Hats, trash and Romania’s oldest human remains
Romania's Village Museum recreates a 19th-century Romanian village. (Jonathan Smith/LPI)
While many tourists are drawn to Romania for its folklore of vampires and ghosts, the country also has a lot to offer in the way of history. From ethnographic institutions to historic palaces, Romania’s numerous museums are a testament to the country’s pride in its heritage. And a few of these museums are unlike anything you’re likely to encounter elsewhere in the world.
The Village Museum is an open-air museum spanning 30 acres in Bucharest’s Herestrau Park. True to its name, the museum recreates a 19th-century Romanian village, exhibiting steep-roofed houses, windmills, thatched barns, churches, log cabins and entire farms from the time period.
Straw Hat Museum
Transylvania’s Straw Hat Museum, housed in a 100–year-old peasant house, teaches visitors about the various hats from different regions and how to make them. Straw hats are a typical part of traditional Romanian dress for men, especially during the summer, and styles differ from region to region. According to the Eliznik cultural website, straw hats in Transylvania have high crowns, while the hats in Maramures are very small. The highlight of the museum is the largest straw hat in all of Romania – measuring in at two metres high. Go ahead, try it on!
Museum of the Romanian Peasant
Delve into Romanian folk art at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant in Bucharest. Exhibitions display traditional pottery, costumes, paintings, sculptures and other artwork, dating as far back as the early 1800s. The building was formerly a museum dedicated to the Communist Party, so the basement still showcases Communist-era artwork, including busts of Lenin. Behind the museum, visitors can also explore a Northern Romanian-style wooden church.
Europe’s first museum of waste opened last year in the Afi Palace Cotroceni mall, a massive shopping complex in Bucharest. Sponsored by Romania’s Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, the main goal of the Muzeul Deseurilor is to educate the public about recycling. Its exhibitions demonstrate how various categories of waste – plastic, metal, paper, glass, cardboard, electronics, etc – are managed in Romania, and there is a 60m walkway illustrating the history of garbage.
Site of Romania’s oldest human remains
In southwestern Romania, the Peştera cu Oase, or “Cave with Bones”, is home to a fascinating archaeological site. In 2002, a group of speleologists (scientists who study caves) discovered what was at the time, the oldest remnants of modern humans in Europe. (Since then, even older remains have been found in Spain.) Among the fossils they found was a nearly fully intact jawbone of an adult male dating between 34,000 and 36,000 years old. Peştera cu Oase (which at the time of its discovery was being used by bears as a hibernation den) is tucked in the Carpathian Mountains, a destination in its own right. This hiking guide shows how to get to the foothills of the Lăpuş-Ţibleş Mountains, within the Carpathians, where Peştera cu Oase is.