As a follow-up to Halloween we figured we’d add in a piece about the Happy Cemetery near Maramures on the Ukranian Romanian border. We’re likely all very familiar with the Merry/Happy Cemetery as it is called, however what Romanian tourist and informative website would be complete without mention of it.
There is one place on Earth where laughter is sparked by something macabre. This is a village “thrown” into the farthest corner of Romania. In the heart of the human settlements, inhabited by perhaps the most hardworking Romanian, there is a cemetery.
The whole community revolves around the existence of cross piled on a patch of land, far too small, compared with such great souls buried beneath them.
Here, life is too nice to say “goodbye” when you close one last time your eyes. In this place, heroes are not Columbeanu Monica, Traian Basescu and Inna. Here, each person has his own place on the podium, every citizen is a star and every man has his fans, including visitors who will smile when reading his life story.
While in other parts of the world, biographies of celebrities are sold for big money and around the world. Here each biography has no material value, but a truly precious legacy of people who loved life, and did not want to leave here, too quickly!
True outdoor museum, the Happy Cemetery is located in the center of S?pân?a at the parish church and comprises over 800 monuments of folk art, with a very different look and meaning. By its nature, this cemetery, dating from 1935, is a unique value. It is a life-work and the craftsman forged wooden funerary crosses, in a manner that is original and like this they have managed to banish sadness and darkness that brings death. They have removed the drama, focusing on the celebration of life.
The unique monuments in this cemetery are the crosses carved in oak, painted and with popular verse epitaphs.
All crosses are painted in shades of blue, so-called “blue S?pân?a” with decorations made in a color palette of bright colors: red, black, green, yellow.. They not only say about the best moments of someone’s life but also about some practical and most common incidents that can happen in one’s life. Sometimes they are pretty direct and were always written as if the person writes himself like – “an evil man shot me in the back”, or in some other case, it said about someone’s love of the Romanian plum brandy- tuica in some poetic verses like –
“Now I will tell you a good one/ I kind of liked the plum tuica/ With my friends at the pub/ I used to forget what I came for!!.”
Above each epitaph, which captures in the most suggestive lyrics a few brief moments in the life of the dead, his face is painted in bright colors, captured in a crucial moment of his life. The characters are moving, active, often smiling. Most epitaphs have a touch of humor, which drew the name of “Happy Cemetery”.
The local culture proved its difference from the other typical European cultures that believed in the solemnity and sorrow of someone’s death, and rather followed the Dacian philosophy that souls are immortal and death is only the gateway to a new world.
The great monument shows the Romanian sense of humor and optimistic spirit that celebrates the death of the many people for their release from this world and their onset of a new voyage.
“De cu tîn?r copila?
Io am fost Stan Ion P?tra?
S? m? asculta? oameni buni
Ce voi spune nu-s minciuni
Cîte zile am tr?it
R?u la nime n-am dorit
Dar bine cît-am putut
Ori?icine mia cerut
Vai s?raca lumea mea
C? greu am tr?it în ea”
Since I was a little boy
I was known as Stan Ioan P?tra?
Listen to me, fellows
There are no lies in what I am going to say
All along my life
I meant no harm to anyone
But did good as much as I could
To anyone who asked
Oh, my poor World
Because It was hard living in it.”
For those of you that love to watch the travel channel specials, you won’t want to miss Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations tour of Romania. We will not post this video on here, as they regularly catch copyright infringement of this episode on YouTube. Go ahead an go to Google and search for this video and watch it if you can – it is well worth it. Interestingly enough, it is painfully obvious that Anthony was slightly disappointed with his tour through Romania. As you’ll see he approaches Romania more through the eyes of a tourist than through that of an expat or adventurer. As a result he does not really experience all that Romania has to offer. He visits a small handful of landmarks in Bucharest, then makes way for Bran Castle for a “Dracula” Halloween Party. Lastly, he ends up at the Cemetery where, thankfully, he seems to enjoy himself in the light of this “odd” bit of humor.