For the tourist who made it all the way into the historical land of Maramures, another surprise is discreetly awaiting: the travel back in time in the very heart of nature. It is perhaps what may still be the wildest and most beautiful landscape in Romania - and this is not for the lack of competition.
Just 60 kilometer long across the Vaser River, the valley climbs slowly into the heart of the Maramures Mountains, at altitudes close to 1000 m high. Cliffs, canyons, dark forests, mountain pastures, mineral waterspings, trees dozen story high greet the visitor at every step.
But it is not only its breath-taking beauty that makes the Vaser Valley so unique. It hosts what is the last functioning forestry railway in Europe which even today fulfills its role of carrying lumber down the valley. The railway itself is a magnificent piece of history. Built between 1924 and 1933 by the German speaking population of Viseu - the ţipţeri - and employing several steam powered locomotives - called Mocaniţe - the railway is the only way of access into the valley. The locomotives themselves look like belonging to an open air museum: its oldest one, Mariuţa, was built in Germany in 1910. Even the newest, Cozia-1, built in Romania in 1986 has a century old look.
Sitting in the back of one of these steam puffing time machines, it's no wonder that one feels instantly transported back in time. There is nothing else breaking the silence of nature except the hissing and puffing of the train, the sporadic shrieking of the locomotive's whistle, the rippling of the winding Vaser river and the occasional sound of a chainsaw. The hallmarks of modern life also end here: there is no cellular network available, no stores to restock: just yourself and, every half dozen kilometers or so, a station for the lumbermen.
The Vaser Valley remains a splendid and enchanting place to visit. Only time will tell if this surreal site will survive for the next generations to savour.
I am an enthusiast photographer from a wonderful place of the world called Maramureș. This is in Transylvania, Romania. While I work and live abroad, I spend as much as I can travelling back home, discovering beauties that so far very few know of. I have so far published two Blurb books on the place, covering two main topics: people and nature. You can follow my ongoing work on Maramures visiting my website www.worldofmaramures.com. Most importantly, just go there and see it all with your own eyes! As it happens, true wonders do not last forever.