Baia Mare

Overview

Introduction

Near the Ukrainian and Hungarian borders, Baia Mare is a bit off the beaten track, but if time permits, plan two days to see it and the surrounding area. Baia Mare is the center of the mountainous Maramures region, which is noted for its fascinating folklore and small villages, where the residents still live rural lives, working chiefly as farmers, weavers and woodcutters.

The city is a mix of very old and very new: It has more than its share of concrete apartment blocks and smoke-belching chimneys, but it's also home to the 14th-century Stefan the Great Tower (notice the clock), the Museum of Mineralogy, the Museum of Popular Art and Folklore, chestnut orchards and the ruins of the old city walls (only the Butcher's Tower still stands).

Be sure to drive 45 mi/75 km north to Sapinta to see the local cemetery—it's one of the most fascinating displays of folk art in all of Europe. The wooden grave markers are carved and painted showing the deceased doing what he or she did in life: a shepherd tending sheep, for example. If the person died a violent death, that, too, is portrayed. Beneath the portraits are humorous poems (the graveyard is known as the merry cemetery). Also plan to visit some of the area's famous wooden churches. You'll find fine examples in Birsana, Desesti, Ieud and Rogoz. Baia Mare is 250 mi/400 km northwest of Bucharest.

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