January in Breb. Life in the Freezer

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We’ve been waiting for this. When we first had the idea of basing ourselves in Romania, locals told us winter temperatures can easily drop to -25C. We checked online, we couldn’t find any records of temperatures that low, so we kind of didn’t believe it but wanted to find out what winter weather in Maramures was like. January in Romania generally means a blanket of snow. Christmas, then January in Breb came around, bringing winter temperatures to northern Romania. It was below -20 C on New Year’s Eve as we stood around the fire sipping our midnight champagne.

January in Breb Romania Sheep in the village
The sheep have come down from the mountains now, safe from bears and wolves in village barns. The lambs will be born here soon as arctic temperatures grip Breb.

Winter in Romania 

January Temperatures in Breb

Through to Christmas it wasn’t spectacularly cold, nothing below -8C and a few days of snow, no more than an inch and not sticking around for long.

The boys had a couple of days of sledging fun and the ski slopes, a little further up the mountain, have been open for weeks.

The big freeze started a few days after Christmas. Night time temperatures went down and down and freezing day followed freezing night, -11C, -16C, -17C and this morning, -18C.

That’s the same temperature as Chef’s industrial freezer.

Despite the cold we’re enjoying sunshine, crystal clear days and blue skies. Winter in Romania really is special and we experienced great weather for hiking up the mountain and across the fields.

Heating and Staying Warm at -18C in Rural Romania

 Ice in Breb Romania December January
Ice on the stream, so much outdoor fun for the kids.

We don’t live in a modern house, our 100-year-old oak beam home is insulated with mud and doesn’t boast central heating.

We have a wood stove/cooker in the kitchen and a smaller wood stove in the first bedroom. We’ve shut down the 2nd bedroom for winter.

Our heating is all about wood and during winter in Romania we keep that fire blazing round the clock.

The tiny shower room is just off the kitchen, the sink and toilet are in the same room. This is the only part of the house with any plumbing. No heating in there, but we can open the door from the kitchen to warm it up, or fill a few buckets with hot water.

You can bookmark the picture below to Pinterest using the red button.

Romania Surviving winter in Breb Transylvania

Unless we keep this area heated the pipes and toilet will freeze solid, and do. This is one of the reasons outside toilets with no plumbing are best here.

The hot water heater is in the roof, it’s electrical and works pretty well, until it gets too cold.

Months ago I started insulating the house as best I could. All the windows except the kitchen ( I like to see out of that one, it’s where I sit) have a coating of cling film or plastic and the windows have blankets as curtains.

Between the kitchen and 1st bedroom we have a glassed-in conservatory or porch type room. It has single layer glass around the top and wood planks around the bottom, no mud and plenty of large cracks. We’ve insulated the wood panels with thick polystyrene, that’s made a huge difference, but this room is never going to be warm.

This is where the pets live and where we store all our vegetables and stash of drinks. Curtains would have helped here but I never got around to it.

So, at -18C this morning, the little porch was well below zero, between -5 and -10C.

The main bedroom with 4 warm bodies, was at around zero. We don’t keep the fire burning in there at night.

We try to keep the kitchen fire going round the clock. Chef stays up late, I get up early, there are usually a few embers left.

The coldest time is always just before dawn, I get up long before then and have the fire blazing ready for the kids when they wake up.

The water always freezes for a few days, every year. It’s actually OK. We mostly wash with wet wipes as needed, we have bottled water for drinking and cleaning teeth in emergencies. It’s not very eco-friendly, but this simple life goes a long way towards offsetting occasional plastics. We have paper plates for when washing up just isn’t happening. Bread, cheese, salami and fruit take no water for cooking. If we’re desperate, we boil snow or break through the ice in the stream.

The Unexpected of Winter in Maramures County

 Heavy Frost Romania Winter Skull
Crisp winter walks bring unexpected surprises

We were expecting the water to freeze long ago, but it hasn’t. This morning at -18C is the first time we’ve had nothing from the taps.

The hot water works intermittently. I’m not expecting any hot today. I can’t believe it’s worked for so long, the stream, from which it comes, is almost frozen solid (much to the kids’ delight).

We keep a good stash of water at all times, both bottled drinking water and large containers of tap water, so we’re well prepared. Our stash ran out eventually and we had to take drastic measures, we made a hole in he ice to get water for flushing.

Breb in winter snow
Winter in Breb, snow on the village church.

There is ice inside the windows, every day it gets thicker.

The pets’ water bottles are frozen each morning.

The potatoes from the porch are lumps of ice. My fingers froze yesterday trying to peel them.

We’re not cold in bed. That’s the big surprise. We have normal duvets and 1 good sleeping bag, everyone has been warm. I feel the cold more than the boys and I was just a tiny bit chilly last night, first time.

It goes to show how much money and resources we normally waste on central heating at night. It’s a perceived necessity that really isn’t so.

Our friend’s washing machines are frozen solid. ( We didn’t have a washing machine during our first winter in Breb, for the next one we did and managed to keep it working through most of the winter. Our friend’s froze again and there were many days of sitting around the fire drinking wine and sharing laughs while laundry churned.)

The car is working fine. Go Sexy!

The villagers continue to work in the fields, at this time of year they’re busy spreading well-rotted manure on the by horse and cart or tractor. It’s hard labour and they don’t even wear gloves.

We’ve been out walking most days, the cold really doesn’t bother us once we get moving and it’s stunningly beautiful out there. The ice crystals form into tiny frosty butterflies.

The weather forecasts are always wrong. You can guarantee it will be at least 2º colder than they say. Probably why we couldn’t find -25C in the online records.

So tonight this cold spell should break and snowy skies will return. I doubt we’ll see anything colder this winter. All of the records we’ve checked show mid January as the coldest time. We’re winding down now, getting ready to leave for a few months of travel.

It’s an amazing experience living in Romania, we love it, we learn, laugh and get excited by the weather conditions. So bring on the snow and more skiing, but I’m really looking forward to that apartment in Dubai with a washing machine and hot shower.
Would you like to experience this? Or would you rather stay home in comfort?

You know what’s amazing? For us this is a novelty, a new experience. For the Breb villagers, and most of them are elderly, this is typical. Many don’t have inside toilets or hot water, collecting water from the frozen stream is normal to them. They are the most amazing, most generous, friendly and all round awesome people we’ve ever met. Breb, you rock, hats off! Back to our main Romania travel page here.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

2 thoughts on “January in Breb. Life in the Freezer”

  1. Hey

    I happened to google breb as currently in the village and saw your article.

    If you and your family are not to busy and your still around would be good to meet you/family for a cup of of tea/coffee/palinka 🙂

    Sunny from England.


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