Surdeşti & Around
Approaching Surdeşti via Hwy 184 from Baia Sprie, after 5km you'll pass through Şişeşti village, home to the Vasile Lucaciu Memorial Museum. Vasile Lucaciu (1835–1919), a reformer and activist who was appointed parish priest in 1885, built a church for the village in 1890 that was supposedly modelled on St Peter’s in Rome. Now Greco-Catholic, the church is signposted about 2km from the main road.
The church at Surdeşti, with its 54m-high steeple, is one of the most magnificent in the Maramureş region and is listed as a Unesco monument. It's well worth a visit for its splendid wall and ceiling paintings of Christ's Passion and the Apocalypse (note the seven-headed dragon). The church, signposted ‘Biserică de Lemn' (wooden church) from the road, was built in 1721 as a centre of worship for the Greco-Catholic faithful. Two kilometres south in Plopiş is another Unesco-protected church dating from the late 18th century, with a towering steeple and paintings of Christ's Passion, Adam and Eve and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. A further 7km southeast is the town of Lăschia. Its church dates from 1861 and has an unusually bulbous steeple.
Baia Mare to Izvoare
North of Baia Mare a small road designated Rte 183 twists and turns through the remote villages of Firiza, Blidari and Valea Neagră, culminating some 38km from the centre of town at Izvoare, where there are natural springs.
Viewing churches is not on the agenda here; come to enjoy the mountainous countryside dotted with the odd wooden cottage and ramshackle farm. The most popular hiking destination in the area is Igniş Peak (1307m), which is used by paragliders.
This route is not served by public transport and, if driving, you must return the way you came as there is no exit onto Hwy 18 from Rte 183. A hiking trail (five to six hours, waymarked with red triangles) leads from Baia Mare to Izvoare; it starts about 3km north of the city along the Baia Mare–Izvoare road.
The Ţara Chioarului region in the southwestern part of Maramureş takes in the area immediately south of Baia Mare. The numerous villages, most of which contain traditional wooden churches, form a convenient loop that is ideal for a two-hour drive, though hard to do by public transport.
From Baia Mare follow the main road (Hwy 1C) south towards Cluj-Napoca for 17km to Satulung. Three kilometres south of Satulung, take the unmarked turn-off on the left (east) to Finteuşu Mare and continue for 5km until you reach the village of Posta. A small wooden church (1675) opposite a more modern one sits at the top of the hill.
Nine kilometres south of Şomcuţa Mare lies Valea Chioarului, the southernmost village in Ţara Chioarului. Its delightful tall church, with decent interior wall paintings, stands next to the bus stop in the centre of the village. Outside, next to a bust of Hungarian hero Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), is a wooden scale model of the church. Seek the key in the shop opposite.
From Şomcuţa Mare, 5km south of the Posta turnoff, a largely unmade road wends its way to Remetea Chioarului, 8km to the northeast. Its tiny church, dating from 1800, is the highlight of Ţara Chioarului, with its interior paintings and vaulted ceiling. It stands majestically beside the village's unattractive, seven-spired modern church (1996).
Săcălăşeni, 7km further north, has a small church, built in 1442, making it the oldest wooden church in Maramureş. To reach it, turn east at the modern church dominating the village.