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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Maramures - Romania's wild heart

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

We arrived in Romania a few days ago and are on our way to the north of the country. The Maramures National Park is said to be very wild and pristine. There are hardly any hiking trails. We have to go there!

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Vaser valley steam locomotive in Maramures Nationalpark

From Viseu de Sus there is the Vaser Valley railway that goes deep into the valley of the same name. Originally the route was built for the timber industry. For several years now, the steam locomotive has been running for tourists to explore the Maramures National Park. We buy a ticket and get on. The excursion seems to be popular with locals. At the end of the route there is a rest area with food and drink. After about an hour, the train chugs back comfortably.

We're the only ones staying there. Packed with a tent and provisions, we want to make our way to the Pietrolsu Bardau, the highest mountain there. Since there are no signposted hiking trails, we bought a map at the train station. There is no way to be found in our Gaia GPS hiking app either. And so we follow the railway tracks for a while and then climb up along a forest path that the woodworkers use. It's dragging on. Far and wide only forest. After hours we actually meet two Romanian lumberjacks. It's a mystery to us how they got up there with their huge crawler excavator. We feel like we are not quite right when looking at the GPS. And so they try to explain to us using hands and feet where to go. There isn't even a beaten track anymore, but we now roughly know the direction. The path gets steeper and steeper. And it has taken us a lot longer than we thought. We really want to reach the pass. Firstly, there is a wild camping site marked on the map and secondly, there should be a water source. That wouldn't be bad, because we have very little left in our water bladders. And so we reach the pass in the last light of day. A magical sight at the golden hour! Far and wide only mountains and wilderness.

Pietrolsu Bardau maramures rumänien
Pietrolsu Bardau at the golden hour

It's a shame we don't have a lot of time to enjoy it. We have to find the campsite and set up our camp for the night. We continue. Finally we have to realize that the source does not exist (anymore). Well, that means we have to do without personal hygiene and dinner. No water, no pasta. We still have a few nuts and granola bars. We are already packed in our sleeping bags when suddenly a bright light comes from outside. What could that be? Indeed, a huge floodlit device is rolling towards us! Hopefully it will see our tent! As sudden as it was there, it turned around again. Strange ... Maybe the Ukrainian border guards?

camping maramures stars milliondollar view
Million dollar view

The next day we continue. We have the option to go back into the Vaser valley, but in this case we have to master this ultra-steep descent and also depend on the departure times of the Vaser valley railway (only once a day :-)), the other options is to hike into the other valley. So we decide on the latter. At some point there has to be a source of water. Breakfast is canceled. No water, no porridge. After three hours of descent, we pass a small alpine pasture with horses and cattle. There must be water. As we can't find anything, we ask some boys who hang around. They lead us to a puddle covered with green algae. We look at each other helplessly ... we don't trust our water filter to do that. Well, then just continue without water. At some point a small stream finally flows next to the forest path. We just risk that. After all, the water filter has to prove what it can do. It feels so good to finally have a drink. We continue to the next village. The path is long, we come through many settlements that cannot be reached by car. People are looking at us curiously. Obviously, a stranger doesn't come here that often. They are all very friendly and try to communicate with us. Even if we don't understand anything - a smile is always possible.

Finally we reach the first village at the head of the valley. From there we want to take a taxi to the train station in Viseu de Sus. Taxi? What were we thinking! There is a bus to the next major city once a day. But this is not our destination. Fortunately, everyone is really helpful. A young girl organizes a bus ride for us and takes us to her café while we wait. We are invited to coffee and cake. Oh, that's good! Finally we take the bus that lets us get off at an intersection. In Spanish, the bus driver explains that another bus will be coming in a few minutes to take us. Really? A bus stop is not in sight. Well, after 15 minutes we decide to take our fate into our own hands and hitchhike. Indeed, a tow truck stops soon. The driver throws our luggage on the loading area and takes us with him. We are so lucky! He is super nice, tells us in Italian about his years in Italy and shows us photos of his family (while driving!). After all, we only have a few hundred meters to walk to our car. What a trip! Unforgettable! Even then we are enthusiastic about the hospitality and helpfulness of the Romanians. And the impression should solidify during our entire stay in Romania.

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Thanks for that story.

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