Sunday, May 17, 2009


Yesterday the weather was beautiful, and I hadn't got out of town for some time, so I decided to go on a bike ride. I headed out of Lugoj on a dirt road heading West. I had never been down the road before, and curious to find out where it went, I decided to just keep going as long as I had sunlight. I the first village I came to was about 10km from Lugoj. I wasn't sure where I was, but I had a hunch, so I asked two old women sitting along the street outside their home. "Is this Jabar?" Indeed it was.

I'd passed through this village many times with the train, but all I'd ever seen of it was the train station. This time, however, I got to see the village itself. Church steeples towered above the single-story homes; men and women worked their gardens; children rode their bikes along the dirt roads, chasing geese; others gathered around the community water pump; farmers guided the cows home after a day of grazing; old folks sat in the shade of the trees along the road or stuck their heads out the window to gaze at passers-by and take in the whole scene (a form of entertainment pre-dating television). I struck up a short conversation with the two old ladies. They knew from my question that I wasn't from around there. I explained that I was just exploring the area a bit. "Oh, my son does the same thing, riding from here to Lugoj and the other villages," said the younger of the two women with a smile. "Looks like it's going to rain," I said, looking at the darkening sky as thunder echoed in the distance. The older lady, with her thick villager's accent warned me that I wasn't dressed warmly enough, and told me that I shouldn't take the road I had come on to get back to Lugoj; it was too rocky. I'd be better off taking the road through Boldur, she advised, since that one had asphalt. I thanked her for her advice and set on my way. I wasn't quite ready to return home yet, and I was willing to take my chances with the rain.

I set off West down the main road, not knowing where it would take me. Bolts of lightning touched down in the fields on my right. The sky let a few drops fall, but it wasn't much; just enough to cool things off and settle the dust. It seemed like the storm was passing off to the North-East. After riding for a while longer I reached another village. Ohaba-Forgaci read the sign at the entrance. I'd never heard of it before. I found it to be quite a quaint little place. It seemed to be frozen in time. A lot of the villages in the Banat region are modernizing quite quickly. In fact, this is true for villages throughout most of Romania, but things are changing especially fast in this region. Tractors are replacing horses, more and more farmers are using modern machinery and fertilizers, cell-phone coverage is expanding, internet lines are being installed, and old homes are being demolished and replaced with modern constructions. While progress can be a good thing, I'm saddened to see many of these changes taking place. Modernization seems to be coming at the expense of old traditions. However, in the midst of this fury of change, little Ohaba-Forgaci seems to be clinging on to some of the old ways. The thing that struck me the most was that the homes there were very old, many were prime examples of the architecture that was once typical in the Banat in the 18th and 19th centuries. Seeing as such homes are quickly becoming extinct, I decided to take a few pictures:

From Bike Ride to Ohaba-Forgaci

A house in traditional Banat style, shaped like a "C" with a little courtyard on the inside

There's typically a mini-arcade along the perimeter of the coutyard, as you can see here

Western influences are evident in the architecture throughout the region

The rounded, arched gables (as seen here on the two houses to the left) are another detail typical in the Banat

1 comment:

amalia said...

Mike, I just visited Romania after two years and in my way from Chicago to Timisoara and Deva I traveled thru Lugoj. I thought about you and I also thought about me, how I already miss Romania, now that I am back in the US, and how I will miss US when I will be in Romania again. I like how you write and how you see Romania, with the good things and with the bad things.