Life in the Freezer. January in Breb

We’ve been waiting for this.

When we first had the idea of basing ourselves in Romania, locals told us winter temperatures can easily drop to -25C. We checked online, we couldn’t find any records of temperatures that low, so we kind of didn’t believe it but wanted to find out what it was like.

Through to Christmas it wasn’t spectacularly cold, nothing below -8C and a few days of snow, nothing more than an inch and not sticking around for long. The boys had a couple of days of sledging fun and the ski slopes, a little further up the mountain, have been open for weeks.

Breb in winter. Maramures Romnia

Breb just keeps getting prettier and prettier. -9C

The big freeze started a few days after Christmas, night time temperatures went down and down and freezing day followed freezing night, -11C, -16C, -17C and this morning, -18C. That’s the same temperature as Chef’s industrial freezer.

Despite the cold we’re enjoying sunshine, crystal clear days and blue skies. It really is special and great weather for hiking up the mountain and across the fields.

Hiking around Breb in winter. Minus 11C, perfect walking weather.

Hiking around Breb in winter is stunning. The ground is frozen solid, everything dusted with sparkling crystals, magic! -11C.

Heating and Staying Warm at -18C in Rural Romania

We don’t live in a modern house, our 100-year-old oak beam home is insulated with mud and doesn’t boast central heating.

We have a wood stove/cooker in the kitchen and a smaller wood stove in the first bedroom. We’ve shut down the 2nd bedroom for winter. Our heating is all about wood.

 

The tiny shower room is just off the kitchen, the sink and toilet are in the same room, this is the only part of the house with any plumbing. No heating in there, but we can open the door from the kitchen to warm it up, or fill a few buckets with hot water.

The hot water heater is in the roof, it’s electrical and works pretty well, until it gets too cold.

Winter in Romania. Skiing in the Carpathians

The kids have had a blast skking and both earner certificates. James and I took off up the hill and left them with excellent instructors, checking on them after each run. It’s been brilliant, and so affordable.

Months ago I started insulating the house as best I could. All the windows except the kitchen ( I like to see out of that one, it’s where I sit) have a coating of cling film or plastic and the windows have blankets as curtains.

Between the kitchen and 1st bedroom we have a glassed in conservatory or porch type room. It has single layer glass around the top and wood planks around the bottom, no mud and plenty of large cracks. We’ve insulated the wood panels with thick polystyrene, that’s made a huge difference, but this room is never going to be warm. This is where the pets live and where we store all our vegetables and stash of drinks. Curtains would have helped here but I never got around to it.

So, at -18C this morning, the little porch was well below zero, between -5 and -10C.

Winter in Romania. Maramures,Breb.

indoors -11C

The main bedroom with 4 warm bodies, was at around zero. We don’t keep the fire burning in there at night.

We try to keep the kitchen fire going round the clock, Chef stays up late, I get up early, there are usually a few embers left.

The coldest time is always just before dawn, I get up long before then and have the fire blazing ready for the kids when they wake up.

We mostly wash with wet wipes, we have bottled water for drinking and cleaning teeth, we have paper plates for when washing up just isn’t happening. Bread, cheese, salami and fruit take no water for cooking.

The Unexpected of Freezer Life

We were expecting the water to freeze long ago, but it hasn’t. This morning at -18C is the first time we’ve had nothing from the taps. The hot water works intermittently. I’m not expecting any hot today. I can’t believe it’s worked for so long, the stream, from which it comes, is almost frozen solid ( much to the kids’ delight). We keep a good stash of water at all times, both bottled drinking water and large containers of tap water, so we’re well prepared. Our stash ran out eventually and we had to take drastic measures, we made a hole in he ice to get water for flushing.

Traditional winter dress Romania

Locals look splendid in Sunday best. I look like I’m wearing all my clothes at once ( I am). -9C New Yer’s Day Breb, Maramures.

There is ice inside the windows, every day it gets thicker.

The pets’ water bottles are frozen each morning.

In winter the sheep come down from the mountin pastures to be housed in pens around the village, safe from wolves and bears

In winter the sheep come down from the meadows to live in pens around the village. Safe from wolves and bears down here, I hope.

The potatoes from the porch are lumps of ice. My fingers froze yesterday trying to peel them.

We’re not cold in bed. That’s the big surprise. We have normal duvets and 1 good sleeping bag, everyone has been warm. I feel the cold more than the boys and I was just a tiny bit chilly last night, first time.

Winter in Romania Breb Maramures

The kids still play outside.

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It goes to show how much money and resources we normally waste on central heating at night. It’s a perceived necessity that really isn’t so.

Our friend’s washing machines are frozen solid.

The car is working fine. Go Sexy!

The car still stars at -18C. Go Sexy!

The villagers continue to work in the fields, at this time of year they’re busy spreading well-rotted manure on the fields by horse and cart or tractor. It’s hard labour and they don’t even wear gloves.

We’ve been out walking most days, the cold really doesn’t bother us once we get moving and it’s stunningly beautiful out there. The ice crystals form into tiny frosty butterflies.

Ice on the windows in a Romanian winter

Beautiful winter window patterns at -11C. It got a lot worse!

The weather forecasts are always wrong. You can guarantee it will be at least 2º colder than they say. Probably why we couldn’t find -25C in the online records.

January in Breb Romania. Freezing temperatures

Water from the stream from a hole in the ice.

So tonight this cold spell should break and snowy skies will return. I doubt we’ll see anything colder this winter. All of the records we’ve checked show mid January as the coldest time. We’re winding down now, getting ready to leave for a few months of travel. It’s an amazing experience living here, we love it, we learn, laugh and get excited by the weather conditions. So bring on the snow and more skiing, but I’m really looking forward to that apartment in Dubai with a washing machine and hot shower.

 

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January in a remote Romanian village. Breb Maramures at -20C

Would you like to experience this? Or would you rather stay home in comfort?

You know what’s amazing? For us this is a novelty, a new experience. For the villagers, and most of them are elderly, this is normal. Many don’t have inside toilets or hot water, collecting water from the frozen stream is normal to them. They are the most amazing, most generous, friendly and all round awesome people we’ve ever met. Breb, you rock, hats off!

 

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Comments

  1. I wonder if the cold is more tolerable because you know you’re leaving it soon. We lived in England without central heating for a year. It wasn’t that much fun. As you know, it wasn’t as cold as Breb, but it’s a damp cold.

    • Don’t think it makes much difference, we’re excited by it this year and actually don’t want to leave, but after 3-5 years, when the novelty wears off, we’ll maybe see it differently. But we all love skiing, so cold comes with huge benefits.

  2. I loved reading this and hearing about how you are braving the cold. What great memories you are making with your family!!

  3. Maday Miralles says:

    I think not being cold at night is the most important thing! Sleep helps keep a positive and happy attitude! I would love that that rural setting. When we lived in France I didn’t have a dryer, here in Ecuador I do. Although I really love it, I could go back to drying clothes ‘the old fashion way’ without being bothered. I guess that once you acclimate to doing something it becomes your new normal. I loved France therefore I love hanging my clothes out on the line! Cant wait to read about Dubai! P.S. Your blog as helped us decide to try Romania, when we are done with South America!

  4. Oh my word! I am sitting in bed wrapped up in blankets with my daughter–we have a snow day from school today- and I’m finding it hard to believe how cold it gets in Romania! I love that your family enjoys the winter and takes the cold with a grain of salt… I’m also glad you guys get to travel to a warmer climate for a bit, too! Cheers,

  5. Melanie Murrish says:

    I’m loving experiencing Breb through the computer screen 😉

  6. I wouldn’t mind the cold as long as the sky stays blue – but I’m real “hot sun and blue skies” person, so there’s no hair on my head that would think of moving to Breb!

  7. What an amazing experience, it looks incredibly beautiful there. I am pretty bad when it comes to cold, I really feel it and have poor circulation so my feet are always cold (I travel with slippers!), even in summer, so I think I’d struggle. Saying that, the beauty of the place looks worth it, if I could just stock up on hot water bottles I’d survive 🙂 I’m guessing Sri Lanka is a welcome change for a while?!

    • Dubai was better! Complete change. Sri Lanka was warm, but still basic, as is our village. Those luxury hotels and villas we were reviewing were very nice though Amy.

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