Colourful hot air balloons in the sky is the embodiment of a holiday, a dream come true, a fairy tale reality. The bright colours on hot air balloons will always remind us of the Ballooning Fiesta in the Romanian region of South Maramures with it’s complete immersion of the national Romanian culture, traditions and customs. Peter Hurley, the organizer of the festival, who fell in love with this land, opened for us a small window of this ancient world, which is normally difficult to find especially today in Europe. We were introduced to hospitable and sincere locals known as Maramureshans who have an open living soul and for whom the romance of simple moral values helped preserve their identity and national culture.
The festival was a commemoration of a significant event in history. The 100 balloons from European countries, Chile and Japan adorned the skies for four days above Romania representing 100 candles in celebration of the centenary of the independence of Romania, which also happened to coincided with the end of the First World War.
The first morning flight took place in the Carpathian valley of Lapus over it’s picturesque villages, green hills and autumn forests. Later that day the pilots and all the team enjoyed the local distinctive flavour where we met some amazing people and got acquainted with their crafts. Two thousand years ago, the Dacians, ancestors of the Romanians, inhabited Maramures. From all sides, this region is surrounded by mountains and forests, which helped residents in this era of great migration, to preserve their age-old traditions. People live here in communes by subsistence farming and still make national clothes, carpets, and wooden products by hand. Together they celebrate holidays and hold folk festivals. For locals, this is daily life but for tourists it’s a unique living museum. All the participants of the fiesta were welcomed with great warmth and treated to goat milk, cheese, apples, grapes, nuts and a very unusual local drink called Polinka.
Masterful wooden architecture is the glory of Maramures. Since ancient times, the inhabitants of the Carpathian valleys used the forest to build houses and folk crafts and now their wooden architecture is famous throughout the world. Eight unique Orthodox wooden churches are on the UNESCO list. The church of the archangels Michael and Gabriel in the village of Rogoz, where we visited, was built in 1663 from plates joined together without the use of metal nails and a roof made of wooden tiles. The walls are supported on a foundation of stone blocks, whilst the interior is painted with bright frescoes.
There followed three more days of magnificent flights in the skies over the Baia Mare!
The best moments of the fiesta can be seen on the video…