Tag Archives: Maramures

Visiting Maramureş: The Merry Cemetery

Before I even came to Romania, I was looking forward to visiting the Merry Cemetery. Tina told me about it and I got so excited! She just didn’t know exactly where it was, so I didn’t either.

While we were in Maramureş, we had the opportunity to go the Merry Cemetery in Săpânţa, which was my favorite part of the trip! I was looking forward to it because Tina had told me that it was a cemetery where the tombstones had pictures of how the person had died, and also that it was colorful and beautiful. I was definitely not disappointed.

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I have learned that Romanians tend to be very religious. Our tour guide told us that “if the priest asks people to give money to the church, they give more than he asks for. But then they are asked to give money to fix the roads, and nobody gives anything.”

The Merry Cemetery has blue tombstones, symbolic of heaven and hell both being in the sky, which is blue. The blue color of the tombstones characterizes the religious devotion of most Romanians.


 The colorful atmosphere of the Merry Cemetery strays from the traditional view of death as something solemn. Instead, it views death as something to be welcome, leading you to another life.


While in Maramureş, I noticed that intricate and detailed woodwork is very popular, and I also had the opportunity to visit Teodor, a local woodcarver. The tombstones here are made of wood, and each of them has a picture of the deceased at the top.


If the person died in an accident, then the picture is of how they died.

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If they didn’t die due to an accident, then a major event of their life, or their occupation, is depicted.

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This is the tombstone of the man that started the Merry Cemetery:

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The tombstone is carved by a wood carver that lives in the village (similar to Teodor, whom we met) that the deceased is from.

At the bottom of the long with an epitaph that is either humorous or informative of the person’s life. The family does not choose what is put in the epitaph – that is the wood carver’s decision. The tight-knit culture of the small villages in this area is displayed in the fact that the family never objects to what the local wood carver writes on the tombstones. Everyone in the village knows one another, and they know that what it says is true.

And this one is right next to the creator’s. It is his mother-in-law. This is an example of the humorous epitaphs:


Sub aceasta cruce grea
Zace biata soacra-mea
Trei zile de mai traia
Zaceam eu si cetea ea.
Voi care treceti pa aici
Incercati sa n-o treziti
Ca acasa daca vine
Iarai cu gura pa mine
Da asa eu m-oi purta
Ca-napoi n-a inturna
Stai aicea draga soacra-mea
Under this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother in-law
Three more days she would have lived
I would lie, and she would read (this cross).
You, who here are passing by
Not to wake her up please try
Cause’ if she comes back home
She’ll criticise me more.
But I will surely behave
So she’ll not return from grave.
Stay here, my dear mother in-law!


Here is my one of my favorites – a teacher!

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The church was under construction.

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There was a service going on inside, so we stepped inside and saw, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to take pictures. But we did get a picture of some people in traditional Romanian clothing before they went into the church!


Here are some other ones:


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I am currently working on translating some of the tombstones on my own. The translation above our tour guide told us, and then I found it online. However, I took pictures of the ones I really want to translate. It is hard, but I’m getting there!

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As Hannah said, I was probably the most excited tourist that the Merry Cemetery has ever encountered!


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Visiting Maramures: A Wood Carver

As part of our tour with Florin, we went and saw a wood carver named Teodor. His house was beautiful, as were his gates and so much more!



His dad did a wood-carved arch for the Smithsonian World Festival in Washington, and he’s pretty famous in the USA, apparently. Oh and he said that last week they sent off something to New Jersey! He showed us some of his work – incredible. All the wooden chains we’ve been seeing – they’re all just out of one piece of wood! We saw one in action! You can see some of the wooden chains in the first picture above.
Then he showed us what his current project is – a huge cross. I’m holding the picture of what it will look like. On the left of me, you can see the centerpiece, and on the right of me you can see another piece of it. 

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Here is a better view of a part of the centerpiece…


It is being pieced together, and he showed us the one in his workspace that he is currently doing.


AND HE LET US HELP! Except, Carley didn’t want to. It was so fun!

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He also showed us the wooden walker he learned to walk in, and the wooden cradle that he slept in when he was a baby. Here is the walker:

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Here are all of his tools he uses…he laid them out for us to see.


This is what the wooden shingles look like before they are put onto a roof. You can see wooden shingles all over Maramures, especially at the Wooden Chruches

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His whole yard is just COVERED with wood. 

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These are some crosses that he recently finished.


And, here is a bear that he carved…with a stick in it’s mouth, apparently. The other animals all also had sticks in their mouth, as if a child had come through and played a joke on all the animals. 


It was all so incredible.

He said we should come back and work in the summer and he would teach us everything about wood carving. Boy, I would seriously love to do that. Take a summer off to come and work as a wood carver and learn the ways. 

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Visiting Maramureş: Wooden Churches

If you are visiting Maramureş, make sure you go and see the wooden churches!They are famous in Maramureş.

The first one had a cemetery surrounding it. The church was built in 1770 and the inside was painted in 1780.



There were two rooms inside. We only got to see the first room because there was a service going on inside to honor a deceased person. Florin (our guide) said that the person they were honoring could have died a year ago, or 6 months ago, not really sure. But they had beautiful round and braided loaves of bread on the table, with tall candles sticking out of them. And some of the loaves were impaled on a glass bottle. Florin said that the bread is an offering to the deceased.

The first room in the church is for the women to stay in, and only men can enter into the second room. We looked at the paintings in the first room – they were beautiful. Florin explained it to us later. He said  that the first room is for judgment after you die. Heaven on the left, and hell on the right. You can see the people in the paintings being tortured and sad on the right side. In the second room, it is painted with scenes from the bible. Because everybody used to not have a bible, they would come here to learn about the bible stories.


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Oh, and we love that there are chickens EVERYWHERE. 


The second wooden church we went to was also surrounded by a cemetery. This one had paintings hanging on the outside, and they were of Christ carrying the cross. 

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There were red glasses in a lot of the graves, so we asked Florin what they were – candles. And then we asked the significance of them being red – none, they are just made in China. That was pretty great. 

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This church was locked, and Florin said we could wait for someone to come unlock it, or we could go ahead. We said we didn’t care either way, so he said we’d go. 

Then, we went to a monastery. It was a wooden one! This one has the tallest wooden steeple in Europe. It would be the tallest in the world, except that the Guiness world records said it is disqualified because the stone foundation is too tall. Whatever. It was awesome. 

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It was incredible that everything is made of wood! I am constantly amazed by this. I always thought that wood would just rot and get gross, but it’s not! And then we figured it’s just covered in a sealant or something…but it’s not! You could run your hand across some of the really old parts and totally get splinters. The detail work is incredible.

We went up the stairs and explored inside. Well, there was a service going on inside, but the outside there is a balcony area (you can see it in the picture above).



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Oh and there was a staircase up to the next level, which was totally just carved out of a tree trunk! However, it was scarily split down the middle…
Also, going up was hard…but going down was a lot harder!

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If you are ever in Maramureş, make sure you go and visit the wooden churches!

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Visiting Maramureş: Exploring Vadu Izei

We got to take a vacation and go visit Maramureş! We stayed at Casa Muntean in Vadu Izei. Florin is the name of the man that owns Casa Muntean. He took us on a tour the second and third days we were there. The first day we were there, we went exploring! We walked around Vadu Izei for about 2 and a half hours, and learned a lot about everyday life in the small villages in the mountains of Romania. We asked Florin about some of it when we got back, and learned even more. 



We went down random streets and saw beautiful things. So many colorful houses, horses pulling wagons and trailers, a 3-wheeled car, chickens, and so much more.


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So many houses had satellite dishes, yet they were hang drying their clothing. We found it very interesting that they’d buy a satellite dish instead of a dryer. I guess you just go with what you are used to!

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Also, no running water as far as we could tell – almost every house had a well! I’m not sure if they were all in use, or if some had running water, but we saw a lady getting water out of her well. We later learned from Florin that about 50% of the houses have running water. Everyone has a well, and you just have to decide if you can afford to get a pipe system or not.

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We also saw so many intricately detailed carved wooden fences. 


 And some really ghetto sketchy fences. And some really amazing homemade fences.

For the fence below, we imagined the dad saying “Son, get some sticks. We need a fence.”

I love that each house is distinctly different. Some are painted, some are covered in beautiful tiled artwork (the tiles are made of ceramic), and some have both. We had so much fun strolling along the roads.



We tried to go and visit a glass maker and a rug maker, but they weren’t home. Very unfortunate. We did find a river, which was COVERED in trash on the banks. But Carley was VERY happy to go down by it. She’s such a water girl.


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We also saw log cutters! They had tree trunks and were cutting it with an electric saw – a HUGE one. And then another guy would carry the forever long slat to a pile – it was really incredible to see it in action. 

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We also noticed that most of the horses had red tassels hanging off of their heads. 


We later learned that the purpose of the red tassels is to ward off the evil eye. It is a superstition, but many people are afraid of the evil eye, so they wear red. Alana asked “even the horses?” And Florin said “Yes, I guess so.” He seemed to think it was a weird superstition, but we saw it everywhere!


The streets were lined with trees cut to a stub. 

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A bridge that we cross over had holes…deep holes…can you tell which feet are mine?


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We had so much fun exploring!

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