Monday, April 30, 2018

Maramureş County, The Craftspeople of Sărbi, Romania: April 30, 2018

Gheorghe Opriş, maker of palinka bottled with a wooden ladder.
When we arrived, Gheorghe Opriş was tending his bubbling palinka (fruit brandy). This one was being made from apples The fire was hot, and the still distilling. He took a break to share a shot of palinka with us, and then he entertained us with his music and singing. We eventually progressed into his ladder-making workshop where he showed us how he inserts small ladders into the bottles that he then fills with his excellent homemade brew.

While Gheorghe was entertaining us, his wife was washing a large sheepskin blanket. 

Water from the stream flows rapidly into a wooden circle, a washing whirlpool, that is used for washing heavy items. Throw the blanket or carpet into the hydro-powered washing whirlpool and the stream water pounds it clean.

Hydro-powered washing whirlpool
Nearby we visited Vasily Borodi who makes traditional Maramureş hats for men.

We're always looking for a hat for Dan. He tried on one, but it wasn't the look we were going for.

Our next stop was to the home of textile maker extraordinaire Ioana Pop. 

Her home was packed with her traditional Maramureş textiles all made by her.

A ready-made dowry
 Dan tried on a shepherd's jacket, and I had to talk him out of it. It was heavy enough to be suitable for Antarctica. The hat was good though.

Ioana Pop
Ioana Pop is holding the beautiful blanket I bought from her. She spun the wool and loomed it into this beautiful piece. As we were leaving, Ioana was gathering her tools to return to working in the field with her daughter and son-in-law.

Maramureş County, Deseşti, Romania: April 30, 2018

One morning after breakfast, we saw the milk guy headed back toward the sheep fold with his wagon and milk can. We hurried and followed him at a distance because he had a head start and he was really moving. When the barking dogs headed his way, he threw a rock at them.

The milk guy was wary of the dogs up ahead, too. He stopped at the top of one hill and called toward the sheep fold before he continued. Emboldened because the dogs kept their distance, we followed a little while longer realizing that soon we'd be without the milk guy as a protector. We turned back toward the guesthouse and safety.

On Sunday, before our drive to Săpȃnța, we walked to church. We were hoping to see people dressed in traditional clothing, and we did. We milled around outside the church people watching.

St. Paraschiva
The wooden Romanian Orthodox church in Deseşti, St. Paraschiva, built in 1770, is one of the eight wooden churches of Maramureş that are listed as a World Heritage site. A cemetery surrounds the church.

Placing Flowers on her Mother's Grave

Waiting for services to begin
While women's heads should be covered to enter the church, men must remove their hats. The hats of the men are hung outside the church.

This morning, Monday, we showed up again and the priest gave us a tour of the exquisite interior paintings.
Lower portion of Iconostasis
Upper portion of Iconostasis depicting the Crucifixion
Artist Alexandru Ponehalschi painted the iconostasis and the other icons in the church in 1778-1780. The interior wall fresco paintings dated 1780 were by master artist Radu Munteanu and his assistant Gheorghe Zugravu. The frescos on the walls of the nave depict scenes from the bible beginning with Adam, Eve, and the serpent and continuing through the crucifixion.

Frescos in the narthex remind you what will happen if you are not a believer.  Judgement day is depicted on the walls of the narthex (entrance/exit) on either side of the doorway. As you leave the church, the left wall has kind of a rogue's gallery for those that are damned. Beneath the portrait gallery is the red burning river of hell as it carries damned souls into the maw of the Leviathan monster. The right wall of the narthex which shows those that have been judged to be pure enough for heaven isn't as interesting.

Overall view of left wall showing the damned

Who is damned according to this fresco?
Jews--the merchants, rich, so easy to envy
The Habsburgs--they have a history
The Turks--more history
The Crimean Tartars--yep they did the Romanians wrong
The French--????
An airing of grudges and scores evened out through the centuries for all to see.

There is a second church in Deseşti. The denomination is Greek-Catholic. It is new but built in the traditional style. Its paintings are not as interesting as the other wooden church, but its proximity to a stork nest drew us to it.

Many people believe that storks bring not babies but luck. These white storks arrive every March to return to their nesting poles and lay eggs. They take turns sitting on the eggs and when the one mate returns to the nest both birds clack their beaks in greeting. They are mesmerizing to watch from the elevation of the church.

White stork coming in for landing

From the church we took a short walk through Deseşti northeast toward Hărniceşti. It was a work day and most people were in their fields planting their crops.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Maramureş County - Săpânța, Romania: April 29, 2018

Merry Cemetery at Săpânța
Since seeing a photo of the fanciful grave markers at the Cimitirul Vesel (Merry Cemetery) at Săpânța, I've always wanted to see them for myself. Today, I did. Walking through the cemetery instead of death you see the humor left behind--kind of a last words to let those that are still living feel that death doesn't need to be so sad. The words and art are left to the carver of these markers. Săpânța is a small town so everyone knows everything about the recently deceased. Some tell of infidelities, some of a life of drink, one has a sad poem because the woman died before she was able to marry off her three daughters, and some images show the deceased's occupation.

The tradition was begun in the 1930s by Stan Patras who carved the markers until his death in 1977. He has been succeeded by Dumitru Pop. 

The marker on the left shows the impending death of the man as he is hit by a taxi. The information on the marker on the right states that the deceased was a political prisoner.

Before visiting the Merry Cemetery, we stopped in Sighetu Marmației to tour the Village Museum of Maramureş.  Authentic Romanian homes from several centuries are presented within the museum grounds. 

I enjoyed the interiors. These small homes were divided into a sacred part for holding funerals, weddings, etc, and a profane half for sleeping, cooking, family life. The sacred half of the home was never used for any activity except those deemed sacred. Textiles made during the daughter's childhood are stacked and waiting to become the girl's dowry. You might notice that there is only a "twin" bed in each of these interiors. Small children were often stashed for the night on the ledge or alcove above the stove.

An old grave marker from Merry Cemetery was in one of the buildings. The picture indicates the deceased was killed by a double-barrel shotgun.

Another stop in Săpânța was to see the tallest wood construction in the world. Some countries boast of the tallest building in the world, some the tallest flag pole in the world, Peri Church is the tallest church of wood construction in the world. 

The ancient site of the monastery of Peri, Maramureş, is just across the River Tysa and today on Ukrainian territory. The new Săpânța Peri Monastery founded in 1997 in Sapanta village revives the historical tradition of the ancient monastery of St. Archangel Michael. This new church was built in Maramureş style of oak on a stone foundation with a 78-meter/256-foot tall steeple. It is registered in the Guiness Book as the tallest wooden structure. 

The construction is located on the banks of the Tysa--the border between Romania and Ukraine. The monastery’s steeple can be seen from a 5 k/3.1 mile distance over Tysa where it can be admired by Romanians in Transcarpathia, the region of the historical Maramureş that now belongs to Ukraine.