The fierce individuality of the Maramures mountain valleys
in the north-west of Transylvania is legendary. Their inhabitants are
of Dacian descent and their independence as a State reached its peak
under Decebalus in the first century AD, before the Roman conquest.
Wave after wave of invasions followed.
A unique lifestyle
Nonetheless the villagers here continued to vividly assert
the independence of their customs and their folklore. Today you can
visit and admire their unique lifestyle. Few other parts of Europe have
developed so distinctive a rural culture.
An inheritance of folklore
Traditional headscarves during an outdoor religious
Agriculture has always been the lifeblood of existence in
the mountains. Local traditions reflect this, as there are festivals in
April, May, August and December.
The one in December is held at Sighetu Marmatiei, with
carnival parades and revellers wearing animal masks.
Sighetu Marmatiei is a typical Maramures town, famous for
its markets, peasant costumes and lively atmosphere.
The Museum of Maramures has many carnival masks among its
exhibits. Herefrom you may easily drive to the mountain resort of Borsa
and such villages as Bogdan-Voda and Rozavlea, renowned for their
Creativity in wood and costume
Woodcarving skills are the dominant feature of Maramures
crafts. Particularly characteristic of the villages are wooden
churches, with tall steeples and shingled roofs, some dating back to
the 14th century.
A typical high-steepled Maramures church
Highly developed too is the embroidery of traditional
costumes. On Sunday afternoons both women and men often parade and
dance as they have for centuries.
Women wear colourful headscarves and flowered skirts with
black sheepskin jerkins; men wear black trousers and white jerkins,
though costumes vary from village to village. The Easter festivals are
a particularly good time to see them.
Touring the valleys
Baia Mare lies at the heart of this region. Its modern
hotels make it the point of departure for many tours. A popular local
expedition is to Surdesti, which has the tallest of the region's wooden
Another is the one to Sapanta, famous for its "merry
cemetery", where carved tombstones and humorous epitaphs are a
remembrance of the dead.
The "merry cemetery" in Sapanta - the "gravestones" are
carved in wood depicting the deceased's role in life and humorous