Tag Archives: maramures

Spring Break

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Not even a full 24 hours after I arrived home from the field trip, I was off on an overnight train and then bus ride to the small town of Tulghes which is also where the very amazing PCV Matt Paulson lives. About 8 of us PCVs and Matt’s brother, Will, met up at Matt’s site to celebrate him turning the big 30. We had a cookout with his friends from site and spent those days being bums while listening to our newest 5 favorite songs and eating plenty of cake.

After a few days at Matt’s, Megan, Meg, Kevin, and I headed up to Kevin’s site, Sarasau. Our first full day at Kevin’s we headed into the city and hung out a bit before Kevin’s friend, Maria, came to pick us up and take us to The Village Hotel in Breb. Breb is a tiny village about 25 km outside of Sighetu Marmatiei where the roads aren’t paved, tuica is drunk as medicine, and the livestock outnumber the people.

The Village Hotel is owned by an Englishman named Duncan whom I met at a hostel in Cluj during my birthday weekend. His colleague, Maria, is the one who was born and raised in Breb and is the main contact for the hotel. The hotel is made up of 2 small cottages with a few more currently being built. The cottage we were in had 3 beds and was, for a lack of better words, very quaint. It was a mix of old and new. It had all new amenities but they didn’t disrupt the olden feel of the place and just added to the charm.

The second day we were in Breb, we decided to take a walk through the village and had quite the adventure. We all put on our rubber boots to battle the muddy roads and headed out into the town. It was nice having Kevin with us because he knows some of the locals so we got to stop at a few places and talk to people. We also passed by the house that Prince Charles bought a few years ago. You know, he is part Romanian.

We ended up at the house of Ion and Maria. We randomly saw a bunch of sheep in a yard and decided to stop and take it all in when Ion came out and Kevin remembered meeting him sometime last year. Ion invited us in to hang out while he fed his animals and that was where we met his mother, Maria and where I was officially sold into marriage. Ion is about 45 and is a bachelor. Initially he mentioned how he would take any 3 of us girls as his bride but then after seeing how much the new baby calf liked me, he decided I was the one; that I was the “Romanca adevarata”. Without even having to discuss it, both Meg and Megan offered me up for two cows, one for the each of them and that was it, the deal was made and I was then officially filled in on what had just happened.

Ion and Maria invited us into their house for some carnati cu hrean (fried sausages with horseradish sauce). We hung out inside for about an hour so. Our guests told us about Ion’s recently deceased father, their British friend, William Blacker, who had spent several years in Breb and then later went on to write a book about it (Along the Enchanted Way). They also showed us many pictures including some that were taken with Prince Charles himself. After our lunch, Ion escorted us to the wooden church and that is where we parted ways with our new friend.

We headed back to Sighet after our walk and made a straight shot for the border to walk around the Ukrainian city right next to Sighet. Our final night is Sighet was spent at, in my opinion, one of the best pubs in all of Romania called “Friends”.

After a solid month of travel, I am finally back at home even if it will be only a week. This weekend I’ll be heading to Cluj to cheer on some PCVs in a marathon, celebrate Megan’s birthday, and take care of some issues with my glasses. End of service is only about 65 days away and it is closing in fast. I am staying extremely busy and have almost every weekend planned which will hopefully keep my mind off of the sadness of leaving.

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Maramures

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Mine and Robert’s trip started in the early morning of the 27th with a 6 hour personal train ride to Sighetu Marmatiei, which is the city next to Kevin’s site. We arrived at the train station at noon where we were met by Kevin and Anthony and after checking into our hostel, headed to the center to see the festivities that were taking place for the winter traditions festival. When we arrived to the center, there was a parade going on with groups from many parts of Romania representing their local area’s traditional dress and customs for this specific time of year. The groups were also caroling from time to time and the group from Botosani, the north eastern county of Romania, came dressed as bears and goats and performed traditional dances that go with those costumes. We continued walking through the center and saw some dance performances while feasting on a piping hot bowl of gulas. After we had finished with our meal, we walked around some more an  then headed to Toma’s house (Kevin’s counterpart). We spent a few hours hanging out with Toma and his wife while enjoying some sarmale, aiutura, and homemade wine that Kevin and Toma had made earlier in the year. We ended our day rather early since we had barely slept the night before and had 2 more days to explore Sighet.

On our second day, the first order of business was Ukraine. Sighet is on the border and after a 20 minute walk, we were at the customs point. Many Romanians go into Ukraine to shop because things are so much cheaper there than on the other side and what we encountered was nothing but Romanian. We barely heard any Ukrainian being spoken and the main difference was the  much poorer quality of infrastructure. We hung around across the border a little bit and explored the shops and bought some delicious chocolates. Once we got back to the Romanian side, we headed to the hostel to meet up with another PCV, Whitley, that had just arrived. We hung out at the hostel for a while and then headed to a very traditional Romanian restaurant which sits right next to the childhood home of Elie Wiesel, the famous Jewish author and Nobel laureate. We spent quite a bit of time at the restaurant where we enjoyed meals such as tocanita, paprikas, and mamaliga cu branza. We ended  our night there with some live populara music and great company.

Our last day in Sighet was our most eventful. We started off by heading to the communist museum which is situated within an old communist prison and gulag. It not only had a lot of info about Romanian communism but also about the regime in other countries as well. After the museum we roamed around the Russian market and then headed to Sapanta where the Merry Cemetery is located. The Merry Cemetery is kind of what it sounds like. All of the tombstones are a vibrant blue and have pictures on them with a rhyming story about the deceased’s life and the way he/she died. The reasons and stories are obviously fairly somber maybe even more than at a normal cemetery because you feel a closer connection to the people because you know more about them. After making it back to Sighet in the freezing cold, we chilled at the hostel for a while and then finished off a great trip to Maramures at an American karaoke bar.