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Short Trip Report of Romania

This September I went to northern Romania as part of a longer European trip. I spent 5 nights and 6 days in the Maramures and Bucovina areas. My main interest here was to see the old wooden churches, the traditional way of life and the monasteries. Normally I prefer to DIY my trips using public transport. However, not only is public transportation in rural areas lacking, I decided a guide was in order to get a better idea of the old ways and perhaps meet some craftsman.

I contacted 3 different guides and decided on Teofil of Maramurestours. Great guide I highly recommend. He showed me many things I would not have even thought of. After telling him my interests he proposed an itinerary that we tweaked a bit (along with a very reasonable cost). Over the trip he did so many small acts of kindness, I was really happy with my choice of guide.

One very interesting visit was to an old water mill that produced felt. I was able to go inside and see how everything worked. One woman was inside combing a bundle of felt out and you can’t imagine how very loud it is inside! No idea how she could do that for hours with the banging of the wooden pumps.
We stopped at various places along the way and visited with people working in the fields. Hard to believe the use of scythes to cut hay! And raking up by hand to dry it out. All these people stopped there labors to visit and tell a bit of how they manage. The villages seemed to be mostly elderly. Everyone was so friendly and much of the countryside is beautiful. And gorgeous mountaintop views! There were horse drawn carts using the same roads as cars. Kind of reminded me of Amish settlements in the Midwest.

The Sighet Prison museum was good to see - although might not be without a guide. Not much in English so that’s a consideration. The communist background is very interesting here and very sad. The Merry Cemetery is a must stop just because it is so unique. It’s not all merry though, many of the markers told how a person died. Such as a picture of a small boy struggling in a river.

Some of the old churches must have taken a whole forest to build! The roofs are very high and all wood shingles. It’s odd though, they look huge but don’t really have a lot of floor space. Many had small circular buildings without walls so the service was basically held outside. There was a festival at one of the churches we stopped at. Most everyone was wearing the old traditional clothing. Couldn’t help but laugh - the younger girls were also wearing traditional footwear, but all the teen girls in traditional clothes had high heels on! There are so many churches it’s almost unbelievable. So many I don’t see how they all stay afloat in these small towns. But I was told Romanians are very religious so maybe that explains it.

Over the mountain and on to see the monasteries. These were also very beautiful, and there is quite a few to see. It’s a shame that some did not begin restoration work in time to save the entire building. A number of paintings on the outside also had graffiti from many, many years ago. Who knew tagging was around a hundred years ago.

My last stop was for a couple nights in Cluj. One full day was enough for me. After all the orthodox churches, I decided to stop in a few Catholic ones here. St. Michaels was beautiful and the square it’s on is worth strolling around.

Last day was up early for the very long train ride to Budaphest. $3.00 cab to train station. It’s all quite inexpensive here.

Would like to say that anyone worried about going to Romania due to the war in Ukraine-don’t worry! The actual fighting is very far from the border. Really no need to let that stop you from seeing Romania.

J

Posted by
2454 posts

Great report @jennya, about a fascinating country and region. Thanks! Most of us probably have no experience in or related to Romania. Do you have anything to add about the cuisine you encountered? Favorite dishes, restaurant meals, home cooking, were popular Western foods also popular there, like burgers and fries, etc.?

Posted by
24 posts

Larry, I’m not much of a foodie so can’t comment much on that. They do have Western dishes - burgers, fries, hot dogs, pizza. I did have the best soup ever but can’t remember it’s name. It was a chicken soup cooked with some spices, lots of garlic and sour cream. It was thick, but not as much as cream soup. They also put a cold pot of extra sour cream on the table to add to your soup if desired.

TexasTravelMom - it’s been on my list for awhile. Had a hard time deciding on which area to see for just a week. Hope you can make it happen!

Wonderful report Jennya, thank you.

I'm English but live on the west coast of southern Ireland, so hello from Ireland. :D

We've booked to visit Romania from the 29th of September to the 16th of October 2023, so 17 nights in total.
We have 3 nights scheduled for the Maramures region, do you think that will be enough?

So far I have these things to see on my Maramures list, am I missing anything important?

Things to See

  1. Rohia Monastery, Aleea Mănăstirii 18, Rohia 435612, Romania
  2. Church of the Holy Archangels, 282, Rogoz 435611, Romania
  3. Saint Stephen Tower, Piața Cetății, Turnului, Baia Mare, Romania
  4. Centrul vechi, Strada Turnului, Baia Mare, Romania
  5. Church of St. Nicholas, DJ186B, Budești 437070, Romania
  6. Breb, Maramures
  7. Church of the Holy Paraskeva, Desești 437135, Romania
  8. Bârsana Monastery, DJ186 276, Bârsana 437035, Romania
  9. Maramures Village Museum, Strada Muzeului 1, Sighetu Marmației 435500, Romania
  10. Merry Cemetery, Săpânța 437305, Romania
  11. Peri-Săpânţa Monastery (Mănăstirea Peri-Săpânța), Săpânţa, Romania
  12. Wooden gates as we drive around - I need to investigate where they are
  13. Sighet Prison museum (Just added)

Do you mind me asking how much the guided tour cost with Teofil of Maramurestours?

Thank you again.
Adele

Posted by
4416 posts

Thank you for this! I strongly considered going to Romania this year, but decided to stay focused on Bulgaria. Your descriptions remind me of why I'm intrigued to visit Romania.

Posted by
26433 posts

It's a very interesting country with some lovely scenery and very pretty cities. I liked Timisoara (where the revolution began), Sibiu, Brasov and Sighisoara in addition to Cluj-Napoca. The Romanians have done a good job (I'd guess with EU money) of putting date plaques on a lot of the older houses; it was interesting to see how long they had been standing.

Ceausescu amused himself--and drained the country's financial resources--by tearing down a lot of the old architecture in Bucharest and building unattractive new buildings, so you have to work hard to find older buildings in the capital.

Folks who'd like to see a good bit of the country at reasonable cost without renting a car should check out the tours offered by the Retro Hostel in Cluj-Napoca. You don't have to stay at the hostel to take the tours. As of 2015 the tours were run on demand, which made planning ahead difficult for me as a solo traveler, but it worked out. If you're a group of 2 or 3, you could probably get things arranged without needing the participation of others. The cost of my two-day tour to Maramures was very low, roughly $100. I paid separately for the overnight in a nice B&B out in the country (two baths shared by three rooms), but it was only about the equivalent of $20-$25, which included three meals, of almost entirely locally-grown food. The guide, Florin, worked during the school year as a history teacher. He had worked previously as a taxi driver in Greece, and his English was quite good.

Folks traveling independently would be smart to research restaurants ahead of time. Unless things have changed since 2015, Romania is quite a poor country, not blessed with a lot of great restaurants. Preparations are simple and the raw ingredients not expensive. It's not necessarily a place you want to wander around, looking for a spot full of locals. I think it was Rick who pointed out that the locals sitting in cafes were usually just drinking coffee--the implication being that they couldn't afford to eat out.

I did love the large rings of bread, called "covrigi", that are sold from early in the morning. Some were savory; others, sweet. Bakeries often had a window open to the street so you could grab and go. The ones I had were a bit softer than a traditional bagel.

Posted by
24 posts

Hi Adele,

I also had 3 nights for Maramures and it was just about the right amount of time. However, my driver/guide was local so driving time may differ for you. Also, I had 2 more nights in the Bucovina/Seceava area devoted to monasteries.

Regarding your list, I’m afraid I don’t take a lot of notes on trips so cannot really comment if you are seeing all the main sites. As far as the prison goes, I am not a museum person so it was the only museum I saw but I really enjoyed it. However, unless you can read Romanian I would put it on the bottom of your list and not worry if missed. Without my guide I would not have gotten much out of it.

I put a low priority on lodging - just need clean and a good location. Casa Lurca in Sighet fit the bill. It was $35 a night including a good breakfast.

Acraven mentioned the tours with the Retro Hostel. I gave serious thought to trying them but with such a short time as well as solo travel I went with a private guide. At the price mentioned though it’s certainly worth looking into for your trip. Also, I planned my trip in late 2021 when tourism was still at a lag.

I will pm you regarding pricing from Teo.

Enjoy your trip!