20 November 2016

NEREJU, Vrancea County, the second half of the XIXth century (1875)

Positioned on the south-western side of Moldavia, bordering Muntenia region, the Vrancea County mountain settlement has unearthed archeological proof that an ancient civilization used to call this place home. Living on a plateau surrounded by tall mountains, the population of the 14 Vrancea villages has maintained an archaic social organization with special liberties and privileges, owning collective lands, pastures, and salt mines.

The Vrancea region is host to various types of households, either large or small, depending on the material condition of its inhabitans. This particular house transferred from the village of Nereju on Museum premises is dated back to the second half of the XIXth century.

Next to the gateway built with fir wood posts fitted with horizontal beech wood planks and a horizontal sliding door which closes using an ingenious and secret lock, there’s a wooden food box supported on pillars, sheltered under a rooftop covered with narrow wooden shingles, to house a jug of fresh water and a bowl of fruit to be picked up by travellers passing by.

Built up on a foundation of hard rock, the house features a frontal porch with decorated pillars, a middle entrance hall, two lateral rooms and a shed on the backside. The house is built with fir tree logs under a rooftop of narrow shingles with split ends. The walls are glued using clay and straws, painted on the inside and outside with whitewash.

Sheepherding is a principal occupation, best reflected by the sheepskin and woolen products and garments used by local people. At one end of the porch sits a wide summer bed made from wood planks, covered with a hemp rug and a colored wool cover with stripes, also a pillow. Pots with flower decorations and pyrograved motifs stand out in the entrance hall. The shed is used for storage and cooperage. Garment pieces and utensils hang on wooden nails – the hemp towel is used for pressing cheese curds, the rope helps tether cattle. Reminiscent of a realist wooden sculpture, the saw-horse, a tool used to fashion and cut wooden shingles for roofing sits in the vicinity. Also present are a jointer, big knives, screws and stencils used for pottery.

Found in the living room, between the bed covered with bedspreads and woolen blankets and the hearth with cooking stove, are a flowered cupboard for pottery dishes, a low three-legged table and small chairs all around, also earthenware, pots, a cauldron.

Simple wooden pieces furnish the „clean room”: two beds, a table, a bench, a chest built from fir wood. Hung to the East, a religious icon painted on wood. The walls are covered with multicolored woolen and cotton tapestries, arranged in three parallel rows. The décor is supplemented with napkins hung overtop shaped like butterflies, ornate with authentic patterns. Remarkable ethnographic elements exhibited inside the house are sculpted wooden masks, manufactured with sheepskin, with teeth made from beans, beards and moustaches made from hemp. The masks were used in fun games played yesteryear, also hung next to the deceased in nights of wake as symbols that free the soul from pain and perpetuate life.