The village of Breb in Maramures county seems to attract a lot of British celebrities. Some of the people who fell in love with it are prince Charles, writer William Blaker and photographer Duncan Ridgley.
Prince Charles did not only visit the village but also bought two houses. On the other hand, William Blaker made Breb and the Maramures county famous through his books. While prince Charles comes once in a while and William Blaker lived for a few years here, Duncan Ridgley has moved here indefinitely.
Who is Duncan Ridgley?
If you have never heard of this name, maybe you know his work. Mr. Ridgley has traveled all around the world and has taken photographs of celebrities. His photos have been published in many tabloids. One of the famous people he has photographed is princess Diana.
Ridgley found the village of Breb by accident. He was amazed at how people kept practicing their traditions and how they preserved the wooden churches. The British expat has decided to invest in tourism in this area after his previous tourist investments went wrong. He tried to invest in Sri Lanka, however, the tsunami has destroyed his plans. Similarly, he built a holiday village in Egypt but due to the Arab spring, his business failed.
When he visited the village of Breb in northern Romania he realized that nothing wrong could go here. He says that one of the biggest potentials of this area is the fact that the old wooden churches were perfectly preserved. He bought land and he plans to open up a holiday village. This consists of traditional houses that Ridgley brought from all over Maramures county.
But why would tourists want to live in old traditional houses?
Foreign tourists are fascinated about how people used to live in the past, such as at times when Dacian tribes lived in the area. The houses do not have TV or internet. For breakfast, they are transported by a horse-drawn carriage to the local people’s houses, where they can enjoy truly traditional foods.
Ridgley says that he does not need qualified personnel and he does not seem to mind the lack of infrastructure. He says it’s all part of the experience. American tourists who come here have had cable TV and internet all their lives, and now they want to experience something else.
What do local people think?
According to vocea.biz. local people do not understand why Ridgley is spending money on traditional objects and why he uses old wood for the fire. They also do not understand why his wife was using mud in the building.
Local carpenters had to be convinced to restore the old houses in an old traditional houses. They seemed to want to add modern styles. However, after being persuaded and praised by tourists for their work they seemed to be proud of their achievements.
Prince Charles bought one traditional house here in 2003 and he bought another three houses which he moved in the area.
Prince Charles also has a house in Malancrav, Viscri and four houses in Valea Zalanului.
Local people said he came a couple of times, tried the local cheese and the palinca which he thoroughly enjoyed. Apparently, he was smiling a lot.
Writer William Blacker lived here for four years and he actually learned Romanian. However, he learned the local dialect. He lived here and wrote the book entitled “Along the Enchanted Way: a Romanian Story by William Blacker”. He spent much of his time here also participating in agriculture, collecting hay and digging the garden. He was also wearing traditional clothes.
He said he has never met such hospitable people as those from Maramures, who were ready to offer you food and shelter.