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My Maramures. Magic place where heaven embraces the earth

In history and geography books, Maramures is a region situated in north-western Romania, close to ukrainian border. But from the very first moment you get there you understand that it’s much more. With every spectacular view, every beautiful person that you meet and every touristic attraction that you visit you just feel its heart beating. The soul of Maramures is everywhere – in old wooden churches, in ancient villages, in people’s open arms and good hearts, in children’s smiles, when they go to church on Sunday morning dressed in traditional national costumes. It’s in old women’s faces full of wrinkles, serenity and kindness, in their voice when they call you “child”, in those landscapes where you almost forget to breathe, would like to stop time and stay forever. It’s a place where heaven embraces the earth – and I think any visit in Romania should start there.

I’ve been to Maramures many times, yet I feel every visit like being the first – it’s the same joy, the same feeling of peace, I always discover something new, feel a place differently, although I’ve been there many times before. The country from my heart looks like that – and heaven on earth, too.

Sighet Memorial and Elie Wiesel’s House

I was asked about communism many times since I left Romania. Many people who only heard about it can’t believe that some things actually happened – it’s almost unreal, sometimes. Sighet Memorial, from small town of Sighetu Marmatiei, it’s a former communist prison and tells the story on an extermination regime. Intellectual, political and religious elites, who were considered dangerous for the communist authorities, were imprisoned here. People stood in inhuman conditions, were miserably feed, punished, tortured, and many of them died. It’s a place to see if you want to understand a whole regime – the way it was built, how it worked, destroyed and killed.

Cell from Sighet Memorial

I’ve seen Auschwitz, Dachau and Mauthausen camps, Communism Museum in Prague, also, and all helped me understand much more than any documentaries or books. And Sighet Memorial does the same thing – helps you understand a whole system profoundly. More about Sighet Memorial, on their website, HERE

Elie Wiesel’s Memorial House in Sighetu Marmatiei is another place to see, also. Writer, professor and political activist, Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor. He was born and lived his first years in Sighet, where from he was deported to Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. His memorial book, “The Night”, describes his life before Auschwitz and everything deporting meant. It’s a very hard book to read, deeply emotional – and the house and its surroundings, together with old pictures kept there, help you understand more about his life before leaving to Auschwitz.

Elie Wiesel Memorial House

I also recommend Village Museum in Sighet – it’s not big but it’s a very beautiful place to see, with ancient, very well preserved houses, original ancient furniture and a wooden church from XVI-th century.

Village Museum in Sighet
Village Museum in Sighet

The Merry Cemetery from Sapanta

About 20 kilometers from Sighetu Marmatiei, in charming village of Sapanta, you will find the Merry Cemetery, a unique place, UNESCO heritage, and a touristic attraction for people all over the world, every year. Over 800 wooden crosses are painted in vivid colors and each cross tells the story of the one who is buried there in a very funny way – with rhymes, describing his profession, the way he lived and died.

Merry Cemetery from Sapanta

“Mocanita”, last of the Carpathians Forestry Railways, is also a “must try” – it’s a beautiful trip in a wonderful landscape, made with a steam locomotive and old wagons. You can find out more about the experience on their website, HERE

And, between your visits to touristic attractions, give yourself time to admire the astonishing views. Stop in small villages, leave the car somewhere and walk. Go up, to the hills, smell, feel, embrace with eyes and with heart.

The wooden churches

Wooden churches in Maramures are also a must see – each is beautiful, special, has history and heart. Barsana is best-known, and it’s a very beautiful place to visit – but it’s not my favorite.

Barsana wooden church

Peri Sapanta is the most spectacular. With a wooden “tower” of 78 meters high, it’s considered the highest wooden church in the world. And it’s situated in an idyllic landscape – an arboretum where you feel time simply stops – it’s just you and the wooden church so tall that seems like touching the clouds and the hands of God.

Peri Sapanta wooden church

My favorite is wooden church from Budesti – dating from 1643. Last time I visited it this summer, and an Italian couple was there when I arrived. I should’ve done not pictures with the church but with the look on their faces while visiting – they were simply fascinated. The original painting is still kept, it’s small and simple, and you simply feel your connection to God in a way I personally never felt in any big cathedral – and I’ve seen a few.

Budesti wooden church

There’s another place I also love, and that’s the wooden church from Ieud. Outside the church it’s an astonishing view – and it’s the place where I’ve seen one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.

The people

Last but not least, actually I should’ve started with this point, maybe. Because Maramures is magic first of all because of the people that are living there. I strongly advise you to stay in local pensions or traditional houses – as authentic as possible. And try the local food, made with natural ingredients cultivated in the area.

And talk to people. In the evening, if you walk through the villages, they will smile and say Hi to you, even if they don’t know you. Grannies with faces full of wrinkles will call you “child”, put protectively their hand on your head, will tell you emotional stories and maybe have some tears in their eyes. You’ll find families living in the same yard – grandparents, children, grandchildren – love and respect, traditions and beautiful stories.

Every Sunday, young and old go to church dressed in traditional costumes. People open their houses, arms and hearts – so go to Maramures exactly like that, with your heart open. By the end of your holiday, it will be full of joy, of kindness and of love. Because Maramures is a place where God speaks through people. And where heaven embraces the earth.

Do you know a very special place? A place where things are made with love, from heart, with good skills, respect and lot of care? A place with a story and with a heart beyond it? Tell me about it and let’s tell the others its beautiful story. Write me at, here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.Spread the love


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