Nomadism represented an unchanging essence of Romany life for long centuries. They travelled in racked or simple vehicles (vurdona) which were sheltered with canvas.
Later they proceeded in trailers which developed in caravans used by nomadic Romanies in Great Britain even today. Their caravans are equipped with refrigerators, TV sets, videos, carpets and comfortable furniture.

Vlach Romanies who were the last to nomadize in Central Europe in the 20th century decorated their caravans and when they wanted to camp, they pitched portable tents and shelters (šátre, cerhy), very often beyond some village and near a brook. Men got ready "dwelling", unharnessed and baited horses while women made fire and prepared some meal. After a day or two they packed and left the place.
Majority of Romanies in Central Europe have never got used to a sedentary way of life related to land as they do not have relation to land and time. They live by the moment, "in the wind".

Still, since the 16th century they began to settle down and first settlements, romano gav, came into existence.

They settled a hardly arable land or bog beyond a village. At first they built the simplest shelters for spring, summer, autumn and winter - dugouts and earth-houses.
Other earth dwellings had already roof made of branches, clay and clumps of grass.
Far on in time using log cabin technique, Romanies started to build small huts out of wood, thin trunks or even railway sleepers. In lowlands they constructed houses out of unburnt bricks (valky) which they dried out in the sun and put together. Afterwards they plastered the gaps with clay. In the houses there was no chimney, only a pipe leading through a side wall.

Later bigger house (kher) had already kitchen (kuchyňa) and one room (kher = a festive room) which was not lived in. Occasionally a chimney could be found in a house and windows were large and openable. The interior where later television appeared was luxurious as well.
Houses were enlarged with hall and later with basement and underpinning. They usually consisted of kitchen, front room (angluno kher) and back room (paluno kher). Windows used to be tripartite and the roof was covered with a tar paper, tiles or slates.

The number of families increased as well as the total of dwellings and settlements. Romanies, however, always avoided building their houses close to a cemetery, mortuary or former scaffold as they did not want to have anything in common with ghosts of the dead.
The settlement was interconnected by the main alley to which several lanes were leading. There was usually a well, nevertheless Romanies did without it many times and took water from brook. As far as toilets are concerned, there were none.
Up to the present day three hundred of such settlements can be found in Eastern Slovakia. In the last decades electricity was introduced to many of them.
In the most poverty-stricken families 10 to 15 people lived in one room. It was necessary to lie on one bed having feet against feet (pindral sovel). The rest of the family slept on the ground, straw, mattresses, blankets or sheets.
In winter Romanies were crowded in heated rooms while in summer the life of the whole settlement took place outdoors. A table and cooking-stove were taken out, and Romanies discussed various issues outside while washing clothes. In the evening a place among houses became one big dance floor. Even weddings or burial-feast were celebrated in the open air.

For heaven’s sake, what is the hedgehog doing here? ”Delicacy.” Every Romany would say, something like oysters for French.
It was prepared in the same way as hens, lured on bird-seeds or caught and carried in a pocket of a Romany woman who looked as if she was pregnant. Hen with feathers or hedgehog with prickles were coated in clay and stuck in live coals. Then they broke the clay and feathers or prickles unstuck. It is said to be a real dainty!

Romanies used to cook on a pot on the ground on a triangular burner. And what about Romany cookery-book? Here are some recipes:



is a national and the most typical Romany meal

fat pork gut stuffed with grated potatoes, respectively with farina, corn flour or rice

add onion, garlic, spice and boil it in water or bake it in the oven to make it tastier

(in Slovakia gója is served as the first course at wedding receptions before chicken soup and steaks with salad and mayonnaise)

hulki, golubci

cabbage leaves filled with minced meat (during holidays)

soups (e zumin)

they are the basis of Romany menu - tripe or bean soup, goulash from lungs or spleen on onion (there are various ways of preparing entrails as they have always been the most available meal for number of Romany families).

meat (o mas)

most often eaten boiled, rarely roasted

up to the present day cheaper meat, such as chops or knuckles, is popular for economic reason. (Some Romanies despised those who ate carrions and they called them degeši= unclean while others claimed that meat of carrions is good since the animal died a natural death)

Vlach Romanies never ate horse meat because they considered horses to be their brothers


served to fat meals

mix flour with water, add salt, bicarbonate or baking powder, pour washy dough on a hot cooking-stove, toast the doughnut on both sides, take it from a stove with a knife. (Marikla was originally prepared on hot stones straight in a fireplace.)

boiled floury meals and noodles (haluški čhingerde)

with cottage cheese (ciraleha)

with cabbage (armineha)

with bacon (balevaha)

with meat (maseha)

ravioli stuffed with boiled potatoes

with onion (pišota bandurkenca)

with cottage cheese (pišota ciraleha)

with sheep cheese (urda pišota)

(children appreciate noodles sprinkled with sugar, poppy seeds or cottage cheese)

fruit and vegetables

Romanies still eat very little fruit and vegetables.


Romanies prefer beer, dessert wine, vodka and rum

They enjoy a great quantity rather than having a wide variety of drinks.

Enjoy your meal!

Generally, Romanies did not possess ovens and they had pastry for weddings or for baptism baked by peasant women. Each household had one or two soup plates (o taňiris), cups (e kučori), a few soup spoons (e roj), two saucepans, a bowl or basin which the whole family could eat from.
Until recently women were not allowed to eat in presence of men and men in presence of their beloved. Leftovers were thrown out.

Smile, dreamy admiration of their lives neither contempt are necessary. Romanies lived the way they lived. However, forced changes led to collapse.
And it was a real step forward! Even in the fifties of the last century Romanies lived in dugouts, and later they moved to towns to assigned flats. Many times they were not able to get used to such things as kitchen-stove, bathroom or flush toilet. They did not appreciate their housing and they devastated it. Nevertheless, others got used to it and today they live decent lives in housing estates and no one would say that they originally came from a Romany settlement.
Modern "Romany settlements", such as housing estates with a school and a restaurant in Chanov, Bohemia and in Košice, Slovakia proved to be a fatal mistake. Today they are demolished. Unfortunately, less adaptable Romanies prevailed. Good Romany families are very unhappy because they do not have a place to go.
Traditional multigenerational families are on the wane in a new environment. At first they came with their habits: they used kitchen and living room for sleeping as well as parties. They did not use other rooms. They had only a few pieces of furniture just like they used to in their home settlements. Today their flats are equipped with TV sets, VCRs and luxury and you can often get the impression that they imitate middle-class’ bad taste.
They belong somewhere, again. They call themselves Krumlovakere, Ostravakere, Prahakere, Chánovakere Roma after the names of cities and towns they live in. Those who were already born here feel prejudice towards Romanies from settlements, which is a totally new element in romipen.