The county of Maramureș, in the northern part of Romania, consists of a number of regions. The historical ‘Land of Maramureș’, with Sighetu Marmației (Sighet) as its administrative centre, is the most traditional part. Because of its natural boundaries, it could keep its own specific character throughout history.
The valley is enclosed by mountain ranges with the highest peak at 2303 metres. After the First World War Romania lost the northern part of Maramureș to Czechoslovakia, and since the Second World War that part belongs to Ukraine. The border is in the town of Sighetu Marmației (Sighet) and is open for locals as well as foreigners.
Maramureș is known for it’s small scaled agricultural character. Most villages are agricultural settings where families have their own piece of land, a homestead, a few animals and often an orchard. This means lots of villagers having a very self sufficient way of life, providing their own families with home grown food and other self produced products.
Especially in summer you’ll see lots of farmers on your way, making the hay with scythes in the fields, you’ll be passing horses and carts going up en down the cobbling streets and you’ll see whole families having a picknick in the grass having a break from their work on the crops.
For most visitors of Maramureș the greatest attractions are the traditional villages of the region. These villages are known for their wooden architecture and wooden craftwork. Once you visit these villages you’ll see lots of wooden houses, sometimes even with wooden roofs, porches and gates beautifully crafted out of wood. Maramureș is often called ‘the land of wood‘ and you can obviously tell why.
Most impressive are the old traditional churches. All of them are completely constructed out of wood, some of them even date back to the 16th century and are protected by UNESCO.
A lot of these churches are still in use these days and you’re able to visit them and have a look on the inside. Breb, the village where Babou Maramures is situated, has also a traditional old wooden church, one of the oldest, which is still used for religious practice.
Apart from wooden craftwork, there are lots of other crafts which can be seen in the villages of Maramureș. Weaving, pottery making, hat making and basket weaving are some examples of the crafts practised by the crafts man and women, each having their own craft specialized in. Most of the artisans have their own ateliers at home and are very willing to show you their work and the way that it’s made.
Besides culture and history, Maramureș has more to offer. This is the place where the only European railway that is still in use for timber production goes into the forests. Several steam locomotives of almost a hundred years old are bringing the log trains up in the mountains. Nowadays, also tourists can get a place on the train.
A popular place for Romanians is the monastery of Bârsana, a religious complex build of wood and protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The monastery is inhabited by 14 nuns and can be visited.During weekends and special holy days this monastery is like a pilgrims place where people from all over Romania attend the masses. When the weather is good, the mass is being helt outside.
Then there is the Merry Cemetery in the village of Săpânța. This cemetary, famous for its painted wooden crosses, belongs to the ten most visited cemetaries on earth and is well worth a visit.
The market places in Maramureș are great to experience daily life of it’s inhabitants. Besides from buying goods or food, it’s a perfect place to watch the people and enjoy the atmosphere. Maramureș has lots of markets held every day in different villages.
The most known are at Ocna Șugatag at Thursday mornings and every first monday of the month there is the big livestock market next to Sighetu Marmației.
The region of Maramureș is perfectly suited for walking. You can walk from village to village through the open fields, or walk through forests and protected area’s. Because there is not so much traffic, the area is also loved by bikers. People who want to go rock climbing can visit the top of Mount Gutâi where is a ridge with 38 climbing routes.
In winter, the slopes of Cavnic can be visited, only 16 kilometres from Babou Maramures. because of the presence of artificial snow, skiing and snowboarding is possible here all winter.
The border crossing at Sighet makes a daytrip to Ukraine possible. Just across the border are famous salt lakes which are very populair with the local Ukrainian and Russian people. Tents selling Ukrainian beer, old Wolga cars and Russian popmusic makes visiting this places a unique experience. Also in Ukraine, close to the border, is the geographical (by certain measurements) midpoint of Europe.
Or, last but not least, visit the so called gravity hill. Just try to roll a bottle of water, or even your car, downhill, and see what happens…
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Adress Breb 149 437206 Breb Maramureș Romania