Săpânţa: The Happy Cemetery
|5:38:37 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011|
"Săpânţa is a village about 15 kms west of Sighet, smack up against the Tisa river in the far north of Romania. When I first came to Maramureş in 1990, the streets in this village were lined with cearga - furry raw sheep wool blankets - for sale, hanging from every house' fence along the road that leads to Sighet. Within weeks of the end of Communism, these villagers were doing business big time. In 1990, right after the fall of Ceaucescu and the Communist Party in Romania, the peasants of Săpânţa had their own reading on freedom. After annoucement of a federal tax on home brewed brandy - the ţuica so central to Maramureş existence - the villagers of Săpânţa blockaded the main road to Sighet and effectively revolted in defense of their beloved tax-free home brew.
After a couple of weeks the government backed down, and the villager's favorite hooch was safe. Yes, Maramureş folk - the moroşani - love to drink. And yes, they may even drink themselves to death, and how well they know it. Presently the most unique attraction in Săpânţa is the "Happy Cemetery." Originally begun by a peasant grave carver named Stan Petras in the 1930s, and carried on today by the Pop family, the cemetery has become one of the most popular tourism attractions in rural Romania, with tour buses pulling up and unloading foreigners hourly. We were lucky - we visited on a religious holiday just as the villagers were coming from a Church service..."