The name “Csángó” is thought to derive from the Hungarian for “wanderer”, referring to those Székely who fled here from religious persecution in Transylvania during the fifteenth century, to be joined by others escaping military conscription in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. There is evidence that Hungarians have been present in this area for even longer than that, however; the true origin of the Csángó remains a subject of contentious debate. Once, there were some forty Csángó villages in Moldavia, a few as far east as present-day Ukraine, but today their community has contracted into a core of about five thousand people living between Adjud and Bacău, and in Ghimeş at the upper end of the Trotuş (Tatros) valley; this is the largest and most rewarding of the Csángó settlements, and the only one that can be visited with any ease.
Most rural Csángó are fervently religious and fiercely conservative, retaining a distinctive folk costume and dialect; their music is harsher and sadder than that of their Magyar kinsfolk in Transylvania, although their dances are almost indistinguishable from those of their Romanian neighbours. Mutual suspicions and memories of earlier injustices and uprisings made this a sensitive area in communist times. While allowing them to farm and raise sheep outside the collectives, the Party tried to dilute the Csángó and stifle their culture by settling Romanians in new industrial towns like Oneşti. Things are a lot freer now, and the idyllic upper valley of the Csángó region is frequently visited during the summer by tour groups from Budapest, as well as a few independent travellers. The tourist infrastructure in these parts, however, remains fairly poor, so bring what supplies and money you’re going to need with you.