Our route toward Transylvania passed through several of Maramures’ old villages. Off the side roads, and not always easy to find, are gorgeous wooden churches. The Maramures region is approximately 80% woodlands, so wood is the favored means of artistic expression in these parts.

One of the largest religious sites is a monastery in the village of Barsana. A designated UNESCO site, the church and its outbuildings atop a hill does not disappoint those who find it.  Built in the 16th century, it was home to Orthodox bishops of the region. That is, until folding into the Hapsburg Empire, when the Emperor forced the church to become Catholic. It was not until 1993 that the monastery and church returned to its Orthodox faith.

 

In the village of Desesti we found another wooden church that, by good fortune, happened to be open.

 

Inside the church we were offered a brief description of the painted scenes (late 1700’s) from the Old and New Testament by a knowledgeable young boy who seemed excited to practice his English. This was the only other church we discovered that was open to visit, and so having a “private guide” made the visit special.
Adam and Eve.

The cemetery for the church was full of interesting gravestones.

 

 

And for Clayton Theodore, free-range chickens to taunt him.

Passing through the villages, one is also drawn to the remarkable wooden gates that mark the entrance to a family’s home. Sadly, many modern homes have turned to decorative iron gates, and so it may not be long before this tradition is lost.
Driving through this fairy-tale land made us appreciate even more how fortunate we are to have these opportunities. Some day, we just know, this world will no longer be.