THE RAILWAY STATION OF
The most beautiful railway station in Romania (inaugurated on May 20th 1878)
The Herculane Baths resort attracts not only due to the healing waters and the natural beauties around, but also grace to the originality and elegance of the architectonic style of the buildings, being a true Reservation of Spa Architecture.
The first building coming your way right from the entrance of the Timis-Cerna Corridor, on the European road E7 is the Herculane Railway Station, the most beautiful railway station from Romania, being the work of the architect A. Serres. The beautiful and elegant building, constructed in a hunting pavilion style, was inaugurated on May 20th 1878 and finished after 8 years, in 1886.
“During this period, the Austrian Company St.E.G. built the railway between Timisoara and Orsova. In 1876, the 98-km-long Timisoara-Caransebes railway line was opened, and two years later, in 1878, the Caransebes-Orsova section was inaugurated, with a distance of 90.3 km, with a stop at Herculane Baths.” [Perianu D., 2000].
Thus, the Cerna Valley resort could be reached also by railway, outside the road and river routes, being located at a distance of only 15 km (from the railway station) and 22 km (from the centre) from the Orşova harbour.
It is worth knowing that the train station was never a hunting pavilion, it was only built like that, according to the idea of a member of the imperial family, preserving its original style until today.
The central building of the train station is erected in Baroque style, being flanked along the platform by Roman-style columns. The columns parallel to the railway line are wrapped in lianas which, forming a vault of greenery, offer travellers a pleasant feeling of harmony with the picturesque surrounding landscape. What catches the traveller’s eye is the majestic, decagonal dome, supported on two columns inside; passing among them you have the feeling that you are entering a cathedral. Inside, the dome is adorned with representations of characters from the Roman mythology, among these personages the legendary hero Hercules stands out. On the outside, the dome is tiled in several colours, forming some unique geometric figures.
In front of the train station, right next to the railroad, the mountain’s wooded steep stands in front of the passengers, waiting for the train on the platform, and on the opposite side, downstream, they see the confluence of Cerna river with the Belareca River.
Looking at the architecture of the Herculane station building, you will discover it a harmonious blend of totally different styles.
You will find this architectural harmony in all the historical buildings of the resort, where the Roman style is characterized by simplicity; the Gothic style is distinguished by arches and elevations, completed by the richness of the Viennese Baroque and the elegance of the French Renaissance style.
Look at the Neptune Baths (or the Austrian Imperial Baths) that occupies almost 200 m and whose renovation is close to completion. It is an architectural gem. The façade and sides are in the Italian Renaissance style, the entrance to the main lobby is in the late Austrian Baroque style, with plays of colour, the corridors are made in Gothic style with high vaults, and the cabins and pools are built in Roman style. The edifice has a symmetrical architecture and two wings branch out from the central body: the left wing for the thermo-sulphur baths and the right wing for the thermo-saline baths. The two wings are connected by a waiting room, in the middle of which the majolica fountain will stand. The exterior architecture of the building attracts the eye by the ornamental details of great stylistic refinement.
In the historic centre of the resort, the Casino’s building is also designed in an elegant Austrian Baroque style, simple and pleasant, inspiring a sensation of health and well-being, having a covered terrace with painted ceilings and two colonnades that used to link Decebal and Traian Hotels, being in the present both under renovation. The Traian Hotel’s architecture is a combination of two styles: the French Renaissance style launched during the reign of Louis the XV, with many ornaments on the facades, and the Spanish Moorish Style taken over from the Lion’s Court from the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, residence of the Spanish royal family. Inside the hotel you will see the fountain that used to gush in the past up to the second floor. On the basement there are four stained glasses representing the four seasons, the ground floor is painted in Florentine style, with light, pastel colours. The first floor is in rococo style with a game of colours, and the second floor is in baroque style. The Decebal Hotel bears the imprint of the Viennese Baroque style with a monumental entrance, similar to that from Hofburg.
In the Hercules Square the oldest building from the resort (1811) impresses everyone, distinguished by its neoclassic architectural style, where, on the background of the vermillion building white ornaments and bas-reliefs are highlighted, presenting scenes representative for the tourism in Herculane Baths. Here, the Apollo Bath and the Diana Bath follow the architecture of the Roman baths, the buildings as well as the pools are in pure Roman style, where the thermal water flows from one basin to another on the communicating vessel system.
From the train station, continuing the trip to Orșova on the European road E70, after two kilometres walking, you reach an almost 10 m high cliff on the left bank of Cerna, whose profile resembles a Sphinx.
It is the Sphinx of Banat, named after the famous Egyptian sphinx. It has been there for thousands of years. Passing through millennia of sunny or rainy days, through heat and frost, comforted by the rays of the sun or whipped by the winds and rains, it remained steadfast. Only a little bit eroded by the burden of the years and the ordeals of nature. But it preserved its majesty intact, inspiring strength and serenity in the same time.
Admiring the Sphinx of Banat, you will have in front of your eyes the image of a strong, determined, but not entrenched man. It is the image of a man conscious of his strength, not so much physical, as more the released interior force, apparently brick-strong. The mirror of the “stone’s soul” is in the features of the regular and distinctive face that inspire certain serenity, as the fruit of wisdom.
Watching this natural monument, you will surely ask yourself: How has the contour been preserved so intact, especially the expressivity of the face, accentuated more and more by the indentation of the eye’s orbit? And what is the purpose of the Sphinx?
These are all questions that will find answers only with the help of a “sacred cipher” from the Roman mythology of Hercules, in a unique combination with the law of the sacred mountain of the Dacians, Mount Gugu – the Kogaionon of the Zalmoxe goddess (or Zalmoxis, according to Mircea Eliade)
It is the representation of Hercules in Iovan Iorgovan, as the mythical hero was also known by the locals. Unlike the Sphinx in Bucegi, situated at a high altitude, the Banat’s Sphinx is placed in the middle of the people, assuming the mission of guiding them in day after day. It urges us to take life as the flowing river at which he is looking at. Cerna is a mountain river, sometimes tumultuous and turbulent in some sections, overflowing its banks with his impetuous strength (freaking out) and other times it is gurgling soothingly, reconciled with itself and with all that surrounds it. The Banat Sphinx is the very man of this land; it is the inhabitant of the Mountainous Banat!
Try an imagery exercise and your thought will take you in the time of the Romans in Dacia, in the area where Hercules’ baths are today. The Romans consecrated votive tabulae to the god of power, calling it Hercules Invictus (the Undefeated), Hercules Sanctus (the Divine), Hercules salutiferus (the Health giving God) and Hercules iovis (the Righteous one).
From Hercules Iovis was derived the name Ercul Erculan and Iovan Iorgovan – the legendary hero of the Romanian mythology, the handsome, powerful and righteous young man, who defeated the dragon on the Cerna Valley. In Banat, around April 23rdm on St. George’s Day, there is a beautiful folk celebration called “The Festival of the lilac flowers “, called in the Cerna Valley and in the Danube Shore “The Feast of Iorgovan“. The word “iorgovan” is used under the influence of the Slavic language, having the meaning of a lilac flower; the Serbs from the village Sviniţa, on the left bank of the Danube, speaking a very old language, call this flower “liliagnia”. At the feast, the children and young girls usually wear wreaths and bouquets of lilac and sing the Christian hymn dedicated to Saint George: Come and decorate the unconquered one with flower of erguan (iorgovan)! It can be concluded that there is a sensitive approach between Iovan Iorgovan and St. George: both characters have killed the dragon.
Looking at the wonderful sculpture “Iovan Iorgovan“, made by Romulus Ladea, you can understand one of Iovan Iorgovan’s ballads, whether recounted by the local people or written by Dr. Alessandru Popoviciu and poet Vasile Alecsandri, following the visits to the Herculane Baths.
The legend of Iovan Iorgovan
It is said that once, a long time ago, in the Land of Hercules, there came the son of an emperor from the Golumbać Citadel, from the right bank of the Danube, suffering from a disease that could not be healed anymore. Iovan, because that was his name, arrived at the Cerna Valley, found accommodation in a house on the Coronini Plateau, where the sister of Baba Caia lived, an old matchmaker named Corcoaia. Seeing him so exhausted, the old woman told him that there was an enchanted spring nearby, and if he bathed in it he would heal. Going up the Cerna river, the young man found the Hercules fountain and for three weeks he had bathed every day in its beneficial waters. Iovan did not only recover, but began to gain unusually high powers. At the same time, a snake had its shelter near the springs of Cerna; after having bathed in the place called “Seven Springs”, it turned into a five-headed dragon. For not harm them, the locals were forced to give the dragon a young girl at a time, who they attached to a cross on the edge of a precipice. When it was the turn of one of the three daughters of the Emperor of the Land of Hercules to be swallowed by the dragon, the strong Iovan decided to kill the dragon…
Follow the “Hercules Road” route and you will see what happened.