The fertile point

If you set out through the mountain towards Vișeu de Jos/Alsóvisó from Izakonyha in Maramureș – in Yiddish קעכניא, in Romanian Cuhea until 1973, when Ceaușescu gave to it the name of the legendary medieval voivode Bogdan, and the post-Ceaușescu regime in 2008 also his bronze sculpture group –, after about six kilometers, shortly before reaching the village of Bocicoel/Kisbocskó, you look back once more from the ridge, a stunning view will unfold before your eyes. With a thousand warm tints, the golden hour paints the hillsides, rugged with mountain streams, which gradually descend to the valley of the Iza river floating in mist, and from there they increase again to the not so distant mountain range of the Țibleș, interspersed at almost regular intervals by the peaks of Țibleș/Cibles (1839 m), Hudin/Hunyad (1615 m), Secului/Székelykő (1311) and, to the far right, the just recently mentioned Gutâi/Gutin (1443 m). The basin of Iza is just one of the four great river valleys – Vișeu/Visó, Iza, Mara/Mára, Sapânța/Szaplonca – constituting Maramureș, but this view still seems to sum up the whole region in an unique way. It was no accident that this photo, taken last May, introduced the announcement of our first Maramureș-Bukovina tour.

The narrow road winding up from the Iza valley to the ridge, and from there down to the Vișeu/Visó valley, is not known to many people, is not recommended by the guidebooks, and even Google route planner proposes a detour instead of it. Nevertheless, just as we found it last May, so many others have also found this hidden, magic lookout point, and the photos taken from here, just like in our blog, have played an iconic role in various Maramureș publications.

The fundamental work on the traditional Maramureș architecture, written by Dan Dinescu and Ana Bârcă, entitled The Wooden Architecture of Maramureș (1997) – from which we have already quoted the similarly iconic photo of the church if Ieud/Jód, and we will also write about the whole book – begins its chapter on the villages of Maramureș with this photo (click on it). Rather than May, here we are already in late summer, the silvery leaves of the poplars are already thick, and in the foreground there rises the typical Maramureș haystack.

Perhaps that very haystack is strewn in the beautiful album recently published by Florin Andreescu from Bucharest: Maramureș, țară veche (Maramureș, ancient land, 2011), about which we will also write soon. And in the same album, a few pages later, the right side of the landscape also opens up, with the Gutâi/Gutin in the background.

And the left side of the landscape introduces the chapter covering the region’s geography in the excellent 500-page Maramureș guide of the Finnish Metaneira publisher (2007) (click on it). The photo may have been taken some ten years ago: the lonely poplar tree, as our May photo shows, has a whole bunch of young rivals, but the little apple tree two terraces higher has not grown much since then.

The preparation of further iconic photos will be the task of our readers, especially of those joining us on our Maramureș tour at the end of June, or – as it is more and more certain – at its repetition between 20 and 24 August.