Thursday, 15 September 2011

Discovering Maramures.

If you just wish to see the pictures just scroll down. Alternatively I've written a small account of why my wife Melissa and I took this trip and the world we encountered.

This is the my second account of our travels during the summer of 2011. We started our travels first in Hutsulshchyna a small region in South West Ukraine and then traveled over the border to Maramures an enchanted world in Northern Romania.

Our trip came about after reading William Blacker,s book 'Along the Enchanted Way'. Blacker talked eloquently about his experiences in Northern Romania nearly 20 years ago, while living in the small rural community of Breb in Maramures. He described an extraordinary world, where traditional dress was worn everyday and rural life had not changed for hundreds of years. As a family we had travelled close to this magical region in the summer of 2004 and had an idea what his experiences might have been 15 years earlier and had always vowed to return.

Inspired by Blacker’s book I thought it would be an excellent idea if my wife Melissa and I should visit Maramures, returning to discover the traditional world we had missed on our previous trip to Lunca Ilvei and Miklósvár in Transylvania.

Our journey in Maramures started by traveling over the border from the Ukraine to the small town of Sighetu Marmatiei where we hired a car. This was to be the first time in years when we were to travel without horses and just my darling wife and I without our two daughters.

Weighed down with our booty from Hutsulshchyna the trudge over the border proved to be a challenge, especially in the midsummer heat. With our little hire car we swiftly made our way through the magnificent countryside to the small village of Breb featured in Blacker's story.

This account is a selection of pictures we took illustrating some of the people and their homes we encountered during our travels, along with a selection of churches and buildings we chanced upon

The last vestiges of traditional life European can still be found in Maramures but I suspect in ten years time this wonderful world of folk art and craft will be lost forever as the Diaspora return to their homeland to build ugly modern homes while the old folk depart this world, leaving the emerging generation of Maramures desperate to free themselves from the traditions of the past. I wonder how long it will take for the new generation to realise what they are about to loose.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

People of Maramures and market day

On our first day in Maramures we discovered that the local market in Ocna Sugatag was to be held. This gentleman is a Caldarar Gypsy who are well known for their skills as tin and black smiths, you can often see them fixing the decorative gutters or mending pots. Their broad rim hats with wide trousers are typical of the Caldarar Gypsy who are known as canny dealers, always ready to make a buck. I liked this guy he has real style.

Dressed in their smart clothes for market day these two gentlemen on the left are wearing traditional Clop hats which we were to find all over the region during the following week.

Wearing a Clop is an art in itself. The strap is worn over one ear and the Clop is tilted or tipped on the head in different ways when greeting someone, depending on your relationship with that person. This is not dissimilar to doffing a hat in the UK when we slightly lift a hat off the forehead, when meeting a lady but with the Clop it is moved on the head.

This old man is wearing opinci, the traditional foot ware for much of Maramures and Transylvania and a rare sight these days.

Since our last visit the car or white van has taken over from the horse and cart. Although we saw plenty of horses, transport in Maramures has now moved into the 21st century and this gentleman will soon be something from the past.

The man on the left is wearing a traditional pieptar, a jerkin worn by may people and sometimes inside out balanced on one shoulder when it is hot.

At the heart of Ocna Sugatag market the good old boys shared stories while drinking local beer and barbequed lamb. Notice the assortment of hats.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Saints days celebrations

On the June 30th the Barsana Monastery Celebrates the Day of 12 Disciples, everyone from far and wide came to celebrate and all in their traditional dress. Cake, hornica and sarmale were handed out to everyone and if you are wondering what hornica is, it is type of plum brandy made in a pot still and sarmale is similar to a dolmades. A sticky rice ball wrapped in a cabbage leaf known locally as piroste .

These women are all from the village of Breb and had been attending St Paul’s and St Peter’s festival day.

Barsana Monastery appears to be something out of a Disney theme park. Most of it is relatively new and all created by one architect in the traditional style of Maramures but with knobs on. The place felt a little spooky, even manufactured. Everything was in its place and perfectly manicured while the nuns just scowled at us.

These baskets were left outside of the church on a Saints day. Once the service has been completed the priest spreads holy water over the cake and honica, after which the food is past around to parishioners.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Chance encounters

The lady on the left is spinning wool while the lady on the right is weaving strapping for bags.

While driving through Budesti Melissa spotted an old lady knitting on her doorstep. We stopped to say hello and possibly take a picture. To Melissa’s amazement she invited us in and was delighted for us to take pictures of her home along with her friend who was keen to be part of the action.

This is our wonderful old lady from Budesti, she is a real treasure and the very essence of Maramures and rural life.

While traveling to the village of Glod we met this lady from Slatioara (Iza Valley) who invited us into her home. She had a chicken in the kitchen who was busy hatching a broad of chicks in a straw filled metal washing pale.

This is a Sarcinel or a tree for drying pots. If the pot on top is red I believe it means the household has a daughter of marriageable age.

We met up with these two gentlemen while walking in the village of Breb. The chap on the right was keen for us to take his picture and send a copy. Our conversation went on for a while and as it became clear we did not understand him he just shouted at us all the louder. I can only guess he must have some English blood in him.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Maramures homes

The occupant of this wooden house had just deceased leaving behind this wonderful blue "ancadramente" (window frame), a real inspiration for my studio to be built in our orchard back home. I often work out the detailing of the window frame in my mind as a form of relaxation.

We came upon many wooden gates, which are a feature of Maramures life but only a few shots are worth recording. This one is a classic.

A typical farmyard in Breb.

We drove Botiza where we were a bit late for the market but we did come across this Museum House & Pension. The house was run by the local priest wife who I wished had been able to find.

Melissa is posing in the doorway of Marioara's Pension where we stayed for five wonderful days in the village of Breb.

This pile of wooden farming equipment includes a Sleigh, Cart, Threshing tool and many more exciting goodies. Good job there isn’t room on the plane.

We’ve seen this type of well all over Eastern Europe, see the beam in the foreground sadly they are diminishing in Maramures.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


One of our trips was to find the village of Sarbi where I understood we would be able to find Mr Vasile Borodi the Clop maker. Mr Borodi was not the only attraction, Sarbi also has a whirlpool for washing felts plus a threshing machine and pot still to make hornica. More than I could ever wish for in one place.

This is a typical whirlpool used to felt the woven fabric (toluri) made by Mr Borodi's mother.

Adjacent to Mr Borodi's workshop we met his mother weaving toluri.

This is Mr Vasile Borodi the Clop maker with his wife. A national treasure although I suspect he would not agree.

I asked Vasile if he could make me a hat to replace my old one. Within minutes he set to on his machine and I now I have an excellent new hat along with a few others that took my eye.

On another trip we came across the Muzeul Tarancii Romane in Dragomiresti where Mrs. Zubascu was kind enough to give us a demonstration of weaving linen. Fortunately she had some weaving to sell so we are now the proud possessors of a wonderful woven bag and a linen cover for a basket.