Maramureş is located in the northern part of Transylvania, Romania, and is considered one of the best culturally preserved areas of Europe. It is one of the largest depressions in the country, hidden between three mountains called Oaș – Gutâi – Țibleș, in the Oriental Carpathians.
This amazing place takes you “diving” inside an unspoiled rural life, where you can witness the customs of Romanian peasants and their sacred relationship with nature. This province still holds the spirit of the ancestors.
Maramureş is a place where daily traditional costumes are untouched by urban influences. The unique clothing of the region can be admired when the “Moroşeni” (as the inhabitants are dubbed) go to church or celebrate other types of holidays. Each real “Moroşan” has a folk costume in his wardrobe.
Not only the old people are wearing the traditional costumes, but also the “cocoons” (preschool children), which makes the tradition have continuity in time.
Don’t be surprised to see these people wearing their costumes while working the fields, mowing, gathering hay, digging or even shepherding. Usually, the “weekday clothes” are made manually in the loom from linen and hemp. Cotton is used only for celebrations and it comes in a rich palette of embroideries and colors, revealing the imagination and talent of women, transmitted from generation to generation.
Another delightful thing about the people in Maramureş is their special sense of humor. They are wonderful hosts, happy to be together in celebrating unity and the richness of nature. For a genuine experience go to a local house, spend time with the hosts, listen to their stories, drink a glass of horinca (brandy) and taste the traditional dishes.
Their playful spirit also leave marks on the places they build, and a good example is the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa (colorful tombstones with naive paintings which poetically describe the persons who are buried there), which is unique in the world.
Maramureş is a civilization that values wood in all its forms. The place is enriched by old wood churches (eight of which are designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites) and complex wood sculptures throughout.
Tradition is fundamental to the life of this land; therefore every holiday is lived intensely. And of course, the costumes are always present.
During Christmas, holiday lights in Maramureş never go off and groups of singers dressed in leather clothes, some playing instruments, wander from house to house until the next morning. The celebration is full of beautiful customs, loaded by meanings.
In addition to famous Christmas carols, other unaltered traditions make the place spiritually enriching. Carolers are rewarded with nuts and apples, hot cakes and sausages, wine and horinca, “to keep them warm”.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated with feasts, carols and delicious traditional food. During the last night of the year, the households turn into realms of laughter and reminiscing good times.
#When to visit
Maramureş is a welcoming land all year long, but the weather is nice starting with late Spring, until early Autumn. Winter is pretty cold, but the villages are always bustling. There are many traditional wood houses available for renting or you can sleep in the house of a welcoming local family. Easter and Christmas are the perfect time to visit if you want to see Romanian traditions in full blossom.
# How to get there
There are many flights from all over the world that land in Cluj, the most important city in Transylvania, situated 2,5 hours away by car. You can also take the train from Cluj to Baia Mare and then take a bus further to the villages. The end point for your journey should be one of the following locations: Sighetu Marmatiei, Cavnic, Breb, Rohia or Borsa, mostly all the villages along Iza Valley.
Last but not least, if you are a pure nature addict, the surrounding wild Carpathian Mountains are perfect for testing your orientation and physical skills. Also, try an unforgettable travel in time with the one hundred years old Mocăniţa Steam Train. It slides through Maramureș Mountains Nature Park on the last forestry railway in the Northern Carpathians, called “Vaser Valley Railway”.