Giuleşti & Around
Heading south from Sighetu Marmaţiei on Hwy 18, you first reach the tiny village of Berbeşti, famed for its large, 300-year-old troiţă, a wayside shrine of a roofed carved crucifix with solar symbols. It stands by the roads at the northern end of the village. Traditionally, travellers prayed – or at least blessed themselves – by the cross to ensure a safe journey.
Continuing south you’ll find Giuleşti, the main village in the Mara Valley, notable for its crumbling wooden cottages with ‘pot trees’ in their front yards, upon which a colourful array of pots and pans signify the eligibility of a daughter. It was here in 1918 that the revolutionary Ilie Lazăr summoned delegates from all over Maramureş prior to their signing of Transylvania’s union agreement with Romania. Ilie Lazăr’s simple three-room farmhouse built in 1826 is preserved and open to tourists as a memorial museum. During the communist crackdown in the early 1950s, Ilie Lazăr was arrested and imprisoned at Sighet prison.
The village of Deseşti is a few kilometres southwest of Giuleşti on the road to Baia Mare. Its Orthodox church, built in 1770, was struck by lightning in 1925, destroying much of the outer walls and the steeple. Fortunately, its interior paintings, to the right as you enter the porch, have survived. The work of Radu Munteanu, they date from 1780 and feature a harrowing glimpse of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Close to the church is a 400-year-old oak tree measuring almost 5m in diameter. It has been preserved as a monument to the extensive oak forest that once covered the area before people felled the trees to build their homes.
Mara, just a couple of kilometres south of Deseşti, is known for its elaborately carved wooden gates (porţi de lemn). These are a unique architectural feature of the Maramureş region. In more recent times, their spiritual importance has been overridden by the social status attached to them.