So much boot slapping, so many gorgeous clothes: traditional dance and music in Northern Transylvania

Remember that one day we were in Hoteni, way up North in Maramures, Transylvania in the midst of a spring festival dating back to the Roman era?  That was a superlative day, a day we spent pressed up next to a small stage watching traditional Romanian music, dance and song.

I attend a lot of performances, both for my job and for pleasure, but I know nothing about Romanian music and dance.  Part of the thrill of immersion in the Hoteni celebration was experiencing new sounds and trying to sort out what exactly was going on.  I’ve since searched through youtube and found this video that most closely represents the style of performance we heard that day.




The music was heavy on the fiddle with support from accordions, drums, saxophone, and upright base.  The sound to me was like a kind of middle Eastern blue grass with a varying rhythm.


The singing was more like rhythmic shouting.  I couldn’t understand the lyrics but it seemed as if many had been improvised and perhaps funny or even raunchy.  A lot of the shouted phrases were seven syllables long, followed by whistles in a call-and-response pattern.  Give a listen to this short video on youtube of a song we heard performed in multiple variations throughout the day.


Let’s get a close up on those homemade shoes and hand knit socks.


Much of the dancing was with male/female couples wearing the most jaw-droppingly exquisite clothes I’ve ever seen.


There was much promenading in couples, finger snapping and skirt swirling.




One dance was just women in pairs.


Excuse me sir, are you aware that you’re wearing the world’s most awesome hat?




My favorite dances were with the men and boys.  They leapt in the air and made their own percussion with slapping of boots, legs and sticks.


We arrived at the festival just in time: the man of honor (the first farmer to plough his field this spring) was carried in on a flower-and-ribbon strewn wooden litter.


Crowd of people surging into the Hoteni festival.  What did I tell you about their gorgeous clothes?


This handsome couple was posing for someone else’s photo and we sneaked in a shot.

Note the traditional Romanian  inflatable bouncy tent in the background, upper left (predates Roman times, no doubt.)


300 year old road-side cross we saw on the way to Hoteni festival.


The room in we slept in at Breb.


Our day in Hoteni was a phenomenal immersive experience in the traditions of Northern Transylvania  .  Like I said, though, I’m am not well informed about this form of music and dance.  People of Romania, experts in traditional dance and folk music—I NEED YOUR HELP!  Please explain what you know about these art forms.  Thank you in advance for anyway you can help me further understand and appreciate this wonderful tradition.


How we got to Hoteni Festival: Florin from Casa Muntean drove us.

Where we slept: Village Hotel.  Price: €30 for a double.  Recommended: highly.




  1. Once again, a wonderful post ,and I haven’t seen the video yet. You really captured the festival. The clothes were terrific. Thanks as always for taking me along on your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much bappel2014–the music at the festival was so intriguing, it’s easy to understand why Béla Bartok was so dedicated to documenting the folk music here.


  3. BBy the way I couln’t pull up the video.


  4. OK it worked this time. “Amour vincit omnia” (Just for the Wife of Bath.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. what a wonderful experience that must have been! I like the colorful clothes they wear. The photos are great, almost feels like being there in person looking through them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The clothes are INSANE! They are made of handwoven fabrics, all hand embroidered. Some of them are made of pieced leather too. I’m sure they are family heirlooms.


  6. So beautiful traditional clothing, I love it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One the guest houses we stayed in loaned us their clothes and we tried them on. The were so beautiful but we were terrified that we would rip them!

      Here are pics of HOB and me in the traditional outfits:


  7. Beautiful clothes! What a wonderful experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh and the area was so beautiful too–we walked back from the festival to our room in Breb and the landscape was stunning!


  8. Reblogged this on Status Quo.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow those clothes are stunning, what a wonderful thing you got to experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All handmade with so much skill!


      1. I wish I was half as good with sewing and embroidery!!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello The Wife Of Bath,
    I love your unique pen name and I love your blog more. Europe and Romania to be specific is a country filled with exceptional customs, songs, dances and food. Your description about the dances in Transylvania and other places is really good and I enjoyed reading your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Savar Pandey–I can see by your blog that you also like to visit stunning, off the beaten path destinations. The Romanians I met were quite proud of their cultural heritage and I am happy that they are keeping their traditions alive.


  11. All the regions of Transylvania are enchanting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, and a lot of interesting wildlife too. We loved all the cranes high up in their nests.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. What incredible, intricate clothing! While we made it to some of Transylvania’s more touristic highlights a few springs ago, I would love to return and travel more slowly there someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are the clothes similar to the traditional costume you saw in Bulgaria?

      I think Transylvania is worth a long visit, esp. Maramures. The wooden churches (and interior wall paintings are fascinating, the people are friendly and sharp, and the food is all locally produced and delicious.


  13. Hi, I enjoyed your post very much! I am a folk singer and dancer from Hungary, therefore familiar with these kind of festivals. I have been in various parts of Romania but not in Maramaros yet.

    About the singing in the videos: actually that is not singing, only chanting, shouting. And you are right, originally they improvise those lines, and some of them will stay alive as other bits of folklore.
    When they do sing – well, they sing, melodies.

    And some of the music they play in the first video, where they also dance, it’s the same that Hungarians play, too. Same for some of the dance figures: in certain dances, Hungarians do the same.

    Romanian folk dances are indeed terrific, one of my favorite ones is from a small village near Cluj. And one of my sorrows in life that I missed learning a Romanian dance from another village in the middle of Transylvania, this kind:

    This part of Europe is incredibly rich in folklore!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for posting that video Andrea. The music sounds a lot like what I heard at the Hoteni festival and I especially love the men’s solos with the clapping.

      It’s great to hear from a folk musician—you are so right that this part of Europe is so rich in folklore. I’ll need to ask you for advice on what to see the next time I go to Hungary.


      1. Sure, let me know when do you plan to go to Hungary and if you have any concept of which part would you like to see.


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