Maramures: are there alternatives to wood harvesting?

spinning wool in maramuresMaramures region, in northern Romania is one of the best preserved rural areas in Europe. It is situated in an isolated area, between mountains and on the border between Romania and Ukraine. That’s why 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. No wonder that traditionally houses were built from wood and so were the churches – truly impressive quaint constructions laid 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, man wear wide white pants and straw hats in summer, women wear green-toned knee-long wide skirts.

As an alternative to wood harvesting  and due to its authenticity the region is getting more and more visitors from abroad. But there are still places that will make you feel like you traveled back in time. One of them is Grosii Tiblesului village, at the end of a road, from where the mountain starts. In the 17th century when Austrians, ruling Transylvania, came to this region they were surprised by the size of the trees here. Using the German word “grosse” meaning large to name the village and by combining it with the name of the nearby mountain, Grosii Țiblesului came out meaning the large trees of Țibleș Mountain. It would take 4 people to surround with arms opened some of the beech trees from here and you can still find 300 years old fir trees. Of course wild life is rich here as well: bear, deer, wild boar, wolf, marten and lynx can be found here.

Currently a World Wild Fund (WWF) project aims to preserve the natural habitat and to open opportunities for locals to make a living from something else than harvesting wood. And small scale, responsible ecotourism is one of the options.

Carpathian brown bearThrough the project, hiking trails are being marked, bikes are made available and there is an observatory where it is likely that you’ll see wild brown bears as they come in the evening to the feeding areas. You can also go on nature interpretation walks and learn about animal behavior, plants and their importance in the ecosystem together 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 here you can find a herd of 2-300 water buffaloes, spectacular animals which especially in summer bathe in mud. Their milk and cheese are even better than the one from cow. In places like Italy the famous mozzarella is made from buffalo milk.

In the summer months you can also give a helping hand to mowing and gathering hay, gardening and repairing the wooden traditional houses.

So, I hope you have seen that there are many alternatives to wood harvesting in Maramures. We have included a few days in Groșii Țibleșului in one of our suggested itineraries to Maramureș.

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