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Romania’s villages are a national treasure. Often surrounded by pristine nature and spectacular landscapes, they preserve age-old traditions, cuisine and keep the country’s most deeply cherished values alive, such as hospitality and respect for the environment. Increasingly the villages are drawing visitors from all over the globe, thanks to their bountiful festivals, from music to film, visual arts, food and more. Here’s our pick of the best.
Perhaps the best known jazz music festival in the country, Gărâna Jazz Festival has made a name for itself by attracting some of the jazz heavyweights such as Charles Lloyd, Jean-Luc Ponty, John Abercrombie, Miroslav Vitous, Zakir Hussain, Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, Mike Stern and many more. Every July, since 2007, the combination of fresh air, wild nature and good music attracts a loyal following that descends upon the village of Gărâna, a two-hour drive from Timișoara, for a unique four day musical experience.
There’s no better way to discover the village of Biertan, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Transylvania, than attending The Full Moon – Horror & Fantasy Film Festival, the only event of its genre in the country. Screenings range from remastered cult horror and fantasy features to the latest titles tipped to become the new classics. Accommodation is available in the village and on cabins on surrounding hills, as well as in the city of Sighișoara – only 30 kilometres away – the birthplace of the one and only Vlad the Impaler.
Smida Jazz Festival offers a one-of-a-kind experience for music and nature lovers alike. Here you can listen to the hottest contemporary jazz artists amidst the most glorious nature, in the heart of the Apuseni Natural Park. Hosted by the small village of the same name, which has only 22 inhabitants, the festival promotes local products and traditions as well as highlighting the sheer beauty of the Apusen Mountains, which feature 1,500 caves and two glaciers.
Vama Sub Lumini de Oscar (VSLO) Festival takes place in Vama Veche, the fishing village turned favourite seaside resort of Bucharest’s alternative crowd. Every August, the public are invited to enrol in an array of theatre, film, photography and sculpture classes, provided that they write a decent letter of intention, present a portfolio and do a good deed. In seven years, participants to the festival have produced more than 20 short films and documentaries as well as holding over 150 exhibitions and 40 concerts.
FânFest is the largest music festival organised on a volunteer basis in the country. The project started in 2004 when a group of activists decided to fight for the area’s natural and cultural treasures and oppose the exploitation of the millennia old gold mines of Roșia Montană. Besides its entertainment value, the festival had a much bigger impact on the area – it rallied up local nature lovers and helped the community become close knit and better informed of their rights.
One of the tastiest and colourful festivals in the country, the Cherry Festival is held every year in summer in Cireșoaia, in Bistrița-Năsăud County. With a tradition spanning more than a century, this is a family festival, organised by the 400 families in the area, which together own over 600 hectares of cherry orchards. Visitors can sample tens of local varieties of cherries, including yellow cherries, often available in large quantities. The quantity of cherries consumed at this festival often exceeds two tons.
The Tuberose Festival celebrates this sweet scented flower, grown by families in the village of Hoghilag for centuries. Brought to this area in Transylvania by Saxon colonists, tuberoses are now the most beloved flower in the region. During the festival, you can watch how they are turned into perfumes, learn how to cook with them for a refined culinary experience, or just simply wander about at sunset, when the fields are at their most fragrant, as part of a guided tour.