Gipsy Kings [by Karla Gachet & Ivan Kashinsky]

A week before arriving in Buzescu, we were on a bus heading south towards Bucharest, and started a conversation with a young Romanian man. As our bus glided over the Carpathians, the man spoke of bizarre towns with “crazy gypsies”- as he called them, and the huge palaces they had built to show off their wealth. He then said, “they are so backward, these people, that they keep their horses inside the houses and they sleep outside in tents.” We were stunned by the man’s words, but after all he was an outsider, a foreigner, a gadjo. The following days, we kept remembering the incident and decided to go on the search for what could have been a dark folk tale.

We got on another bus. The endless fields, filled with colored flowers and flocks of sheep, seemed to have been frozen in time. Back in the 1900’s, Roma families from Buzescu were still seminomadic, and travelled in caravans through the Romanian countryside in their horse-drawn carriages. A lot has changed since, and the more fortunate ones have traded in their horses for brand name vehicles. Others, who live in the outskirts of town, never made that switch and still live a rural life next to their gadje neighbors.

After living in the town for some weeks it was obvious to us that despite all the “bling” of the 20-room-three-story-villas, most Roma still chose their modest little back rooms over their ostentatious houses. In fact, they had kept their culture unchanged in many ways, using outhouses, collecting gold and travelling across frontiers in the same way their ancestors did a century ago. They could also care less about outsiders’ opinions; they are not showing off to the rest of the world, the show is only for themselves.