As in the case of any other area in Romania, the roller of chaotic modernization has passed over Maramureș as well, without urban planning rules that would contribute to the conservation of the built cultural heritage. The result is that from an area recognized worldwide for the almost intact wood civilization of 30-40 years ago, today we have only sporadic examples of traditional architecture.
In this process, the traditional houses suffered the most. Dark, with small rooms and without providing modern comfort, these houses have become a symbol of poverty and outdating. Their owners, eager to replace them with larger and more modern ones, sold them at lower prices, and their timber came to decorate luxurious homes abroad.
Tourism has come to reverse this trend, but the road has been difficult, and the process of demolition and sale of traditional houses has not yet disappeared, even if prices are now different.
Breb, an almost forgotten village that has turned into a gem
Breb is one of the famous villages of Maramureș for its well-preserved traditions and architecture. But that’s not always the case. Until 10-15 years ago, Breb was not among the star villages of Maramureș. Unlike Bârsana, Botiza or Vadu Izei, the relative isolation and the fact that it is not crossed by a national or county road, made it grow late and retain a charm that most other villages have lost. .
Do not imagine that in Breb you will not see concrete houses and all kinds of architectural anomalies. Unfortunately, the situation here does not differ much from the rest of Maramureș. It was built and is still being built without taking into account the local specifics, but in recent years there has been a change in attitude towards traditional houses.
The traditional architecture took the fame of Maramureș outside the country’s borders, the wooden constructions being an element of uniqueness that contributes to the identity and attractiveness of the area. Maramureș is known abroad and we are proud of it because of this heritage!
After the fall of the communist regime, with the opening of borders and the opportunity to work abroad, wooden houses began to be considered a symbol of poverty. The locals started building towering brick and concrete houses, and the wooden houses were sold to bargain hunters. Their precious wood has become the floor in villas abroad or, at best, holiday homes for lovers of traditions.
Of course, we cannot blame the locals for wanting a better life, but we can point the finger at local and national authorities that they have been indifferent to this phenomenon. Obviously, the solution was not to deny the locals a better life and access to all the facilities of modern life, but the wave of modernization could take into account the local specifics when it comes to construction: to preserve the proportions, colors and traditional materials. In fact, such an exercise was made by the Order of Architects of Romania, which proposed an architectural guide for this area.
It was not easy for the locals to learn to appreciate again the cultural heritage of the Maramures village. With much effort and effort, they built towering and durable concrete and brick houses, opened boarding houses, and then found with amazement that tourists would rather prefer wooden houses.
But this did not happen overnight. The pioneers were, for the most part, foreigners who, enchanted by the beauty of Breb village, decided to invest here and build complexes consisting of traditional houses, relying on the unique experience they can offer guests. The English, the Dutch and, later, the people of Cluj moved and renovated old houses, turning them into attractions in themselves. Over time, the demand for accommodation in such houses has increased and they have become more sought after than rooms in modern buildings, so that the locals have reoriented themselves towards traditional constructions.
This is reflected in several traditional houses relocated or built in the village, but also in changing the online promotion strategy. Today, 21 boarding houses out of a total of 31 in the village are totally or partially arranged in wooden houses. At the same time, the rooms in traditional houses are the first to be occupied, which is why the owners of boarding houses are trying to highlight them in their online promotion effort, to the detriment of modern buildings.
The wooden houses introduced in the tourist circuit changed the perception of the locals, who realized that traditional architecture is their asset. This change of attitude also happens in other villages, but in Breb the phenomenon is the most advanced.
The tourist situation
When the tourist development takes into account the local specifics and highlights the uniqueness of the place, the chances are that it will be the winning book. To see the impact that this approach has on tourism, we will present below some tourist indicators that differentiate the village of Breb from the other villages in the ecotourism destination Eco Maramureș. Of course, we cannot say with certainty that all this is due only to the way in which traditional constructions are integrated in the tourist offer, but they are certainly a decisive factor.
According to the two indicators above, the pensions from the village of Breb perform, on average, at least 10% better than the pensions from the other localities from the ecotourism destination Eco Maramureș. At the same time, Brebul has had an explosive development in recent years in terms of the number of accommodation units. It remains to be seen, therefore, to what extent the village will manage not to fall victim to its own success, as has happened in other localities.
This article was written based on the presentation made by Edit Pop, the manager of the ecotourism destination Eco Maramureș, during the conference Relaunching Romanian tourism on sustainability coordinates, which took place between February 16-17, 2021, in online format.
Dezvoltarea destinațiilor de ecoturism în România se realizează cu sprijinul financiar oferit de:
This article was made within the PET Romania project, developed by the Romanian Ecotourism Association, in partnership with the Ţara Dornelor Ecotourism Association, the Retezat Tourism Association and the Măgura Ecotourism Association, with the financial support of Active Citizens Fund Romania, a program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014-2021 .
The content of this material does not necessarily represent the official position of the EEA and Norwegian Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org .