All posts by Ioana Pătrășcoiu

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Trails of nature in Maramures

By | Traditions, Transilvania | No Comments

A 12 hours drive from Bucharest to Breb in Maramureş county. Luckly I enjoy driving :) And probably, first question that comes to mind is: is it worth it ?

Well, if you’re waiting for a simple YES or NO answer, I am not going to answer that way.

I’ll just leave here some impressions and stories.

As I entered in Maramureş county, I saw that kind of landscapes as if an artist just played with some his paintings. And of course, the piles of hay that the county is recognized for.

By the way, did you know that the pile of hay is built by the woman? The man is the one that helps by giving her the hay. And when the pile is done, the woman gets down over a thick stick. This should be fun :)

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Final stop: Pensiunea Marioara in the traditional village Breb.

A cozy, quiet place, with delicious home-made food that invites you to stay until late at night to enjoy the silence. They have an old and a new house. When asked where do I want to stay, definitely the traditional house was my first choice as it keeps that feeling of belonging to a 100 years old story as old as the house itself.

Mărioara will welcome you and her humor will reveal attentiveness for her guests and a genuine friendliness.

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In the morning we met the owner and one of his neighbors. They were making horinca, a 50 degrees drink, that is boiled twice.

The village can be explored in a half a day or even a full day walk. This time I participated to  half a day tour because there wasn’t much time left.

If you choose to have a local guide that knows all the trails, you will pass through fruit gardens and people’s backyards. And if you want to talk with the villagers, they will be happy to meet you and chat.

When I’m coming back I’ll definitely want a full day just for wondering in the village and talking with  them.


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Another full day was dedicated for hiking in Natura 2000 Site: Gutâi-Creasta Cocoşului.

This is a day trip accessible for everyone. The route I take was: Pasul Gutâi – Creasta Cocoşului – Lacul Morărenilor – Tăul Chendroaiei – Breb.

As we hiked we reached this beautiful view:

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It’s called Sarita lui Pintea Haiducul.

Pintea Haiducul is a Romanian version of Robin Hood with many legends shaped around him. He was born in a noble family and he fought against the rulers to help the poor.

This is where “Pintea” movie was filmed, a Romanian movie that tells his story with an epic fall of the hero from this edge.

Once arrived on the plateau of Creasta Cocoşului, a display of volcanic lava, sharp rocks and a large view will amaze you:

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And on return to the village we chose to descend on a different route, where we discovered other interesting spots:

Lacul Morărenilor is one of them, a lake formed because of a landfall.

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Close to it, there is also Tăul Chendroaiei with two waterholes. What is interesting about them is that compared with other ecosystems, the dead plants in the peat land do not decompose because of lack of oxygen.

The only detail you need to keep in mind is that it’s best to go with a local guide.

The villagers are going up by tractor as much as they can and large, deep tyre tracks are shaped. Which means that you can be at a crossroads of 3 different trails wondering which way to go. And a go left or right decision might “cost” you a few hours on foot: you can either arrive in Breb, or the next village.

If you get in the area and you need a guide, our friends from Eco Maramures will be happy to help you.

PS: More on symbols and traditional houses in this post.

Guest post by Georgiana Atanasiu

Nicolae Balcescu Mansion and history

By | Destinations, Muntenia, Rural break, Trips, Weekly secret | No Comments

The indicator to Bălcescu Mansion first appears somewhere after Dedulești, at the foothill of Meridionali Carpathians, when you are almost in Râmnicu Vâlcea. If you are travelling a lot to Transylvania and Oltenia, you cannot miss it every time you pass by, so you start growing a curiosity regarding the place.

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Here, mansion means a house in the Romanian Brâncoveanu style (refers to houses built during 1688-1714, when Constantin Brâncoveanu was the ruler of Wallachia – Țara Românească – the southern part of now Romania), with gothic influences, built up a hill in the first half of the 19th century. The kula (fortified house built in 18th-19th centuries) near the gate, the counter forts, the big veranda windows, the two staircases which lead to the main entrance are enough for the architecture geeks to congratulate themselves for taking a detour and visiting this place.

Nicolae Balcescu’s home

The mansion belongs to the family of Nicolae Bălcescu – a Romanian Wallachian soldier, historian, journalist, and leader of the 1848 Wallachian Revolution. He was born in 1819 in Bucharest and died in exile, in Palermo, aged 33. His family was of low-ranking nobility back then, but looking at the house we would say they were rich.

He was a passionate scholar, furthering his history studies in France and Italy. His liberal views, together with those of his friends that studied in Western Europe, helped the 1848 revolution in Wallachia (back then Romania did not exist). He was, for just two days, both Minister and Secretary of State of the provisional government put in place by the revolutionaries.

You will not find everywhere a house that can take you back two centuries ago. Once you enter, time travelling starts. You step into the saloon, in the dinning room, in Bălcescu’s family bedroom, you come across the place Nicolae Bălcescu grew up with his mother and his four brothers. How they all used to fit in the last room’s small bed remains a mistery…

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You step on the same floor he did, you watch the same beams he did. You admire the garden and the back green hill and you think how much he had to miss these images when he was denied access into our country and he had to die exiled, in Palermo (after the Ottoman Empire restrained the revolution in September 1848, Bălcescu was first arrested, then exiled by the Habsburg Empire).

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Unfortunately, time travelling doesn’t last for long. You can enjoy the Biedermayer furniture only in four rooms, the traditional carpets, ceramics by Corbi (a famous pottery center, which lost its craft in the last ten years) and by Curtea de Argeș. In the other rooms of the mansion we can see an exhibition dedicated to Nicolae Bălcescu, the kind that bores and amazes in the same time.

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Amazes because it is the same for years, so you can see the great communist way of decorating: glass panels for maps and documents, with black letters carefully glued on them, wooden showcases used to present very important documents. It becomes boring because of the same reasons. The exhibition is not doing much for making the regular visitor, Romanian or foreigner, to get closer to Bălcescu’s figure and to understand a bit more about his role in the 1848 big changes.

He was a liberal militating for the introduction of the universal vote and for the peasant appropriation. The revolution didn’t achieve its targets at the moment, but in early 1859, at the close of a turbulent period, Wallachia and Moldavia entered a personal union, later formalized as the Romanian United Principalities, under Moldavian-born ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza (himself a former revolutionary). Cuza followed the revolutionaries goals and achieved numerous reforms that helped the peasants and the establishment of more modern times.

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Fortunately, at the end of the exhibition tour you end up in the veranda and wonder if you could stay there for hours, with a book and a cup of tea and you would look for inspiration, as the artists who came here probably did. In 1948, Radu Mandrea, one of the Bălcescu family descendants, was forced to donate the domain to the State. A few years later, the communist regime found a big interest in Bălcescu’s figure and the place was transformed into a museum.

On a more happy note, there’s still the garden. With Bălcescu family’s church, moved out of the village, into the mansion domain, with Sevastița Bălcescu’s grave (Bălcescu’s mother), with a big yellow magnolia. The place gives a good vibe, so you might consider taking a blanket and some sandwiches along, for a small picnic.

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Good to know

  • When you enter the gate, there’s a strong ring letting the museum personnel know they have guests, so if you are a big group, you might want to go in all at once.
  • The entrance fee is less then 1 EUR per person; the fee for a guided tour is 1 EUR and the photo fee is also 1 EUR

Our big plan is an Oltenia tour, that will happen this year in June, which will include Nicolae Balcescu Mansion. Our smaller plan are special trips in Oltenia and Muntenia which will include seeing this jewelry on the way. Find more about what are we planning for you on our Join us on trip! page.