In the far north of Romania, nestled in a valley below a long extinct volcano, lies the little village of Breb Maramures County. We first came to Romania, Maramures and Breb in May 2015 and fell in love. We are unable to fully call it home due to visas and officialdom, but to us it feels like home. It’s the place that after 50+ countries and 4 years of full time travel, we really want to be. Maramures is a magical county, it’s famously home to the “last peasant culture in Europe” and it’s hard to not notice the immediate difference as you cross by mountain road from neighbouring Transylvania. Time really has stood still here but it’s catching up with rural Romania and the traditional way of life won’t last much longer. We were lucky to catch it now, before it disappears forever. So here, a brief glimpse of life in Breb, 2 Easters, 2 Christmases, 2 harsh winters and 2 glorious summers, absorbing the stunning countryside, the way of life and the traditions of the village of Breb.
Roads in Romania are generally good, despite the bad press you will find elsewhere. Our local roads were recently resurfaced and in winter snow plows keep traffic flowing seamlessly, but no tarmac exists in Breb. Once you arrive you’ll be exploring on dirt lanes, mud and stone and in winter ice lies deep here from October to February. The locals aren’t phase, their horses and carts in summer, horses and sleighs in winter, can cope with anything.
Everyone in the village produces their own food. Meadows thick with wildflowers produce abundant lush grass all summer long. Villagers cut it with scythes to make the haystacks so characteristic of the region. In winter these foodstores keep the horses, cows and sheep well fed. Cows inhabit barns and are milked daily, sheep deliver an annual lamb for the Easter feast and milk for cheese afterwards. Every family raises a piglet or two to slaughter just before Christmas and plump, healthy chickens roam the lanes all year round giving a good supply of eggs. Chickens, dogs and cats cope with winter temperatures just fine, no little dog jackets or booties round here.
In spring, around March and April, the weather is right for ploughing and planting and the busy summer growing season begins. Around this time the trees are thick with blossom, getting ready for another years supply of plums, apples and pears.
Most of the fruit produced in the village is drunk, either as suc, juice, or as tuica ( also known as horinka or palinka) a fierce home-distilled spirit ubiquitous in this village. Our village, Breb, has over a dozen tuica sheds where fermented fruit pulp is distilled round the clock at certain times of year. Bring your drinking trousers!
Winters are harsh and the weather here allows skiing nearby. In January temperatures can reach -25ºC but crisp, bright days aren’t unusual and it’s still possible to get out for a hike.
Christmas traditions are fascinating and the holiday centres around religion, Orthodox and Roman. Don’t be surprised if you see locals dressed in bear skins or strange demon costumes with animal horns and fleeces.
It’s been an incredible and deeply enjoyable few years for us in the fascinating village of Breb. It’s coming to an end, I think 2017 will see us moving on, but if you’re interested, come now, you won’t be disappointed.
Visiting Breb Maramures County
Best Times to Visit Breb
If you possibly can, try to be here for one of the big festivals. Easter is huge but Palm Sunday is also a big church event. The neighbouring village of Hoteni hosts a unique annual ploughing festival ( pictured above) in April and Sighetu Marmatiei holds a large festival of Winter and Christmas traditions just after Christmas. Failing that, be here on a Sunday to see everyone dressed up in full traditional costume, making their way to church.
Weather in Breb is generally superb from March to October.
Most local hotels shut down for winter, particularly January and February, but you will find some open nearby. Don’t try and bring a car into Breb without 4×4 or chains when ice is on the ground.
If you’re sensitive, be aware that you are fairly likely to see lambs and pigs being slaughtered around the village at certain times of year, notably pre Easter and pre Christmas.
Things to do in Breb and Maramures Include:
- The UNESCO listed wooden churches of Maramures.
- Barsana Monastery
- The Mocanita Railway
- Salt Pools and Spas of Ocna Sugatag
- Local Farmers’ and Livestock Markets
How to Get to Breb
Our nearest airport is Satu Mare, about 2 hours away by road, but Cluj Napoca, about 3 hours away, has far more incoming flights. From Bucharest you can take the overnight sleeper train to Sighetu Marmatiei and from there arrange a pickup or local bus. Hitchhiking is very common in this region. If you need somebody to pick you up, shoot us an email. There are buses from Cluj Napoca to Baia Mare.
Where to Stay in Breb
Breb has quite a collection of accommodation options these days, including numerous pensiunea, a campsite and hostel, various holiday cottages and, famously, The Village Hotel, Breb, above.
Check out the accommodation options and prices in Breb, below:
Or find the best deals Romania-wide here:
- Our full Romania Travel Blog and Guide
- How does a family spend time in Breb
- Legends and facts, Dracula and Romania.
Want to Read More About Breb?
You need to read this book, William Blacker lived here with our villagers a decade ago, before we foreigners and travellers arrived. He shared our village with the world.
Thanks for reading and thanks for being interested. This village and the Maramures region is very special to us. Let us know if you’re coming, we’ll catch up with you at the village pub if we’re in town.