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A trip on the Mocanita steam train on the Vaser Valley’s gorge in the Maramuresului Mts. looks like a getaway through another time portal and is one of the attractions for the Romanian and foreign tourists who come to Maramures.

Photographies by Gabriel PETRESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Regardless of their schedule, tourists try to get to the Vaser Valley’s gorge to enjoy for a few hours the steam engine puffing hard to climb up the several tens of kilometres on the mountain, accompanied all this time by the well-known Vaser Valley.

The tourism with the Mocanita train on the Vaser Valley has come to be promoted in the 90s, once with the re-opening of the access to one of the most interesting destinations of the county. The steam train and the trolleys as well do transport their passengers on the narrow gauge line which was built by the Germans and the Austrian Zipsers (settlers in the Spi? region were known as Zipser Sachsen or “Scepusian Saxons”) in the First World War’s period who have colonized the Viseu region at the beginning of the 19th century, developing the forest industry and the rafting on the river Vaser, a craft which was kept until around 1960. The settling of the Zipsers in Viseu has immediately improved the wood exploitation and processing techniques and raised the living standard of the entire community.

The wood exploitation techniques were ceaselessly improved, and after the Second World War once with the nationalization of the assets, the Romanian state has taken over the working ways and intensified the wood exploitation, determining in three localities — Viseul de Sus, Viseul de Jos and Viseul de Mijloc — the shaping up of a forest industry, furniture industry, of export implicitly, by creating thousands of jobs and another vertical industry which served the field.

Starting with 1995, the tourism with the Mocanita steam train enters a new period which year by year knows visible improvements, and the area becomes a destination preferred by thousands of Romanians and foreigners who adventure even for a single day to travel with the steam train the almost 40 km, lazily crossed by the old train, witness of some long gone times. An entire rural agri-tourism network which draws the travelers with tempting offers and holiday destinations throughout the entire Maramures to the less known spots, was built around the steam train at Viseul de Sus.

‘It’s hard to say whether the Mocanita train holds necessarily with a season, because we have tourists the long of the year. In summer time, an increase of the tourist number is noticed, as it is the holidays’ period both for the Romanians and for the foreigners. Then, around the Holy Easter, the Christmas, and in particular on the New Year we organize getaways on the mountain with the steam train, outdoor parties, folk, classic and even rock music concerts. We already have a tradition to organize the New Year outdoors, around a campfire, an event which is attended by several people who wish to radically change the way they party the passage of years, in an exquisite manner. We register annually a growth of the interest for such a way to pass the New Year’s night, as very few persons think they could do it. Certainly, such an event presupposes an increased effort on our behalf as organisers to offering a pleasant comfort and adequate meals sprinkled with quality wines and the customary Maramures tzuica,’ the director of the Viseul de Sus Forestry Railways (the company organizing the stays on Vaser Valley with the Mocanita steam train), Ioana Coman Karsten, says.

The Mocanita steam train is just a pretext to visiting other nearby objectives, such as: the Zipsers’ neighbourhood, the place where the Austrian-born Zipsers colonists lived, the local churches, and to go to other destinations which could lead to the Romanian-Ukrainian border, too.

Once at the Faina final train station, the tourists who intend to climb up the Maramures Mts. could choose of the variants: the Valley of the Mother-in-Law (Valea Soacrei), Novat, the Fish Valley (Valea Pestilor), the Valley of the Old Woman (Valea Babii), Catarma and Suligul, some of the alpine landmarks. Unfortunately, in the alpine area none of the forest cottages’ accommodation spots operate anymore so that for those who intend to stay on the mountain a tent is needed, if they didn’t choose to descend that very day to Viseul de Sus.

A specific delight of the Vaser Valley are the traces left here and there the long of the narrow gauge railway, the defence shelters since the time of war, and the small dams which erstwhile came to help the rafters who were bringing the cut fir trees for processing them at the Viseu wood plant.

On the mountain small creeks, trout and grayling could be seen, while the luckier tourists with binoculars could spot the lynx or the wild cat. Even at over 1,800 metres high, mineral waters could be found, and once on the Maramures Mts. plateau one could perceive in the depth on the Ukrainian territory the former Soviet radar stations of surveillance of the Western Europe air space, currently disabled.

The company operating the Viseul de Sus forestry railway has recently introduced a special service for those who wish to spend the night on the train: an accommodation on the fixed railway in Carpatia waggons, foreseen with a restaurant.

The Mocanita steam train and the Vaser Valley have been the long of the years subject of some feature reports in the Romanian and the foreign media too, even the Travel Channel and National Geographic illustrating the charm of a voyage with the mountain steam train.

The tourists who have visited the Vaser Valley say that the fall is the season most favourable for a train voyage, on condition to be a bright, sunny day.AGERPRES

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