The village of Desesti is about 30km northeast of Baia Mare, at the approximate half way point on the road to Sighetu-Marmatiei. Its tiny Unesco Orthodox church, built in 1770, has interior paintings, by Radu Munteanu, dating from 1780, depicting Sodom and Gomorrah. The church was struck by lightning in 1925, which destroyed much of the outer walls and the steeple. It’s back in fighting form now – fitted with a lightning conductor.
Near the church is a hundreds of years old oak tree, measuring at an admirably huge 4.5m in diameter. It’s been preserved as a monument to the extensive oak forest that once covered the area, which was slowly cut down to build homes.
The village of Mara, just a couple of kilometers south of Desesti, has some of the best examples of the classic Maramures elaborate wooden fences, a unique architectural feature of the region. Originally, they were a symbolic barrier between one’s home and the unknown outside world, and people placed money, incense and holy water under them for further protection against dark forces. In recent times, the spiritual importance of these fences has been overridden by the growing (and inevitable) social status attached to them.