As a city dweller, I often felt trapped between the concrete walls and the quotidian worries that slowly makes us forget about our ancient roots. In this times, I try to seek a place where I can retreat and reconnect with the simple life our grand-grandparents used to enjoy, without the worry that Wi-Fi connection is not working on your smartphone, leaving you unable to read your e-mails. I manage to find the perfect sanctuary in the land of Maramures. Filled with a rich history, local traditions, and untamed wilderness, the small villages have changed little over time, looking like being stuck in an old history book. The valleys and thick forests, surrounded by rocky ridges, tell great stories about brave outlaws, who fought for the rights of the ordinary people and fled into the woods to escape the King’s army. Does this sound like a familiar story to you? Perhaps Robin Hood is a name that pops into your mind, and mine, when I talk about these things. But here, in Maramures, Pintea is the name of the brave man who believed in a change.
Maramures was a very vast area in the northern part of old Romania. Unfortunately, today only half of it is officially mapped as being part of the country. The other half expands over the border further north, into the Ukrainian territory. But even so, it is worth to come here and see how it all began. Regardless if you choose to visit the area in the winter or the summer, the people here will always welcome you with an open heart. Although, it may be the most exciting experience, as I found out, to be here during the Easter or Christmas holidays. The people here are very religious and are very fond of their ancestral heritage and customs regarding the way these holidays are being celebrated. I never found such traditions made and respected throughout these periods.
I must admit I felt mesmerized by the old wooden church. The previous generations had a unique way of building them. Never saw anything like them anywhere else. If I am talking about the local architecture, I must admit that another thing that amazed me was the fact that some houses had wooden gates tall and decorated with intricate wooden sculptures. It seems like the people living in this area had an attraction towards beautiful visual arts. I ended up understanding this attraction when I reached the Merry Cemetery, in Sapanta. Yes, you probably are asking yourself what is so merry about a cemetery. Well, it is the tombstones. Not a stone, but rather a large wooden cross, painted in various colors, depicting a scene from the life of the deceased. Some rimes were also added near the painting, says a few words in a amusing manner about the person that was resting there. Now this is a complete new approach to death and burial habits. I believed I did mention earlier that the people of Maramures are always open-hearted and with an excellent sense of humor.
If you want to experience something unique, you must go to Viseu de Sus. When I heard about this opportunity, I didn’t think twice. Here I found a one of a kind sylvan train in the country, still functioning. For a small amount of money, I took a magical trip with this train up into the mountains. It was once used to carry wood, but now the train is modified to take people on a unique journey in the wild landscape. I had to be patient, as the voyage lasted quite a while, considering the intricate forest itinerary, slopes and the fact that the train still runs on coal. But it was the perfect way for me to connect with the old ways and the beautiful nature.
Luckily, my adventure in Maramures did not stop here. If you are an outdoor junkie, as I am, you must see the Rooster’s Ridge (Creasta Cocosului), a natural reservation in the Gutai Mountains. To get there, I traveled by car from Baia Mare, the closest city in the area. The road only led to one point, where we had to abandon the car and walk the rest on foot. But it was worth every effort to the top. It is a protected IUCN area for habitat and unique species of the area, so it was a delight to discover it. I tried to not disturb with anything the perfect balance I found in the area. I just used my eye to see the beauty and nose to feel the pure mountain air. It was not a difficult mountain trail since the ridge’s maximum height is 1450m. But the place was great to observe untouched flora and wildlife. Maramures is a place that will certainly remain in my memories, which I leave with the hope of returning here once more.About the author: Daniel Gheorghita is an experienced Romanian licensed tour guide living in Bucharest and manager of Covinnus Travel. He is very passionate about photography, hiking and biking. His motto is "Life must be fun". That's why his hobbies are part of the daily work.