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.