Imagine you step out in a land where people still greet each other in the streets even if they don’t know each other, they go to Church on Sundays, they wear their traditional clothes with pride, they grow a vegetable garden, they wake up at 5 a.m and go to bed at 8:00 p.m after they lock their chickens in their shelter. When you step out in this land, everything feels calm, there is no future or past, and you just have to live with what you have.
Imagine God himself embraces you and whispers “Welcome Home”. That’s Maramureș. One of the most beautiful rural areas of Romania. Where God is present. And the people know it.
As we were walking the streets of Breb, an old grandma greeted us:
And that’s how our adventure in Maramureș started.
We had no idea there is a wedding in the Breb village. We just wanted to check out the old houses and get lost. But as you probably know, great things happen unexpectedly and unplanned. We took part in the most authentic wedding ever. The crowds walked from the Church to the bride’s house singing, dancing and drinking “pălincă”. On my way, I asked some people about their differences in the national costumes.
What Travel Books don’t tell you about the Traditional Costumes
- Unmarried young guys wear sleeveless fur coats with bell flowers.
- Married guys wear black fur coats without bell flowers.
- It takes two years to sew a traditional bride shirt and it costs at least 2,000 euros.
How to spend 3 days in Maramureș
I suggest setting your base either in Ocna Șugatag or Vișeul de Sus. There are plenty of housing options around 80 RON (20 – 25 euros/night). The easiest way to travel around is with the car, so don’t rely on public transportation as there is none.
1. Bârsana Monastery
This monastery is an example of traditional wooden architecture and was built in the 16th century. You need to pay 5 RON to take photos and if you want to visit the museum (which I recommend you do), you’ll pay another 2 RON. Otherwise, the property is free for you to wander around, admire its flowers and beautiful wooden buildings.
2. The Merry Graveyard
This graveyard expresses another way of looking at death. You’ll find it in Săpânța village, in the front of the village church.
The Merry Cemetery is famous in Romania and around the world thanks to its unique way of looking at death. Each grave has a poem about the life of the person who died. However, not all the stories are happy. In fact, I did not find them happy at all, but just a sad – nostalgic way of relating the life of a person in lyrics. Most of the tombstones are made of oak and are dyed in a special blue color, along with other traditional mosaics.
It was the creation of a local artist Stan Ion Pătraș, who was a woodworker, poet, and painter. To really understand the poems and stories behind the tombs, I believe you need a local guide who speaks gooood English. It is really difficult to translate the poems in English because there are many Romanian archaisms and regionalisms words.
The funniest poem I found…
Is about a mother-in-law.
Under this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother-in-law
If she’d lived three more days,
I would have laid here, and she would read this cross.
You, who are passing by here
Please try not to wake her up
Cause if she comes back home
She’ll criticize me more.
But I will surely behave
So she’ll not return from the grave.
You, the ones who read this cross
I wish you not have experiences like mine
Find a good mother-in-law
And live in peace with her.
(I couldn’t make the rhymes in English )
3. Săpânța Church
Săpânța-Peri is made of oak, the tower is 78 meters tall and the building is considered the tallest wooden church in the world, being registered in the Guinness Book and in the UNESCO Patrimony.
4. Ride the Mocănița steam train
Its access point is Vișeul de Sus city. You’ll need to make a reservation in advance, it will cost you 50 RON (11 euros) and the whole trip will be 5 hours. You’re trip back in time will start at 9:00 a.m so make sure you arrive there early.
Mocănița will ride along the Vaser valley which crosses the Maramureș Mountains in the middle of one of the most beautiful and wild landscapes of Romania.
You’ll make 2 stops along the way to get supplies: water and wood. At the end of the trip, you’ll have a 1h:30m break where you can have lunch and enjoy the mountain landscape. If you’re more adventurous and like winter more, you can ride the steam train during the winter as well because there are stoves inside the wagons.
Where to eat
Go at Pastravaria Alex in Mara village, one of the best restaurants in Maramureș. You’ll get fresh trout from the mountains, other traditional Romanian food plus you’ll eat in a beautiful property next to an artificial waterfall :)
So Dear friends,
When you come to Romania, please go to Maramureș.
You’ll be impressed by the beauty and simplicity of it.