Something that makes me smile every time I see it here in Romania are the horse and carts that we see in any village outside of the main cities.
Our mornings often start with a view of one of our neighbor’s collector cars:
But then we drive twenty miles, beyond the city limits, and enter any one of the nearby towns and villages, and we see a slower pace, a simpler life (says she who has never had to drive a horse and cart…).
We are delighted to see these images of a Romania that might soon pass, as laws are passed to limit their use, for the safety of other drivers…
According to one source I read, Botosani County in northern Romania, has almost as many horse-drawn carts as it has cars. In , the number of cars is almost equal to the number of horse–drawn wagons, with some 43,000 horse wagons and 53,000 cars registered in the county.
The biggest number of horse carts is registered near the town of Flamanzi and the village of Hlipiceni. These numerous rigs apparently affect traffic in the county, with six serious accidents involving horse carriages registered since the beginning of the year. There are even road signs that caution drivers about the presence of horses and carts.
In fact, when you drive onto the A3 freeway (which starts in Bucharest and seems to end in the middle of nowhere at the moment), you see this sign, warning about what vehicles should not be taken onto the freeway:
I have read that many horse cart drivers do not know traffic rules, and fail to wear reflective vests or equip their wagons with special traffic signs, which is why the police argue that a special driving license would be needed for horse wagon drivers, similarly to the one introduced for mopeds. Can you imagine?
Just drive outside of any city in Romania and you will instantly see that most of the population still makes a living off of the land, through farming and forestry, and use animals for power and transportation.
Most of these people continue to use traditional methods of agriculture by choice AND necessity; modern equipment is not only impractical for the small plots of land and rough, often mountainous terrain, it is prohibitively expensive. So are petrol and diesel fuel. A million draught horses still work in Romania. In American terms, Romania is as large as Pennsylvania and Ohio combined, with a similar overall population as the two states together.
Yet in its attempt to modernize, Romania is seeing tradition, and those millions who cling to it, as possibly expendable. Between new laws that make crucial aspects of the traditional Romanian lifestyle difficult to sustain, and overly strict — often downright ridiculous — interpretations of EU regulations, the government seems dedicated to destroying its country’s rich traditions.
One of the most damaging laws forbid horse-drawn vehicles from traveling on “national highways.” These are the regular roads between towns, not interstates, motorways, or autobahns, and connect one village to another. Often, they are the roads farmers must use to access their fields, to get to market, to reach nearby woodland. These two-lane roads were designated as highways during former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s reign during the Communist era. They failed to see that, beyond the congested environs of Bucharest, many “national highways” are relatively quiet and safe for animal-drawn traffic to use. Some “national highways” are not even surfaced with asphalt or concrete.
I can readily attest to the fact that on the main roads, horses and carts would be a liability, as those roads might be two-lane, but people drive on them at top speed whenever there is an opening in traffic. Off the main “highways,” the more-rural highways are quiet and you can drive for hours without more than a handful of cars sharing the road with you.
And when you get into the towns and villages, smiles come readily as you watch vestiges of a different pace of life slowly lumber by.
They are fewer than there used to be, but for now, you can still witness an older way of life on the roads of Romania.