Phileas French

Travel Writer

Phileas French

Phileas French

Travel Writer | Exploring every country in the world, one adventure at a time

Best Village Museum Ever?

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Just had to write a quick piece about the loveliness of the Romanian Village Museum, after a visit there today. Granted, it was the perfect autumn day, with me and both children crunching through amber leaves in our t-shirts and gazing out over the lake.

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Even so, the loving preservation of the historically significant houses and churches in a fairy tale, yet midtown, setting is exemplary.

(I’ve seen more than a few online disses and take-downs of Bucharest as a city to take kids to, but that’s not been my experience so far. Our apartment at the Radisson Blu and indoor heated swimming pool couldn’t be more bespoke to the core wants of English children escaping October gloom, drizzle and apparently hurricanes. The city has been accessible and straightforward.)

It’s unlike me to treat museum information with a cursory glance but it proved to be more interesting people-watching, despite my gratitude for English captions. From the people clambering in and out of the nineteenth-century “half-buried” dwellings to the vendors of sausages and religious icons, the site seems to have seamlessly threaded itself into the Romanian consciousness since its 1936 launch date. There are many ways in which this could be a kitschy theme-parked nightmare, but it’s low key and classy. On the evidence of this experience and the brilliant ethnographic museum in Prishtina, Europe has woken up to the fact that naff gift shops staffed by babushkas in lace headscarves will always have their place, but don’t need to form the 360 of the Old Country folk experience.

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Tips for parents: eight year old cost the equivalent of about 60p to get in, four year old was free. Check out the onsite restaurant with outdoor seating, interesting live turkeys, candy floss and local beer. Downside – watch little ones on the loose stones, uneven steps and risibly useless flimsy wood barrier if any of them happened to fall towards the lake at the wrong moment. I can see that it’s on the map for Bucharest expat families, but I’d go further and say that it’s well-worth a special trip if travelling in the vicinity. You're also allowed inside some of the houses, which certainly contributes to the enchanted vibe for younger visitors.

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Sorry to give a shout-out to a corporate chain but you know me, I can’t be bothered to get precious about *alternative* or *authentic* travels of purity when I’m on the road solo with two little girls. Five minutes’ walk from the gates of the village museum is an awesome outpost of the Hard Rock Café. Friendly staff, accomplished versions of unashamed comfort food, and a nice lady dressed as a pumpkin doing free face-painting and animal balloons. It was a sufficiently positive dining experience to gift me two hours of engrossed silence from my choleric younger daughter at the museum afterwards…worth its weight in gold/carbs.

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Sunday, 15 December 2019