A Day in Sighetu Marmaţiei

Sighetu Marmaţiei is the northernmost town of Maramureş, right on the border with the Ukraine. With a population of only 100,000, it is nevertheless an important hub. When you have to do your grocery shopping, it’s either Baia Mare or Sighetu Marmaţiei (most people simply refer to it as Sighet) you go to. But the town offers much more than that. Here are some ideas to spend a pleasant day in and around Sighet.

Museums

The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance, or The Memorial, contains the memories of a people that might otherwise have been lost – the memories of the dreadful era of communism that Romania suffered under from 1947 to 1989 – and especially during Ceauşescu’s reign from 1965 until his execution in December 1989. The Memorial is housed in the former prison of Sighet, where many victims of communism died. The museum is extremely well documented; the guidebook is available in English and German as well.

You’ll find the museum just off the main street, at Str. Corneliu Coposu 4.

For more important lessons from the past, visit the Elie Wiesel memorial house. Elie Wiesel, who passed away on the 2nd of July this year, was an Auschwitz survivor and a valiant witness of the atrocities committed against the Jews during World War II. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Here are some words worth remembering from his acceptance speech:

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.

You can visit the museum in his birth house on Strada Tudor Vladimirescu 1.

Cafes and Restaurants

If you need a break in between museums, try Patiseria Chindris, which is just a stone’s throw away from The Memorial. They serve great juices and bagels and have comfy sofas. Their cake selection looks tempting too. You can find them at Strada Simion Bărnuțiu 4-6.

If you want something more traditional, try the cakes and/or icecream at Cofetaria Ileana, very close to Lidl ( P-ta. 1 Decembrie 1918 M4). This is where many of the locals go. Great atmosphere.

If, like me, you fancy something slightly less sweet than the average Romanian pastry, you should try a slice of lemon cheesecake at Patiserie Tradiţională, run by the lovely Mariana Pop. I never skip it whenever I visit Sighet. Just can’t… You’ll find it opposite Cofetaria Ileana.

If you are staying in Sighet for dinner, you should definitely try a traditional Romanian meal at Casa Iurca de Calinesti, which is right next door to the Elie Wiesel house (Strada Dragos-Voda, nr.14). If, for some reason, you prefer pizza, go to Pizzeria Veneţia on Strada Mihai Viteazu.

Around Sighet

If all of the above doesn’t quite fill your day, you can try crossing the border (go on foot if you want to get to the Ukraine fast; it could take hours if you go by car); or you could visit Sapanta, the Merry Cemetery, which is just 20 km away. And every first Monday of the month, there is a cattle market just south of Sighet. So if you fancy taking some Romanian chickens or piglets home as souvenirs, you know what to do.

How to get there

Either take a night train from Bucuresti Nord station (leaves at 6 pm, arrives at 7.15 am) or take two buses from Autogara Fany in Cluj – one from Cluj to Baia Mare and then on to Sighet. There is also a train from Cluj.

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