This is the last post dedicated to the trip to my home country of Romania and soon I'll get back to weight loss and hiking topics. But first let me tell you about my weekend in Maramures! A beautiful, picturesque corner of the globe where ancient traditions and customs not only endure but prosper!
As a Romanian, I always knew Maramures was a beautiful part of the country. I've never been there personally, but I grew up hearing about it. It's this almost mythical land that, in this hi tech, high paced and fast changing world, refuses to do away with its customs and traditions and still instills them into the younger generations. Popular clothing is still used on a daily basis, pots are hanged in a tree in the garden to announce that a girl ready for marriage in the household and people still ride decorated horses at weddings. I wanted to see and, more importantly, experience this famed region and all its particularities for myself.
As soon as you approach the Maramures county, the forest seems to engulf all of the surroundings. The sub-Carpathian hills that dominate the region are heavily forested and everywhere you look all seems to be painted green. Across the hills is Ukraine and the once Romanian province of Bucovina. We found accommodation in the small village of Botiza, at one of the numerous agro-tourism pensions scattered around the area.
Our host was a wonderful and hard working woman who did everything she could to make our stay more pleasant. You can find very cheap rooms in the region. We payed about 16€/21$ a night per person with breakfast and dinner included! Needless to say, the food was delicious! They cooked traditional Romanian cuisine and everything using fresh home grown ingredients. For breakfast we had fresh milk for their own cows and honey from their own apiary. I gained about 5 pounds in two days! Well worth it!
But we didn't go there to sit and eat. There are some nationwide and even worldwide tourist attractions that are a must if you visit Maramures. Due to time restrictions, we decided that we would visit three of these definitely and any others if we have the time. These three were: The Merry Cemetery at Sapanta, the Village museum at Sighetul Marmatiei and the Barsana Monastery. But as I mentioned before, there is no need to go visit something specific while in Maramures as the whole region is like a living museum. We would often stop the car to take pictures of just regular houses or gates or churches. I have so many beautiful pictures that I want to share with you that I think I could have written 10 posts on this wonderful land.
The first thing we visited was the "Merry Cemetary" at Sapanta. This cemetery is very famous in Romania and has even gained some international fame due to the colorful tombstones (they are actually oak crosses) and the short and sometimes funny poems written on them. the tradition was started in 1935 and to date there are about 800 tombstones in the cemetery. There is an entry fee, which to my shame, I did not pay since I did not notice the small hut in the sea of tourists. So I cannot tell you how much it costs but it shouldn't be more than 3$ or so! I found the cemetery interesting but if you do not speak Romanian you will need someone to translate the poems as they are all in Romanian. Not far from the cemetery is the Sapanta Monastery that is also well worth a visit!
The second objective that we ticked off the list was the Barsana Monastery. It is truly a beautiful and peaceful complex of traditional Maramures wooden churches. The grounds are kept in superb condition by the nuns and priests that are inhabiting the complex. There isn't really much I can write about the monastery, you need to see it for yourselves. The interiors are also very beautiful and colorful.
The third place we visited was the Village Museum in Sighetul Marmatiei., on the Ukrainian border. I found this to be a very underrated tourist attraction and I am sad that it is not being promoted more actively. At under 2$, the entry fee is a joke, given that you also receive a post card in this fee! Some people don't even bother to pay this and just go right past the traditional house that was converted into a toll booth. I told them that I wanted to pay also the photo tax (it was written 3$ above the head of the clerk) and to my surprise, instead of taking my money immediately, they told me that I did not need to pay if I take pictures with my smartphone. I told them that I have a camera and I insisted to pay. It's the least I could do to help support this wonderful place. The premises are pretty large and there are dozens of traditional houses and farming annexes to be inspected. For the best experience visit during a sunny day! The place is so tranquil and serene!
Maramures is a wonderful place, full of romanticism, seemingly frozen in time and detached from the fast pace of change around it. If you truly want a relaxing holiday away from the hustle and bustle of city life, a couple of weeks in this beautiful part of the world is guaranteed to recharge your batteries and save you some change at the same time!