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.