Top 5 Activities in Breb
Follow the dirt tracks and paths round the village to see what’s going on in Breb. During the day the villagers work in the fields and in the evenings they are busy cooking, milking the cows and visiting the local bars. On the tracks you will see horse-drawn carts, often with wide loads of hay and wood coming down from the mountain, and the small paths through the fields cross wooden bridges over streams. If you lose your way all you have to do is ask where Casa Mica is and you will be pointed in the right direction.
The more adventurous can walk out of the village through fields of haystacks and up towards the mountain. We are in the process of logging routes with GPS, but in the meantime we can provide local guides who are happy to walk with you and show you the way to the top of the Gutai Mountain. It takes around 4 hours from the village and is an easy climb until the last hour, where the path gets steep and walking boots will come in handy. Ask for advice on sheepdogs before you set off – they are trained to protect the sheep for weeks on end on the mountain and can be ferocious if you don’t know what to expect!
We have mountain bikes for hire which you can take out for the day to explore the ‘C’ road cycle routes through the mountains. Maps and advice are available in reception.
Taste the local brew
Almost every house in Breb makes its own apple or plum brandy. In 2009 there was a bumper crop of apples and prunes and so there will be an abundance of Horinca in the village for many years to come! It is customary for a host to offer horinca before, during, or after dinner… while it is polite to try a shot, it is very strong so leave your glass full if you don’t fancy a top-up! In winter, when the fields are covered in feet of snow, this is the main pastime of the local men. Traditionally horinca is kept in a glass bottle with a wooden ladder or sculpted object inside for decoration – it is around 50 lei for one of these to take home as a gift from Romania.
Weaving is for the winter months. In November snow begins to fall thickly, the simple wooden sleighs are taken down from their hangings on the sides of houses, and the women of Breb retreat from the fields to their wooden looms. Many women still spin their own thread and weave everything from bags to rugs and traditional clothing. Although you will only see weaving in action in the winter, the local women love nothing more than to show it off to friend and ‘strauns’ (strangers). You can have your own hand made traditional clothing made up for you or you can buy cloths and rugs directly off the families in the village. Remember there are no fixed prices on the textiles in Breb and so you will need to barter well.
The Old Mill and Whirlpool
During the Communist era wheat was in short supply to the locals. It was claimed by the state, meaning that for the locals it became a delicacy used only for food on special occasions, and it was replaced by maize as a core food. The old mill, powered by a water wheel, was used to grind the maize, with stones turning it into flour. It is now run on electricity but is still worth a visit, as is the whirlpool nearby where women traditionally washed the huge rugs that furnished their homes, which they would leave for hours to be cleaned in this natural washing machine!
The local basket-weaver goes by the nickname Onisim. He makes many varieties – from the strong cos used for transporting hay and general supplies to smaller, more delicate baskets.
This is often the trade of the gypsies, and the local blacksmith here is unusual in that he and his family are fully integrated with the villagers of Breb. His work, which includes mending horseshoes and carts, is a respected contribution to the community.
Carpentry and wood carving:
Maramures is famous for its use of wood and carving. The huge wooden gates at the entrance of every home make a lasting impression, and the scale of carpentry ranges from minute wooden ladders inside horinca bottles to magnificent wooden churches. Petro Pop is widely recognized as the most talented carpenter who we can visit, along with any other craftsmen who you would like to see in action.
The honey you will find in your villa comes from Gheorghe Pop who has hives just round the corner. He has a diploma de nemes – a document engraved on dog-leather which has been passed down through his family since the Hungarian rule. All we know is that it gives him protection or immunity. In the eyes of the locals it means that he is respected in a similar way to nobility.