Maramures, among the 10 European Discoveries for 2021

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One of Romania’s iconic regions, Maramures, has made through the top 10 European Discoveries for 2021 recommended by a renowned US travel blogger and author, Cameron Hewitt.

The blogger describes Mararmures, northern Romania Maramureș as “a place that time forgot”, yet mentioning the difficult ride up to it “ten long, potholed hours of driving north of Bucharest”.

“The rolling green hillsides are dotted with giant, tipsy haystacks. Rustic villages with mud roads — and more horse carts than cars — are lined with elaborate wooden churches and ceremonial gateways. Shepherds living in split-wood shacks make cheese like medieval peasants. And riverside settlements bustle with industry dating back to biblical times, from carpet-washers to fulling mills to to weaving looms to moonshine stills. This is not an “open-air folk museum”, it’s the real deal, Europe’s Amish Country”, reads his description of Maramures.

Cameron Hewitt opines that in the post-pandemic world, travelers will look for something different. “Before COVID-19, we had gotten so busy, and so stressed by the crowds, that we forgot to slow down and hear the church bells — to savor those beautiful everyday moments of European life. (If I have a post-pandemic resolution, it’s to not make this mistake again.) Having renewed our appreciation for the incredible privilege of being able to go anywhere we want, we’ll seek opportunities to settle in, slow down, and be fully present in Europe. We’ll choose places just outside the mainstream, ones that reward patience and contemplation.”


We would add that, while in Maramures, do not miss the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, famous for it flaring crosses engraved with unusual epitaphs, or Sapanta Peri Monastery, the highest wooden church in the world.

Famous for its colorful tombstones with naive paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the persons that are buried there as well as scenes from their lives, the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta became an open-air museum and a national tourist attraction.

The Merry Cemetery in Sapanta. Photo credit: Adrian Petrisor

The cemetery’s origins are linked with the name of Ioan Pătraș Stan, a local artist who sculpted the first tombstone crosses. In 1935, Pătraș carved the first epitaph and, as of the 1960s, more than 800 of such oak wood crosses came into sight. Ever since Pătraș died in 1977, his apprentice, artist Dumitru Pop Tincu, has been carrying on his work. The epitaphs are either funny, free and easy, or universal and profound.

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