I ate brunch in a village in Romania with only 10 inhabitants

Bulza is a small village in Timis county, part of the larger Margina township. For the 10 inhabitants of the place, complete quiet is the norm of the day. Noise is to be heard at just the only two satellite TVs in the village. On Saturday, the people decided to prepare a brunch for their guests coming from the cities all across Banat, a historical region in Romania. The office people decided to leave the asphalt, tasks and meetings behind for a few hours. Getting help from the younger generation, the elders of Bulza have prepared one of the most incredible Banat Brunch events in the history of the brand.

There are only 10 people left living permanently in Bulza. The youngsters have left for the city, and in order to drive to Bulza for a visit, they have to go through another county on a 35-mile detour just to reach the place. Another way to reach the village is by foot through a forest, after a tough 5-mile hike with some serious ups and downs. If you go by foot through the forest the entire trip will take 90 minutes, that is if your legs are good. And if there’s a bag on your bag, like most city people carry when they visit over the weekend, you will need impeccable fitness to be able to survive the hike.

A well deserved Banat Brunch

An hour and 30 minutes of vigorous trail walking later, over the river and through the forest, as the Kids from Class 402 would sing, our guide Stefan tells us we’ve arrived in the village. So far all we see is vegetation and especially nettle, a type of green leaf people here prepare with milk and enjoy with fresh bread, sort of like a spinach dip. Or like collard greens but with white sauce enhancements. If you touch it though, especially when in full bloom, the area on your skin will get swollen and turn red. 

It’s a natural “rheumatism remedy”, as Stefan told us after many of the people in the group got stung. All we can see is a wood or concrete beam here and there, from the houses that were left to get eaten back by nature, at the base of the hill we’ve just hiked. Ten minutes of walking later we get to the actual first houses in Bulza. The first greeting us are not people but a huge colony of bees. Very active and preoccupied with their work, as bees always are, we would later find out that those bees had just “delivered” part of the delicious dessert for our brunch.

At the brunch on Saturday, organised by the national brand Banat Brunch, the population of the village exploded for a few hours, from 10 to about 200. The hosts have started to prepare for our arrival three days before, butchering a 300-pound hog, especially for the eatery. Although brunch refers to breakfast foods more than lunch, the event has had them all. We’re talking about everything coming from the pig, including stew and soup, homemade salami, sausages and cold cuts, pork rinds and pork rinds paste, which was incredible, as well as nettle soup, refried beans, fresh bread with pork lard and hot paprika on top, simply everything you can wish for. It was para, para, paradise!

Food soo good you can lick the plate!

The food at any Banat Brunch event is made entirely by locals, with ingredients they have personally grown and then harvested. Including the hog, as mentioned above. The elderflower juice, the linden tea, everything! I guess the only thing that was not from the back of the house was the coffee because you simply cannot grow coffee in Romania. The bread tastes better than at the best artisanal bakery in town. 

The pork rinds, or jumări, are crispy and melt in the mouth at the same time. Don’t even get me started with the pork rinds paste, which is simply to die for. The cheese was delivered fresh on the morning of the event from the other side of the village, and the potato salad was so sweet, you’d say it is filled with sugar. It was not, the potatoes are naturally sweet as they are, with no chemicals added.

In the sweets department, there are rolls and tarts and pies like in the old days, plenty and with loads of filling so that you never forget that first bite. You simply cannot eat anymore because your stomach is telling you there is no more room in it. Yet the rest of your body drags you for another round at the buffet, just so that you are certain you haven’t missed anything. The hosts aren’t helping either, as they are constantly coming around to see if your plate is with food or empty. If empty, they will send you to the spread in a heartbeat. Aren’t these people aware that we’re paying 75 bucks a month for our gym memberships?!

The village on top of a gold mine

Religion is an important part of the daily life of Bulza’s locals. The wooden church in the middle of the village, hundreds of years old, is one of eight in the area. The priest visited the village especially for the brunch, putting on a small service for the curious townspeople. After a long walk through the forest, up and down the hills, all you want is to just settle in a hammock with your plate of food and feel like you’re at the all-inclusive resort in Turkey that Romanians love so much. Stepping inside the church though, you agree with the organisers of the events, as you find the service to be a perfect dessert for the soul. You just sit and listen, while enjoying the cool air from the inside, relieving you from the heat and sweat earned on the hike.

I don’t know much about Bulza, more than people know already: it is one of the most remote villages in the country. Although in Timis county, you have to take a 35-mile detour through another country to reach the place by car. An older lady, as you can’t say she’s elderly based on how active she is for her age, Ana, tells us about the gold mines. The people gathered gold for years up until one day when they decided the state was paying them way too little for their efforts. That is when the large migration from the village to the city began, and slowly, the settlement descended to a population of 10. The young left for corporate jobs and the bustling cities while the elderly were left behind, carrying their old age as decent as possible.

The real simple living

If they get sick, they call for an ambulance from one of the two satellite phones in the village. There is no signal here for a call, and if you want to post a Story on Instagram, you have to hike up to the top of the hill. And even doing so won’t guarantee a 3G signal, or that you will ever find your way back. Out of pure instinct, you keep trying to find some signal, to post something so that you can brag about this incredible Banat Brunch in Bulza to your friends.

There’s no luck with that so you just lay on your back right on the grass, enjoy the view in front of you and, after a delicious brunch, you close your eyes and listen to the hits of the cuckoos singing from the trees. There is no music like this on Spotify.

It’s been a while since I heard so much silence.

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