Maramureș: a sustainable alternative to wood harvesting?

Maramures region, in northern Romania is one of the best preserved rural areas in Europe. Because of its isolation between mountains on the border between Romania and Ukraine, a unique culture developed here and is largely preserved until today. People make a living from raising animals and working the land and most importantly from wood harvesting. It is no wonder that traditionally houses and churches were built from wood – truly impressive, quaint constructions placed in picturesque locations among mountains, hills, forests, orchards and haystacks. Seven of these churches are now UNESCO world heritage site. On important religious occasions locals still go to church in beautiful traditional costumes, red and black being a distinctive combination. Men typically wear wide white trousers and straw hats in summer whilst women wear green, knee-length wide skirts.

Due to its unique authenticity, the region is getting more and more visitors from abroad which provides an alternative to  industry to harvesting wood. However, there are still places that will make you feel like you traveled back in time a couple of centuries. One of them is Grosii Tiblesului village at the end of a mountain road. In the 17th century when the Austrians ruling Transylvania came to this region, they were surprised by the size of the trees here. They used the German word “grosse” (large) to name the village and combined it with the name of the nearby Țibleș mountain to create Grosii Țiblesului. It would take 4 people with arms spread wise to surround some of the beech trees in this area, and you can still find 300 year old fir trees. Of course wild life is rich in this area: bear, deer, wild boar, wolf, marten and lynx can be found.

Currently a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) project aims to preserve this natural habitat and open up opportunities for locals to make a living from something other than harvesting wood, encouraging small-scale, responsible ecotourism as one of the options.

Through this project hiking trails are being marked, bikes are made available and there is an observatory where yo have the chance to see wild brown bears as they come to feeding areas in the evening. You can also take part in nature interpretation walks and learn about animal behavior, plants and their importance in the ecosystem with a nature conservation specialist. Summer months are also great for picking up berries and the famous porcini mushrooms that you can dry and take back home.

In the village there are still many craftsmen, especially coopers, producing chairs, sculptures, furniture, forks, spoons and shingles. Women still weave and a small gypsy minority makes wicker baskets.

The peasants own animals and you can find a herd of 2-300 water buffaloes; spectacular animals which like to bathe in mud in summer. Their milk and cheese products are often better those from cows, similar to the famous Italian mozzarella made from buffalo milk.

This article was taken and edited from Via Transylvania Blog

Via Transylvania Tours (VTT) is a tour-operator travel agency from Romania promoting rural heritage and nature conservation through responsible travel.

It specialises in creating tailor-made and special interest holidays in Transylvania and other regions of Romania. You can contact them for further information or to prepare a tailor-made holiday.

Email: info@viatransylvania.com

Phone: +40755365778

Address: 1510 Inainte Str, Siria, Arad county, Romania

VTT is operated by SC Via Dar SRL and received tourism license 5950 from the Romanian Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism.

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