We’ve spent 2 Christmases in Breb now. Does that mean we live here? Legally we don’t, we spend time here as tourists, but I wish we did. This is the most glorious, amazing, fascinating place we’ve found anywhere on this huge planet of wonders and only a few special people know about it, for now.
The village is changing, the old people are dying, the younger generation mostly don’t stick around and the new citizens of Breb are tourists and business people looking to attract more visitors to this northern Romanian paradise. Life goes on, the villagers still milk cows, slaughter pigs, build haystacks and dress for church on Sunday just with more outsiders padding the village population. It’s good and it’s bad, the old houses are being preserved not demolished in the name of comfort, but this way of life is dying. That makes me sad. Don’t get me wrong, this place still isn’t a holiday hot spot, only a few come, but their numbers are growing. We are part of that too I guess.
Why Breb for Christmas?
I asked the kids back in the summer, I think we were in London before our 6 weeks in Thailand, where they’d like to go for Christmas. They picked Breb, their reasons were as follows:
- Breb has snow, it looks like a Christmas card.
- We can have a tree, a real one, Santa will visit.
- Breb has OK Wi-Fi and plenty of time for computer games.
- They prefer cold to hot.
- Their Lego and other toys live here.
- Their bunnies live here.
- They enjoy catching up with friends and neighbours.
- Skiing, snow boarding, tobogganing, snowballs and the fascination of all things frozen.
- They just like it, it feels like home.
For you, for Pinterest
My reasons for being here at this time of year are similar, but run a little deeper:
- I love the ancient magical traditions of Maramures.( If you don’t know Romania, Maramures is the county in the far north, right beneath Ukraine. Breb is in Maramures County, Transylvania is south of here.)
- I marvel at the beauty of this part of the world, daily.
- Every time I see a horse and cart laden with hay trundle past our house, I smile. Even better when it’s a horse and sleigh. Hay transportation goes on right through winter. The iconic haystacks from the fields have to be taken back to the farm compounds. It’s the lifeline for the cows and sheep.
- In winter, the frost, ice and snow make everything sparkle, it honestly looks like Narnia.
- I love the warm welcomes and greetings of returning, I love the gifts of tuica, cake and cheese, I love that Mihai will chop some wood for me out of kindness. Ladies don’t chop wood in Breb.
But What of the Hardships of Romanian Winter?
I was dreading coming back this time. Penny and Sasha had checked the house a few days before we returned. There was no water. No running water in the taps. That means no drinking water, no washing up, no showers, no washing machine, no cooking water and no toilet. The toilet bowl and cistern were solid blocks of ice but that was a secondary problem. Night time temperatures below minus 10ºC wouldn’t improve for months, probably March. I thought I was coming back to extreme hardship and really couldn’t face that, along with the usual day or two of mopping floors and cleaning every surface because mice take up residence if we’re away. I love mice, but poo in my cutlery ain’t good.
That’s what I thought I was returning to and my spirits belly-flopped.
I asked the dear ladies of Breb if they could possibly light a fire and put the oil radiator in the bathroom for the day of our return. Which they did. Sasha worked hard at keeping that fire going, so big thanks to her. It needs stoking every 2-3 hours ( right through the night if you want the kitchen to stay warm and not have to start from scratch every morning at sub-zero.)
When the boys and I finally got home after a 7 hour drive from the airport, all was well, water flowed in abundance both hot and cold and I seem to have the only washing machine in the village that’s working. We are laundry central!
As the boys say “Hashtag Result!”
Our return has been far less painful than I feared and Christmas has been a breeze.
We haven’t yet seen anything below -16ºC and nothing colder is forecast, but the weather boffins are always wrong at this time of the year.
On With Christmas
We do what most people do at Christmas, we buy a tree, decorate it and put presents under it. Stockings are hung, Santa visits, lunch is cooked.
A little more ingenuity is involved in surprising the boys when gifts have to come from backpacks, but every year on our 4 year travel odyssey, we’ve pull it off.
We made this video to share with you. It doesn’t have the amazing winter festivals and traditional Christmas events ( I’m working on those), just us, at Christmas enjoying life in Breb.
Could you do us a favour and subscribe to our YouTube channel? Cheers.
In the village the little houses have lights and twinkling outside trees, snow lies thick and carol singers visit. Their excited chatter and crunching footsteps are the only noise that break the silence on Christmas Eve.
There is a local traditional play that villagers perform. This event is still fairly unfathomable to me, but seems to involve Mary ( Maria, played by a boy), Joseph or some other carpenter judging by his wood-working tools, a policeman, a priest, some dudes dressed as sheep, goats or cows, not sure, demons, the devil and the 3 wise men.
This play happened almost on our doorstep on Christmas Eve and again near the church on Christmas Day. It’s accompanied by massive amounts of noise from cow bells, firecrackers and whip cracks. It’s freaking awesome!
December the 27th brings the Christmas festival in Sighetu Marmatiei, The Marmatia, a gathering of winter traditions from around Maramures and a sight to behold. It’s like nothing else on Earth and far closer in feel to Asia than Europe.
Now we get ready for a freezing New Year’s Eve of goulash, the village band, much alcohol and a roaring fire with Penny and team Breb. After that, more skiing, and just living our lives in our version of paradise. A cold paradise, yes, but cold is something to embrace.
I have endless more photos and videos to share with you, but video editing takes time and that is a commodity I’m always short of. So let’s get this website rolling again for now with this taster update. You’re not going to believe some of the things I have to show you!
For now, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and just tell me, would you like to be here for Christmas one day?