Romanian-American Network, Inc.
Romanian-American Network, Inc.
Romanian-American Network, Inc.
Romanian-American Network, Inc.

Romania - Places to Go

 

When you say Romania you say the Carpathians, the Black Sea, the Danube Delta, the monasteries in the North of Moldavia, and the ancient traditions of Maramures. There is also, Transylvania with its well-known legend of Dracula, the sweet wine, and the tasty traditional cuisine. But above all, Romania is a beautiful country due to its people’s hospitality. As the geographical area is not that wide, the variety of sights may strike you as surprising. In Romania you can go to the seaside for a perfect tan but you may as well reach the highest peaks of the wild mountains, explore the deep caverns or the Danube Delta. And you still have choices, as you can spend your time enjoying the prosperity of a traditional household, with good food and excellent wine.

Romania’s Carpathians - the pleasure of freedom

Known as “Corona Montium” in the ancient times, the Carpathians form a third of the country’s territory, and represent the second European mountain chain after the Alps. Although they are not as high as the Alps, the Carpathians are equally picturesque and spectacular. Placed as an arch inside the country, the Carpathians for three major distinct chain (Oriental, Southern and Western Carpathians), each one displaying its particular beauty and hospitable landscapes.

The Oriental Carpathians stretch from the north-eastern frontier down to Prahova Valley. They are the longest volcanoes chain in Europe, comprising of the massifs Oas, Gutâi, Tibles, Cãlimani, Harghita, Bodoc and Baraolt.

The second mountains chain, the Southern Carpathians, is placed between Prahova Valley and Timis-Cerna corridor. Here there are the highest mountain peaks from Romania (Peak Moldoveanu in Fãgãras- 2544m, Negoiu Peak – 2535m, Parângu Mare peak 2519m, Peleaga Peak 2509m, Omu Peak – 2505m).

The Western Carpathians are placed in the west side of the country, between Danube and Somes. They are famous for their caves-such as Scãrisoara with a millenary glacier, unique in Europe and Pestera Ursilor – the Bears Cave – with a name inspired by the bear fossils discovered here.

Anywhere in the Carpathians area one can enjoy winter sport or summer holidays in beautiful mountain resorts, or can benefit from the therapeutic effects of thermal water. There is a modern infrastrucure of hotels villas, Alpine chalets, camping, ski-lift and accessible roads. All for your holidays.

Skiing is one of the tourists’ favorite activities, as there are modern tracks, generously lit up in the night. Some of the best known tracks in Romania are the ones on Prahova Valley and the surroundings (Sinaia, Azuga, Predeal, Poiana Brasov), those on Valea Jiului and those from Semenic Massif. Glacial circles situated at a height of 1900-2000 m in Fãgãras, Rodna, Retezat and Semenic massive, allow tourists to practice winter sports until the end of the spring.

The mountaineering and alpine climbing are perfect sports for these mountains. The most important alpine climbing center of Romania is in Busteni (in Bucegi Massif).

Fortunately, the pollutant civilization did not affected the Carpathians Mountains yet. The ancient woods, the refreshing air rich in oxygen, the mountain paths linking attractive alpine chalets are obviously strong motivations for the nature loving tourists. And still, there are other attracting elements in the Carpathians such as natural parks that shelter rare animals- the lynx, the bear, the carpathian stag, the European bison, the black goat etc.

Hunting is another sport that can be practiced in the Carpathians. Amateur hunters take great pride in the trophies obtained “fighting” with the wild boars, bears, hares or the pheasant and wild ducks species.

Roads intented for mountain cycling, glacial lakes, caves hiding a wonderful world, the strange forms of peaks and rocks, cascades and mineral water springs are futher reasons to come and visit the Carpathians. The famous mountain resorts of Romania – Sinaia, Predeal and Poiana Brasov, Tusnad, Vatra Dornei and Sovata, Bãile Herculane and Cãlimãnesti – Cãciulata, Pãltinis and Borsa - are all departure points for charming expeditions in the mysterious world of the Carpathians.

National Retezat Park

In the year 2000, natures fans celebrated the 65th anniversary of the setting up of the first National Park in our country, at the initiative of the word famous scientist and botanic specialist Alexandru Borza, the founder of the Botanical gardens of Cluj-Napoca and of some other outstanding Romanian scienific, historical and cultural personalities.

In the 6th session of the International Council for the Coordination of the Man-Nature Programme, held in Paris, in 1979, the National Retezat Park was declared a “Biosphere Reserve”. Today, the National Retezat Park was declared a “Biosphere Reserve”. Today, the National Retezat Park, which includes several operational zones, covers a surface of about 38,100 ha.

In the last decade of the month of June, the Hunedoara County Council issued, at the proposal of the National Retezat Park, a new Regulation for the organization and operation of the National Retezat Park-Biosphere Reserve.

The regulation elaborated by it includes four chapters which settle a number of activities pertaining to the park management, scientific research, grazing, constructions, forestry, fishing, Salvamont services, financing and sanctions.

A special section deals, with the many side problems of tourism, with the rules which have to be observed in the National Park. Here are some of them:

The access to the National Park, starting with the date when the new Regulation comes into force, is made only from the Gura Zlata, Baleia, Buta, Pietrile, Rotunda, Râusor Chalets as well as from Stâna de Râu;

On the entire duration of the trip, the tourists are bound to walk only on the marked paths; Camping in the Retezat Mountains is allowed only in the area of the Pietrile, Gura Zlata, Rotunda, Baleia, Buta, Câmpusel chalets, in the zones especially organized by the holders of these plots of lands as well as in Poiana Pelegii and in Stâna de Râu. In the central area of the immediate neighbourhood of the refuge of the Salvamont formation of the town of Lupeni which operates on a regular basis during the summer tourist season. Under a very special regim, for only one night, tent camping is also allowed in the valley of Zãnoaga Lake, near the permanent point of the Salvamont formation of the town of Hunedoara. It is definitely forbidden to dig ditches around the places where the tents are located. The lighting of fires of any nature is allowed only in the places especially organized for such purposes in the camping sites in the zone of the Pietrel and Gura Zlata chalets as well as in Poiana Pelegii, and only with the wood provided by the administrator of these camping sites. It is also forbidden to light the fires in the alpine voids and in the forests. No firewood is secured in the camping sites in the alpine void. It is also forbidden cut and pick up the wood of any nature to light the fire. It is definitely forbidden to use detergents in the running waters and in the alpine lakes to wash various household articles or clothes and also to take baths. The use of the various boats on the alpine lakes for fishing or for leisure purposes is sanctioned with a fine. The organizations of the various sports, tourist, cultural and educational competitions and events is carried out only with the accord and approval of the National Retezat Park Administration and of the public services of the Salvamont formations of Hunedoara country. A very important rule of the new regulation refers to access of dogs to the National Park, which is allowed under the conditions in which these pet animals are permanently kept tied and if an entry tax is paid for them.

The failure to observe these provisions attracts financial sanctions.

The National Retezat Park includes the following operational areas: the Gemenele Scientific Reserve which covers a surface of 1,630 ha., forming an integrally protected zone; the Central Zone of the National retezat Park, with a surface which exceeds 16,885 ha. Controlled mountain tourism, as well as other educational and cultural activities are admitted in the Central Zone.

Romanian seaside

The seaside of the Black Sea, known as Pontus Euxinus in antiquity is 244 km in length, from Chilia (one of the Danube’s arms) in the North and the Southern border of the country. The relief in the Northern part is characteristic for a delta, with offshore bars and lagoons, while the relief in the Southern part, between Chilia Cape and Vama Veche (towards the Bulgarian border) is higher, with sea walls, gulfs and promontories. The beaches are wide: 250 m at Mangalia and Terchirghiol and 50-200m in other places.

The Romanian litoral rivals the Mediterranean seaside, and is famous for its fine sand, of a special quality. The Black Sea’s water has a salinity level of only 17%, lower than the other continental seas, thus offering the optimum conditions for practicing sub-aquatic and nautical sporta. The litoral platform has an extremely reduced inclination. There are broad areas of 100-200m where the seawater is only 1 m to 1,5 m in depth, thus eliminating any risk factor. The seawater is calm, without powerful tides. The medium latitude and low altitude favour a dry climate and subsequently, a longer summertime season (between the second half of May till October). The seashore is oriented towards the East, producting a maximum luminosity during the daytime, and offering the possibility to contemplate superb sunrises or sunsets.

The lakes nearby the litoral (Techirghiol, Agigea, Costinesti, Agighiol, Nuntasi) have an extraordinary curative value. Besides the curative effects of the water, these lakes contain organogenous mud deposits.

The medical therapy is not the only advantage of this region. A great variety of entertaining activities can be developed on the littoral- such as tennis, mini-golf, bowling, equitation and scooter tours.

Tourist can visit several historical vestiges and relics, like the Greek fortresses dated in the 7th and 6th centuries BC: Histria, Tomis (nowadays Constanta), Calatis (nowadays Mangalia).

Tourists have frequently visited the Southern part of the litoral, wich is 72 km in length, ever since the end of the 19th century. Since 1959, the seaside resorts have been constantly modernized: Mamaia, Eforie Nord, Eforie Sud, Techirghiol, Costinesti, Neptun-Olimp, Jupiter, Cap Aurora, Venus, Saturn, Mangalia have loyal clientele of thousands of tourists from all around the world. Nowadays, the accommodation capacity of the resorts is of approximately 160.000 places. One can travel between the resorts (and even board for a tour of Mamaia) by “mini-car” a special mini-vehicle which links Mamaia to Neptun-Olimp.

The Danube - "The King of the European Rivers"

Considered the second-longest river in Europe after the Rhine, the Danube flows 2,858 km (1,776 miles) from Germany’s Black Forest Mountains to the Black Sea. Its basin of over 800,000 sq. km,( 312,000 sq. miles) comprises about 80,000,000 inhabitants in nine countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Yugoslavian Rep. Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine). The Danube was mentioned in Herodotus’ Histories (484-425 BC) and Napoleon named it “the King of European Rivers”.

The Danube covers its last 1,075 km (668 miles) on Romanian territory, entering our country at Portile de Fier and ending its journey in the Danube Delta, the most representative delta in Europe and one of the most complex in the world. In Romania the DANUBE has 12 riverside districts along its route: Caras-Severin, Mehedinti, Dolj, Olt, Teleorman, Giurgiu, Cãlãrasi, Constanta, Ialomita, Brãila, Galati and Tulcea.

Caras-Severin is remarkable for its picturesque caves in the Banat mountains, for the karst lakes and underground rivers. Here you will also find the beautiful resort and spa Bãile Herculane.

Among the attractions of the district Mehedinti are: the ruins of the Roman bridge at Drobeta, built from the draft of the architect Apollodor of Damasc, the Museum: „Portile de Fier“ (Iron Gates) in the town Drobeta-Turnu-Severin, the cave at Topolnita, the harbour Orsova (where you can take voyages on the Danube, at Cazane - Danube’s Strait), the natural bridge at Ponoarele (60m. or 197 feet long), the artificial lake Portile de Fier (the largest on the Danube) and the hydroelectric plant.

In the Olt district, you can visit the ruins of Dacian and Roman fortresses from Romula, Limes, Rusidava and Sucidava. The “Cãlusarii” dance, renowned all over the world has its ancient origins in this area. Downstream lies town of Giurgiu, an important harbour on the Danube since the 10th century; it was founded by the Genoveses on the site of an ancient Roman fortress named San Giorgio.

Father downstream there are three more important localities: Cernavoda (the ancient Axiopolis, where the Romanian atomic electric power station is situated); Brãila (an important harbour used as a departure point for numerous cruises on the Danube hunting and fishing programs); and Galati (the shipyard).

The Danube Delta - the youngest European land

The Danube’s Delta is the youngest dry land in Europe, growing 40 km (25 miles) a year. It is also the third- largest delta in Europe (after the Volga’s and Kuban’s deltas) and the 22nd in the world.

The Biospheric reservation covers a surface of 5,800 km2 (2,300sq mi.) and includes the proper Delta, the lagoon complex Razim-Sinoe, and the Danube’s basin up to Cotul Pisicii. The Delta covers a total suface of 4,178km2 (1,630 sq. miles); 80% of this surface is on Romanian land. The Delta has the shape of an equilateral triangle, whose sides cover approximately 80 km (50 mi.). Its climate is continental, favorably influenced by the sea’s vicinity. The annual average temperature: 11C°(52°F), and in the summer: 21-24°C (70-75°F).

Situated exactly midway between the North Pole and Equator, The Delta was formed in between the Danube’s three river mouths to the Black Sea:

Chilia – the northern and most active arm of the Danube, with two ramification groups and its own micro-delta. It is 120 km (75 mi.) long and it forms another micro delta at the river mouth, most of it situated on Ukraine territory;

Sulina- is the straightest and shortest arm, but also the best equipped arm of the Danube. It is 63.7 km (40 mi) long, and it is a channel for river and maritime navigation where large vessels can flow;

Sfântu Gheorghe – the oldest Danubian arm, 69.7km (43mi.) long

The sand banks are the main form of relief in the Delta. They are alluvian deposits along the river’s waters and along th seashore, or pieces of land between waters. The most important ones are Letea, Caraoman, Stipoc and Crâsnicol.

Danube Delta - a variety of life forms

The Danube’s Delta hosts 98% of the European aquatic fauna – more than 3,400 species – some of them unique in the whole world. Here you can find 300 bird species, many of them natural monuments protected by law, i.e. the common pelican and the curly pelican, the cormorant, the big egret and the small egret, the white egret, the spoon bill, the swan, the wild goose and the winter duck. You can see large colonies of pelicans at the south of the arm Sfântul Gheorghe: Uzlina, Maliuc and those of the lakes Fortuna and Matisa.

Approximately 160 fish species (including sturgeon, grey mullet herring, pike, salmon, barbel, perch, and crucian) represent a constant temptation for the fishermen. Fishing is allowed all year, with the exception of 60 days beginning in April when the fish spawn.

Among the mammals in the Delta, there are otters, foxes, wild cats, wolves, bear, wild boar, polecats, hare and visons (belonging to the family of precious fur- bearing animals). The sands cover turtles, vipers and snake colonies.

Over 1,150 species of plants form the richness of the Delta flora. You can find plants with floating leaves (the white water lily, yellow water lily, frog lettuce, the short water lily, the water caltrop, and Aldrovanda, a rare carnivore plant); floating islands (reeds, club rush, water ferns, sorrel, aquatic mint, and water cumin); and land plants (white willow, poplar, alder, wild cherry, and ash trees).

There are three forests considered natural monuments in the Delta: Letea (in the northeast, the most impressive, creating the impression of a tropical jungle), Caraoman, and Erenciuc, all of them formed of oaks, willows and dark poplars. Numerous lianas contribute to their exoticism.

Maramures

A journey to Maramures, regardless of the season of the year, turns into a superb adventure in the Realm of Picturesque Scenery. One can hardly imagine, now, at the end of the 20th century, a universe where archaic customs blend so naturally with a virgin nature.

This very old land lies in the northern part of Romania. Like a genuine natural fortress, it is surrounded by hills and mountains, the latter bearing such names as Rodna, Tibles, Lãpus, Gutâi, Ignis, Maramures. Sung in folk ballads, treasured by the natives and admired by visitors, two rivers, the Viseu and the Iza, are emblematic landmarks of the place. Their waters empty into the Tisa, which for a good stretch serves as borderline between Romania and Ukraine.

The Iza Valley and the Viseu Valley are actually two of the most important scenic routes in Maramures. The traveller’s eye is caught also by the valleys of other rivers, like the Mara and the Cosãu, the Somes and the Lãpus, the Botiza, the Cavnic the Ienud or the Sãsar. At the same time, the land of Maramures brings to the surface – in localities like Ocna Sugatag, Costiui, Oncesti Bârsana, Ieud, Dragomiresti, Sãlistea de Sus, Breb, Valea Stejarului, Desesti, Iapa, Sãpânta – a great many mineral water springs which may stir the interest not only of travellers, but also of investors.

Never occupied by Roman legions, Maramures went down in history as the land of the free Dacians. The Maramures natives’ physiognomy preserves, as specialists say, the typically ancestral features of the Dacians. Since the 13th century, the Hungarian Kingdom cut its way into this area, too through its colonists (hospites). Included later on, together with Transylvania, into the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but preserving a special status, Maramures passed through eventful periods of time but it managed to preserve an indelible and unmistakable Romanian specific character. It is quite significant that the foundation of Moldavia (a Romanian province) took place under the scepteres of the Maramures voievodes Dragos and Bogdan, the latter’s name having been given to one of the most beautiful communes of Maramures.
In 1918, Maramures, the same as Basarabia, Bukovina and the whole of Transylvania , returned to the motherland, making up Greater Romania. The visitor can get a more suggestive and accurate image of the history of the area after a visit to the interesting museums of Baia Mare and Sighetul Marmatiei.

Mountain Paths, Hunting The Viseu Valley

Summits strewn with alpine hollows, wide plateaus covered by pastures, sharp and serrated peaks - all call the traveller to cross either the Maramures Mountains, in the north-east, where you come across the edelweiss and where a nature reserve was founded in 1975.

Visitors can admire the breathtaking glacier lakes of Zãnoaga, Pietrosul Mare, Iezer, Buhãescu, Lala or Vinderel, as well as the Iza Cava, the Cailor, Covãtarului, Niresului and Runcului waterfalls. Volcanic mountains display their fantastic andesite conglomerates, such as those of Ignis, Plesca or Piatra, as well as the geological reserve suggestively called Creasta Cocosului (Cock’s Comb.). From the top of the rocks you can get a wonderful bird’s-eye view of the Mara and Cosau valleys, of the Sugatag piedmont with the lakes Chendroaia and Morãreni. Deep in the heart of the fir, common spruce, oak and beech forests you come across a fauna with samples which stir the hunters’ fancy – bears, stags, roebucks, wild boars, chamois or mountain cocks. Those wishing a nostalgic recreation of a narrow gauge railway train in the Vaser Valley in Maramures. And for those fond of rafting down the river, there is the Viseu, a river which springs not far from the locality of Borsa and flows for 79 km, down to the place where it empties into the Tisa. Along its valley there are localities which have long been famous for their picturesque landscape and ethnography: Moisei, Viseu de Sus and Viseu de Jos, Leordina, Petrova, Bistra. The Vaser, is a Viseu tributary together with the Ruscova and the Frumusica.

The Iza Valley

After springing from the Rodna Massif the Iza flows parallel to the Viseu an crosses the heart of Maramures, tracing a “voivodal road” along a valley leading to the town of Sighetul Marmatiei. In this valley there are villages with old traditions as far as the occupations of shepherds and woodmen are concerned, such as Sãcel – formerly renowned also for its pottery - Sãlistea de Sus and Dragomiresti. The former village of Cuhea, today called Bogdan Vodã, lies in this valley, too. The above – mentioned voievode Bogdan had set out from that settlement and the village also hosts a stone church dating from before 1342. Rozavlea, Strâmtura, Bârsana and Nãnesti, Oncesti and Vadul Izei are localities famous not only for their old houses, but also for their newly built households which look like some small peasant’s mansions. As to the commune of leud lying 6km off the main road, it is renowned for its wooden church dating from 1364 and for its cross carvers, among whom Vasile Pãtru Chindris.

The Mara Valley

Among the Maramures rivers, the Mara springing from the Gutâi Mountains, is not too long but the settlements lining its valley are special. The houses are gathered in clusters, many of them making up open – air museums, as some of the wooden houses date bake to the 17th-18th centuries. Lying in this valley are the villages of Desesti with its unforgettable winter holidays - Hãrnicesti , Sat Sugatag – renowned for its wooden gates and for the craftsmanship of its furriers - Mânãstirea and Giulesti, Berbesti – a shepherd’s settlement.

Folk Costumes

You can tell a Maramures costume from a thousand. It expresses the people’s character: their vitality, optimism, special sense of beauty. In point of colors it is white that prevails, be it in a woman’s blouse-which is low-necked, unlike folk blouses in the other regions of Romania, a flounce attached to the shoulders and sleeves – or in the man’s shirt or trousers (trousers as wide as a skirt, called gaci), or in the famous short coat worn in wintertime, called guba, made of wool, and trimmed with a black velvet border at the collar and the pockets, formerly a distinct sing of the landed gentry. There is also red in abundance: on women’s zadii (panels worn over the chemise), where red alternates with black stripes, in the decoration of the shirtfront and sheepskin coats, on headkerchiefs. Yellow, blue and, more rarely, green, are also used. The traditional Romanian footwear, opinca (peasant sandal), can be seen in the Maramures villages even nowadays, but pig skin has been replaced with rubber. In wintertime, the leg is wrapped up right under the knee with white cloth pieces called obiele. Men wear sheepskin caps and women wear headkerchiefe decorated with flowers. You can tell a Maramures native from a distance also by his clop – a small straw hat with colourful tassels and chinstrap. A special article is zgãrdanul – a ribbon studded with multicolored beads and worn by women around their necks. Folk costumes in Maramures differ to another, the same as women and girls and their clothes differ from one another.

The wide diversity of Maramures folk costumes can be admired on the eve of the New Year at Sighetul Marmatiei, where a Festival of Winter Customs is held there.

Peace Throughout The Country, Rich Wheat Crops In Summer!

At Christmas and New Year time, villages in Maramures resound with songs devoted to the Saviour’s birth. Convoys of masked persons, carrying bigger or smaller bells, horsewhips and drums, horses festively adorned and cattle carrying towels and knot-shaped bread around their horns can be seen in the narrow streets of the village, along with plough–symbols of fertility and of the hope for the better. Children go from house to house singing their New Year’s wishes to the accompaniment of the buhai (small bottomless barrel covered with skin; by pulling a tuft of hair through the middle of the cover, a low sound, imitating the roaring of a bull, is produced), youngsters chant their New Year’s wishes accompanied by the Nanny Goat, the Bear or Viflaim – versions of folk theatre, many of them inspired from biblical scenes.

In spring, Saint George’s Day- 23 April-is called Sângeorz and is celebrated by hanging green twigs on gates and stables, by sprinkling water as a sing of purification. The most industrious villager is sprinkled with water as part of a custom called Tânjaua, with the double carriage-pole and the yoke being trimmed with birch twigs and colorful ribbons, while the one who is celebrated- the villager who was the first to set to plugging his land- is carried in triumph in a cart. Tânjaua of Hoteni is a folklore festival held at Hoteni , in early May.

On the first Sunday in May, a festival called Ruptul sterpelor or Sâmbra oilor is held, when milk sheep are separated from the barren ones, the festival signifying the start of a new pastoral cycle. At the beginning of June, Borsa hosts the “Day of Sânziene” (gold-haired fairies in Romanian folk tales), a festival of healing flowers and herbs, celebrating the regenerating force of the vegetable kingdom. People jump through flames to stay healthy and bonfires are built high up on the hills.
In mid-August, on top of Mount Prislop, a nedeie is celebrated (initially, a sheep market type festival), later turned into a folklore festival known as Hora de la Prislop (The Prislop Round Dance).

The Weaving Loom

They use the weaving loom in Maramures even nowadays, to weave the cloth for clothes, the carpets. Wool seems to be another face of wood… The tzurcana sheep are shorn in late spring, wool is washed in rivers and brooks, dried, carded, and later, in autumn, it is spun into thread for weaving.

Weaving loom is used also for weaving hemp and linen fabric, which women use to make shirts, blouses and bed sheets. They say that if mãmãligã (a sort of maize porridge or mush, polenta) is brought over to the field, wrapped in a hemp cloth, it tastes better…

“The Land of Wood”

In 1900, forest covered 90% of the Maramures area. The abundance of timber combined with the skill and craftsmanship of the local people brought the area the name of “land of wood”. From ploughs, traps for the forest animals to spoons, furniture pieces, gates, houses, and the “thimbles” employed in order to decorate the knot-shaped bread baked to commemorate the dead – wood-carving is one of the local consummate skills.

Maramures is renowned for its wooden churches, with their high steeples, looking arrows flying to the sky. The wooden churches of Dragomiresti, Desesti, Hãrnicesti, Mânãstirea, Susai, Cãlinesti, Feresti, Sãlistea de Sus, Botiza, Sieu, Rozavlea, Bârsana, and Rona de Jos are artistic monuments. Maramures is also a land of wooden gates: impressive gates, looking like arches of triumph of decorative elements were carved- dominated by the signs of the sun and of the rope, which symbolizes the thread of life, gates to various worlds: the newlyweds and the new-born babies come in through a gate, it is also through a gate that the man is later carried out to the other, eternal realm.

Ceremonies of Life

In addition to baptism – one of the traditions most cherished by the Maramures people, as the new-born baby is the pride and hope of the family – the wedding is a outstanding moment of human life in Maramures. From the bride’s dressing to the marriage ceremony at the church in the village, from the crossing of the village by the wedding procession to the wedding party proper, everything turns into an ample performance worth being watched, all the more so as the Maramures people’s hospitality is matchless.

Old as He May Be, He’d Eat Apples From Your Bosom!

This is one of the “tâpurituri” (rhymes chanted during folk dances) that have long made Maramures famous. The Maramures folk dances- with stamping of one’s feet with force while vigorously swinging one’s body – raise spectators to their feet. The intensely rhythmic music, accompanied by clapping of hands, is performed by groups made up of only three instruments: ceterã, zongorã and dobã. The last one is actually the drum, made of fir or sycamore maple wood, on which a goat skin or sheep skin is drawn. The Cetera is a violin with a highly piercing sound due to the bridge cut in the middle, while the zongora is a larger violin, with a tuning but without having a C sharp.

Dinner is Served!

The people of Maramures are hardworking, industrious, but they can also drink someone under the table and hold out at parties, which may last, as the line of a song puts it, “from Saturday to Monday”. Horincã (a strong drink distilled from fruit – plums, apples, pears etc.) is a typically Maramures drink which, with its over 65° successfully vies with vodka and whisky. They usually drink horincã with rich nourishing dishes made especially of pork, such as sausages, pork jelly, liver sausage and ham, which are present on every table during the winter holidays. Smoked bacon is a matter of pride for the housewife, and it hangs out on the house beam throughout the year. The Maramures housewives bake immense round-shaped bread loaves until golden brown. Such a loaf, called pitã, is served together with a slice a special sort of yogurt, this being the food the peasant takes out to the field on the hot summer days. We should not forget the balmos which is cooked from mãmãligã (with the maize flour boiled in milk) sour cream, pieces of smoked sausages, butter and hard-boiled eggs.

The Merry Graveyard

Barely 12 km from Sighetul Marmatiei, in the village of Sãpânta, there is one of the most uncommon places in the world: a large garden with carved crosses, mostly painted in blue, with peasant’s faces painted on them, accompanied by long epitaphs. A Frenchman once called this conclave of the dead “the merry graveyard”. The author of these unusual monuments is the carver in wood Ioan Stan Pãtras who in 1935 started carving in wood the deceased people’s biography, in humorous rhymes, describing their defects, qualities, dreams and failures. He died in 1977, but before that he had carved his own cross to continue bearing his shadow on earth.