Viseu de Sus

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Viseu de Sus is the gateway to the wonders of Maramures’ Vaser Valley. The area was first chronicled in 1363, and is developing into a nudge-nudge open secret for travelers and nature-lovers. Logging is the town’s traditional industry – and it’s this tradition which is the catalyst for its newest industry: tourism.

The wooded mountains and picturesque Viseu Valley (Valea Viseu) are the main attractions here, in addition to the sweet alpine air. A railway line links Rona de Jos in the north (19km southeast of Sighetu Marmatiei) to Borsa in the south, making it more accessible for travelers without private transport. Or hike it; starting at the twin villages of Rona de Jos and Rona de Sus, and continuing south through the unremarkable villages of Petrova and Leordina, until you eventually come to Viseu de Sus.

Viseu de Sus’s unique narrow-gauge railway winds up and into the Vaser Valley. Since its construction in 1925, the narrow-gauge railway has been used to carry wood down the mountains. Steam engines were originally used, but now the job’s done mostly by diesel engines. There are still four steam engines making the arduous climb for the sake of tourist excitement. The journey snakes through forests filled with elusive wolves and lynx. Once up in the hills, a new economy takes over; the lumberjacks barter cigarettes and vodka for freshly made cheese from the hilltop shepherds.

Lumberjacks are ferried by train each morning 42km up the valley to the logging camp at Comanu, close to the Ukrainian border. Unfortunately, severe flooding in 2008 forced the trip to be cut by half. It’s still unclear when/if the full train line will be restored, though even the abbreviated tour is still plenty scenic. Currently, there are two trips available: a half-day journey to the Novat stop (12.8km), leaving at 8.30am and returning around noon (tickets are 6 euros, kids under seven free), and a full-day trip to Paltin (21.6km) returning around 3-4pm (8 euros, kids under seven free). A barbecue is available on the Paltin trip, drinks and snacks are on offer on the Novat trip. Tickets are sold on the day of the trip and cannot be purchased in advance. There’s limited seating (180 places), so it’s advised to show up around 7.30am to ensure getting a seat. Dress warm for the cool mountain air.

To get to the train station from the center of Viseu de Sus, turn left opposite Hotel Brad, on the corner of Str 22 Decembrie and Str Iuliu Maniu, continue along Str Carpati for 2km and the station is on the left. The Viseu de Sus tourist information center (Tel. +40 (0) 262 352 285; address Str Libertatii 1; hours 9am-6pm Mon-Sat), is situated in the library and seems to open and close at whim, despite posted hours, and offers little help. Better is the CFF Viseu de Sus (Tel. + 40 (0) 262 353 381; address Str Cerbului 5; hours 8am-6pm Mon-Sat), the agency that operates the narrow-gauge railway (along with the timber companies and a Swiss NGO). The CFF office is in the train station and sells tickets for the steam train, as well as helping with local accommodations and eating options. Their gift shop has a good hiking map of the area (3 euros) and can help arrange hiking guides for longer outings.

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Hotel Brad
Tel. +40 (0) 262 352 999
cnr Str 22 Decembrie & Str Iuliu Maniu
The 11 simple rooms here must be booked in advance as they fill up quickly during summer.

Hotel Gabriela
Tel. +40 (0) 262 354 380
Two kilometers from Hotel Brad, on the road to Borsa, is this three-star chalet-style option with internet access. It’s in great condition, with pleasant staff, but I recently heard some troubling things from a trusted traveler about ownership/management. If you never encounter this person, your stay will probably be just fine.

Guest House Livisra
Tel. +40 (0) 765 252 328
Slightly upscale for the area, this is an ambitious guesthouse/restaurant hybrid, with cable TV, wi-fi and an on-site ‘club’ for events.