As we approached the end of town we spotted the tell tale silver roofs of the Gypsy mansions we’d seen a couple weeks back in Western Romania. Then there was another and another. All painted bright colours, with three stories, Chinese style tiered roofing and aluminium decorations.
This time we took our time and stopped to admire the urban palaces. We saw a small road led down to about 6 mansion so we drove down and were given a good look over by one of the owners driving past us. We continued down with big grins on our faces as the whole area just wowed us. The first house was yellow, a different shape to the others and the biggest we’d seen so far. It was so big and close to the road that I couldn’t get a photo of it as it didn’t fit in my lens. Some had glistening silver roofs while others were bright red and resembled a Chinese restaurant, they all had silver trims and the family name cut into the metal design. A couple of houses were still waiting for a lick of bright paint and looked quite gothic with the dark concrete walls. Then we noticed the cars parked up had GB plates. Lots of transit vans but also fancy cars. The road led to a dead end so we quickly spun around and drove out of mansion alley. We soon saw that almost every house had GB plates, it was so peculiar.
From the main road we gawped at the houses. An owner nearby was sweeping his courtyard and suddenly walked over to us in quite an aggressive manner. We thought he was going to tell us to leave. He unlocked his gate and we asked if it was his house and told him it was beautiful and we got a lovely big smile full of gold teeth.
He only spoke basic English. He said London was his home, suggesting that he lived in London most of the time. I asked him where he was from and he said ‘Romanian’ as if it was a silly question to ask. He told us the house took 5 years to build, has 7 bedrooms and is home to him, his wife, son and his sons kids, though he didn’t mention the sons wife. Then he asked if we wanted to see inside. HELL YEAH!!
I was pretty excited! Interestingly, his gate was locked, he was in the courtyard sweeping when we met him, and he had to unlock his front door to let us in, even though he was right there. It seemed very secure with 7ft metal gates surrounding the property.
So he unlocked the door and revealed the grand entrance room. I swiped my feet on the mat and he insisted I stop and it was no problem ‘my wife clean’. It had polished marble floors and patterned wallpaper. A carpet runner led from my feet all the way up the low but wide staircase. Pots with red flowers led up the steps and a huge window with curtains draped around it filled the back wall. There were gold trimmed arm chairs and sofas around the edges of the room and a large sparkly chandelier above us.
The first room he showed us was the bedroom, it was extremely pink. It had pink satin bed sheets and cushions, long pink curtains, pink walls and ceiling! Around the rim of the ceiling was a thick blue strip. In the centre of the ceiling was a green light feature; it was about 1.5m long and 4 inches thick – IN THE SHAPE OF A POUND!! We couldn’t believe it! ‘Is that a British pound symbol on your ceiling, that you look at from the bed…every night?!’ ‘Yes!’ He said proudly and pointing to himself suggesting it was his idea. So, his ‘home’ is London, does he work there or is this a case of benefit fraud or begging? I have no idea, and who am I to say. He could work really hard in England and just treat his family to a lovely Palace. Who knows, but after seeing a documentary about the mansions years back and beggars sending money home to Romania, I’m a bit dubious.
The bedroom had dark patterned carpet and a huge circular antique mirror. Infact the house was such an odd combination of new and old. Then he took us to the lounge, it looked totally unused. The theme in this room was red and white furniture and a bright yellow ceiling shone like the sun. A huge display cabinet filled one wall. It was so retro yet a flat screen TV was in the centre and antique porcelain statues were on display.
Last but not least was the bathroom. Wowee. For starters it was huge, there was lots of empty space yet it almost felt clustered from the crazy colours. The walls and floor were patterned green tiles. A orange and red rug was on the floor. There were orange and green stripy curtains. In each corner of the ceiling were similar light features to the ‘£’ one, but these were yellow and red circles. In the corner was a luxurious massaging shower. The sink was huge, he said he got it from an Indian shop in England. The tap and handles formed a chrome duck with wings. But the thing that really caught my eye was the psychedelic toilet. It was a posh toilet, really big and bold with a wide base and gold decor. But the seat was for the standard toilet size, so it was too small for this toilet. It was made of clear plastic with a vibrant flower print – atop this antique style loo!
So that was all we saw, and as far as I know they were totally unused rooms, just showrooms. We were really grateful for this jolly chap letting us into his house, what a unique experience. He seemed very happy to show us around too, and shook our hands when we left.
Later in the day we got chatting to a local lady and I thought i’d ask her about the houses. As soon as I mentioned the big mansions with silver roofs she said ‘ah, the Gypsie houses!’ So that confirmed what we’d suspected at least. She said ‘I find it most odd how they don’t live in them’. ‘What?!’ Then she explained how a lot of the time they live in a little shack on the grounds, the mansion is just for show. That just baffles me, why would you build a house just for show, and not even live in it? It’s a very unknown and bizarre culture that I’d like to read more into and find out all my unanswered questions.