Christmas in Romania – Part 3: Maramures & Traditions
While in Maramures, we visited a few traditional landmarks, happenings, and people: The Merry Cemetery at Sapanta, Traditions Festival in Sighetul Marmatiei, Ieud Monasteries, the famous wood carvings of Mos Pupaza, and Ples Folk Museum.
The Merry Cemetery at Sapanta
Far from being funny but certainly capturing the locals’ story-telling affection, this cemetery is unique in its beautifully-carved and brightly-colored crosses. The cemetery dates back to the 30s, however, the belief on which it was built – that death is not the final destination – comes from our ancestors, the Dacians (10th century BC – 2nd century AD). Most of the stories involved young men who drank too much but also other sad happenings. The church was being renovated to include colorful detailed mosaic tiles creating quite a site to see. If you wish to get some traditional souvenirs, there are plenty of vendors just outside the cemetery selling anything form hand-woven rugs, purses, and clothing, to traditional blouses (I highly recommend these), and wood-carved flasks and décor.
Traditions Festival in Sighetul Marmatiei
The festival was spread over several streets and piazzas in downtown Sighet. We watched the processions of dancers and singers dressed in the attire specific to each area. Romania is very rich in tradition, with a multitude of details and nuances to the traditional attire, song, and dance for each part of the country, down to the county. Some areas of the country will use mainly red and black for the hand-stitched decorations on their clothing, while others will add bright colors such as yellow and red, along with elaborate head gear and jewelry.
Read more about the festival here: http://sighet.ro/?page_id=964
In the Valley (Din Ses): Built in the seventeen hundreds, this small wooden church invites Ieud’s locals to attend Orthodox mass each Sunday. The locals dress up in traditional attire and proceed through the hand-carved gate towards the beautifully crafted church.
On the Hill (Din Deal): We arrived at the monastery at dusk and I enjoyed the quiet vista from the old wooden church overlooking the village. We returned on daylight and were able to photograph the amazing paintings inside the church. The monastery is unique because the paintings are done directly onto the wood (usually, a cloth is applied on top of the wood and then painted). The paintings are very well preserved, given this fact and their age (the church was built in the seventeenth century).
Mos Pupaza, woodcarver in Valea Stejarului
He was an artist, promising to give a new life and beauty to any piece of wood and dead limb he transformed into decorative, useful, or clever objects. He was known for his spindle with bells (“fus cu zurgalai”) and story-telling. Everything in his home was thoughtfully hand-crafted. He embodied the spirit of the local folklore at its best. Read more about Mos Pupaza (English translation). Sadly, Mos Pupaza passed away only days after our visit in Maramures. I feel lucky to have met him even if just once… May he rest in peace.
Folk Museum Ples
We stopped by the Ples family’s museum: their two houses. The host showed us the old loom and demonstrated the use of different tools around the yard.
Talking about the kids, who are far away…
Other fun things in Maramures:
- Dressing up in the traditional clothing
- Getting stopped by the border police near Ukraine
- We were right near the border but couldn’t see Ukraine because of the mountain ridge between us… We were driving back to Brasov and out of three cars, the police decided to only stop the little green car we were in. My sister-in-law’s sister was driving. Apparently, there is an issue with cigarette trafficking around the border. The funny thing is that she works for the equivalent of the local IRS in Romania.
- On our way back to Brasov, we took in the gorgeous panorama past Bistrita and Cosbuc village (named after one of Romania’s greatest poets George Cosbuc, born here in 1866), Reghin (also known as the city of violins for its masterfully-crafted instruments), Shighisoara (the best-preserved Medieval town and citadel in Europe), Viscri village (fortified church and UNESCO World Heritage Site; In 2006, Charles, the Prince of Wales bought and restored two 18th century Saxon houses in the Transylvanian villages of Mălâncrav and Viscri to help protect the unique way of life that has existed for hundreds of years and promote sustainable tourism. The buildings have been restored keeping the traditional ways and converted into guesthouses for tourists. The renovation of these buildings has helped provide a sustainable future for the people of rural Transylvania while also enabling residents to maintain their traditional way of life.)
Coming up…: Mocanita Steam Train