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Maramures and its places – I

 Maramures and its amazing places – I

 

 

I just came a while ago from Maramures, the most Nordic point on Romanian map and this  is an experience should be shared, but mostly to be lived. I went to find some accommodation to suite my taste: traditional, but still having good facilities. What started to be work, it was joy and fun from one end to the other.

 

As you reach Baia Mare, the “capital” of Maramures, even as Romanian I felt in another world. People are calmer and they seem not to be in a permanent rush as people from southern side of Romania. The small historical centre of Baia Mare is clean and coquette, the main historical buildings watch over the pedestrian area. This central place is a return in the past; even people are well connected to modern times. The Tower of St Stefan is around 50 m tall and seems to watch over the city. Part of the St. Stephan cathedral, the building  was started in 14 th century by John of Hunedoara as a sign of victory against Turks, the tower was finished only in mid 15th Century during Mateius Corvinus. It is made from rough blocks of river stones and in 17 century, while rebuilding the tower, a clock was added. Weather, lightning and time left us only this tower from entire cathedral.

 

Baia Mare Old center
Baia Mare Old center
ST Stefan tower- Baia Mare
ST Stefan tower- Baia Mare

On the opposite- south corner of Old city, imposing in its baroque style, stays the Romano- Catholic Cathedral (former Jesuit). Built in the first quarter of 18 century by Jesuit priests, the beautiful Cathedral remains a point of attraction.  The butcher bastion is the only fortification tower remains from seven bastions built around medieval city built during between 14-16th centuries.

Historical buildings are spread around the old center, colorful and with personality, contrasting with Industrial tower ( the tallest building in Romania 351.5 m) situated in the opposite side of the city, of course in industrial area.

As you leave the city to the historical Maramures, the scenery changes and bits and pieces of the history seems to be alive. Modern times brought their contribution, but there is an impressive touch of beautiful to pass through archaic rural reminiscence. Hay stacks are spread here and there, locals, wearing traditional hats bring the hay from hills on carts pulled by car, cow herd’s crop on the grassland around villages.

 

MARAMURES -Surdesti Monastery
MARAMURES -Surdesti Monastery

 

MARAMURES Surdesti - traditional Stoop

The Monastery of Surdesti (part of UNESCO Heritage since 1999) is a local presence by its wooden tower, 54 m tall. Besides its tower, one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world, the innocent rural look, the simplicity of this beautiful church it makes it more beautiful. There is no gold, arcades or excessive stylization. A local skilled constructor in wood, Ion Macarie, built in 1766 this church for his community. The  traditional entrance, a small stoop, shows also the constructor mastery of working the wood.  It incredible high, I should admit. But also impressive about this church is its simplicity and still elaborated aspect. The village around it contributes to serenity that this place brings it to the passer by.  I just felt that every church should look like this: impressive and still simple.

 

The gate of Surdesti
The gate of Surdesti

If you want to experience Maramures you can try a day trip 

 

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Orthodox Easter. Traditions and Superstitions about Easter in Romania

Orthodox Easter. Traditions and Superstitions about Easter in Romania

As Orthodox Easter  is approaching fast (this year is on May 5th ) I thought it would be nice to know some traditions of Romanian for Easter . The Ester celebration is very important celebrations as Romania is inhabited by a vast majority of Orthodox Christians. Around 86 %, out of 19 million people of Romanian population Christian Orthodox.

Easter (“Paste” in Romanian) is for the Romanians, along Christmas, the most important of the year celebration  and  families prepares long before the fasting held with such reverence. In the Orthodox Church people prepare for the Easter holidays with a prolonged  “Lent” for  48 days when Romanians do not any type of food containing meat  or food produced by animals ( milk and milk products, eggs, fish or fish eggs)  .

Officially, the Fasting  starts after “Forgiveness Sunday”, the  first Monday, 7 weeks prior to Easter Day.  Last week of Lent is called “Holy Week” and begins on Palm Sunday, day that commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.”Holy Week” commemorates the capture of Jesus, His crucifixion and death. In this last week before Easter, many churches hold every night religious services are named “denial”.

Even if during the Easter day, Romanians usually eat boiled eggs with salt, the superstition is not to eat salt them with your hand as your palm will sweat all year long.  Also, during Easter day you are not recommended to sleep, as you will be sleepy all year.

Red eggs
Red eggs

Traditional Easter bread (Pasca) is made in the cleanest conditions. There are places on the country side where women in order to knead the dough, fist they wash and brush their hair, the dress clean clothes, they pray and  only after all these they go in the kitchen to bake.

In Calarasi, at the Resurrection (midnight – Starting the Easter Day), the church- goers bring a traditional Easter basket for blessing, red eggs, cozonac (traditional cake) and white roosters. Roosters are bred specifically for the fulfillment of this tradition. They preach midnight tradition of ancestors say that when roosters sing, Christ is Risen! The luckiest is the household whose first rooster crows. It is a sign that, in that year, his house will be plentiful. After the service, roosters are given to poor people.

 

Monk with a semantron calling the church-goers to the Orthodox service.
Monk with a semantron calling the church-goers to the Orthodox service.

A beautiful tradition is preserved in Maramures, in the Lapus region. In the morning the first day of Easter, children (up to age 9) go to friends and neighbors to announce Resurrection. The host gives each a red egg. The superstition says that it better that the first guest passing the doorstep should be a boy, in order not to have arguments in the house during the year.

In Banat, at breakfast the first day of Easter tradition practiced incense dishes. Then each person there gets a teaspoon of “Easter “(holy wine + bread). On the dish include boiled eggs and traditional foods, as they continue to roast lamb.

In Tara Motilor at midnight the semantron is taken from the church, it is hidden in the cemetery. There are two groups of young lads: ones who guard the semantron, others who are to steel it. If the guardians are vigilant and the other cannot steel it, they receive a feast from “thieves” . If the “thives” are better, they guardians are the ones to set the feast as punishment. REgarless the group that the youngsters were in, everybody is invited.

 

In Moldova, the first thing in The Easter  they place a  red and a white eggs in a bowl of water that must contain coins, children must face and rinse with water and eggs reach their cheeks to take a full year of wealth.

Sources:

http://www.insse.ro/cms/files%5Cstatistici%5Ccomunicate%5Calte%5C2012%5CRPL_rezultate%20preliminare.pdf

http://www.desarbatori.ro/paste/obiceiuri

 

http://www.crestinortodox.ro/paste/obiceiuri-traditii-paste/sarbatoarea-pastelui-71070.html

 

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Romanian Christmas Traditions

Christmas Celebration in Romania

 

As I have already wrote, on December 20th, people celebrate “the Ignat Day”, the sacrificial day when the pig is slaughtered. Even if you are poor and you cannot afford a pig,  Romanians should sacrifice another animal. An old belief was that in the night before Ignat, the pig dreams of its knife.

 

Before he Christmas  „Mos Ajunul”  ( The Old before Christmas Man)„Plugusorul” (the little plough) Carols are sang and interpret it, little girls and boys come on the community doorstep and sing their carols. As a rewards they receive apples, nuts, pretzel  and money nowadays. The singers invoke Nativity, Christianity but also their singing is like a praise for well being.

 

Christmas is the essence of Romanian food and family gatherings.  Romanian food is almost rough; Romanians do eat for Christmas lard bacon, nicely smoked, cabbage rolls with minced meat (sarmale),polenta.

 

Almost all over Romanian, the priest blesses the feast, people bring form every meal they had cooked and the priest is the first to taste the meals, and only after that do the rest of the household start eating. The pig slaughter on Ignat day is a purely Romanian custom, some consider it barbarian, but it is incredible friendly and family involving. The house wife also cooks the cake, a specific Christmas cake, pastry like.

 

There are other customs like the Goat tradition (Capra), where people dress in goats and wear goat masks and costume and go from door to door in large groups, dancing on the flute tunes. this is an ancient Roman custom. Then there is the Bear custom (Ursul), known only in Moldavia, where young people dress up as bear and cubs and go out in groups to sing and dance but this tradition also kept.

 

In the Romanian Christmas traditions, within the typical Romanian family, there is a lot of love, poetry, fairy tales and respect. Whoever wants to get to know the Romanian spirit has to enter a Romanian house, especially during winter time. He will see the Romanian bowing to the East, where light comes from, and how he makes the sign of the cross before eating, or how before cutting the bread, the traditional Romanian woman makes the sign of the cross three times.

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Romanian customs and traditions- Ignatius

Slanina - Romanian traditional bacon
Romanian Slanina. Picture made by Irina Dragos

Ignatius takes place every year on December 20th. It is one of the oldest Romanian traditions that coincides with the feast day Saint Ignatius Martyr, thus gaining a religious significance. The custom of sacrificial pig is a pre-Christian tradition rooted in the ritual slaughter at the end of a year for the welfare of year to come.

The custom of Ignatium pig slaughter is still practiced in the Romanian countryside where households keep pigs in their yard so as to have fresh meat during the Christmas season from which to prepare traditional Romanian delicacies, such as meat in aspic, stew, and sausages. Ritual pig slaughter starts early morning and is an activity in which the whole family participates with joy, because there are many things to do that until tonight, many chores to be completed.

After cleaning the pig, the family’s children climb on it and “ride” it. The best piece to eat usually is the tail and children fight for this piece of “firstling”. The skin from the belly creates disputes between family members over who should get the biggest and best piece. The houswife hurries to finish up all the food by nightfall: sausages, jelly, bacon (slanina) and other dishes that will delight the Christmas table.

After cutting and sorting the meat, the host prepares a meal for all the people who helped cut the pig. The dish, traditionally called “Almsgiving pig”, is obtained by roasting, in a large pot over a woodstove, a piece of meat cut from all parts of slaughtered pigs: pieces of muscle, liver, bacon, rib, and jaw.

Usually they stand around the table after the housewife has wiped and cleaned all the marks of the sacrifice. The meal consists of pork steak, polenta (mamaliga) and a bowl of pickles and the housewife places a quantity of food enough to reach all participating diners. Meanwhile, the hungry helpers eat up and, along with food, drink a plum brandy or a traditional boiled brandy.

Here, however, comes the contradiction between tradition, religion and global legislation. It is known that regarding fasting, the Orthodox Christian church is extremely severe, but the Almsgiving pig festival is held in ‘post’ (a period of fasting when not meat or drink can be consumed), often with great joy and abundant food and boiled brandy (tuica fiarta).