Britain's Prince Charles, who has long supported efforts to keep Romania's rural traditions alive, began a three-day private visit Thursday that is expected to take him to historic villages in Transylvania.He has been interested in rural Romania since the 1980s before the downfall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who demolished many hamlets, razed ancient houses and churches and forced farmers to move to apartment buildings in cities.
Charles has visited the country several times and has offered support for the restoration of rural areas in the country's northwest. He himself is restoring houses in the Saxon village of Viscri in Transylvania, a UNESCO world heritage site.Little is known about the prince's itinerary, but television images Thursday showed him meeting with President Traian Basescu.
Romanian government officials told The Associated the prince also met Prime Minister Emil Boc before heading to Transylvania. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the visit.According to the Mediafax news agency, Charles and the Romanian government will launch a project to promote organic agriculture, rural tourism and the preservation of village culture.
The agency, citing unnamed officials, reported the project will be launched in six locations and focus on forestry, agriculture, tourism, environmental issues, energy and education.The prince is one of many foreigners who believe Romania's villages are among the country's most valuable assets _ and a prime example of sustainable development.
Nearly half of Romania's 21 million inhabitants live in the countryside. Village residents live off the land, growing food, knitting clothes and weaving carpets. Instead of tractors, they use horses and carts for transporting hay and other produce.Many young people are moving to urban areas or leaving the country, to work abroad. Rural residents who renovate their homes tend also to use modern materials and are shifting away from traditional styles.