Visit Maramures

The land of wooden churches, mythological richness, impressive landscapes and very ancient customs

Mara Valley

The story of Maramureş doesn’t come full circle until the visitor has experienced the Mara River Valley. As the namesake for the entire region, this valley reveals not only pristine beauty, glorious pastoral landscapes, and total immersion into the centuries old way of life of its people; the Mara valley delivers old world wisdom to those travelers who pass through slowly. The villagers of the Mara Valley go about their daily chores, seemingly oblivious to the outside world. Yet their warm hearts open to welcome the visitor once they become comfortable. To get to know the people of Maramureş is like breaking through the top layer of earth, frozen in winter, but underneath is a warmth that enfolds like a wool blanket. Walk through the villages of Berbeşti, Giuleşti, Harniceşti, Hoteni or Deseşti, and experience the feel of life in Maramureş Land.

The gates of the Mara Valley are its signature architectural feature. Sure there are beautiful wooden churches, well crafted barns of hand-hewn beams, and remarkable wooden homes. But the gates behind which dwell the people of this region are significant in their beauty and in their symbolism. Gates are the guards against invasion from the outside world. Like the mountain passes that protected the peoples of Maramureş from invading hordes, the gates of villages have prevented demons and evil from entering the homes of the villagers for centuries. Protective symbols such as the wolf tooth and the rooster are carved from pine wood and placed on the gates. Signs of fertility depicted by the sun gather energy for reproduction, and signs of food depicted by the grain are highlights of the tall gates that demark the boundary between public domain and household domain. Other symbols that the visitor will discover include the heart for love, the rope for continuity, and the tree of life for deep family roots.

Behind the gate is the family sanctuary, where the women tend to the hearth and provide a nurturing haven from the outside world. Visitors are welcomed into the fold of the home with its warmth and abundance. It is impossible to visit a village family without being offered the regional beverage of Palinca nor a plateful of delicacies, including pickles, cheeses, meats, and sweets. Inside each house, a special room is kept for weddings, births and deaths. In the past, when houses were separated into four quadrants, the dining table was the center of life, where babies were welcomed into the family, where couples were married, and where the elderly finally rested.

The people of the Mara River Valley, like all peoples of Maramureş Land, are comfortable and confident in the forests and fields. The mountains rise above their lands, having offered protection from centuries of foreign invaders. Today the mountains offer some protection from 21st century popular culture; giving the land and its people a sense of place grounded in centuries old traditions and ways of life. The dance of people and geography continues in the Mara River Valley, where long into the future visitors will be welcomed by people living off the richness of their land in time honored rhythms and in harmony with the earth.

One can go to the Izvoare ski resort followind road 183. The winding road crosses a dense forest which is wrinkled by mountain springs.

 

Perhaps the best way to experience the Mara River Valley is on foot or bicycle. Ocna Şugatag features salt water mineral baths as the main attraction.

 

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