My introduction to Romania was not exactly from the warm faces I had read to expect. The bus driver from Bucharest Otopeni Airport and I had crossed words when he did not stop at the stand I had rung for and I had been told off by stern female museum attendants for things like not walking around the rooms in the dictated order. Thankfully, not all Romanians are bitter communist stereotypes.
At the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, the cashier with blonde cropped hair and a wonderful selection of silver rings which weaved in every which way smiled warmly and asked “Student?” Sadly, the answer was no but that did not stop me pausing for a moment to contemplate my answer. She then politely indicated which way to walk through the exhibits. Staff in Bucharest’s museums seem to embody the nature of the buildings they work in, the majority of both made a cold, imposing and not necessarily positive impression on me. The Museum of the Romanian Peasant, however, was intimate and genuine. Exhibits are housed in what I assume was a large former residence, and although in somewhat of a state of disrepair (it resembles a haunted mansion) the concrete construction cocooned genuine passion for life and craft. Lonely Planet reviewed this homage to rural life as “…one of the best museums in Bucharest.” I am inclined to agree, but there is as a huge emphasis on the variety of textile traditions found in Romania which is of interest to me.
Whenever abroad, I do my best to return with an interesting and/or unique piece of fashion or jewellery. I like to think of my body as a blank canvas, a means of speaking my feelings and of what I have experienced. The museum shop did not disappoint; that said, I nearly missed it. Pass around the back of the haunted mansion and you will discover locals sipping drinks in a bustling café and a shop stacked, literally, to the ceiling with white embroidered cotton shirts, earth-toned rugs, rustic natured ceramics and much more. Shifting hangers of dresses, lifting layers of shirts and flicking through stacks of iconography was nearly a gym worthy workout.
The pupils in my eyes dilated as they fell upon thin coloured lines of stitching in geometric patterns and the shapes of flowers. There was a definite boho feel to the shirts but my selection was limited to those which were not stained. Although I was hoping to buy a genuine shirt made in the Romanian countryside there was no need to buy a tainted one, you would not accept a soiled garment in H&M or Prada would you? Following an intensive inspection of all my shirt and home décor options, I settled on a simple white shirt with sleeves which cuff just above my wrists and is embellished with purple and yellow flowers. My find was not cheap but satisfied the soul, having bought a second hand piece at this museum I hoped I was supporting and feeding back in to Romania’s heritage. I felt no need to acquire anything else in Romania.