Near the city of Cluj, in western Romania, lies a concealed jewel. The village of Rimetea is pretty much under the radar when it comes to Romania's top attractions. Not many people know of it, yet those who do have started to spread the word quickly. Each March, the residents of Rimetea and its visitors participate in the festival of new beginnings, also named the Funeral of the Carnival. This gives the villagers the opportunity to reunite with loved ones, while the tourists get to enjoy traditions and bask in the beauty of the area.
The Rimetea village is a Seckler settlement in the Alba County, which prides itself on having more than 130 traditional houses restored. The Secklers are a community of Hungarians that have been living in Romania for many years, placing a personal touch on their inhabited area. In Rimetea, one can find small white houses lined up together with green shutters, the typical Secklers houses. Many of these houses have the artisan shops on the ground floors, filled with the painted ceramics.
Rimetea is the perfect example of a multicultural bliss. The Romanians and the Hungarians live side by side and strive to make the village welcoming for the journeyers.
There are many things that make Rimetea stand out. Its location is one of them. Placed next to the Szekely Rock, the visitors of Rimetea are blessed every day with a breathtaking view. The Szekely Rock is actually a mountain almost entirely void of vegetation. It is the main view from the houses of the locals. More and more hikers venture onto the mountain's peaks where they are rewarded with a special panorama of the village and the surrounding mountain territory. The restored houses and the beauty of the Szekely Rock made sure that Rimetea would receive the Europe Nostra Award for the Preservation of the Cultural and Architectonic Patrimony. The award was received in 1999, making Rimetea the only area in Romania that has this title.
Every year at the beginning of spring, the entire male population of Rimetea dresses up as old ladies, beggars, demons, brides, and bears. By dressing up, the men perform the roles of people that had too much fun in the winter, but now that the spring approaches, they need to get a new grip on life. They carry a small coffin throughout the streets of Rimetea so that everyone can see it. The coffin represents a symbolic death of winter. It marks a time when the villagers realize that they have to start working on the land again. The period of winter, when they could enjoy more free time, has to end. The ceremony is called the Funeral of the Carnival. All the villagers bid farewell to the winter and welcome the spring as a time of new beginnings.
The winter is also a time of courtship in the village. During the ceremony, the men put red and black paint on the women who are still single, thus ensuring that the women are blessed by God and that they will be fertile.
The festivity ends when the coffin is paraded throughout the entire village. The coffin is then beaten by the men with the sticks to chase away the evil spirits that may reside in the village and make people sin.
During the carnival, the visitors get to enjoy a special snack that is traditional here and in Hungary. It is called Langos and represents a type of dough that is deep fried and topped with all sorts of delicious ingredients. It can be sweet with marmalade or chocolate, and it can be salty with grated cheese and sour cream. Either way, you're in for a treat. Langos can be found in Rimetea during the entire year, so if you wish to visit the village outside of the carnival's timeline, then you can enjoy eating one.
Want to get a glimpse of a multicultural village filled with cheerful people, a fun carnival and mesmerizing mountains? Then Rimetea is the place for you. Make sure to visit it in the spring and partake in the festival of new beginnings. Maybe, it will be a new beginning for you as well.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.