Far, far away from the city capital where a mix of Communist buildings, inter-war architecture and green glass&marble projects seems to suffocate the crowd city, it’s a place where local superlatives were invented: Borsa, Maramures County. Some say it’s the most beautiful part of Romania due to the fact that the time has essentially stood still here. We time-travelled to a Romanian fairytale and we invite you to do so. Thus being said, once upon a time in Maramures …
According to www.visitmaramures.ro, in Maramures, time is not measured here in months, days or hours, but in terms of the seasons such as sowing, mowing, and harvest season and the events of Lent, Easter, the celebration of Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and preparations for Christmas, among others. When they complete their work, Maramures villagers celebrate their holidays and traditions with great enthusiasm. They bow their heads in prayer, enjoy their dances and music, and celebrate the places where they were born. In order to feel the rhythm of this part of the country, you need to discover it during the holidays, when nature, customs and people come together in a dance shaping Maramures.
And this is what I did, being invited there for the Sanziene (the summer fairies) celebration. Each year, on June 24, Romanians celebrate the pagan holiday of Sanziene. In Borsa, in particular, from 1982 there is a national celebration in town, having organised the National Folklore Festival “Midsummer Nights (Nopti de Sanziene)”, where people from all over Maramures are coming to Borsa to present their traditional costumes, each and every very particular, and their traditional songs and dances.
These habits are transmitted by tradition, to the unification of a community and to preserve traditional forms of life are treasures that should not be forgotten. The evening ends with a campfire, torches rotating, launch lanterns and candle lighting.
“The torches rotating is a tradition that currently doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, although something similar used to happen in Ukraine and Poland. We must preserve and sustain this tradition which dates back from Daco-Roman period,” said Vasile Mihali, the one who was in charge with Borsa Cultural Centre for several decades, in the opening of the festival.
“This tradition means the triumph of the light over darkness and was given from father to son for generations, as well as the entire local traditions – such as participating at the Cercanelu Folklore Ensemble, which members are between 13-15 years old,” explained for Business Review Andreea Hojda, cultural referent of Borsa Cultural Centre.
And this is quite impressive, taking into consideration the fact that technology seems to replace childhood games and the outdoor hangout, and yet, these teenagers are actively participating to preserve local traditions.
The Sanziene story
Legends say that Sanzienele are always good and kind to humans, and may get angry if they are not celebrated. That’s why in Maramures, young girls pick up yellow flowers and put them in a wreath above their windows, gates, and doorways, notes www.discover-maramures.com. Furthermore, young men riding horses, carrying lit torches and young women dressed traditionally and wearing flowers take part to a parade, one of a kind in this part of Romania.
Wild nature in one of the most amazing greenery scenes. Impressive waterfalls, wild horses, cows, silence, wild flowers, hiking, skiing, even funiculars going up in the mountains. But photos will explain better than words. A “must see” is Iezer Lake, located in the valley under Pietrosul Rodnei Peak. Seen from an up-point, the lake has the outline of our country.
It is a very clear glacial lake, surrounded by mountains and a beautiful area full of juniper trees, where you can spend a relaxing few hours. In mid-June, the rhododendron or “mountain peony” flourishes, a flower protected by the law, which spreads a powerful smell and charms the eyes with its spectacular pink colors. A trip this location can take 3-4 hours, depending on your physical strength.
Facts & figures
Recently, the Ministry of Tourism certified Borsa as a resort of national interest. Currently, according to the information provided by the city’s mayor, the resort has a capacity of over 100 accommodation units, which can host over 2,000 beds. Over 65 percent of the tourists are Romanians, while the others are foreigners from places like Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Belgium, France, UK, Moldova, Israel, USA, Canada, Australia, China, Spain and Portugal. The resort accommodates 70,000 tourists annually, who stay in Borsa for around 3-4 days. But investment plans in the area can bring the locals a touristic capacity of over 10,000 beds and all seasons tourism.
There is also an investment plan already due to happen: EUR 1.5 million for the gondola arrival line and surrounding facilities, EUR 1.2 million for mountain huts in several areas, a partnership for electricity grid expansion in Prislop Pass, and an ongoing programme financed by the Romanian Government representing 40 km of ski slopes and 16 cable installations. Moreover, an Olympic Slope will be opened soon, as part of a Masterplan managed by the Ministry of Tourism, which will also boost the investments in the area.
The Olympic Slope together with the gondola would cover a traffic of 1,800 persons/hour, while the ski slope will have 2.8 km and 7 km, as well as nocturnal program and also artificial snow installation if needed.
How to get there
I took a plane from Bucharest to Cluj Napoca, then it’s a 2 hours’ drive to Borsa. Don’t forget to put aside a bit of time and patience for the last leg of your trip while roads are under construction, but the scenery is great.
Photos courtesy of Codrin Roibu and Borsa Cultural Centre