Rroma Heritage Tour
If you are looking for something slightly different when visiting Bucharest I would highly recommend the Rroma Heritage Tour By Open Doors Travel. The tour is a collaboration with Ana from the Asociatia Impreuna which takes you around the city explaining the history and modern day lives of the Rroma Gypsy.
Our Tour Guide Livia Morega was so knowledgeable about this heritage and also compassionate about the stories that she was telling us, it made it such a interesting experience.
We began the tour walking around the old city whilst Livia explained the history of the Romani Community.
The gypsies originally came from India and their language takes bits of all the countries they travelled through whilst migrating from India. They travelled through Turkey then in the 14th century expanded into Eastern Europe 1385 first official mention being in Romania.
The wealthy community in Romania wanted the gypsies to stay because of their skills. They are known for their witchcraft and being bear tamers. They have such excellent craft making and selling skills. So they kept them as slaves, treating them less than animals. 3 golden coins could buy a man, 2 a woman and ½ for a child, they even started to sell them by the kilo so started to fatten them up. They were actually the longest slave nation in the world of over 600 years.
In Transylvania they were treated slightly better and given some land. During the world war 2 it is estimated that 220,000 to 500,000 were killed by the Nazis as they were deemed as “enemies of the race-based state”, the same category as Jews (source: Wikipedia) Also between 20,000 and 90,000 Roma were forcibly deported to Transnistria, which is in Moldova on the border with Ukraine. They were not executed but forced to march in horrible conditions, with no food or water and basically left to die from the cold and illnesses.
In the 1980s the communists put them into ghettos where they became stronger as their communities built. It is quite a sad history as the community faced a lot of biased opinion and misunderstanding of their lives which led to negative feelings from non Romani people. The Romani Development NGO is a charity that is helping support the community as their is still so much discrimination towards to community. In fact Livia explained how now parents are telling their children not to let on that they are from the Romani heritage so they can lead a normal life which is such a shame that they have to loose their culture and heritage in order to fit in with todays society.
We visited a ghetto called Ferentari which was in the south of the city. There were lots of people sat on the door steps mothers chatting and laughing, kids playing. They are not registered with any government as then they would have to pay taxes so they are not entitled to amenities such as garbage collection. The garbage is just left in the streets to rot. When we were there though there were bull dozers scooping up the mounts of rubbish.
Children were playing in this rubbish. Apparently by the time we got there most of it had been cleared away so you can only imagine how high the rubbish mounds must of been.
As we were driving around the ghetto I really didn’t want to stare as I wouldn’t like a bus of tourists coming around my street but couldn’t help looking at the community, they were also looking at us, probably thinking here another bus of those tourists but there was no hostility. The tour company has met with the community to explain what is happening and I think there are plans in the future to actually interact more with the Romani culture. We were told they love to tell stories about their heritage and I would have loved to have heard more.
One of the stops was a cultural gift shop called Mesteshukar ButiQ – MBQ which Livia explained meant beautiful craft. The shop sold hand made products made by the Rroma community and the skill and expertise to make these products are amazing. The hand made clothes were so colourful and hand stitched to excellent standards. The price wasn’t too high either and if I had more room in my suitcase I probably would have bought something.
The owner explained how they made the cooking utensils by hammering pieces of metal into the correct shapes. They had a picnic set which I would have loved to buy.
The store can be found at Edgar Quinet, nr. 7, Bucharest. If you are looking for a souvenir to take home or a gift for someone you are bound to find something here all at reasonable prices too.
Livia showed us the Romani Flag and explained how it was created in 1933. The background of blue and green represents the heavens and earth. The 16-spoke red wheel in the centre represents the travelling traditions of the community.
Our last stop was at the Flower market called Piata de Flori George Cosbuc. It is a very colourful and fragrant place. They had so many different types of flower and the price was so cheap compared to the price of flowers in the UK.
One of the shop owners called Flori gave us all a flower each and said we have to help save the market as the government are trying to close it down in order to build more bars which is going to be devastating for the community as so many earn a living here. I don’t really know what else she was saying to us but she was very bubbly and wanted to pose for pictures.
At the end of the tour we should have visited the Romani museum but unfortunately we ran out of time as we had a lunch engagement to get to but if you do the tour you will hopefully get to visit. But don’t just take my word about this tour you can see more reviews on TripAdvisor.
I did this tour as part of Experience Bucharest. It was a complimentary tour during a blogging event but it has not influenced my opinion in any way as it is an absolutely fascinating tour and well worth doing. If you want more information check out their website or Facebook page. This is a new tour and is not even on the website yet so get in contact with the company if you want more information.
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