Maramures County – the place where time stood still

Maramures Travel Blog

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Barsana Monastery


You’ve all seen the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum. But have you seen how the highest wooden building in the world looks like?  Or have you ever met people laughing and kidding about their own death? If you haven't, then you must visit Maramures.

Here are some quick facts before moving on:

Maramures is a county in the north of Romania, Transylvania more precisely, and its about 6,600 km² almost half of it is covered by Rodna Mountains with the highest peak at 2,300m (Pietrosul). The rest of the county are hills, plateaus, and valleys and it’s crossed by Tisa River and its main tributaries: Iza, Viseu, and Mara rivers.

Population is about 520,000 people with a minority of Hungarians (9%), Ukrainians and Russians (7%), Gypsies (2%) and Germans (1%)

Also I must tell you I was born in Maramures, in Sighetu Marmatiei, a small town in the north of Transylvania, and have many great memories while stayed there even though just for a short time, but spend most of my childhood vacations there and visiting my relatives.

Sapanta Merry Cemetery - Cross

So back to Maramures county. Whats all about? Why should you visit?

For my personally it’s just a small piece of paradise. The landscape is fantastic. Everywhere you look there is something that will make you reach for your camera and make a picture that later you may use it as your wallpaper for your computer.

And if you are not a nature freak than there are more reasons you should go. The craftwork industry as well as for its churches and original rural architecture is something unique even for Transylvania. The woodwork, the astonishing wood carved gates, wooden crosses, the customs and the local way of life and worth exploring.

Another thing that Maramures is famous for are the wooden monasteries which are spread all over the county. Either if you are in search of spiritual peace or you just want to see how the biggest wood structure in the world looks like, Maramures can offer you both.

wood gate in Maramures
The tallest wooden monastery is Sapanta-Peri (75 meters • that’s about 246 feet, taller than the statue of liberty) and also my favorite Barsana Monastery (a bit “smaller” - 62 meters • 203 feet)

Now let me tell you about the people. Friendly is just a small word. Imagine the Irish… well its something like that. You can find your self in countryside asking for directions and the next thing you know you are sitting for lunch or dinner with them. The concept here is something like: “If you are coming in my house I will treat you like a king and will be an honor for me to have you as a guest”. The food is great • some go there just for that. Plenty of drinks as well some of them very strong (horinca • plum brandy between 40%-55% ). Everywhere you go you are expected to eat and drink a lot, and always you will be served and invited to have “just a lil bit more” or “you have to try this, it’s the best”, etc.

Highest wooden building in the world - Monestery of Sapanta-Peri 75 meters - 246 feet tall
Sometimes it can be a bit irritating. Just remember refusing everything is considered an insult so you have to have at least something, even if is just symbolically.

A quick note: during the history, starting from the Roman Empire conquest till the communist regime of Ceausescu, people here couldn't be occupied or told what to do. Even Ceausescu couldn’t make his industrialization plans here so it’s easy to tell that these people really like their freedom.

A good time to visit is during the most two important events there, Easter and Christmas. You’ll have the chance to see the local customs, traditions, listen to their music, witch for a foreigner are quite fascinating.

Maybe as a confirmation about how people here see life and death, The Merry Cemetery from Sapanta says it all better without any more comments.

View
It is famous for its colorful tombstones with native paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives (some funny, some sad with good and bad, weaknesses and strengths).

Here a funny epitaph:
"Here lies my mother-in-law.
Had she lived another year,
I would have lied here."

Well this is me talkin about Maramures, hope I didn’t get you bored. Anyways, it’s a great place to visit and I’m sure you’ll like. Even Prince Charles loved the place and he bought 3 wooden houses in Breb Village

Here are my recommendations, where to go / what to do:
- For accommodation I recommend to try the pensions (agro-tourism is developing very much lately). Many of the local population are making villas and accommodation houses providing all the facilities you need.

Little kids

- Visit the wooden churches  protected by UNESCO - Surdesti, Calinesti, Sarbi, Budesti, Sugatag, Ieud, Barsana, Bogdan Voda, Sapanta-Peri;
- Maramures Mountains Natural Park;
- See the water powered machines (fueling watermills, thresher, alcohol distilleries, whirlpools);
- The Merry Cemetery from Sapanta;
- Try the local cuisine and beverages;
- Visit the Vaser Valley, where runs the only steam powered train (called Mocanita);
- Visit the town Sighetu Marmatiei;
- Pietrosu Rodnei Natural Reserve;
- Ski resort at Cavnic.

tersia says:
wow, thanks!! Great blog, I just have to go there!!! maybe Christmas 2012... :)
Posted on: Nov 13, 2010
erdei_reka says:
congratulations, this is a great presentation of Maramures!i was there only one time, but is the county where i will return:)
Posted on: Sep 25, 2008
AleksandraEa says:
it look beautiful there! So thats on my map ;-)
Posted on: May 31, 2008
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Barsana Monastery
Barsana Monastery
Sapanta Merry Cemetery - Cross
Sapanta Merry Cemetery - Cross
wood gate in Maramures
wood gate in Maramures
Highest wooden building in the wor…
Highest wooden building in the wo…
View
View
Little kids
Little kids
detail
detail
woodwork
woodwork
old and young
old and young
Dance
Dance
before the rain
before the rain
Traditional song and dance
Traditional song and dance
Maramures
Maramures
Wooden Monastery
Wooden Monastery
detail
detail
cross (celtic influence)
cross (celtic influence)
barsana
barsana
barsana
barsana
Barsana
Barsana
Merry Cemetery - Sapanta
Merry Cemetery - Sapanta
Barsana
Barsana
old lady
old lady
Merry Cemetery
Merry Cemetery
view - Maramures
view - Maramures
hay
hay
sheep
sheep
wood cross
wood cross
wood cross
wood cross
Barsana
Barsana
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Maramures
photo by: Marius1981