Discovering the footwear of our ancestors through kindergarten DIY

The kid is in the kindergarten for about 3 months now.

Though the first few days (almost the whole first week tbh) the situation was incredible, meaning that she didn’t shed a tear when we first left her there; the second week was the one to torment us as she got bored, wanted to stay home and eventually, cried whole rivers about this. But in the end, she got in love with the place and the staff.

This kindergarten I’m taking her to is not the typical, Romanian place to drop your kid and go to work, coming back to pick up the package around 16:00. From time to time, you get to have extra “parents” activity, which means that after those 8-9 hours of work you will get to spend time with the kid, the group and the group’s parents. Depending on the season and on the offer, those activities may vary. I’m not a very sociable person so I didn’t take this lightly.

Waiting for the group to leave the kindergarten got me anxious. The kid was totally panicked behind me, as the car was on, we were supposed to leave, but gathering all the children and their parents is not an easy task. Because of them both. The kids are yelling and demanding things, the majority of parents have no idea what they are supposed to do or where to go, some are out of reality after 8-9 hours of work and the teachers are trying to organise everybody. There was no bus but individual cars so the craziness was reaching alarming quotas.

The place we were aiming to reach was something like 35 kilometres away, on the vineyard hills around our area. There’s a very interesting investment, secluded behind some hilltop, with individual bungalows for accommodation and a traditional restaurant.

Romanian Sandals Ferma Dacilor

I’ll return to this place and for sure have a culinary impression about it (I’m hoping to spend the night too, sometime soon) when I get to really eat something here but now, we came to make “opinci” (the name of the leather sandals all around this part of Europe) and that’s what we will do, ain’t that right kids?! – I started sounding like an old and virgin teacher, didn’t I?

The Nike’s of the ancient times?

The “opinci” is pretty ancient. That’s because this has to be some of the first forms of getting your feet wrapped up in leather. Animals were being killed for a long time but mainly for their meat and fur so when people around these parts understood that they could treat the skin and obtain a special material that could be used to make different clothing articles, a mental ka-BOOM happened! Like when Levis invented the jeans or something.

The “opinci” appeared!

In Bulgaria, they call it “opinka“. The guys in the former Yugoslavian Republic (Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrians) are calling it “opanak” while the Albanians call it “opinga“. Nonetheless, they were all pretty similar. Sure, they say that our “opinca” is a little bit different, because we have only the outsides curly but really, that matters less than my own farts in the whole game of global warming.

Romanian Sandals the small opinca

An “opinca” is an “opinca”, nothing more, nothing less; a leather accessory that is used to protect the feet. They were making them from the leather of all kinds of animals but in Roman times mostly the upper classes were having the privilege to have “opinci” out of game’s leather. The lower classes were using mostly leather from domestic animals like pigs or cattle leather. This footwear goes deep down inside the core of these Easter Europe areas and we can see our ancestors wearing them on the statues depicting them in Rome. Talk about everlasting fashion, eh?

15 minutes to make a pair…

… but they may last a long time. Depends on what type of soil you’ll be using them upon. If you’ll take the Roman streets, the paved ones, I guess they may last a lifetime.

But, if you’ll go around the Globe on foot, as Dan Dumitru did in the begining of the 20th Century, you’ll need about 497 pairs of these. That is how this guy decided to respond to the 1908 challenge to go around the Globe and walk at least 100.000 kilometres, thrown out by Touring Club de France, in exchange for 100.000 francs, about 500.000 euro at the time of starting.

Romanian sandals Dan Dumitru

They were 4 Romanian guys, students in Paris who in 1910, after 2 years of preparations, went around the Earth, in sandals. They pre-learned traditional Romanian dances and songs and performed in every location they were stopping in order to earn food and shelter. The journey was completed in 1923, only with Dan Dumitru reaching the end point of the race, his fellows who left together with him, dying on the road. When he received his price, those 100.000 francs would have been worth only 40.000 euros. First World War happened meanwhile. It’s an incredible story to read (and you can do so in detail, in English over here ) and to reflect upon. I still hope somebody will make a movie about this.

The process of making the sandals is pretty straightforward:

  1. you measure the feet length; additionally, you can also measure the width if you want to be extra safe;
  2. you cut the piece of leather accordingly, leaving more on the edges so it will wrap around; at this point you can also make the additional cuts, in the back and in the front, depending on how complex your design is going to be; the idea is that wherever there is a cut, there will also be sewing so plan ahead with correct diameter of the holes;
  3. you puncture the leather on the sides, either with the same diameter or two different ones; you can do combinations of different diameters if you feel skillfull enough; the central point is to keep more or less the same distances and logic, considering that this will have a leather thread, of different widths, coming through;
  4. you sew the leather, through the holes, with narrow leather thread;

Romanian sandals how it's made

At the end of the whole process (which you will multiply by 2 if you want to have a pair), you’ll get the sandals that can work great with heavy socks in order not only to protect but also to keep you warm.

Getting this explained to 3 years old kids can be pretty hard. Mostly the parents did the work. Lucky me I got to do the pictures “officially” so I didn’t have to prove my sandals making craft. I really don’t know if the kids will remember doing this but I’ll admit it was a good opportunity to have a nice activity, together, which, on some level, makes the connection with the history. In my case, having Steemit as a catalyzer, I used the opportunity to search a little bit more about this footwear that was widely used in antiquity. One form or the other, the sandals joined men in his endeavour to conquer the world, standing. They were a good companion for thousands of years I guess. One of those fashions that stood for millennia while now it is being kept alive artificially, through people like this lady that showed us the very simple craft of making them. A little bit ironic, don’t you think?

Romanian sandals leather thread

In the end, at home, she didn’t let the pair she worked for go to waste. Wore the pair all night.

Romanian sandals gift

Way too small…


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