Category Archives: Maramures

Romania – 6 day interior tour, part 2. The Maramureş Region – wooden monasteries, The Merry Cemetery, The memorial to the victims of communism and more ……

We continued driving through the Maramureş region in NE Romania with more gorgeous scenery at every turn and some awesome haystacks.

Roadside scenery and haystacks.

We visited a private house in Dragomiresti that has been turned into the Museum of the Peasant woman. I should say a “peasant woman” is not the derogatory term we might think as it is an honoured role with recognition that the women do almost everything – educate the kids, ferry them around, cook, clean, shop, grow vegetables etc etc. – nothing new here then…

The wooden house below was the museum and is designed in traditional style. The wooden rope carving is a symbol of the family sticking together and is repeated in the way dough is crossed and baked. The pole with the saucepans on it in front of the house indicates it has a lady ready to find a husband inside (as long as there is a pot at the very top!). The shawls are hand embroidered and specially for wrapping around icons.

Museum of the Peasant Woman House

We then moved on through the Carpathian Mountains of Northern Transylvania to the Bârsana monastery famous for its wood buildings. Wood is big in these parts and it is indeed heavily forested although some unscrupulous companies seem to be deforesting at a rate of knots – even in the national parks! Presumably the Romanian government turns a blind eye!?! Not good.

Below is where the priests and nuns live on the monastery grounds. Views and premises not too shabby.

Bârsana Monastery – Priests live in the first house and nuns in the second.

There are then various churches and shrines on the grounds all made from wood in traditional style. Just gorgeous – even on a cloudy and rainy day.

And the interiors of the Orthodox Church (Romanian Orthodox is more akin to Greek Orthodox whereas Bulgarian is more similar to Russian Orthodox) have the usual frescos telling stories but in a far simpler artistic style than the monasteries at Bucovina. Even the open staircase and the nails are made of wood as you can see bottom right.

Interiors of the wooden church in Borsana

In Bogdan Voda we saw the oldest wooden church right next to a much newer version – same style but I know what I prefer.

Oldest wooden church in Bogdan Voda

This area is famous for its large wooden gates which are placed at the external part of many houses leading to the front drive. Traditionally they has two doors – a narrow one for people and a wider one for animals.

Traditional Wooden Gates in Maramureş

Having seen so many it was great to meet the father (Toader Barson) and son team who design and make a lot of these both locally and for a worldwide audience too. Their fame has spread but they are down to earth people and it was fun to meet and and chat with them.

Meeting the woodworkers in Maramureş

Next stop was the Merry Cemetery in Sapinta started by Stan Ioan Patras who took on the ancient Thracian View that death was just another part of life so rather than be sad it was right to be Merry. As a result both the church and all the wooden tombstones are cheerful sleuth carved pictures and stories about those who have died. Some are quite funny. See if you can spot the difficult mother in law!

Local traditional clothing for the seasons at the Merry Cemetery Sighet

Colourful Wooden headstones at the Merry Cemetery

Every picture tells a story – not always flattering!

It is definitely stork breeding season and they seem to like poles in just towns. Great to see lots of chicks in the nests before they start their flying lessons.

Look what the stork brought

I didn’t realise the renowned Auschwitz survivor and and Nobel prize winner, Elie Wiesel was born in the nearby town of Sighet so made a quick stop at his house which is now a museum. No time to visit but glad I took a quick look.

Elie Wiesel memorial and his original home

Still in Sighet I visited the chilling Memorial to the Victims of Communism Museum houses in a former prison. Each prison cell is set up to explain about. A different aspect of the rise of communism and those who fought against it over the forty or so years it took its hold in Romania. Over two million were killed during that time. Another harrowing story of what humans can do to each other in the pursuit of power and control.

Memorials to the victims of communism and quiet area for contemplation

Powerful sculpture – Procession of the Sacrificed Beings – representing the desire to herd people to one way of thinking which is represented by a solid brick wall

That evening I overnighted at a homestay. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the house was huge – I had a bedroom, living room and en-suite and then enjoyed a home cooked meal. It was really fun and made a nice change from being in a hotel.

Traditional meat and vegetable soup with sour cream and a peck of pickled peppers (possible Peter Piper’s?); sammerle (stuffed cabbage): chicken with paprika and rice, colourful pickled vegetable and pancakes with home made cherry jam and more sour cream (homemade and so thick you could turn the dish upside down and it didn’t fall out!)

A really busy and long day but enjoyed seeing and learning new things.