Finding original Romanian souvenirs to take home with you shouldn’t be hard work. Throughout history, a great diversity of traditions and customs have flourished in this land, most of which still go on. However, when sorting through the abundance of souvenirs on offer, you may have trouble separating out the fake from the genuine. As far as I’m concerned, over 80 percent of the Romanian souvenirs on offer are mass produced. Here are 9 Romanian souvenirs and tips to make a right buy in Romania:
1. Romanian Blouses
Folk blouses are some of the best Romanian souvenirs to take home. Romania can be divided into approximately 7 major ethnographic regions. It is from these regions and their villages that the variety of folk blouses is generated. The more you look within the same ethnographic zone and, sometimes, within a single village, the more likely it is you will find an abundance of different structures and patterns.
On the other hand, if you can’t tell the difference between an original handicraft and a fake, you should only buy from a trustworthy source. As an advice, just stay away from hypermarkets, clothing shops, souvenir stalls, even from large or small souvenir shops, unless you are sure they are selling authentic items. Instead, headover to the local ethnographic museums.
2. Traditional Rugs, Blankets and Tapestry
Other than traditional blouses, there is a great diversity of utilitarian weavings and embroidery to choose from. Authentic rugs, blankets and tapestry are worth buying, especially the vintage ones, made of organic materials and vegetable tanned. There is a great diversity on offer, specific to each ethnographic area. Oltenia stands out with it’s geometric patterns and vibrant colors. The second half of the 20th century introduced a new influence in Bukovina: colorful rugs with big flowers, very different than the traditional geometric patterns from the XIXth century.
It is worth mentioning the rugs from Maramureş, Transylvania, with geometric figures of seven or twelve women holding hands, representing the days of the week or the twelve months.
There are lots of folk inspired rugs in the market today. Whether industrially, machine made, or by use of new techniques, other than the traditional ones, my fair opinion is the original will keep or even grow it’s value with time, while a replica won’t. So pick an original rug rather than a replica and, even after decades, you will sell it for at least the same price.
3. Woven or Embroidered Traditional Towels
The traditional towels are worth taking home for both utilitarian and decorative needs. Traditionally, the towels are used for display, in wedding rituals, for gifts, dowry, or personal use. The more complex the patterns, the more valuable it is, for it indicates whether or not it is a ceremonial towel.
4. Traditional Wood Carvings
While the beautifully painted dowries and chest boxes might be too large to take home with you, carved spoons, wooden containers, or a small dish shelf can fit in your luggage. The specific patterns decorating the Romanian wood carvings feature the pre christian traditions of the nation: solar symbols (rosettes, circles, sun, moon), zoomorphic (birds, roosters, rams), fitomorphic (grapes, wheat). Big ladles, mainly used for cheesemaking in the traditional sheepfolds, are also worth mentioned for their resistance and value.
At a close inspection, you can tell if the object is handmade. Just stay away from cheap looking, lacquered wood carvings, because lacquered wood doesn’t breath. There are ways of finishing wood better than lacque covering.
5. Traditional Leather Crafts
While folk inspired shoes, purses and wallets are a new trend, which started about 3 years back, I’d like to draw your attention to the original leather handicrafts of Romania, including peasant sandals and traditional waist belts.
6. Traditional Hats
Straw hats from Maramureş (Clop de oşan) will make excellent budget gifts for your friends and family. A straw hat costs as little as $3, and no more than $5.
7. Traditional Jewelry, Beading
Traditional ornaments have always been worn with the Romanian folk costumes. During the late 19th century, colorful beaded necklaces, bracelets and earrings had replaced the ancient coin jewellery. These eye catching jewellery are excellent gift ideas when you’re on a budget.
8. Romanian Painted Eggs
The Easter tradition of dyeing eggs has become an art form. Eggs are ornated with motifs and colors specific to the ethnographic areas, villages or minority groups. Painted eggs make a great souvenir and gifts for loved ones elsewhere in the world. Extra care when packing up is needed, for they are very fragile. Avoid wooden and plastic eggs.
9. Traditional Ceramics
Romania is famous for producing quality ceramics at good prices. However, there are Chinese imports in the market, so here are a few places where you will find original ceramics.