Maramures, a place from another time in a forgotten corner of Romania

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Romania is a country full of pleasant surprises. Its bad international reputation keeps many away from some of its innumerable charms. The northern county of Maramures still retains the appeal of rural traditions, which have not yet been plundered by modern life.

But who knows how much longer it will last. Everything changes in Romania that catches up with the rest of Europe quickly, via structural funds.

three old grandmas in the village
However, tourism is already here, but it seems that its perverse effects have not yet contaminated the villagers. The people of Maramures are hospitable, friendly and I would say, happy. They live in a harsh environment in winter, but of supreme beauty, and they know it.

The isolated geographical location also helps. The nearest international airport is located in the Transylvanian city of Cluj-Napoca, about 300 km south of the heart of Maramures.

The area is surrounded by a rather poor and antiquated road network, that has to overcome valleys and mountains everywhere. To the north are the Ukrainian Carpathians, and further west is a corner of Hungary that few travelers visit. It's almost perfect.

Maramures Romania
When I arrived in early spring, I was the first guest of the season in my homestay. It looked as if the people of these valleys were awake after being in hibernation mode since the last outsider left five months ago.

The room was still full of cobwebs and the dog of the house was jumping like crazy, looking for some action.

Breb Maramures
But let's start with how to get to Maramures. The provincial capital, from which to plan the assault on the region, is Baia Mare.

From Baia, my hosts recommended me to use the village of Breb as a base. And to go hitchhiking, the most efficient transport in Romania. I had not yet displayed my thumb when a beloved retired couple was already waiting for me aboard a classic Dacia 1300.

Maramures Gates
Once out the main road, instead of streets, the villages have dirt roads. And instead of rows of houses, they are estates with wooden farmhouses, sheds, and stables, decorated with big hand-carved timber gates.

Spring trees hills in rural Romania
Finding the house where I stayed was not easy. Maps are of little use, and one has the feeling that the name of the street exists just to write something for the mail and official documents. Try not to get lost or you may end up in the Kingdom of Aldovia :]

cherry trees blooming
These are white cherry trees blooming. In the distance, they look like a field of white rocks.

Manele shepherd
Golf Manele style. The Romanian Manele is like a gypsy reggaeton, funny to dance in an improvised party with violins, clarinets, and accordions, or whatever you have on hand.

Cycling in Maramures
Then you better get on the bike and follow one of the many routes available, with plenty of opportunities to take good photos.

Ocna Şugatag market
Ocna Şugatag market is still a real place of exchange of goods for the locals. So far, no souvenir stalls or circuses are set for tourists in sight.

Horse stallion copulating
What you can find here is some live sex!

Man wearing a traditional hat in Maramures
People do not mind being photographed. Nor to use a bowl of breakfast as a hat.

Man playing drum and drinking Palinka
Here you drink Palinka, the favorite liquor in the lands of Hungarian influence. And then the drums are played with joy.

Monastery of Barsana
After pedaling up and down, we come to the famous monastery of Barsana. Eight of the churches in Maramures, including one here, are part of the UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Maramures wooden Church
Barsana is one of the must of Maramures, a set of wooden buildings of sharp spires pointing to the sky.

Towers belfry Maramures
There I met this charming and elegant pair of towers.

Windy road in Transylvania with rays of sun and clouds
It's getting late and there are still many miles of road to return to the fold.

Breb town Blue hour
Blue hour in Breb church, a building that looks huge in the middle of the countryside.

Charles the Prince of Wales Village
Charles the Prince of Wales was for a time linked to the village of Breb, as he owned a couple of houses.

Merry cemetery Sapana
In a village near the border with Ukraine, there is located the Sapana merry cemetery. The tombstones are painted in bright colors and include an explanation about the life of the deceased. Image by Richard Mortel

Horse pulling a cart with wooden logs
Another reason why Maramures survived the 20th century: Apparently when the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu visited the county, he liked the way people were living here.

Thus he allowed its inhabitants to continue with their traditions, avoiding the collectivization of agriculture. Another version says that opposition to the process was so strong, and they were so far from everywhere, that local party cadres simply gave up trying to implement it.

Parcul Natural Munții Maramureșului
And this is the lovely dog who took me out for a walk.

  1. Haha, breakfast bowl? I love our traditional hats! I'm a Maramures girl myself and I was happy to find this article...makes homesick easier.

    1. With breafast bowls or without, this is an amazing land!


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