After visiting the Almaj Country, you cannot leave Mountainous Banat without meeting the “Gugulans” at their home in the Gugulans’ Country.
The Gugulan land is the country that was born on Gugu Peak, the place that had been the shrine of Zamolxis, the god of the Dacians. The name “gugulan” derives from the toponym “gugu”, being a cone-shaped mountain peak, as is the “klobuc” of the old people in this area, as a distinctive sign that they are of the purest Dacian origin. They are personalized by a history built around Gugu Peak, the belief in immortality from pre-Christianity, the customs unchanged for centuries and, last but not least, the fame of producing and selling the finest apples and pears. To all this is added … the pride of the Gugulans.
Viewed from the highest mountain peak in Banat, the Gugu Peak (2229 m), the Land of Gugulan lies in the form of a curved triangle with a surface of 2000 km², situated entirely on the territory of Caraş-Severin County. Two of the three sides meet in Caransebeș, following the depressions of the Bistra River and the Timiş River, respectively, to the Oriental Gate, between Teregova and Domaşnea. The third side closes the land starting from Teregova, following upstream the Hideg River, then the border line from the Godeanu and Ţarcu Mountains to the Iron Gates of Transylvania. It can be ascertained that the Land of Gugulans lies almost on the same territory where the “Scorilo” area is delimited, including the border of the Rusca Montana commune, till the Padeş Peak, from Poiana Rusca Mountains.
The country of Gugulans has a population of 62,000 inhabitants and comprises 48 localities, from which one municipiality, namely Caransebeș, one town, Oțelu Rosu and 13 communes with 33 villages: Armenis, Băuţar, Bolvaşniţa, Buchin, Bucosnita, Glimboca, Marga, Obreja, Rusca Montana, Slatina Timis, Teregova, Turnu Ruieni and Zăvoi.
Timis, the largest river in Banat, gathers all the waters that cross the Land of Gugulans. Domaşnea Pass (515 m) is the watershed of two rivers: Timiş, which runs its waters towards Caransebeş, and Belareca, which flows towards Herculane’s Baths, and from there it flows into Cerna. Along the big riverbend of Timis northwards, a sparkling and cold river from the Tarsus Mountains flows into Timis: Hideg or the Cold River. The newest (2006) and the largest lake in Mountainous Banat was built on Hideg, next to Rusca Teregova. The dam is designed in a modern, double-arched construction system with a 400 m aperture and a height of 75 m.
Then the Timis flows tightly into a stone gutter and cuts the Teregova Gorge into crystalline shales. Near Armenis, the Feneş River (Long Stream) flows into Timiş, merging in the same time with the White River, which is springing from the western part of the Ţarc Mountains. After crossing Armenis, in the place known as “The Written Stone “, the Timiş River enters the Armenis Gorge and then enters the wide meadow near Slatina Timiş. The river bed is widening significantly until Caransebeș. Upstream of Caransebeș, Sebes flows into Timis after gathering its waters under Muntele Mic. Then, downstream of Caransebeș, near Jupa, Timis receives its largest tributary, the Bistra River.
Bistra springs from a glacial basin situated to the north of Pietrii Peak (2192 m) and has a length of 46 km, after collecting the waters of the Ţarcu Mountains and Poiana Rusca Mountains.
Upstream the Marga village the Nemeş brook comes as its tributary. In the village of Voislova, in Bistrica, Ardeal or Bistra Mare, as it is called by locals, Rusca (21 km) flows with its affluent Lozna, which has its springs under the Padeş Peak (1374) from Poiana Rusca Mountains. In Oţelu Roşu, Bistra joins with its largest tributary, the Bistra Mărului River (36 km), which in turn springs from the Mare’s Saddle from the Ţarcu Mountains and receives the waters of Şucu Stream in Poiana Mărului.
“Throughout history, in this area, guarded at the west and north by the valleys of Timiş and Bistriţa, with roads on which the people’s traffic has not ended since the days of the Dacians, and with mountains passing over 2000 m in the east, very difficult to be defeated by the unwanted guests, all these facts and influences have made the land of the Gugulans a place of dissidence. “[Hamat C., 2004]
At the time of the Dacians, the natives climbed into the mountains and took the sheep grazing at Gugu Peak, which according to the legend was the holy mountain of the Dacians and Zamolxe’s sanctuary.
During the Roman rule, until AD 271, the historians of the time say that “the Romans did not need a translator to speak with the Dacian subjects, their language resembling with the Roman language, which shows a common origin of the two languages.”[Hamat C., 2004].
During the Dacian-Roman wars, the construction of the Roman roads was accompanied by the cutting of the forests on both sides, on a depth that would not allow the natives of the Gugulan country to approach unnoticed and to shoot arrows over the Roman troops. After the defeat of Decebal’s army, the Romans got their hands on the Dacia’s gold, the reserves being the largest in Europe at that time.
The Gugu Peak was the place where the Dacians withdrew from the Romans and hid many of their treasures.
Then, the Bistra Valley and Timis Valley have been for centuries passes through which the migratory people “were walking”, plundering everything in their way. In order to survive, the native population of the Gugulan’s countryside fled to the valleys and hills of the mountains, where they resumed their old occupation, sheep breeding, under the protection of the virgin forests which, besides the shelter, provided them with many of the necessary goods of living: the sheep gave meat, milk, cheese, leather, wool; from the poultry they had eggs and meat; the fields and forests offered them fruits, and the waters the trout.
Meanwhile, from the time of the Turks, although they could not go out on the “big road,” the pasture of the shepherds in the pure air of the valleys of the mountains was a favourable one filled with lots of feasts and fairs (nedeia) they used to hold. These fairs at the Gugulans were not born in the mountains. They were taken to Gugu Peak and Nedeia Peak because those were the most suitable places from the surroundings for the meeting of the shepherds retired in the clearings of the valleys.
After the roads became safer, in the time of the Austrian Empire, the inhabitants of the area settled at the foot of the Târcu-Godeanu Mountains, from Bucova to Teregova. They went to Gugu only on the dates that had become traditional for the Sunday’s feast, and those who went there received in time the name of Gugulani, a denomination that was extrapolated to the entire present-day Land of Gugulans.
Arrived as tourists in the Gugulan Country, you should climb the mountains to see the alpine hollows where the Gugulans circulated from one valley to another to organise the Nedei / festive gatherings. Nedeia is an old pastoral custom specific to the mountain regions, an opportunity for meeting and fairs held at fixed dates.
In almost 18 centuries of existence, from the year 106, when they were occupied by the Romans, and until 1918, when they freed themselves from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Gugulans maintained their physical and moral vigour, habits, tradition, culture and religion.
The qualities of the Gugulans are given by the cleverness in assimilation of some occupations, the pride and the moral pursuit, but especially the physical beauty of men and women. They are the most magnificent and beautiful among the citizens of Banat. The Gugulans are distinguished by their costumes, customs, traditions and habits, but also by songs, dance and poetry, in a word through a very rich folklore. The basic occupations have always been: agriculture, livestock farming, arboriculture, and trading with apples, pears, plums, quinces and nuts.
Sharing the Orthodox religion, the Gugulans are considered “of the purest Dacian origin,” and their cradle is the Gugu Peak, called the “sacred mountain of Zamolxes.”
Their houses are without courtyard and fence in front, on the street side by side, on one level, but tall, similar to the Austrian architecture. The Gugulans, like all the Banat inhabitants of the mountains, have only one child (they do not want to divide their wealth!), so their estates remain in the family and there are no quarrels between the heirs. However, birth rate and mortality balance each other, through an unwritten law, since the beginning of time, and people from these places know how to carry on their family names through their children.
Nobody wrote so many beautiful words about the Gugulans than Corina Irineu in her “Banat Letters”: “The character of the Gugulan, as man of the mountain, is more quick-tempered, more enduring, haunted by a smattering of passionate sadness. That’s how he is when he sings, dances, loves and works. The one who has become a “gentleman” in the city, always returns to the mountains to troll his soul and longings under the apples, pears and plums on the long past, but never forgotten youth paths. “[Hamat C., 2004].
To earn their living, the Gugulans used to go with their apple carts to the fair in the past. They would go in a convoy, for the fear of the thieves: “The worst was in the desert area of Banat, in Buzias. We did not want to cross those areas at night because it was dangerous. At the fair, apples were exchanged for wheat, corn, and other food. We were still trading apples even in Ceausescu’s time “, remember the elders of these villages.
That’s why the Gugulans’ sincere song is ” Gugulan man with his apple cart”:
Gugulan with an apple cart
The Gugulan is a clever man,
The Gugulan woman wears sandals,
The Gugulan is a clever man,
The Gugulan woman is as beautiful as a princess. Look at the face and attitude of a woman from this part of Banat, and you will see a natural face with eyes that, regardless of their colour, look straight at you with a natural disarming look, a fine chin, a mouth and a nose that speak for themselves about what beauty means and much more. Her statue is as thin as a reed, with tender shapes and well-outlined roundness, with elastic movements and full of grace, relaxed, with little artificiality, with a facial expression that expresses her soul, the force of character and the dignity of behaviour.
Enter a traditional Gugulan house in Banat and spend one day of their life in their household. The architecture of these houses is close to that of the Dacian houses, to which the style of the border guards’ houses was added. The houses are aligned to the street line, having in most cases two or three rooms. The roof is covered with tiles or shingle, and the walls are made of wood beams, stone or brick. On some houses you will see the chamfer rooftop, a feature of the frontier houses. The street room was called the front room or the “chamber facing the road,” followed by the back room with the fireplace, where there were also the pantries for food. The cellar was dug beneath the back room, with a courtyard entrance on wooden steps protected by a canopy. The cellar is another feature of the border houses. The doors were of hardwood, and the windows had two or three glass panes, called eyelets, and had also some wooden shutters. The street room was a living room with two tall, simply-worked wooden beds, in which it was placed a “stork” (mattress) filled with “husks” (maize sheets); on top of them was put a kind of blanket from hempseed cloth and covered with “wool blanket” (blanket). In addition to the beds, there were long wooden benches or “couplings” (benches), a simple table, four-legged seats and backrest, and three-legged small chairs, simply made from wood. There is also a hand-crafted wooden dowry box, an “arman” (cupboard), oil lamp hanging from the beam, icons and towels with folk motifs between the icons. There was a pole hanging from the ceiling, with shirts on it and other woven things made during the winter near the stove. The room at the road has another coal stove too with opening in the back chamstoveber, where the fire was lit.
In the back room, the one with the fireplace, a pyramid trunk-shaped chimney was opened up to the roof.
Down was the fireplace, raised 15-20 cm above the level of the room. The fireplace first was made of clay, and later on of brick.
Prepare a traditional Banat meal on the fireplace with your host, which you will serve at the small table in the “kitchen”, in winter, or on the terrace of the house, outdoors, under the shade of vine or under a walnut, in summertime.
“Above the fireplace, at 2 m, there is a wooden beam on which a chained hook was fastened for putting the cauldron to boil. Around the fire from the fireplace one can put to boil clay pots and “cauldrons” to put “the raina” (frying pan) for frying potatoes. Under the cast-iron pan, you prepare the cornmeal and the lamb. The bread and the cornmeal are put on cabbage leaves on the hot fireplace and covered with the cast-iron pan. Roast and potatoes are fried in a round platter.
In the “cuina / kitchen” there is the “blidar” (a small shelf) with some plates and wooden spoons and the “wooden bench” on which they place “the buckets with drinking water, the milk pots and the recipient for making butter.” [Tămaş T., 2007].
Look in the pantry for food kept under cold temperature, the cheese barrel, the cabbage barrel, the smoked bacon and the sausage on the pole, the sack of corn flour and, of course, the Banat slivovitz.
The experience in the Gugulan household will convince you to return with your friends too to the Gugulans’ Country to travel on the following route:
Tourist route no. 5: The Road of Gugulans’ Country – Timis Valley
The trip will begin in the municipality of Caransebeș, the capital of Gugulans. Split the name of the city in three words and you will see that it consists of: the Gugulans’ means of transport for apples and pears, the period of time when the Gugulans’ Nedei (festivals) are held and the place where the Gugulans come today to sell their apples and other berries (fruits).
Caransebeş = car + an + Sebes (cart + year + Sebes)
The name “Caransebeș” is made up of the Romanian word for cart, invented by the Dacians, with two wheels of oak wood, used by Gugulans to transport apples (Gugulan with apple car), the Romanian word for year, meaning the time interval from one “nedeie” to another, and the name of the river on which the town is situated, Sebeş.
The starting point is the Sycamore Park; here is located the Statue of General Ioan Dragalina, the work of the sculptor Mihai Onofrei, unveiled in 1943. On the obelisk the general from Banat is presented in a reconnaissance mission on the battlefield. On his right and on his left two lions are guarding, each of them is carved in white marble symbolizing the courage proved by the General of the First Romanian Army during the battles of Cerna and Jiu. On the front side of the statue, in the upper part, a symbolic motif is carved: a wreath of oak leaves and a sword. “A wind breeze leads our thoughts to the raised cross on the Jiu Valley, with the following words chiselled on it: Here I was injured by doing my duty for the nation and country.” [Groza L., 1990].
General Ion Dragalina was injured during the battles near Lainici Monastery in the Jiu Valley and died several days later on October 24, 1916.
From the park, the journey continues on the European road E70 along the Timis Valley towards the Herculane’s Baths. Right from Caransebeş, the railroad cuts its way up the hill on higher and higher terraces, and the road slithers silvery near the river Timiş. The road also seems to be searching for the traces of the Roman road Tibiscum (Jupa, Caransebeş) – Dierna (Orşova), meeting successively the ruins of the Roman fortress. According to historical sources, it is known that the Romans, in their advance, used a tactic of implantation from 10 to 10 Roman miles (1 mil. Roman = 1.48 km) of a garrison of 10 -100 soldiers, stationed in a defence camp.
The road passes through Buchin, near the villages of Bolvaşnita and Vârciorova, Petrosnita and Vălişoara, villages where the folk costumes and traditions of the Gugulans are scrupulously preserved. The Banat outlaw Petru Ţunea, known mainly as Petru Mantu is originally from Bolvasnita.
After 14 km of walking, at Bucosnita, you can see the traces of a Roman farm resembling a “Villae rusticate”, located near the Roman camp Masclianis, built between Bucosnita and Slatina Timis.
At 20 km from Caransebeş, the road descends to the Timiş Meadow, in Slatina Timiş, where a road leading up to the Semenic Mountains descends from the main road. After 19 km you reach Brebu Nou, a settlement set at 850 m altitude, next to Three Waters Lake, from where the river Timis springs. Then it passes through the tourist village of Gărâna (1000 m altitude) and it reaches the foot of Semenic. From Prislop Pass it descends to Bârzavei Valley in Văliug and then continues to Resita.
Look at the Timis Meadow and you will see the weeping willows, the permanent uneasiness of the poplar leaves trembling at the smallest gust of wind, even when the leaves of the surrounding trees are steady and the contrasting colour of the alder leaves. The white alder grows up the mountain, and the black arid is more common in the lowlands. One of the main features of the white alder is that in contact with water, its wood becomes stronger and more durable than the oak tree. It hardly putrefies in the water, which is why it is commonly used for building bridges on pillars and over-the-water houses.
Continuing the journey on the European main road, after 2 km you reach Sadova Veche, after which the meadow ends suddenly, and the road passes “wedged to the river Timiş through the Armenis Quay, cut into crystalline rocks.” [Bizera M., 1971].
The Timişoara – Orşova railway passes through the tunnel until it reaches the Written Stone.
After the exit of the quay you reach the place called Written Stone, where on the left of the road you can climb the steps carved in rocks to the “Written Stone” Monastery, also called by the locals “Cozia” of Banat. The monastery is inside a cave where, in the past, literate hermits used to live, because on its walls you can still see words written in Old Church Slavonic from the sixteenth-century, dating back before the occupation of Banat by the Turks. Still here, the “Holy Trinity” is painted directly on the stone. It is not known when and who painted this icon.
Tourists and pilgrims come to this place of prayer with the hope for healing.
At the foot of the rock, beside the water of Timis, the Written Stone Camp is installed in a picturesque place.
Also at the Written Stone, if you look up, you will see the bridge that bears the railroad above the river and the road, executed at Resita between the years 1874-1875; Timisoara – Caransebeș railway was inaugurated on 23 October 1876, and the Caransebeș – Orsova railway was put into operation on 28 May 1878.
One kilometre from the Written Stone is Armenis. This is where the Ball of the Folk Costumes takes place at every beginning of the year, when all Gugulans dress in the traditional folk costume and dance until dawn.
The villages of Armenis are surrounded by orchards and pastures.
From Armenis, on the left (east), a road detaches to Feneş, a village famous for the famous slivovitz from Fenes, made of plums, in copper boilers placed on the banks of the Long River, whose water is used to cool the coils.
After Armenis, we enter the Teregova Gorges, following the waters of Timis that have cut the access road into the rock. Only the railway traverses the heart of the mountain through the rock tunnel again. Follow the road and look at the waters of Timis that seem to be seething in their play among the rocks.
“As wild is the view in the gorges, so beautiful is the scenery that opens in front of the eyes of the traveller when he leaves the Teregova depression. The mountains suddenly break out and departing towards east and west, leaving place for shady meadows, with clumps of trees and scented grasslands, terraces and hillocks covered with orchards and crops, with rivers rich in water and well-developed villages: Teregova and Rusca. “[Bizera M., 1971].
Teregova is the wealthiest village from the Gugulans Country. Located on the big riverbend of Timis, where the river changes its direction from Semenic to the north, towards Caransebeș, Teregova is surrounded by apple, pear and plum orchards.
Look at the side of the highway and you will see the stands of the Gugulans full of apples, pears, honey jars and bottles of Banat slivovitz. Stop to taste these delicious natural products and then you decide whether and how much you will want to buy.
The Roman fortress Gaganis could be found during the Roman period here, in these places, at the intersection of the European road with the road to Rusca. Some of the Roman legions in Banat have passed nearby, and this is testified by a Roman military certificate, discovered here and dating back to 145 AD. The anticommunist partisans rose from Teregova.
The trip will continue on the national road DN 608 leading to Rusca-Teregova and further to Cornereva, the largest settlement in Mountainous Banat.
At Rusca is buried one the communist fighters of the post-war years, Lazarus Cernescu, praised in the verses of Dan Deşliu from the famous poetry “Lazar de la Rusca” and victim of the anticommunist partisans.
From Rusca, the tourists have the possibility to reach the newest and the largest artificial lake from Banat, Rusca–Teregova Lake, situated on the Hideg River (the Cold River), whose works were finalized in 2006. The lake’s dam is designed in a modern “double arc” system and has an aperture of 400 m and a height of 75 m. When it is fully filled, the lake stretches over a distance of 7 km. In the soothing scenery near the lake, you should make a thematic stop in the Gugulan country, at the Wittmann guesthouse, which has earned a good fame by offering accommodation, dining and recreation.
Thematic Park no. 3. NATURE’S SPECTACLE:
Gugu Peak (2291 m) – THE HOLY MOUNTAIN OF DACIANS
For the bold tourists a one-day trip to the Gugu Peak is a real challenge. A boundary sign for the three historical provinces, Banat, Transylvania and Oltenia, Gugu Peak is distinguished by its height of 2291 m, being the highest mountain peak from Banat.
The “hiding” mountain is the place where tourists can retreat into nature for their physical and mental restoration in Zamolxe’s temple for experiencing unique sensations. The Banat Gugulans are always praising the holy mountain of the Dacians and, over time, they have woven around it a legendary aura.
Legend has it that, on Gugu Peak, the great wise man of the Dacians, Deceneus, in the time of King Burebista, secluded himself in the cave located close to the peak as a true hermit, and came out after 7 years to preach faith in one god, Zamolxe. The Gugulans are the first descendants of the Dacians, after the grafting of their roots with the Roman branch. Burebista himself, who united for the first time all the Dacian nations, would have originated from the Land of Gugulans, for his name actually means Bistra Lord, the water that still exists today and along which the Gugulans are still living their lives .
Another legend says King Decebal hid much of the Dacian gold treasure here, convinced that their god, Zamolxe, would guard it against the plaques of time.
Do not seek to find this treasure or great troubles you shall have!
The paths to Gugu Peak are to be crossed in good weather, when the light is laughing at the flowers, and the scents of the alpine grasslands are competing in power.
In the summer months, climbing towards the Gugu Peak, from the artificial Rusca Teregova Lake, on the deep valley of the Hideg (Cold River), you reach Mlăcile Glade (Cincazu). Here we encounter drifts of flowers and sweet smells, through which the silver butterflies are flying in zigzag, just like the flying saucers seen from the earth. Arriving in the middle of the flower glade, caught in the whirlwind of the butterflies and lured by the voice of the crickets singing the hymn to life, the tourist will feel the sweetening of the climb’ harshness, to the grace of this cosmic world. From here you can find the tourist route to the Gugu Peak, which passes near the Godeanu Peak.
The route to Gugu Peak is very difficult and offers no accommodation facilities. Instead, if you want to spend more than one day here, there are sheepfolds where you can halt for a rest. If you want to sleep at the sheepfold, it is good to have a sleeping bag and a mattress. Do not be surprised by the barking of the shepherd dogs at night; the dogs feel that there are some uninvited guests at the sheepfold. The presence of bears is very usual. They like very much the buds, raspberries and honey. Wolves also use to come to the sheepfold, in the summer usually alone or in pairs, but in winter always coming in packs. The wild boars, the fox, the squirrel, the mountain cock, the deer, all give charm to the mountain life. A rarity is the black goat, retreated to the rocky corners, being the master of the peaks.
In the morning, you will be invited to drink a cup of milk given by the sheep. Do not refuse, even if it is not boiled; the raw milk is the best and healthiest from the shepherds near the sacred mountain of the Dacians, Gugu. You shall feel its taste on the white moustache that is instantly formed.
On the path to the mountain, St. Elijah will unexpectedly welcome us with a summer rain, after which the sun and the good weather will urge us taking one more step to Gugu Lake, located beneath the Gugu Peak. The triangular shaped lake, with a length of 100 m, a maximum width of 70 m and the depth of 3.5 m, is the first energy point. No matter how trained you are to climb the mountain, when you reach the shore of the lake your legs seem to fail you. Suddenly, any state of fatigue disappears and you charge yourself with a unique, Martian energy, looking at the waters of the emerald lake, which is shown in the “Gugu Hearth”.
With this new state, you climb a stone’s throw away and you reach the long-awaited Gugu Peak, where the silence of the realm embraces the traveller in a lunar atmosphere. You will feel a joy of the eye and soul. Nowhere in the world will you see so much contrast between the green valleys and the moonlit peaks.
Wild, mysterious SF land, the Gugu Peak offers the mountain lovers a wonderful show of nature like in a summer night’s dream. All the tourists who have spent a night at the lake and looked at the Gugu Peak will tell you that they have seen, as in a trance, how the top of the mountain disappeared, or how the explosions of light sprang up from the mountain. The Gugulan shepherds and tourists also say that Gugu Peak – considered the peak of the Carpathian energy pyramid – is hiding its wild beauty behind the clouds, in a dense fog, that actually makes it disappear and shadows of giant people and of very large objects seem to dance on the fog bank.
It is one of the fascinating phenomena encountered on the Gugu Peak, under certain weather conditions, described as “halo” and called by the locals “the energetic crown on Gugu”. The halo in the colors of the rainbow “pops up” the shadow of any man, animal or rock if they are located between the sun at sunset or at sunrise and a cloud or a mist carpet. Then, the much larger shadow of objects or people appears projected over the cloud or fog, surrounded by a big, coloured circle, similar to energetic crowns. Lucky are those who succeed in capturing the “specter” on the camera with the shadowy silhouette of a black goat. You will see that the device will not retain anything!
When the wind breaks down the veil, the top of the mountain rises again.
You will not be able to sleep at all, however, because of the unexplained energies triggered when the bright blasts splash out of the mountain and “steal the tip towards the sky”. You will have the strange feeling that you are being watched by somebody, watching you protectively and with preseverance.
Search for the cave too where Zamolxe retreated to Mount Gugu, identified as Kogaionon – the holy mountain of the Dacians. Here, in the past, “the celebrated the famous Nedei / pastoral feasts and the three-county fairs, Banat, Ardeal and Oltenia, similar to the fair on Mount Găina” [Bizera M., 1971].
On the way back from the Gugu Peak, listen to the Zamolxe God’s Ballad that only the old shepherds sing or play on the flute, as the Gugulans did at “Nedei”:
On a foothill,
The fire has withered,
Till the middle of night
After you descend from the mountain you will say with true pride:
“I was on the Gugu Peak!”.
Mount Gugu is connected with many beliefs, legends, traditions and superstitions. It gave its name to the inhabitants of the foot of the mountains, the “GUGULANS”, famous as herders of sheep and harvesters of apples, pears and plums. Three Christian feasts will call you every year: the feast of the daffodils, the midsummer nights and the Banat “ruga”/ saint patron’s day.
The Feast of Daffodils
Among the most charming jewellery that nature has offered to the Mountainous Banat is the Daffodils Glade located at Zerveşti, a village situated 5 km from Caransebeş on the road to Mic Mountain. From May to June, the beautiful flowers cover the Zerveşti Natural Reserve of almost 40 hectares with wonderful white flower carpets on the vast green stretch of grass, becoming one of the most beautiful tourist attractions and the “emblem” of the locality.
Every year, on the Sunday before the celebration of Saints Constantine and Helena (21 May), one of the most beautiful holidays of Gugulans is held in Zerveşti: The Daffodils’ Day. It is the feast that reminds all, locals and tourists alike, in what beautiful area they are living. It is the only day of the year when you can freely pick the mountain daffodils which grow spontaneously all over the mountain. Daffodils are flowers of Mediterranean origin with a special fragrance, charming with their very strong fragrance, urging you to serenity, sincerity and purity.
The Daffodils’ Day Festival held at Zerveşti has been held since 1965 and continued since 2000 after a 10-year interruption from the Revolution of 1989. It was initiated by a man of the place, Trandafir Cocarla, who later became an important public figure. Through this authentic feast, the Gugulans keep up the tradition of the elders. The lovers of the Banat folklore events will not miss the opportunity to come to Zerveşti, Caras-Severin, and to participate to the joy of the locals. They will be greeted by the youths of the village riding on adorned horses, later they are accompanied to the centre of the village, and where beautiful girls dressed in popular costumes will urge the guests to serve traditional kolaches and a glass of slivovitz from Banat. The village “hora” follows, where the guests are invited by the villagers to dance up to the Daffodil’s Glade, from where they can pick as many mountain daffodils as they want. The day ends with a “picnic” where the folk music and the Banat dances, the sausages and beer catch you in the spell of the daffodils.
Mid summer nights
In Mountainous Banat, in the tourist village of Marga, on 24 of June every year, Casa Deleanu organizes the traditional ” Midsummer Nights”, under the inspiration of the great Romanian poet Lucian Blaga, who said with great insight that “Banat represents the Baroque of the Romanian ethnography”.
The midsummer fairies inherited their name from the beautiful yellow or white plants that are blooming on this day at the edge of the roads, through forests, meadows or orchards, and also from the verses with a special beauty, written about the Banat girl:
My proud, beautiful eyelashes,
Like the midsummer flowers.
The feast is ordained near the middle of the calendar year when the summer begins “moving” towards the winter, the agricultural work ends and the harvesting of the earth’s crops begins. Legend has it that the Midsummer Fairies are good fairies, wonderful beauties, kidnapped by some dragons and kept hidden in enchanted palaces, in virgin forests. Unlike the Iele / “wicked fairies” who are bad fairies, they are benevolent to man, they make the crops grow, they give fragrance and strong powers to the flowers, heal the diseases and sufferings of men, protect the fields from the inclement weather, but in their turn people must celebrate this day with holiness. The Midsummer Fairies are a Latin legacy, descendants of the goddess Diana, and the protector of the fertile land. They appear in groups, a day before St. John the Baptist’s day, on a full moon, odd numbered, singing and dancing in the fields together with the retinue of girls, or they are floating in the air above the boys. It is said that the Midsummer Fairies “turn the day back”, the heat begins to drop, the birds regret the passage of the summer, the leaves turn yellow, the plants stop growing, and the people gather all kinds of medicinal plants. From now on, the cuckoo is no longer heard, that has chirped from the Annunciation till the Midsummer Night. This night, the girls and boys who want to get married must not quarrel, but on the contrary, they are urged to “kiss and dance in the dewed grass.” “Wreaths are made of the midsummer’s flowers in all the villages, decorating with it the gates and windows of the houses, the crosses in the cemeteries, symbolizing both the joy of the crosps and the rich harvests, as well as the guard of the evil spirits.“[Deleanu MM, 2010].
In the past, in the villages of Banat, the boys used to wear the yellow flowers attached to their hats, and the girls to their waist and in their hair, as the lyrics also say:
Go sun, come moon,
Girls shall pick them,
Coming to Marga for the “Midsummer Nights “, you can participate to the colloquium about the significance the feast of midsummer fairies have acquired in time in the folk tradition of Banat, but also in the well-read literature, and at the same time, about the plant that has so many therapeutic virtues. The experience of gathering medicinal plants in the surroundings of the village Marga, under the guidance of Dr. Cornel Jupâneantu, will help you become a health tourism lover.
Once you get toknow the most prominent cultural people from the Mountainous Banat during the symposium and discover their passion for the magical feast, follow the path to the monastery from the Nemes springs, near the village. The white cross in the stone on the right bank of the Nemes River will indicate the way to the tabernacle. Unveiled by the cold waters of the river, this cross carved in the rock of the mountain remains a mystery to the passers-by, because its origins are unknown.
In the evenings you can listen to the songs of the Marga Chorus, under the moonlight, at the “Homage to the Choral Song” Monument, unique in the world; it “was carved in pink marble by Ruschiţa by the Romanian sculptor Traian Baia, carrying alone the fame of the inhabitants from Marga as great artists over generations.” [Jompan D, 2010].
The Banat “Ruga” / church saint patron’s celebration
All the celebration of the saint patron of the churches in a village is a great feast in Banat. The feast is known as “ruga” or “negeie” (nedeie). Nowhere in Romania has this feast such an importance and pomp that it has in the Banat’s celebration and, like any traditional holiday, it lasts for three days.
Put on the holiday clothes and come to “Banat Ruga”!
“Ruga” is still celebrated today, as it was 100 years ago: a beautiful church service is held, a big table is laid, visitors are coming from all over the world as “gosti / guests”, the “hora” dances won’t stop, and everyone is rejoicing. Banat’s ruga lasts from Sunday to Tuesday. But the preparations begin long before. The young people collect money from each house, a fixed amount, or according to the possibilities of each of them, in order to “bargain” with the musicians who are going to play at the village ruga and to pay their “capara” (the advance). Each house is cleaned, the rooms are adorned and fine dishes are prepared. Each village has its own traditions of “ruga”. Every Gugulan prepares at home only the best way possible for “ruga”, and the great pride is to have more and more guests and “gosti” from other parts. Everything must be “tzock um pock”, that is, impeccable, as the Banat inhabitants says.
The first day. The “ruga” opens with a religious service at the church. Then, the priest, accompanied by a gal and a lad open the “ruga” with a “hora” dance in the Church yard, after which the villagers and their guests go to have lunch in the family; the guests are offered the most delicious dishes: chicken soup with noodles, “cabbage rolls” in sour cabbage or vine leaves, stuffed peppers with tomato sauce, steaks on spits and side dishes prepared in clay pots, and the wonderful homemade cakes, so appreciated by everyone. At the table they serve also the traditional drinks: Banat slivovitz, Timisoreana beer and wine from Recas, Tyrol or Moldova Noua, offered in the three days of “ruga” quite abundantly to the health of the household.
Then it follows the afternoon “dance” in the centre of the village. Join your favourite Banat “dances”, joining in the following dance steps: “braul”,”hora”, “argeleana” and “de doi”. They have a certain order and cannot pass from one another at random.
After the dinner break, the “ball” follows, held from midnight till morning, with the majority of the villagers dressed in their folk costumes of Banat. It is the second big ball of the Gugulans after the one held in January, called “The Folk Costumes Ball”.
The beauty of the ball is to wear the popular costume. In the evening, all the attention in each and every house of Gugulans is directed to the preparation and clothing of the folk costume. To this activity take part all the experienced women in the house. Girls and boys are dressed by the elder women, who know how to put on and wear the “opreg, the sandals, the sucna, the sleeveless jacket, the ciupag, and all the other pieces of the folk costume.”These clothes are at least 80-100 years old.”
The next day of the “ruga” or “negeie”, after the church service, the parishioners go together with the priest, taking the church flags, to sanctify the shrine from the outskirts of the village, to bless the fields and the harvest. Wreaths of walnut, lime, wheat branches etc. are braid, depending on the period when the village “ruga” is celebrated,
In the afternoon there are a lot of dances in many villages, usually starting with the dance of Gugulan “calusari”. They dance with their hands or arms on each others’ shoulders, in circles or semicircles and pairs. Join the Banat “hora”, led with “great pride” by a pair of young couple where the boy knows masterfully how to “spin” the girl. The hora dances are rich in meanders, with splinters and swinging depicting concentric, spiral and serpentine drawings. In the Bistra and Sebeş valleys you will be surprised by the “elders’ dance” that is still danced in a very difficult technique, but with a great elegance of “the counter time”. The peculiarity of this dance is that unlike the melody that is played “in time”, the dance is played on “counter time” and requires a perfect relationship between the musicians and the dancers. If the “argeleana’ can be easily learned with its: “two steps forward” and “two steps back”, you need a good physical condition to dance the “de doi” dance (in pairs). The steps in pairs danced by a boy and a girl are rather provocative, but the “in trei” (3-person steps) dance of a boy with two girls is very exciting. The boy passes the girls under his arm and makes some fake spins under hand, first with one of them, than with the other.
On the third day, the villagers go to the cemetery for the commemoration and celebration of those who passed away and ended their earthly life. A special moment is the “charity dance” in the afternoon. The families of those who have passed away offer a “charity game”, a dance that is “led” by two young people, a boy and a girl, carrying trees with bagels, drinks and helva. All who join the dance is offered charity and lit candles wrapped in towels. After the “brau” (blade) dance, the dancers stop, keep their dancing position and holding the lit candles, listen to a Banat “doina” song in the memory of the ones who are no longer among the livings. After the “brau” (blade dance), the dance continues in the natural sequence with a “hora” dance specific to the Gugulan Country. Because the Gugulan is like this: he sings with grief, but he also labours, and parties with great joy. The Gugulans are raised in the complaint of the “taragot” and in the pure tear of the trumpet, transmitting in space and time the “doina” and the tradition of the Banat villages.
The “negeia” feast in Banat is expected by all villagers, old or young, girls or boys. For this unique celebration, those who had left in the wide world to work abroad and cannot return home very often now they come to be close to their family and spend this important festival together.
The Gugulan Princess
The legends are “gathered from the world and given back to it”. So it is with the legend of the “Gugulan Princess and the Dracula Myth”. Vlad Ţepeş, nicknamed Drăculea, meaning “of the Devil”, is a myth that has entered in the conscience of the entire world, being the “icon” of the Romanian tourism. There were many legends around the world’s most famous count-vampire. One of these legends is related to the passing of Vlad Ţepeş through the fortress (Caran) Sebeş, in 1463, on his way to Visegrád, the “high citadel” and his royal residence on the Danube, located north of Buda, where he had been imprisoned for 12 years (1463 -1475) by Matei Corvin.
From the Corvinus Castle in Hunedoara, where he was briefly imprisoned on his way to his forced residence near Buda, Vlad the Impaler stopped at the (Caran) Sebeş “at a hostel called the “Inn between the mills”. Here, he is conquered at first sight by the charm of the inn owner’s wife, the owner being a wealthy Gugulan who offered travellers products from his household and was trading with apples and pears.
Staring at the Gugulan woman, she pointed Vlad the Impaler with a disarming natural look, showing strength of character and dignity in behaviour.
The legend says that Vlad the Impaler did not give up and tried a “bargain for the beauty” with the master of the inn, and from this negotiation the famous song “Gugulan with the apple cart” was born, with the lyrics: “I sell apples, I sell pears / But I do not sell my woman. “
According to the legend, that night, Vlad Ţepeş remained with its deep, wide eyes staring in the emptiness, and then his wax figure suddenly took the fanatical and sad air of a count – vampire. His face was broken and stripped of any human features also because of his eye arches bolted upwards and his fine and prolonged eyebrows. But in the next minute his laugh and his bronze mocking voice made his twisted muscles on his cheeks to vibrate, his lips became red and were looking for fresh blood, and the white and sharp teeth were dreaming to bite from the beautiful body of his Gugulan princess for a night, snatching her soul for ever. Before being a demon and legendary character, Vlad Ţepeş was a man in flesh and blood who savagely loved the most beautiful woman of all.
Vlad the Impaler passed like a comet through the history of Banat. He rose, he stunned, he frightened, and he disappeared so quickly. He was a comet, not a falling star!