You may be tempted to say that for someone who visits Romania and was born there the interest in shopping will limit to refrigerator magnets and key chains. Ironically for me, it happens to be just the opposite. I had no interest in anything ethnic while I lived there. Foreign things were more appealing at that time. After I have spent many years living outside Romania, I seem to be more appreciative of my heritage. Romania has beautiful history and culture with unique traditions and customs many of which I still discover. Interestingly, the younger generation is being encouraged to pay more attention to their own country and treasure its values. So, if I traveled one more time to Romania I would bring a few things to remember it by and show them off to my American acquaintances that seem to be more and more curious about this country. Here are my suggestions:
- Pottery is very beautiful there. You can find a multitude of patterns to choose from. They are different according to the region where they were made. If you go on a tour in Bucovina, the northeast part of Romania, and visit the monasteries you will see a variety of pottery from plates, mugs, vases, and others. This is a good time to buy them because you will have the chance to get a hold of something that was locally made and original. Most likely you will get a good deal if you buy there and have memories to tie them to something you did. The most famous pottery is from Horezu.
- Different items that could be used to dress up a table such as table runners, table cloths, place mats, napkins, and others that could also ornate any size table or even a wall.
- Wool woven throw or bed cover (see above) can be found in different patterns. I prefer the monochromatic colors. They are very attractive and make it easier to match with other objects. They come in different sizes which makes them fit a sofa, a chair, or a bed. They are handmade of dyed thick wool strands.
- Wooden spoons can have intricate sculptured designs. I still have a wooden spoon and a fork that have been in my family for decades. You can see them together with a couple of ceramic plates made at Horezu. (right picture)
- Ia [ee – ah] or the Romanian blouse
- Icons – You don’t have to belong to the Orthodox Religion or be a religious person to own icons. Some of them are very nicely done artistically and can make a nice addition to a collection or buy them as a souvenir. The icon below has more of a sentimental value for me. It was painted on cracked egg shells and has been with me for over 25 years.
- Painted wooden eggs – Those from Bucovina are well known. They have very intricate details and are meticulously done. The makers are taking pride in painting these eggs. They are really taking their time in decorating them. Make sure you ask for wooden eggs especially around the Easter time. You don’t want to end up with rotten eggs in your luggage.
- Tuica or Palinca is a traditional Romanian natural alcoholic beverage made of fruits especially of dried plums or prunes. The drinks made in Transylvania have a better reputation. A few shopping tips to remember:
- Check different stores online before you plan your trip to search and compare prices of the items of interest. Look for the ones that are original and handmade.
- Always buy directly from the maker during your tour in Romania. Most likely, you will be able to negotiate prices. Ask a local to do it for you if possible. People will try to take advantage of foreign tourists.
- Avoid shopping from regular or airport stores unless you want something so badly that you did not get a chance to get while visiting different parts of the country or did not visit the country at all. The chances are that items are not manually made and have higher prices.
- If you purchase icons, I recommend to check for the artist’s signature. Buy them directly from the maker or someone that can tell you about the artist. Romanian artists are very talented when it comes to painting icons. Always get an oil painted wooden icon. It will look more original and last longer.
- If you purchase ia or ii for plural (the Romanian blouse) for yourself to wear as part of your regular wardrobe, look for the ones that have simpler yet fashionable embroideries. You can find those in any stores. If you are looking to have a piece of Romanian heritage as a souvenir, then look for a ia that is elaborate and handmade. Romanians wear these last ones to official gatherings and every year on June 24 at the International Day of the Romanian Blouse.
- If you choose to buy the heavy wool throws look for those that are well dyed. If you rub a corner you should be able to see if the color comes off on your hand. I would ask for cleaning suggestions. However, you may find out that the washing technique is very different from what we have available in the U.S. I suggest dry cleaning with specific instructions to avoid shrinking. This is an item that you won’t find easily and is worth having.
- Romania is also known for its wines. I wouldn’t recommend buying them from there because you can find Romanian wines at reasonable prices in any liquor store in the U.S. I would be more interested in a traditional drink like tuica or palinca, or visinata (made of sour cherries) instead if they were made locally. Try to avoid buying them from a supermarket. You have to remember that you are limited to the amount of alcoholic beverages you can bring with you. You may be able to find some of them online.
- If you were a collector I would check flea markets as well, especially if you happen to visit Bucharest. You may be able to find items of value such as coins, stamps, old books, or one-of-a-kind items.
Whatever your shopping choices are make sure you are cautious with your spending. Remember to look for originality, craftsmanship, and value.
Have a Nice Shopping Experience!
Featured Image: Moldavita Monastery (www.pixabay.com)
All photos except those explained: http://www.pixabay.com