A Journey Through a Land of Contrasts Can Be a Real Eye-Opener

A few days ago I went on a short weekend trip to a region of my country which I hadn’t been familiarized with until now. I was curious to see what I would discover in a region of Transylvania which is quite remote from my home, and especially in the counties of Hunedoara and Alba, which have so many interesting sights to offer to visitors, just like any other region of Romania. It was an intense and educational journey that left me with mixed feelings at the end after discovering a land of contrast between natural beauty and urban ugliness, and between cultural and spiritual treasures and extreme poverty.

Throughout my journey I experienced feelings of awe and admiration after visiting regions like the Hateg Country, whose stunning natural splendor is amplified by the wonderful landscapes of the hills and small mountains which are changing their colors at this time of the year under the influence of the autumn. I was also full of wonder at the extraordinary sights offered by the several cultural sites like castles, medieval fortresses and monasteries of which I’m going to say more in my future articles. All those unbelievable places I saw have definitely improved my knowledge about the beauties of my country and have increased my desire to get out of my cozy home as often as I can and discover more of these fabulous sanctuaries of history and spirituality.

Unfortunately the natural and spiritual beauty I encountered on this trip to the heart of Transylvania was only one side of the coin, as I soon realized after discovering the stark contrast between the beauty of the region and its harsh social and economic realities. A lot of the mines which used be the driving economical force of the region have closed down in the years after the Romanian revolution, leaving many of the miners who had no other qualifications jobless and hopeless. Many people who populated the small towns built in the proximity of the mines left to seek a better life elsewhere, while most of those who still live there are extremely poor. There are signs of degradation and decay visible all over those small towns, from abandoned houses which seem to be on the verge of crumbling at any minute to entire blocks of flats turned into ghost buildings, with no lights and no windows, from small abandoned factories to huge industrial complexes which are slowly turning into ruins.

There is a lot of sadness and desperation among the inhabitants whose entire lives depended on these mastodons which are now basically dead because of the poor management and especially the endless greed and ruthlessness of the individuals who led them to bankruptcy (many of whom are probably still at large instead of being locked in prisons for the rest of their lives). It will probably take a very long time until things get back on track in those towns, and I guess mining and industry in general can’t be revived there, the solution probably lies in the development of tourism because the stunning natural landscapes of those counties can surely attract a lot of tourists.

These are my first impressions after a journey to a land of contrasts which represented a real eye-opener for me. I admit that during the trip I made a lot of pictures of the beautiful places I discovered and I chose not to take snapshots of the ugly, deserted, dark buildings I saw as I obviously prefer to keep the bright and lovely sights in my memory whenever my mind takes me back to that journey, but of course I can’t simply erase those creepy sights out of my mind. So much beauty and yet so much misery as well, all in the same area! Will that dramatic situation ever improve? I think it will, but the change will come at a very slow pace, and when people from that area no longer have to rely mostly on the exploitation of the Earth’s resources to make a living, it will be a better place to live!

Photo credit: My own picture.


  1. Profile photo of Gina  M. Menorca
    Gina M. Menorca

    I hope that your government can do something that could help restore those buildings and make it some kind of tourists attraction, and the history will make it somewhat interesting. Just a thought.After all, there is beauty in ruins.

    1. Profile photo of Sebastian Onciu
      Sebastian Onciu Post author

      The government and the politicians in general can certainly help by making better laws that will offer some advantages to people willing to invest in the development of those areas, but they seem to have other priorities at the moment, so I doubt those laws will be adopted very soon.

  2. Profile photo of Dawnwriter

    I feel a similar pain and pride whenever I think of my country Pakistan. There are amazing mountains, waterfalls, lakes, valleys, deserts, forts and incredible mosques throughout my country. People are extremely hospitable and will offer you the best good and tea they can afford. But poverty, government apathy and corruption has let people down so much. But again, I see hope and miracles at every corner.

    Once again a lovely article. Please keep writing and sharing. We would all love to see pictures of your amazing journey.

    1. Profile photo of Sebastian Onciu
      Sebastian Onciu Post author

      From what you’re writing I realize there are a lot of similarities between Romania and Pakistan: both countries have incredible landscapes, welcoming and friendly people and a vast historical heritage, but unfortunately many people still live in dire conditions and extreme poverty. I will definitely share more pictures of the beautiful sides of my journeys in my following articles.

  3. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
    Gil Camporazo

    I have to share your feeling of awe and shall I say feeling of discomfort by seeing the utter contrast of a city and the nature as you pointed out. Our country is best suited for your description. You try to visit the highly urbanized area and you can see high, modern buildings mushrooming the area. But the big contrast is the very back of the said edifices. You can see the slum areas with a thickly populated, marginalized people.

  4. Profile photo of Sebastian Onciu
    Sebastian Onciu Post author

    Yes, it seems that this mixture of natural beauty and urban ugliness is present in many parts of the world. I guess we should laid the emphasis on the beautiful aspects and travel as often as time and money allow to those amazing places in our countries which fill our hearts with joy and forget about the ugly things at least for a while.

    1. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
      Gil Camporazo

      That is absolutely. We should be hopeful that in every ugly thing there is always something to be worked on for betterment and for everybody’s benefit. Let’s hope all things to be good. Ugliness is the opposite of something good, something wonderful. We couldn’t appreciate the good if there is no bad. Right?

  5. Profile photo of Jo Pin
    Jo Pin

    I believe there is beauty and brightness in every remote place. Some were overlooked at. I admire how you appreciate the brighter side of the sad place. It takes one to know one.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *