The Good Life In Maramu

10 hours on the way to Maramu. 10 hours of sitting in the car, joints screeching, back hurting, my bottom half numb. 10 hours from Maramu back home, this Tuesday, rain pouring all day, wind screen wipers working overtime. Eating a hamburger or two, drinking a bit of water and soda. Trying to make the most of our cold coffees.

This was basically mine and T.’s journey towards Maramu and back, for just 2 days of total relaxation – Sunday and Monday. Yeah, I know – we spent two days on the road for just two full days of enjoying other views and other people. You probably wouldn’t have done it, if you were me. Or at least, you’d have tried to sleep the entire time, angrily tossing and turning in the car. I didn’t.

Last Saturday, we put everything in the car at 9.30 am and started our journey on the most beautiful day in weeks – sunny and warm, perfect for picnics and hiking. Yet, we did neither. Surprisingly for us too, the idea of getting there, the music we listened (and sang along to) in the car, the secret smiles and looks we threw eachother on the road, all that made everything better.

Until we ran out of battery on our GPS-enabled smartphone. Paniiic! What do we do? My phone saved the day – barely; I had to switch from Internet to Airplane Mode every minute, as soon as we memorized a part of the road.

On one stop to stretch and drink some water, I saw huge bumble bees and managed to snap one minding his own business:

biggest-bumble-bee-in-maramures

He was the size of my pinky! I swear. I was more excited about this photo then all of the landscape ones I had caught on the road; believe me, they were a sight to be seen too: lush, green hills, ocassionally interrupted by fields of bright, yellow flowers, where some had found home in little houses lost in time and others were out busy watching over herd of cows and flock of sheeps.

maramures-goodbye-view

As we finally got to Pensiunea Ardelean, where our friends were waiting for us, we welcomed the cool air and warm laughters. The rest of the day passed in a blur, eating well and catching up on everybody’s day.

Next morning, we were out and about at 9.00 am, frankly a bit shocked that the weather hadn’t changed and it was still sunny outside. I had an extra jacket in the backpack, only to discover there was no point for a hoodie either, as the temperatures were unusually high. So, off we went to Gorgan’s mill and whirl, where locals from Vadu Izei wash their rugs. The river brings in fresh, clear water, that is then poured in a mighty wooden bucket where textiles swirl until they come out shining.

traditional-motives-rug-maramures

On our way there, we had the chance to admire up close some beautiful wooden carvings at the gates of the house. Old, Maramures gates, three or four times higher than me, are still kept at house entrances, no matter how modern those might be. They are a symbol of old days’ wealth and have remarkable patterns of them (remind me of Elven houses):

maramures-house-gate

maramures-gorgan-mill

Saw the pots in that tree? That is the way of saying the house owners have a daughter yet to be married and are welcoming young men to make her acquaintance:

maramures-pot-tree

If you’re not careful, you might end up tresspassing one of the properties, arising the wrath of a mighty watch dog!

Just kidding. They’re cute as they come (this one was yawning here):

maramures-dog-in-hay

We couldn’t visit Maramu without going to one of the old churches here or at least witnessing the moment locals go to church. As tradition calls, they wear the local costume on Sundays and since we’ve arrived there one week before Orthodox Passover, we had the opportunity to see everybody dolled up, from the tiniest toddler to the oldest grandmother :

maramures-local-costume

At this point, it was pouring rain, but we manned up and went to Breb, where a Dutch couple set up a camping area, called Babou. Eveline is now pregnant with her second child and they both live happily in a small wooden house, away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. They’re the warmest foreigners I’ve ever met, with smiles and sparking lights in their clear blue eyes. Of course, every bit of decoration in the camping zone is tasteful and even inspirational:

great-decorations-maramures-babou

fashion-grinch-at-babou-maramures

In the background, Babou house.

Before going on our last leg of the journey, we stopped to see this fellas up close. In the most unexpected place, their heads arose like cut trees above the ground. I’m talking about a farm of curious ostriches:

ostrich-farm-maramures

Travelling by Mocanita, a steam train running in the Vaser Valley, was our last objective. Monday, we set foot in the train and travelled for 6 hours in total, with a few stops for coffee and food. The steam train was beautiful to photograph, reminding me of a simpler time, where the slow passing of moments was more appreciated than a speedy Internet connection:

mocanita-train-maramures

mocanita-train-ioana-maramures

Before leaving Maramu, a land where time stands still, we tried on their costumes. Needless to say, T. looked way better than me but I think I’m finally warming up to the idea of wearing Romanian blouses casually:

me-and-t-maramures

Now, we’re getting ready for a whole different journey with final destination: Paris. It’s the total opposite of Maramu, but I’ve eagerly anticipated both of them. Sometimes, your own city drains the life out of you and the only way to get it back is recharge in a place molded by Nature, not men.

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