The Tisa river is a natural border between Romania and Ukraine. Here the two cultures mingle in some of the oldest settlements in Maramures.
Sighetu – Marmatiei
Sighetu Marmatiei, the town lying at the confluence of the Iza and Tisa rivers, on the northwestern border of the country is the old capital of the historical Maramures. The name of the town comes from the root “zeget” – meaning “fortress”. An ancient human settlement, having vestiges from remote times, the town is recorded in the documents of 1326. The fortress hill – Solovan, with a fortress having vestiges dating back to the period of the Thracians and Dacians, is a shield for the settlement. Sighetu is the most convenient access point for visiting the region. Beside that, the town itself has some interesting features: the Village Museum,The Prison of the Ministers and the Annual Christmas Parade.
Sighetu Marmatiei is home to Romanian Orthodox, Calvinist, Catholic, Greek Catholic and Jewish followers with many churches and a synagogue lining its streets. The Jewish cemetery is worth visiting, too.
The Prison of the Ministers is perhaps one of the most interesting museums in Romania and should be included in any itinerary which incorporates the Maramures region. The prison, which was active from 1897 until 1977, takes its name from the period during the 1950s when it held many political prisoners (former government ministers, generals, academicians, and religious leaders – the cultural and political elite of Romania) in terrible conditions – brought here because it was thought to be particularly secure since the town was just 2km from the Soviet frontier. 180 prisoners were held in terrible conditions in 72 cells. Many were elderly but this didn’t save them from beatings and punishment so it is no surprise that many died. These included one of the most respected prewar politicians, Iuliu Maniu who orchestrated the 1944 coup, Dinu Bratianu – leader of the National Liberal Party and Ion Mihalache – founder of the Peasants Party.
Within the prison museum, there is also an International Study Center of Communism which enables a flow of information from all over the former communist world; the archive and library were started in 1993 and now include thousands of recordings, documents, diaries, written testimonies of life in the gulag, and even letters from the prison.
For further details please refer to the museum’s excellent web site:
The Village Museum lies on a beautiful hill and shows traditional wooden houses and households from all over Maramures. Straight or crooked roads or paths make up the inherent structure of the settlement and converge to towards a promontory where, like in all villages from Maramures, the church is standing. An elegant wooden church graciously rules over the thoroughly recreated village. You can relax in the peaceful landscape, while discovering age-old life styles and ancient crafts. Visiting the museum you could learn about the main coordinates of a Maramures village: the church, the house, the gatehouse.
Rona de jos
20 kilometers from Vadu Izei along the Rona River is the village of Rona de Jos. Rona de Jos features a wooden church constructed in 1655 from oak and situated on a hill. The church is named for the Holy Virgin’s birth. The paintings inside contain beautiful religious scenes. They were restored in 1793. The church also contains unique icons on wood and glass, some of them dating from 1817.