This tour will have you mesmerized by the hospitality of the local people. They will warmly welcome you into their homes and offer you a traditional meal with the freshest handpicked products and, of course, a local drink, palinka. As the people in Maramures are genuinely lively and very welcoming, they won't let any guest leave with an empty stomach, therefore make yourself comfortable and enjoy their delicious home-cooked meals!
The second day starts at 9 AM with a drive to Merry Cemetery – this unique and peculiar cemetery where all the crosses are carefully decorated and hand-carved. When someone passes away, on the tombstone normally, you can only find their name and the words "Rest in peace" maybe. However, this cemetery brings back all kinds of truths (good or bad) about the deceased, lyrics being sculpted on the colorful wooden crosses.
The first tombstone in the cemetery that started this tradition was sculpted by Stan Ioan Patras local craftsman and woodcarver, in 1935. Today, the cemetery has more than 800 colorful wooden crosses, with epitaphs such as:
"Underneath this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother-in-law
Three more days she would have lived
I'd be here and she would read
You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
Cause if she comes back home
She will criticize me more.
But I will surely behave
So she'll not return from the grave
Stay here, my dear mother-in-law!"
In Sighetu Marmaţiei we can find the Elie Wiesel memorial house, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor. His book Night describes the terrible experience that Elie Wiesel had with his father during the Holocaust. This remote corner of Romania was home for a large Jewish community. Even if the second world war effects didn't disturb city life and the first signs of the persecution made by the Nazi regime have been ignored, in only a few months, an entire community was destroyed.
The 20th century was marked by two totalitarian regimes: nazi and communism. Even if Sighetu Marmatiei looks like an anonymous city, life here was probably influenced more than everywhere else. First is the witness of Elie Wiesel about atrocities made by the nazi regime. Second is the Memorial of Victims of Communism, where the communist regime decimated the intellectual and political elite of Romania. The communism memorial, together with Auschwitz, are places of living memory for the next generations.
The highlights of the day are the most famous wooden churches in Maramures county: Barsana and Poienile Izei, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Barsana Monastery is the most popular pilgrimage destination in Maramures, with the tallest wooden church in the country – 57 meters tall. Poienile Izei church is unique thanks to some of the most dramatic and best-preserved frescoes of hell of all the wooden churches.
Furthermore, you will be introduced to the most natural and ecological washing machines, Valtori. The river whirlpools are used as actually washing machines, and the locals are still washing their wool made rugs inside them.
As Romania is well known for the Carpathian Mountains, beautiful landscapes of a natural park with forests, waterfalls, and gorges, on your way back to Cluj, our guide will stop to admire these magnificent landscapes.
This tour can be extended with one day if you wish to visit the Vaser Valley, famous for the steam train, in Romania know as Mocanita. The day trip with the narrow gauge steam train starts from Viseu de Sus it takes 8 hours and is perfect for those looking after a photo tour.
Your drop-off point in Cluj-Napoca depends on your travel plans and might be at the airport, at your hotel for an additional overnight (not included) or at the train station.