Lonely Storybook Village (Timisoara)

Timisoara, Romania. The Museul Satului Banatean is a 17 hectare park, sprinkled with traditional houses and other structures, moved from diverse rural regions all over Banat and reconstructed on site. When I entered through the big wooden gate, the attendant literally woke up, surprised to see me. I was the lone visitor that afternoon.

Ignoring the numbered standing map, I wandered right at the forked pedestrian path. The only signage is a series of bi-lingual pedestals in front of many of the houses. The storybook design is a loaded choice. It suggests a narrative beginning with "Once upon a time..." but instead the text is very clinical architectural speak. Soul-killing for most of us, and as is, probably not even interesting to Architects. 

There are no stories, about the people, their cultural groups, or how they lived in these houses. Not even a toe hold, really, for any sort for exploration. Why do traditional Ethnographic museums sometimes feel a bit creepy? They seem more unsettling than archeological sites. Perhaps because the history is more recent? I felt lonely, like an uneasy voyeur in an village that had been abandoned for some reason more mysterious than just the passing of history. 

I felt compelled to enter every house, in case I might miss something important or surprising. This is the curse of the diligent visitor (and why I admire them so much)!

Some houses were locked. One had a guestbook and a jug of water.


There is a pond and an apparently active church on site, the oldest in Timisoara. What is active or not is another interesting question for a visitor. I came across a horse, and here and there an active vegetable garden. But no people.

Later I was surprised to find a modern outdoor theater and a building that looked like an exhibition space. It was locked up with no schedule on the door.

When I let myself back out the gate, I felt not only lonely, but stupid, for not knowing what's up with this place. Visitors, like all users, blame themselves for their precieved failures.