Maramures county holds an important part of the Romanian traditional civilization, with an original and strong rural culture that hardly can be found in Europe nowadays. In Săpânţa village, the funny epitaphs carved on the blue graves tombstones, offers the local’s perspective about death, while the colorful dresses of women speaks about their positive view of life.

Artistically decorated wooden objects accompany all the important moments of locals life in Maramureș county, but in Săpânţa village the locals go further with tradition. The cemetery has fascinating crosses and colorful tombstones, with naive paintings and epitaphs describing in a poetic manner a life story of the deceased.

One of the many blue crosses in the Merry Cemetery. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
One of the many blue crosses in the Merry Cemetery. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The verses that combines the self irony with drama, has transformed a traditionally sad place, as cemeteries, into a unique joyful place in the world. One limerick found on one of the many bright blue crosses is saying something like “Ioanii Toaderu is my name, since my childhood I loved horses very much, One more thing I loved as well, To sit at a table in the local bar, Next to someone else’s wife”.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

At Easter time, the cemetery of Săpânţa  gets even more lively when the villagers join the annual Easter mess of the church, which is situated inside the cemetery. Men, women and children are wearing colorful traditional costumes. From grandparents to the small nephews, everyone is proudly dressed, almost the same as their ancestors did hundreds of years before. The tradition of these costumes succeeds until today, while the urban style doesn’t stop to influence them in a small manner.

Most of young villagers nowadays are getting shy when wearing the same kind of clothes as their grandparents. There are few regions left where traditions are still alive. The modern society threats them to be  slowly forgotten and it transforms the authentic costume into a slightly different one, more adapted to the present fashion. Initially, locals used natural colorants for painting the clothes, which gave them warm and pastel lines of the colors, but nowadays they are more vibrant.

The boys of Săpânţa. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The boys of Săpânţa. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

What I like about the villagers from Săpânţa is to see among them an interesting fashion blend between traditional and modern. Even if the classic lace might be missing from the shirt’s shoulders, some had new details about the cut and stitch.

Even the small kids dress traditionally. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Even the small kids dress traditionally. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

And, yes, the ladies and even the elder women are not wearing anymore the traditional “opinci” (traditional sandals), but new, shinny and colorful shoes with high heels. I’m not a fashion critic, but I appreciate their style.

The sexy ladies of Săpânţa village, walking with graciously. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
The sexy ladies of Săpânţa village, walking with graciously. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

The old women wears more dark and sober colors, expressing decency and detachment from worldly things while, of course, the young ladies,especially the single ones, try to capture more attention with lively colors.

Men are trying to keep up with their partner’s fashion, by wearing hats, black pants and short vests made of wool, without sleeves and collar, and with a define blue line for a more distinct design.

Men relaxing at the entrance in the cemetery. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Men relaxing at the entrance in the cemetery. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

An interesting thing to notice is that youngest have more traditional elements on their costumes. Could this means they appreciate more the vintage style that reminds them of their elders and the wisdom left by them? Or is it, actually, the fact that most visitors of Maramures are impressed by these authentic costumes?
I am not sure which is the answer to this, but it surely means that traditions have a  strong chance to continue to exist in this part of the world, where people salute and smile to each others with a warmness that is hard to find somewhere else.

Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Showing 3 comments
  • Domi
    Reply

    Thanks for this article. I really enjoyed reading it. I have to visit soon. 🙂

    • Ovidiu Balaj
      Reply

      Glad you like it, welcome anytime! 🙂

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