Almost 90 kilometres away from Cluj-Napoca, right where Cluj County meets with Bistrița-Năsăud and Maramureș, the villagers of Huta spend most of their life isolated from the rest of the world. It was only until the 1960’s that they have started to get more in contact with the villages nearby.
The story of the village that lies at the border of three counties started in a time where the need for survival surpassed the need for cultural development. Not even the oldest people living in Huta know, or remember, when it all took place. But they do know that the keepers of the forest and the swineherds built the first houses in the village.
Around 1900, the village consisted of only 20 houses.1 All the old houses were built out of wood, covered in hay or shingle. “Unfortunately, people have started to use other materials and this is the last house that looks similar to the old ones.”, said Gavril Bâlc, the village chancellor, upon our arrival.
The road that links Huta to Strâmbu, the neighbouring village, was not easy to travel on. My photographer and I had to travel almost 7 kilometers through heat on a road that seemed to me as the hellish smaller brother of Transfăgărășan. In our short breaks from admiring the pitoresque scenery, we would talk about our expectations related to the village. “You see,” said Sorin, the photographer, “I’ve been to many mountain villages in my life, and I could easily notice that they are more spiritual than us – closer to God, they’d say. I’m curious if it’s the same here.”
At our arrival we were told that all the villagers were at a ceremony in the church. “Huh”, Sorin smirked, “I was right after all.”
Among lit candles, choir chants, and incense smoke, people of all ages sat down and listened to the ceremony with piety. The villagers were wearing either traditional clothing, or suits and dresses, and every single female was wearing a head kerchief with a colourful floral design: married women had red ones, while the young girls wore black ones. Shortly before the ceremony ended, Dolhăscu Domnica, teacher in the village, told us more about beauty rituals that are characteristic to Huta.
“You will never see an unmarried girl putting her hair in a low bun in our village. The first bun (or conci) is made by the godmother at the very same day of the wedding, showing that the woman begins her life as a wife with solemnity.”
After the ceremony ended, the people in the church were guided outside by the priest. What was truly surprising was that everybody treated the priest as their confidential. They would start by kissing his hand and ask advice about their problems. I overheard an old woman complaining about health issues to the priest, seeking for help. “I’ll talk to the doctor in Chiuiești to see if he could come and check out your problem. Do not worry.” The strong bound that exists between the priest and the villagers is impressive in its depth. Maria, a villager, put even more emphasis on it, adding: “Children look up to him, and adults go to him to seek advice, as he is more experienced and more spiritual than us.”
Because the ceremony at the church ended with a lunch organised in the community centre, we had the opportunity to see how the people in the village interact with each other, and to also taste the food specific to the place. We sat down at the table. When the priest got up and started to say the prayer, everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, put their hand together and lowered their head. As soon as the prayer stopped, women of all ages started putting the food on the table.
“Denisa, the boys can wait until after the lunch. Now, come here and take this pot!” The chef was smiling while he mocked the girl. The relationship between the villagers seemed to be a close one. There’s nothing else to expect in a village where only 117 people live.
Mister Gavril told us in a break: “Everybody knows everybody here. We know what health problems they have, what they grow in their backyard, how many animals they have. There is not a lot of privacy, but that brings us closer.”
Sitting next to me at the table was lele (a word used to address older women) Domnica, one of the oldest people in Huta. We engaged in a conversation about the uniqueness of the village.
“Satu’ nostru-i împrăștiat De pădure-nconjurat Și cu văi, și cu vâlcele Și-i greu de ajuns în ele.” “Our village is dispersed Surrounded by woods Full of valleys and dales That are really hard to reach.”
“Satu’ nostru-i împrăștiat
Și cu văi, și cu vâlcele
Și-i greu de ajuns în ele.”
“Our village is dispersed
Surrounded by woods
Full of valleys and dales
That are really hard to reach.”
We were told how the weddings were organised. A truly interesting tradition was The Flag’s Dance. The night before the wedding, young people would gather at the groom’s house to dance and sing, and to craft a flag. The purpose of the flag was to be a symbol of the newly born family but nowadays, The Flag’s Dance is not used anymore.
On contrary to today’s trends, the bride would get dressed in traditional clothes, and would hold a basil bouquet in her hands. “Many things have changed since I was a girl.”, said lele Domnica in sorrow. ”People do not wear traditional clothes as often anymore. I have 11 traditional blouses at home. Every single one of them is hand sewn by me. It would’ve taken me weeks, even months to finish one. But in the end it was all worth it.”
It was impossible for us to leave without seeing the traditional costumes that people in Huta have. As soon as we brought that up, the teacher offered to wear it and tell us more about the specifics of it. “Everything you see us wearing is handmade: from the kerchiefs to the belts, everything is a result of hours of work, even the chains around our necks.” They both started laughing and Mrs. Domnica (right) pointed to the kerchief: “It seems that we are free tonight.”
“When you see a woman wearing the traditional clothes, you can see exactly whether she’s married or not. Apart from the kerchiefs and the hairstyle, you can take a closer look at her skirt.” explained Trif Nastasia, the kindergarten teacher. “The apron is mandatory for every woman, but only the married ones wear the back piece as well. Married women receive zadii (the back piece) on their wedding day, as gifts from their mother-in-laws, and they are not allowed to try them on until that day.”
When the time for us to leave came, mister Gavril offered us a lift back to Strâmbu. On the way there he talked about his life: how he used to take care of the family’s sheep when he was a child, and how happy he was when he got his first sheep, his marriage and his children, and all the major events in his life.
Almost 90 kilometres away from Cluj-Napoca, going out of a village so small that it would take you only 30 minutes to walk through, a car prepares to go down a road that is so challenging, you could say it’s the hellish, smaller brother of Transfăgărășan.
- Lăcătuș, Viorel Maftei; Pădurean, Augustin. “Întemeierea”. In “Huta, satul îmbrățișat de păduri”, 10. Dej: Astra-Dej, 2004