And it’s not at all what you think.

This is a photo essay from the time I ended up eating dinner and staying the night with a gypsy family in Valeni, Targu-Mures, Romania. How this even happened in the first place is actually a pretty random story that you can read over on Stop Having a Boring Life; here I just want to share some visuals from the occasion and introduce you to some of the characters involved. Meet the Gabor Family!

The Gabors are traditionalists, the leading caste in the Roma hierarchy, which is the reason they have been able to integrate more and change with the times. As I understood it, the closest thing to compare this to is the caste system in India – the Gabors would be seen as Brahmins and the Roma you find begging and stealing in streets as Untouchables.

Work being done in the garage. The patriarch, Gaby Gabor, has also established a successful roofing company – a trade that has been handed down from previous generations.

 

Cruising around the village and meeting neighbors.

 

Traditional Roma skirts…these things weighed like 10 pounds, seriously.

 

Grandma Gabor was awesome.

 

One of their distant relatives – a real blonde gypsy!

 

Best souvenir ever! A gypsy heart made for just me by the littlest lady in the family, Margaret.

Truthfully, this was a cool experience but I think that’s because I made it a cool experience. It was off-season and I went solo rather than with a group so I was able to spend my time however I wanted, quality time. Not only did I meet and hang out with one of the nicest families ever, but I turned the 15 hours I spent there into a total crash course in gypsy history and culture. Something essential for anyone without Roma in their blood wanting to call themselves a “gypsy”…

Tours like this aren’t for everyone and I will admit there were aspects of it that even bordered on tacky, but that comes with tourism territory. All the activities were also non-obligatory if it’s just a cultural education you are after which I was.