Old Houses in the Romanian Villages and their Meanings
I have always had a strange feeling about the old houses. It has nothing to do with fear, it is much rather a curiosity and nostalgia. I try to imagine how life was back then, and suddenly that house becomes animated with peasants doing things. Then I wonder if these people ever imagined that their house will be abandoned.
The Romanian Traditional House – Center of a Peasant’s Universe
The Romanian peasant considers that his house stands at the core of his existence. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the traditional house was a single-storey structure, built of adobe, or with logs, employing corner joints.
The roof was initially thatched, or covered with spruce shingles (dranita, sindrila).
The mountain dwellings have taller roofs, which allow the rain and snow to run off easily.
A built-in open platform with a bench, called prispa, surrounding the outside walls, is a place to observe and to be observed, marks the crossover between public and private. A cerdac (gang) is a prispa with a balustrade, supported by carved columns, looking like a balcony, built in the facade, or in two or three sides of the house. This construction not only offers protection against precipitations, but it is also considered an important place, where rites associated with birth, wedding and death were taking place. On her wedding day, the peasant woman’s dowry was exhibited on prispa. In summer, the family used to sleep here.
The small and low windows used to serve for kidnapping the girl whose parents didn’t agree with the relationship.
The Stove (Vatra) – A Central Element of a Traditional House
The stove (vatra) is the central element in a peasant house, where the peasant woman and her daughters were preparing the food.
Here, the peasant woman was giving birth to her first child while sitting on the vatra. It was considered the most important place of the traditional house.
According to the traditional mentality, every essential event (birth, wedding, death), had to take place at home, otherwise it was considered atypical.
Ernest Bernea – The Romanian Village Civilization, Ed. Vremea, Bucuresti, 2006.