Far from the Unleashed World
For the last two decades or so, while fearing the robot apocalypse, we have become unaware that it was already happening. The only difference is that we have transformed into robots and the world has become a shallower and sadder place than ever before. We wake up each morning without the prospective of a single smile, leaving for our jobs that drain our every last drop of happiness. We lie to ourselves that things will get better and time will be kind to us, when in reality our time has almost passed. We have forgotten to stop and watch the world around, too focused on the things that have no meaning for our inner well-being. We wait for days and months to meet people and go places, trying to prolong the moments when we are truly happy, even if it means dreaming for one more minute each morning. The truth is that the world has not changed that much around us, but we have…caught between our routine, our devices and our own lack of determination, we waste time that nobody will be able to retrieve…
But hidden away from our obsession for novelty and spectacular, there are still places in this world that resonate on a different plane, to some appearing almost as other dimensions. There are places where things and belongings are not so important, where living is still in tune with the rhythm of the seasons and the new world seems like a distant mirage. There are still villages where the only sounds you hear are created by nature and life continues a cycle that is mostly undisturbed for generations. I had heard about the remote villages of Inelet and Scarisoara in Romania for a couple of years, but only now decided to see how these places can still exist in 2018, when everything else around has changed. Hidden away into the mountains and spread over several idyllic ridges and valleys, the villages have only a handful of families left, mostly old people still caught into the ancestral lifestyle.
It all starts with a determined hike up the mountains in the valley of Cerna River, southwestern Romania. You first cross the river on a wooden bridge and after a short walk; you get to the first test…handcrafted wooden stairs that are pinned to the vertical mountain bedrock, one on top of the other…for about 30 meters or so. If you really do not like heights, than this is also the end of the trip…but most of the people of the villages use these stairs when they need to descend from the heaven to the world below. The hike is just at the beginning though, as the first houses of Inelet are still almost an hour away. The path, while it is not the easiest to ascend, goes through charming pastures and forests, with seldom resting places adorned with various religious messages on wooden boards. The stunning scenery of spring bloom is probably the perfect background to discover these touching spaces, although the incredible colors of autumn should also be spectacular.
There are only two ways to reach the villages from the valley below, both only available on nice weather and on foot after ascending for about one hour. The people who live here year round only descend if they really need to, producing almost everything on their own. Sheep, horses and other livestock are still used like they have for centuries, while people only rely on their selves for everything. It might look like a tough life, but few see and sense the beauty beneath the surface… These people might be happier that those that seem to have everything in the world outside, but never have the time to truly understand that they need to feel accomplished. You get to enjoy things on another level as you reach the first sights of the village and first pass by the little church overlooking the valleys beneath and mountains in the distance.
We met few people crossing the paths between the several houses on our way through the village, undisturbed in their little world that sees few outsiders. We passed by the little school that who knows how many children still attend, as the only the old seem to stay behind in this paradise filled with bird songs and spring blossoms in the sunshine… This will continue for who knows how many seasons, until the small church will welcome its last soul to overlook the hills and seal the disappearance of another village with all its memories…