Romanian Gypsies

By Peter van Beek

A mix of old and new technology.  Horse power on modern running gear.  Photo by Peter van Beek.  Click the image to view the photo album.

Peter van Beek has documented the difficult life of nomads in a modernizing Europe.  Fear, stereotypes, and unfamiliarity dominate their way of life and place them into a partially self-imposed, marginalized portion of society.  Although there is terrible poverty, he documents family life and survival of these remarkable people.


Simple shelter as used by our ancestors since the beginning of time.

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It isn’t easy being a nomad in a modern technological world. There is easy place for this lifestyle.

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The world has changed but many traditions have not.


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There are certainly exceptions to nomadism. Many Romany cling to their traditions and morph them into a new lifestyle. All of our people have done this.

But it isn’t all oppressive poverty “By collecting and selling iron they get very rich and build their own village with huge palaces where they started living.”  While settling down, the community keeps it’s own unique sense of style.

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Hard work and some flexibility can make assimilation slightly easier.


Ethnic identity shows in this vernacular style.


Beautiful young women with a foot in both worlds.

“Many Kaldarash people (the coppersmiths) still wear colorful clothes, living in a beautiful traditional way.  In some villages, time seems to stand still.”

From Peter van Beek’s website:

“The only nomadic gypsies in Europe live in Romania, the country that joined the European Union in 2007. Living a hard life in Romania these semi-nomadic people hold on to traditions and rituals. Amongst them are story-and fortunetellers, musicians and coppersmiths. Despite a law against nomadic life these gypsies still live in their harsh and remarkable way.”

Images found at Peter Van Beek Photography.  Check out his beautiful work and consider buying his book about the Roma:


Paris Travellers

Paris, around 1900.

Paris, around 1900.

A tiny accommodation, side entry single horse style.  It is documented that the adults with this style wagon generally slept outdoors except in very bad weather.  It was a good way to confine the children and the valuables.

This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet.  Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation.  When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it.  If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.

Banished to New York:

… an interesting historical post about the fate of traveling folk in 17th century Scotland

Scotland had draconian laws against travelling folk. Hostility towards “Egyptians” took off under King James VI, who was also famously opposed to Border Reivers, Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, alleged Witches, Protestant religious dissenters and tobacco smokers. Edinburgh, 13 May 1682: ‘His Royall Highnes his Maties heigh Comisioner and lords of privie counsel being informed by the Earl […]

Read the rest of this interesting but seldom taught piece of history by clicking the link below.

via Banished to New York: Seven Gypsies in 1682 #History #Scotland — Jardine’s Book of Martyrs

Kitchen Box

This is one of those “in progress” posts.

The little home is never done.  I don’t expect it ever will be and I think that’s great.  Trying to approach a balance that will be perfect enough to live in yet stay within the reality of time, money, and general laziness.  Since the beginning, I have wanted an exterior kitchen on the vardo but, at first, I was obsessed with size and weight (or lack thereof).  Over the last few months I decided to jump in on the project but, being determined to spend as little money as possible, I awaited materials to appear.


See the wasted space here?

Still determined to keep the weight as low as possible, I piled up the kitchen basics on my floor and figured out an approximate volume.  Two small stoves, a kettle, coffee pot, cafetiere, a couple of cooking pots, tea tins, coffee cans, and some miscellaneous space.  A few essential cooking utensils for good measure.  Not much really.  I decided I can store the less frequently used implements inside the truck or in the tool boxes of the wagon.  With that examination made, the final design was almost infinitely more simple than my initial thoughts (which contained shelves, niches, and little drawers that only add weight but some real coolness, to the overall box).  These may be added later though.  So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

DSC_0066Upcycling some old pine 1 x 12″ shelving boards, I decided to use these as the basic building unit and the building began.  Essentially, I created a box about 33″ tall by 21″ wide with two morticed-in shelves.  I wanted a fold down shelf to cook on when on the roadside or at a temporary campground and for this, I found a couple hinges off an old secretary desk (I save lots of hardware) and old steel drawer pull that came in a box of junk from some auction years ago.  To attach the door, an old piano hinge that needed a little scraping a brushing to remove some ancient enamel paint was located and brushed up.


Cleaned-up piano hinge being installed.


Old steel industrial drawer pull being installed with some recycled stainless screws.


The door will serve as a wind block for food prep or cooking.


Still some tweaking and finishing up to do before we hit the road but it’s finally coming together.


While I ponder how to lock it up in a more secure way, a small latch from an old box does the trick for the moment.

I should mention here that I did buy star-drive, stainless steel screws for the construction so I’m now into the project for about $6.00 of real money.  More to follow soon I hope!