Sep 21


The name of the cemetery comes from the multitude of colorful tomb crosses and satirical poems which are emblazoned on the tombs. The fame of Săpânța town comes from its renowned Merry Cemetery that has become a major tourist attraction.

Legend has it that the cheerful attitude in the face of death is a custom of the Dacians who believed in eternal life and death for them was just passing to another world. They did not see death as a tragic end, but as a chance to meet Zamolxe, the supreme god.

The cemetery dates back to the mid 1930s and is the creation of folk artist Stan Ion Patras, sculptor, painter and poet at the same time. Patras’s creativity has revealed this monumental and famous artwork. Over 50 years, the artist has created hundreds of wooden crosses emblazoned in this characteristic style. After his death in 1977 his work was continued by his apprentice, Dumitru Pop Tincu.

The material used for the crosses is oak, which is writable by hand after it having been cut and dried. At the top of each cross there is a bas-relief with a scene from the life of the deceased. The scenes are simple and we might even say naive style but villagers bring the past alive, presenting a relevant aspect of everyone’s life. They present women spinning wool, weaving carpets or making bread, men who cut wood or till in the garden, shepherds with their flocks, wood workers, musicians and many other traditional occupations.

After the cross is carved it is usually painted with a blue background, the so-called “Blue of Săpânţa”. The scenes are painted using vibrant colors: yellow, red, white and green.

No cross is finished without a short poem, a few simple rhymes, between seven and 17. The epitaphs are sincere, spontaneous and written in the first person – the deceased’s messages to the living. The style is lyrical but satire is found frequently. Each poem contains the name of the deceased and an essential aspect of the life of that person.

With their drawings and poems Stan Ioan Patras and Dumitru Pop Tincu managed to recreate an entire village and gave people a second life after death. The more than 800 painted crosses, which constitute a vast archive preserve the history of the inhabitants of Săpânţa.

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Sep 12


A holiday in Maramures is not what you would expect, simply because this place is so unique that it will always reveal the unexpected – in the best way possible, of course! The lure of a land of which you have heard only good things will make you travel the world just to find a region of dream that is a must-see tourist attraction at least once in your life. We have made a top three list of the best things to do in this amazing region, but there are many more, we assure you. But for now, just to open your apetite, let’s see

Venture towards Horse Falls

In order to get to Horse Falls, you have to get at Borsa tourist resort first; this place is located in the eastern county of Maramures, near Rodna Mountains National Park. Borsa’s village is particularly appreciated by fans of winter sports; nearby, there are several quality slopes – the most important is Runc-Stiol, which has a length of 2 km – and a natural trampoline with a length of 90 meters, for those who dare to “fly” with skis. Otherwise, there are plenty of hostels, hotels to enjoy the quiet summers in a picturesque scenery.

You have two options to get to the Horse Falls from Borsa, namely the Resort located at an altitude of 1300 meters. If your your allow you, just follow the route marked with a red triangle; it will take you about two hours by foot, or climb the mountain on a chairlift, which operates in both summer and winter (their program begins at 9.00 and the last race is at 17.00). If you choose this option, you can go through the woods a bit more, about 20 minutes, to reach the waterfall. This is the highest waterfall in Romania: has a heights of 90 meters, and is divided into several stages.

Horse Falls is not necessarily impressive by the volume of water that it delivers (of course, it depends on the season you visit it), but by its natural location. Just like any place that respects itself, this waterfall also bears an old legend (although some say the story was real), revealing that the name of the place comes from the fact that long ago, several horses belonging to the local inhabitants were cornered by a bear during a storm, just on the edge of the plateau where the waterfall is formed today. Frightened and helpless, the horses were left with no option than to throw themselves into the void of the precipice and perished from the sight of the bear ravenous. Following this tragedy, people have named several places in the area in memory of their horses Horses’ Bridge, Horses’ Waterfall, Horse’s Spring, Horses’ Mountain.

Visit Sighet

On the way to the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta you pass through Sighetul Marmatiei, a town of 40,000 inhabitants placed at the Ukrainian border. Sighet was documented for the first time in 1326 (the town was known only by the name of Sighet until 1964) and had a turbulent history marked by several events. One of the darkest hours in the history of the place was in 1950, when in the town’s prison were brpught a lot of representatives of Romania’s elite, opponents of the new communist regime: ministers, heads of government, leaders of democratic parties, generals, academics , men of letters, bishops of the Greek-Catholic church etc.

As a result, today, one of the main attractions of the area is the Memorial to the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance, which is in close proximity to the City Hall. The former prison has been converted into a museum, a memorial of pain that reconstructs and analyzes the painful past of those dark years of Romania. The Memorial has been founded by poet Ana Blandiana and writer Romulus Rusan, and the Sighet Museum has been developed with the support of the Center of Studies, which has its headquarters in Bucharest. It opens at 9.30 and the visitation fee is 6 lei.

Sighet is an interesting and quite animated town, offering visitors many other tourist attractions, that are much happier. Among them, Maramures Village Museum, an outdoor museum that houses a reserve of traditional architecture and monuments in the entire area of Maramures. You can also visit the Ethnographic Museum, with exhibits where you can see traditional objects, icons painted on glass and wood, pieces of folk etc.

Take a ride on Mocăniţa

Mocăniţa is a top attraction in Maramures. Since 2000, this tiny, old and slow steam train has been reintroduced into the circuit, and now it passes through the Vaser Valley, which displays itself in front of your eyes in all its beauty.  You can go on this trip of 21.6 km, through the midst of a beautiful landscape that lasts over two hours, from spring to autumn.

The train leaves from Viseul de Sus and if you want to get tickets, you’ll find that are actually five trains with different departure programs; the first one leaving at 9 a.m., and the last departing at 11 a.m. and back to 17.00.

Beyond that, if you come with your children, they will will be delighted by this trip on the Mocăniţa. Try to pick a warm day (better give up if it rains!), take the seats and enjoy the scenery. The train has three stops, the end of the road is Paltin, which you will reach in about one and a half hours. There’s nothing else to do than to eat steaks and sausages, take pictures with the little locomotives and don’t miss the visit to the Railway Museum. Vaser Valley is beautiful and wild, the silence is broken only by the hiss of the iron “horse” and certainly the photos you’ll make will turn into memories.

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Feb 26


Evolution is not only necessary, but desirable, because it marks our constant progress towards a better and superior stage of our existence. But during this constant transformation, the past seems to inevitably get lost on the way and thus traditions, customs and artistic expressions are lost in the mist of forgetfulness.

But there are still areas in the world where people manage to maintain century-old traditions alive. Such a place is Maramures, a region located in the northwestern part of Romania. It is amazing how the inhabitants of this area refuse to change their cultural heritage and continue to perpetuate it in different aspects of their day to day life.

The traditions which date back since the Dacian period are still preserved to the present day and tourists who venture in this part of Romania would be captivated of the world they were to discover.

A relevant trait is the wooden churches which impress through their unique architecture. The structures are defined by tall pinnacles and shingled roofs. Although they are definitely not the expression of gradeur, the churches captivate through their simplicity and craftsmanship. There is a multitude of elements which harmoniously combine to complete the houses of pray.

The history behind the emergence of the wooden churches is quite complex, as it is that of the other cultural elements which have been infused throughout time in the area. The geographical, social and political influences are noticeable in each distinct part of art and architecture.

For instance, the mixture of various Orthodox religions, as well as the Gothic influences, have put their mark on various forms of artistic expression.

There are eight churches in Maramures which respect to the fullest the traditional timber architecture. These, as you have probably already guessed, are erected almost completely out of wood, with only the base of the church being constructed out of stones and pebbles.

To give an example, the Church of Saint Nicholas, dates back to the middle of the 17th century (1643) and it is considered an architectural ‘wonder’, especially if we are to take into account the timeframe in which it was constructed. The rectangular church awes through its dimensions, but more so through its traditional mural paintings which date back to the 18th century (1762). It is no surprise that the church is a part of the UNESCO World Heritages since 1999.

But artistry is easily noticeable in another traditional element. The inhabitants of Maramures are renowned for their carved wooden gates. It is a tradition which has been kept for centuries and today tourists visiting this part of the world will see how the entry to each home is presided by an enormous gate which abounds in traditional symbols and leitmotifs, such as the sun, the twisted rope, the tree of life. These symbols stand for life, continuity, youth, faith, protection from evil spirits and so on.

The conclusion is this: Maramures has preserved it ancient traditions alive and the unique forms of art which one seldom finds in other parts of the world are present here at every step. So if you want to take a journey into another realm, where the reality you are used to seems to vanish in an instant, then visit Maramures.