Ethnography museum in Vișeul de Sus, Maramureș

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

A small part of the memories of Maramureș are kept in this museum that has two sections, dedicated to history and ethnography. Included in the larger area of Transylvania, Maramureș is a historic region of Romania, in the north western extremity. As borders were redrawn in the twentieth century, the Nordic piece of historic Maramureș remained in other countries, that became Austria Hungary, Soviet Union and now Ukraine.

Maramureș is separated from Moldova to the East by a segment of Carpathian mountains, but other smaller mountains to the south join to form a sort of amphitheater. These are, from east to west: Rodnei, Țibleșului, Gutâiului and Oașului. This natural enclosure gave the region a somewhat independent character.

The name in itself is quite a mystery old of almost a thousand years, since it was put on paper. At first glance, it joins together the name of two rivers: Mara and Mureș. But this last one is quite far away to the south, way outside of the region. Unless that name meant something used here as well, the supposition doesn’t make much sense.

Another one hints to the Romanian name for marble (marmură), a stone indeed found in quarries in the region. Just as gold and other minerals were found in abundance, being the magnet for colonizing the region in the past. That’s how several towns ended up having the name Baia included, for the old term meaning both “bath” and “mine”, as the coal needed a river to be washed out. The rivers that water Maramureș include Tisa (its northern border), Mara, Iza and Vișeu.

At the small town of Vieșul de Sus (Upper Vișeu), miners were supplemented with Saxons brought in by Hungarian crown from various Austrian and German provinces like Salzburg, Tirol and Bavaria. At some point, they made up a quarter of population. A similar influx was created by Jewish merchants. Another vital activity was forest exploitation.

The objects gathered in the museum start with tools from the bronze age, but go up to contemporary times, with photographs and documents of people who influenced local history.

You can see tools used in the house for weaving textiles and the specific costumes, tools for grinding and baking but also the usual farming objects. One distinct activity is shepherding and cheese making, which included periodic movement of sheep and cattle up and down the mountains according to the season.

The costumes specific to the region attest the oldness of local traditions. For instance, male costumes still include robe like dressing that was the norm in the Greek-Roman world up until Germanic „barbarians” introduced the fashion of wearing trousers. The standard costume of Maramureș to this day includes a, unusual large type of trousers for men, that also looks like a dress. Along with collections of costumes and pottery, the visitor can also learn about local traditions throughout the year, such as the Herods, played around Christmas by children with costumes, going from house to house.

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