Maramures: Wooden Architecture and Haystacks
Location: Northern Romania
Maramures, also known as the ‘Land of Wood’, is that part of Romania most travel agencies promote as being bucolic and stuck in time with people leaving like they did at least decades ago. This is only partly true. The villages of Maramures are indeed bucolic, almost suffocated in the green landscape that surrounds them, with the tall belfries of their wooden churches and their particular atmosphere in which time becomes a lost commodity you don’t miss or need.
Less true is, however, the assumption that things and life haven’t changed. Overall, many young people have left Maramures in search of a better life. The results of their work are often displayed in the same quiet villages that enchant your soul and heart. New houses have appeared in rural Maramures, bigger and richer, but empty for most of the year except on their owner’s holidays. The new social realities coexist nonetheless with the traditional ones. Despite the changes, the culture of Maramures is still representative and authentic, impossible to copy or reproduce anywhere else as well as the kindness of its hardworking people.
The area of Maramures, historically extending beyond the Ukrainian border, has a particular history, in strong connection to its geographical remoteness. Isolated by the Carpathians, Maramures remained an independent territory after the Roman Empire’s expansion into antic Dacia, alomost 2,000 years ago. Centuries later it fell under the Hungarian rule and from the end of the 17th century it was integrated into the Habsburg Empire. In 1918, Maramures reunited with Romania. The remoteness of its territory allowed Maramures to partially escape the complete collectivization of the agricultural land undertook by the communist regimes in the rest of the country.
The culture of wood
The abundance of wood in the surrounding Carpathian Mountains has ultimately shaped the culture of Maramures. Poor in agricultural resources due to its relief, the people of Maramures relied on wood exploitation, livestock, mining activities and seasonal working migration to survive.
The wood became a symbol of their life, belief and status. Traditional houses are made of wood and the art of preparing and carving the raw material for their imposing wooden gates became an art transmitted from generation to generation.
Tourism in Maramures
The charm of Maramures ultimately lies within its specific culture. The image of its rolling hills covered with haystacks, of its wooden masterpieces entangled in a rural rhythm spiced up with the omnipresent alcoholic drink ‘horinca’ and the authentic experiences it offers make Maramures one of the most complete Romania travel destinations.
Nature attractions: Maramuresului Mountains Nature Park
Sports: Hiking, cycling, skiing
Not to miss: the wooden churches, Sapanta, Sighetu Marmatiei, a ride with the narrow gauge steam train Mocanita