Owner of Reky Travel, Rechi Nashul is a young entrepreneur from Sibiu quite active in promoting Romania and especially his native Transylvania.
I first met Rechi in Rășinari, a Saxon village 13 km away from Sibiu. He was one of the organizers of an Electric Camping/ Full Moon Picnic event. Rechi and everybody at the party made me feel completely at home. Curiously enough, among the participants was also Tudor Giurgiu, the initiator and president of the Transilvanian Film Festival, who the previous night had presented in Piata Mare presiding the Sibiu Festival. The food, the music and the full moon completed the scene. Three years since then and I am glad to dedicate the first RWD interview to him, who has never stopped committing in a number of engaging projects.
You belong to that young generation that has chosen to invest their energies in Romania instead of leaving the country in search of different opportunities. What made you do that?
I discovered very early that our region has a lot to offer. Transylvania and Sibiu are nicely located between the Carpathian Mountains. In the highlands surrounding us there is a unique cultural landscape with beautiful villages and rich natural and cultural heritage. If you have a passion in showing this to visitors the decision to stay here and live like anywhere else in Europe is not very hard. After 2000 the opportunities where everywhere so I just had to pick one up.
Can you perceive this kind of choice as a growing trend?
It is still a small trend but especially among the young couples and families I can see a lot who are chosing to stay or move here and enjoy a more quite livestyle but still be very active in developing their country. All you need is a good cause and you can easily find the means to achieve what you wish.
Can you tell us something about your field of activity?
We are living out of tourism, the so called Incoming Tourism. So we bring visitors from Austria, Germany and Switzerland on cultural and active trips in the region and show them what is worth seing, the small highlights of the less seen Romania.
Since 2008 we started organizing gastronomical events where we cook with the local communities and show their traditions, old recipes, local products, music and promote everything that belongs to the local heritage. We reached now twenty events in the rural area, one festival in Sibiu and many events in the cities across Transylvania, all of them with a total of some 3.000 participants per year.
Networking seems a key factor in your business model – if we may call it so – can you tell us about My Transylvania project, how it works and who it involves?
We started to cook with the local communities and in the beginning we had as participants young people from everywhere in Romania interested in developing the rural areas. Everyone has a small project, works for a tiny initiative and has very creative ideas. So it became a kind of a platform where we exchange information, celebrate each others’ results and promote sustainable development. There are three NGOs which are directly involved and about ten new partners each year. Every events we organise is meant to promote some new small business or initiative in the region.
What is actually meant by turism alternativ in Romania?
We don’t want to show what is already well known, we hope for our visistors to look for forgotten villages or remote areas. We tell the beautiful stories of the people we meet, eat together, listen to local music and celebrate our diversity. There is also a fight for less bureaucracy, authentic experiences cannot always be payed via a bank transfer and get invoiced for. The majority of the local producers don’t have a registration but as a physical person you cannot just be illegal. So we want to show that a lot of unexpected resources are there to be used.
Are your target clients only foreigners or also locals?
Some 40% of the visitors are young families and coming from cities around Romania and about 50% are foreigners with their residence in Romania. Only 10% are what one would call typical tourist from abroad.
What do you believe are the key elements which still need to be developed and communicated more effectively abroad in promoting your country?
There is a gap between the real Romania with its hidden beauties, most of them in the countryside, and the big highlights such as Dracula, Bucharest and cities in Transylvania. Beside the asphalted carways there is a different country, one full of rich culture and nice natural landscapes.
The gastronomy, the traditional agriculture, the nice traditions and interesting stories of local personalities are not even mentioned in the promotion campaigns abroad.
Do you believe in a suflet romanesc (romanian soul) or your Transylvanian roots are much deeper and stronger?
I believe in being a European 😉 and enjoy having the history of three ethnic roots in my family. As a European I am happy that we can preserve a huge cultural diversity. For example, the local cuisine in our region has influences from a total of eleven European kitchens. Where can you find something similar?
Do you consider yourself more of a European citizen or a Romanian one?
I am a Romanian and a European citizen. Recognizing the value of the local culture instead of the global standardization is what I am fighting for. The nature and territory, the climate and people from the area give us a unique charactere in Europe, similarly to many other regions across the continent.
You were just a kid when Ceausescu’s regime collapsed, now have your own kid. With what kind of memories do you look back at that era, in what way – if ever – do you think it has affected you personally and with what kind of results?
I can now appreciate some of the good education and the tighter family connections we had in those times. Being a child then, I have only good memories. But I am very happy to live the present days with a lot of freedoms and personal liberty to pursue own’s goals and ideas.
Where – if anywhere – would you draw the line over the past 26 years which separates the old from the new Romania? Has new Romania already been born?
I think that a new Romania is on the way to be born. We have now the most acceptable political power in the last 26 years and a lot of people of the second generation (35-40 years) are thinking on changing the way everything works. If not by politics than through their work in NGOs.
What is in store for 2016, which the highlights?
There are small highlights in our agenda:
- We had in January for the first time a live cooking event outside Romania, in Vienna with Transylvanian Cuisine, to promote the Romanian gastronomy.
- We have this year eleven new villages in our programm, which had never before any kind of event going on there 😉 It should be good.
- There are also some new concepts in the gastronomy festival in Sibiu (Transilvania Gastronomica) for which we hope to be awarded a nice title for 2019, European Region of Gastronomy. In 2016 the award went to Catalunya in Spain and Minho in Portugal and for 2017 Lombardia and Arhus in Central Denmark where the winners.
- We hope to open an old barn as a gastronomy school in October, serving the small producers in the Southern Transylvania.