Roamin’ in Romania

This item appears on page 43 of the March 2014 issue.

We received a surprising number of essays on the subject “Roamin’ in Romania,” but one essay was judged by ITN staff to be far more inspiring than the rest. It was written by ANNE SUPSIC of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Anne’s prize is two 50-dollar gift certificates from Magellan’s Travel Supplies (800/962-4943, (Hey, we’re not messing around here!) Our second-place winner is HELEN HASENFELD of Los Angeles, California, and she will receive one 50-dollar gift certificate from Magellan’s Travel Supplies. Both winning essays are printed below.

I had one of the most interesting experiences in my extensive travels while “roamin’ in Romania.” 

While in Bucharest around five years ago, I heard about the marvelous, 15th- and 16th-century painted monasteries of Bucovina, in the northeastern part of the country. I hired a guide via the Internet, hopped a plane and found myself in a very rural and underdeveloped part of the country. The main way of travel there was horse and wagon. All of the horses had beautiful red tassels hanging from their ears.

I’m a photographer and a lover of cemeteries. Next to one of the most beautifully preserved monasteries was a cemetery that was bustling. No funeral here! I walked over to see what was happening. 

From behind one of the gravestones, a woman emerged and, in perfect Hebrew, asked me if I spoke that language. Having spent a year in Jerusalem many years ago, I could truthfully answer, “Yes, a little.” 

For the next 10 or so minutes, in a cemetery in rural northern Romania, we had a conversation in Hebrew. 

She was a health-care worker in Jerusalem. Her children remained in Romania in the care of her parents, and every year she returned to her home to see her kids and to help clean up the cemetery for a festival honoring those who had passed.

What a trip!

Helen Hasenfeld
Los Angeles, CA


I originally dreamed of visiting Transylvania to learn more about the infamous Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). However, my favorite Romanian region was the Maramures, with a mystique even more intriguing than the guy with the long eyeteeth.

Entering Maramures was like walking into “Brigadoon,” the legendary village made famous in a Lerner and Loewe musical, which appeared for only one day every 100 years. As in Brigadoon, peasant life continues in Maramures as it has for hundreds of years. 

The fields are dotted with hand-pitched haystacks; horse-drawn wooden carts pervade the roads, and the hottest activity is the weekly animal market selling everything a peasant could want: fresh produce, kitchen pots, furniture, shoes and squealing piglets. 

To fully experience Maramures life, in fall 2012 we stayed in a guest house with Ioan, a proud peasant who still works the land from dawn to dusk, and Maria, who plied us with delicious homemade treats, such as her incomparably creamy polenta, called mămăligă, and hearty soups and breads.

Sightseeing in Maramures included fabled churches, with towering Gothic spires completely made of wood, as well as the Merry Cemetery, looking like a sparkling garden, with bright-blue crosses displaying simplistic paintings of the deceased and heartfelt personal epitaphs. 

One day, an artisan showed us his front-yard “industrial complex,” where a waterwheel provided power to wash oversized blankets and grind grain into flour. He also revealed his jerry-rigged brandy distillery, fueled by a wood stove, and served us glasses of the powerful local specialty, pálinka (fruit brandy).

According to the legend, no resident can ever leave Brigadoon or it will disappear forever. Even in this regard, Maramures is similar. Maria once suggested to Ioan that they sell the farm and move to the city. 

Ioan replied, “I can’t leave. This land is my life.”

Anne Supsic

 Saylorsburg, PA