Sophie flew into Cluj-Napoca airport, from where she caught two buses and hitchhiked the remainder of the way to Breb, a village about 100 miles away in the Maramureş County of northern Romania. Pass through ornate wooden gateways that are dotted between wooden bungalows and barns throughout the town. Beyond the houses, the landscape stretches for miles, while the skyline is punctured only by unusually shaped haystacks, as if suspended in a Monet painting.
While the mythical landscapes of Maramureş have been compared to scenes from a Brothers Grimm tale, the warmth of residents resembles nothing of the kind found in any scary story. Smiling locals beckon you into their homes, where food and drink are placed in your hands with a deep benevolence that seems to come naturally to those who live there. When Sophie asked to take pictures, locals insisted on changing into traditional clothing. Despite a significant language barrier (no one spoke a word of English), they told her long, detailed stories and in return listened to Sophie talk with eager, wide-eyed interest. Conversation seemed to flow on the basis of kind sincerity, genuine interest without agenda.