills and deep, ancient forests hold tales of faith, love, war, knights, nymphs and vampires. The region’s tradition of storytelling is fascinating with a long history of legends repeated across medieval villages and mysteries woven through magnificent castles. Rich Romanian folklore provides a wide backdrop for our imaginations and images in this photographic adventure led by frequent world travelers, Jennifer and Michael.
We explore cities where remnants of communism are intertwined with the vibrancies of modern life and into the remote Transylvanian countryside where time has stood still for over a century. As we traverse the Carpathian Mountains we experience the old-world hardiness and values of self-reliance that are still visible as we meet with the local farmers, artisans and shepherds.
Romanians are a very friendly people who don’t see many tourists in the more remote regions. They are often happy to sit for a portrait session and curious to have conversations about the West. Our focus is always on creating images with intention. We put aside notions of traditional travel photography and open ourselves to creating more mindful work. By genuinely connecting with local people, traveling slowly and honoring the culture, we discover more poignant and lasting imagery.
After arriving in Bucharest we share a welcome group dinner at our comfortable hotel in the city center. The next morning we explore the Old City and its passageways, Communist structures, lively squares and the old Military Club. A special visit to a hidden train cemetery on the outskirts of town is a true photographic gem. The next morning we depart Bucharest for the friendly town of Sinaia, where we visit the impressive neo-renaissance Peles Castle, situated in the heart of the Prahova Valley. After lunch we continue to the medieval town of Brasov, arriving mid-afternoon in time for a late walk with our cameras. The next morning we explore a quiet, medieval square, to create portraits of a variety of interesting models from Brasov. In the afternoon, we embark on a walking tour of the city, visiting the Romanian, German and Hungarian neighborhoods, including several traditional businesses (bakeries, bookstores, shoemakers and more) for a chance to interact and create portraits. After sunset, we head to Piata Sfatului, the lively main square where evening festivities are always taking place. The next day we drive to the village of Bran and visit the famous Bran Castle*, set on a hill among the mountains. (*If Bran Castle is inaccessible due to renovation we will visit a local traditional craft guild).
Located among gorgeous green forests and traditional farms, Maghura is the perfect place to experience traditional countryside life. We have time to slowly photograph the village and meet its inhabitants before returning to Brasov. The next day, we drive 2 hours to the authentic Hungarian region of Romania called Corund.
Hungarians have been living in the area for centuries and have maintained a unique culture and heritage. After checking in to our traditional guesthouse, we head off for an undeniably special experience. We visit with local artisans who are producing their crafts, not for tourism but for the community's own use, using only traditional methods of production which includes a black pottery workshop, traditional weaver and a tinder craftsman (tinder is a type of forest mushroom). We learn about these crafts while photographing the people and workshops that keep these traditions alive.
The truly local experience continues as we head up to the remote Fantana Plateau, home to only a few small villages. We meet the friendly locals from this isolated area and create portraits, and then deeper into the countryside we go. We visit a gypsy basket weaving family before heading to the village of Criseni, home to the only Straw Hat Museum in the world. We meet the passionate local founder of this museum as well as other villagers who will definitely be curious about our visit to this remote location. After lunch, we drive to the village of Sansimion, home to the only palinka (brandy) distillery in Romania that still uses a centuries old technique for all production. After a photo session and some palinka tasting, we head back to Corund for a special dinner prepared for us by our wonderful hosts.
The next morning, we visit nearby Sighisoara, considered one of the best-preserved medieval villages in all of Europe. Sighisoara does not see a huge number of visitors, which allows us to walk the cobblestone lanes without crowds. We enjoy a full afternoon wandering the friendly walled village, which is still completely inhabited, as we visit a traditional wine cellar, an impressive cathedral, the main clock tower and the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (the inspiration for Dracula).
Heading into the green hills of central Transylvania, we stop in the quaint village of Biertan and the remote community of Valchid. Biertan offers an Ireland-esque landscape, with houses built in an unusual style, all surrounding a 500-year-old fortified church. Valchid, located in a stunning valley higher up in the hills, offers a chance to enter the homes of everyday villagers whose families have lived in this simple, one road community for centuries. We return to Sighisoara in the afternoon for some free time.
The following morning, we make a leisurely journey back to the capital, stopping along the way for mountain vistas, fresh fruit and snacks from the local markets. We arrive in Bucharest in the afternoon, in time for a rest at the hotel before sharing our closing group dinner and images from the adventure. In the morning we depart for to the airport after a transformative visual journey.