The Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania is probably the most charming attraction of the city. It is a large expanse on the shore of lake that is the heart of the main park of the city. The Museum is a collection of traditional houses from all areas of the country, mostly made exclusively out of wood, spanning the entire traditional peasant architecture styles of Romania. But more than the architectural elements that would be of interest to specialists and maybe to the hordes of tourists that visit it, the Museum has a soul unmatched by any other sites in Bucharest. In it is cradled the entire spirit of the country, a spirit somehow lost today in the labyrinth of modernity that is forced upon it.
A stroll in the Museum through the traditional houses, wooden churches with impressive tall steeples, wood mills or water houses, half buried hovels or barns is an unmatched pleasure. All these households found in the Museum are not copies or mocks but genuine constructions moved at the beginning of the last century piece by piece from villages for preservation. The gardens that surround the houses and the other buildings, full of flowers, form a traditional household of what you may have a chance to encounter today in a Romanian village. But unfortunately many of these architectural gems preserved here cannot be matched in real life anymore. In many of the modern villages some of the traditional houses are left in complete disrepair or bulldozed and replaced by modern and less tasteful ones, many of them copies of what the new inhabitants saw after they returned home after a period of work in other more fortunate parts of the world.
Most of the houses and the households can be visited inside where you find traditional furniture, wares and costumes all decorated or embroidered in an unmatched symphony of colors, each decoration being characteristic of the part of the country were is coming from.
From the churches’ walls and from the many glass painted icons, the emaciated painted saints of the Christian Orthodox tradition are looking upon you depicting stories from the bible preaching to a long gone illiterate population.
In this traditional and serene environment for four days in June was held the Festival of the Indian Culture. What can be more remote for such a traditional culture that even now through their most Orthodox monks, here and in other Balkan countries, consider India to be the country of the devil? But the festival was far from it; an explosion of colors and music, philosophy and meditation, ayurveda and Yoga, with tasteful Indian food, a bazaar of spices, explanation of how to play cricket and many others. And on top of everything were the travelers, because all people who presented anything in the festival were mostly Romanians who traveled to India and spend there many good years in yoga ashrams, studying advaita, traveling or just hanging out like many other westerners.
I did not know what to expect when I got there. I assumed that there will be many Indians who would sell food and wares and freshly returned from India two months ago I was for sure not interested in it. But when I walked in and landed at the Chinnmaya Mission that published for the first time Advaita Vedanta texts in Romanian I was right away surrounded by friends and travelers, so similar with the ones you encounter in the cafes of the backpackers routes. I was familiar with their interests since 2010 when I interviewed a very picturesque and articulate Swami somewhere near Rishikesh and I found to my astonishment that his only disciple was a Romanian living in Bucharest who I came to visit three months latter and gave him a copy of the interview with his guru. He eventually went back to India and became a sannyasin.
Further down a mathematician, turned copywriter, turned director for TV commercials named Sega who figured out after a while that his life slips thorough his fingers gave up everything and went to live in Pune immersed in Osho’s spirit and wrote a fascinating book of adventures in India and further Nepal extolling an extreme talent entwined with the wit and generosity characteristic for travelers. A Romanian well versed in Buddhism had a detailed conference about Hinayana Buddhism to an audience that for sure was trying hard to cope with way simpler notions, or a Serbian-doctor turned Swami had an excellent detailed presentation of Ayurveda and Yoga with the practicalities related to the hot days of the Festival. And a woman who traveled twice in India for many months in a row wrote a book about her 18000 km solitary travels. Quite a feat!
I ended up returning each day of the Festival bringing with me friends and family to share with them this explosion of color and friendship that were always ending in the rhythm of Bollywood music and dance.