By the time I leave Budesti it is late afternoon and I am thinking I should head it to Barsana. Just some 20 km away and 20 minutes later I arrive at the village and, after passing a long street, I get to a foothill where the monastery stands on. I enter through a tall gate and suddenly it feels like stepping into a different universe where nature, men, and God harmoniously share the same space.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

Before arriving at Barsana I stopped on they way, in the village of Calinesti. I had a coffee at the local bar and a small talk with a villager about the wooden churches of Barsana. According to him, the monastery originally stood across the river Iza, in the Slatina Valley and later it was moved to the right side right of the river, at Podurile Manastirii (The Monastery Bridges). Indeed, the old church listed on the UNESCO site it is located a bit further, outside Barsana, but the new church is a perfect copy of the old one.

The one in the left is the copy of the old church. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The one in the left is the copy of the old church. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The paths connecting the buildings of the monastery take me to a small museum portraying the Maramures history, culture and civilization. It also has a balcony that overlooks a farming community that seems to maintain a setting of peace and detachment from the world.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

There are also the summer shire, the house with cells and chapel, the house of the masters, or the house of the artists. All these constructions impressed me with their architectural design; each seems to be ‘planted’ in the right spot, in harmony with the surrounding landscape. Built by the ingenious wooden sculptors of the region, today the monastery is skillfully administrated by a few nuns.

The entrance tower and the museum. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The entrance tower and the museum. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Local woman, probably after praying, at the Sunday mass. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Local woman, probably after praying, at the Sunday mass. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

I could stay there for hours and admire the beautifully ‘sculpted’ hills on the horizon…

A few hours later I leave Barsana and I drive towards Poienile Izei. I choose to take a more remote route, passing through the village of Glob. The forest road takes me slowly on a hilltop from where I can see in the distance the village of Poienile Izei.

The scenic road from Glob to Poienile Izei.  Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The scenic road from Glob to Poienile Izei. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

There’s no one around, except a few cows who doesn’t even notice my presence. They mind their own vegetarian meal before going home and delivering the fresh milk.

A few hundred meters away I arrive at a wooden church in the village after I pass a bridge that reminds me of another one from Laos.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The church was built in 1604 and is covered on the interior with spectacular frescoes. The drawings I found them cruel and evocative; they are quite different than what I’ve seen before. The scenes depict images of terrible punishments for sins: the liar hanged by his tongue, the farmer smashed by two devils for stealing his neighbor’s land, the mother forced to swallow her aborted baby or the person who sleeps while the priest is preaching being forced to lay on a burning bed and endure the devil’s violin.

I didn't take photos with the interior, as is not recommended. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
I didn't take photos with the interior, as is not recommended. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

After witnessing this cold ambiance I understand why nobody charged me an entrance fee: one can surely feel like to get more friendly with God and to leave a contribution for the church.

I get outside and I sit down on a wooden bench along the front wall. I am watching at the nearby massive timbers and I look down a lush slope to the open-sided ‘summer church’. There, I spot another visitor, a woman who observes the surroundings in the distance.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

It is getting late, I’m hungry and I am thinking it is wiser to skip the church from Ied and leave it for the next time. The sense of the delightful food cooked by Maria, my guesthouse host from Vadu Izei, it is grounded in my brain and I want to catch the sunset view from her garden.

Just before Vadu Izei, I stopped once again, when I spoted another wooden church nearby the road. This is the entrance gate. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Just before Vadu Izei, I stopped once again, when I spoted another wooden church nearby the road. This is the entrance gate. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

Arriving at the guesthouse, Gelu – Maria’s husband, pour me a shot of palinca (the Romanian homemade brandy). Is just to make sure that my appetite for dinner button is turned on. I call my father and I tell him I have tasted a better palinca and that he should reconsider the ingredients for his next brandy experience. Gelu pours me another shot to make sure I will also have enough inspiration for choosing the next day itinerary. Once again, the evenings in Maramures have their kind of romance!

 

If you missed the previous episodes of Maramures trip, you find them here –

http://garlictrail.com/wooden-monasteries-trail-maramures-part-2/

http://garlictrail.com/on-the-wooden-monasteries-trail-in-maramures/

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