DIERNA - MUDAVA - ARCIDAVA - TIBISCUM
The last step on the Romans’ Roads is in the touristic area called the “Danube Gorge” and in the valleys of Caraş and Bârzava rivers, where you can see the vestiges of the road Lederata – Tibiscum. It is the first Roman road in which Emperor Traian led his army to Sarmizegetusa in the first Dacian-Roman war (101-102 AD).
The Romans, led by Emperor Trajan cross the Danube on a ship bridge at Lederata, in today’s Serbia, at the mouth of the Caraş River. The route continued for 12 roman miles (1 mile = 1.48 km), which is 18 km, to Ponte–Fluvii fortress, situated on the hill near the Serbian locality of Zgrebenat. From here, the road went northwards through Carasului Valley up to the Roman Arcidava (today ‘s Vărădia) fortress, still 12 miles (18 km) away from Ponte – Fluvii.
Travelling on the “Roman Roads”, tourists can imagine the Mountainous Banat, full of Roman fortresses, Roman civil towns, Roman defence waves, villae rusticae and Roman mines. So are the Roman settlements on the left bank of the Danube from Dierna (Orşova) to Mudava (Old Moldova).
As the Roman road Lederata -Tibiscum is not yet easy to cross, you can travel from Dierna (Orşova) along the Danube Shore to Mudava (Old Moldova) and from here on the DN 57 to the intersection near Grădinari with the county road 573 leading to Vărădia, where, at the Roman Arcidava fortress, the connection will be made with the old Roman road.
The routes attempts to achieve that each tourist could decipher and reconstruct, at least partially, the meaning and rhythm of life in Banat during the Roman rule, using the white marble of the votive altars skidded by weather and to the vestiges left in the ground.
Touristic route no. 4: The Romans’ Roads (I)
Road I Dierna – Mudava – Arcidava – Tibiscum:
Dierna (Orșova) – Mudava (Old Moldova)
Arcidava (Vărădia) – Centum Putea (Surduc)
Bersobis (Berzow) – Aizizis (Ezers-Frliug)
Caput Bubalis (Păltiniş-Banat) – Tibiscum (Jupa-Caransebeş)
The trip along the Danube Gorge is one of impressive beauty, with many and varied sights and objectives.
After locating the place where the Romans had crossed the Danube on the boat bridge at the entrance of the Ogradena Bay, in 101 AD, the journey can start from Dierna (Orşova) on the road towards Mudava (NewMoldova).
The road climbs up the Eşelniţa serpentines and enters the area of the Small Cauldrons where, on the right bank, in the rock wall above the water, you can see Tabula Traiana. Almost face to face with the stone testimony of the Roman road on the Serbian bank, on the left bank of the Danube, in the Mraconia Bay, you can admire the Rock Statue of Decebalus. After a short stop at the highest rock statue in Europe (40 m), you continue the trip and immediately after crossing the viaduct from the Mraconia Bay, you reach the Mraconia Monastery, situated near the waterfront, in the place where, before 1989, the Romanian youngsters used to swim across the Danube in order to reach freedom, beyond the communist barriers.
After 25 km of walking from Orşova, you reach the Dubova Bay, where great guesthouses are waiting for Romanian and foreign tourists with accommodation, meals and recreation offer for every season. From the shore you can admire the Big Cauldrons of the Danube.
Continuing the trip on the national road DN 57, at km 50 of the route, you reach the village of Sviniţa, where the “Fig tree Festival” is held annually. Stop for a short rest near the village to see in the waters of the Danube two of the three towers of the medieval Tricule fortress, built during 1437-1439, in the place where a Roman castle used to be before. And if you like the jelly, go in the village and buy at least a jar of jam, having a taste that you’ll always look for in the future.
From Sviniţa to Cozla, the road had to be cut again into stone, being suspended between the Danube waters flowing gently down the valley and the huge wall rising to the right of the road.
“On the opposite side, the turmoils that curled the bark of the Carpathians show their traces. Girdles of multicoloured rocks appear along the river, in a series of colours that delight the view of the geologist, but also the eye of the tourist. “[Bizera M., 1971]
Between Cozla and Drencova, 71 km away from Orşova and 34 from Moldova Noua, the ruins of the medieval fortress Dranko (Drencova) can be seen in the Danube’s waters. The stone wall from the old fortress, situated on the Romanian bank, is quite well preserved.
After 3 km you get out of the Danube’s cataracts and at km 74 you reach Berzasca, the village with the “Lacustrine touristic village” on the Danube.
Then the road enters the Sicheviţa-Liubcova Depression and, after 84 km, it reaches the Păzărişte Bridge at Căuniţa, where you can see the traces of a “villa rustica” – a rural Roman settlement.
Villa Rustica (Gornea – Sicheviţa)
The Roman vestiges from Cauniţa de Sus, villa rustica, and the late Roman period’s fortress, Castellum Quadrilurgium, at Căuniţa de Jos, both near some ancient Dacian settlements in Gornea, “prove that the Romans have developed new rural settlements, have erected stone and brick buildings with hypocaust type of heating”. [Dragomir I., 2003].
Today, the fortress is covered by the Danube waters and you can see only the “villa rustica” with its two brick burning furnaces. A reconstruction of an oven is displayed in the Mountainous Banat Museum in Resita.
At the Village Museum from Gornea you can admire: the late Roman fortress machete, bricks with Roman stamps of the 7th Legion Claudia, handmade Roman ceramic pots, a cambestry for throwing arrows belonging to the archers of the “Equittas sagittari” unity and, particularly, a Roman inscription with Latin scriptwriting, which constitutes a transition between writing on the “tabula cerata” and on “papyrus”.
In the ethnography collection you can admire the folk costumes for women and men, well preserved since the nineteenth century. The “memories from the wooden epoch” are unique: the weaving loom, the swings to carry the children on the back, the wood lathe for making the carriages of the carts, almost 100 years old, a single-piece pitcher made of walnut wood, a stall crate called “iada” – a shepherd’s cane with a chair made of a single trunk of branches.
After the halt at Villa Rustica and the Village Museum from Gornea, you can visit “The entrance of the Holy Mother of God into the church” Monastery at Gornea and the Assembly of mills with bucket and buttons from the Cameniţei Valley.
The voyage continues and, at km 98 of the road, the valley narrows and the road is dug into the rock. After another 5 km you reach the Babacai Rock, supervised from the Romanian bank by the medieval Fortress “Sf. Ladislau “, called “Cula” by the natives, and from the Serbian bank by Golubăţ Fortress.
You can reach Cula on the paved road from the House of Tourism of the Eftimie Murgu University in Resita, from Coronini.
Take a stop at the UEMR Tourism House and you’ll have the most restful view of the Danube, whose water only here is unique with its the yellow-greenish colour – “The Beautiful Yellow Danube”, as Jules Verne called it. A place quite good for organising a summer camp for painting or sculpture.
From the Tourism House you can reach the Fly Hole Cave on foot, after 200 m of hiking in the direction of the water. The access to the cave is easy from the spring near the road, along a path to the mouth of the cave, which is only 50 m from the road.
The cave opens with a wonderful view over the Danube Valley like through a stone- binocular facing Serbia. In this place many youngsters had their “wings broken”.
At the exit from Coronini, the road to Saint Helena detaches to the right, a village with Czech population.
From Coronini to the harbour of Old Moldova, you must cover another 7 km. At the entrance to Moldova Veche, a smaller road branches out to the right from the main road and after 4 km you can reach Moldova Noua – non-ferrous mining centre since Roman times until today. The Roman commercial road from the past continues to Sasca Montana through the Great Valley Reservation, stretching over 400 ha with sub-Mediterranean flora and fauna species.
At Sasca Montana, the commercial Roman Road over the Gheorghe Hill intersects with the commercial road that comes from the main Roman road Dierna – Tibiscum and crosses Craina, Almăj Valley and Nera Valley. From Sasca Montana the auxiliary Roman road continues along the Caras Valley to Arcidava (Vărădia).
The harbour of Moldova Veche is located on the former Dacian fortress of Mudava, which was later turned into a Roman fortress.
Mudava (Moldova Veche)
The old Roman fortress was built on the ancient Dacian fortress of Mudava. It is the place where the Danube divides its course in two branches, forming the “Decebalus’s Island”, and during the Roman period a strong Roman fortress was rising in this place.
Today, the harbour’s edifice and the border are built on the ruins of the former fortress. The site was set by the historian Leonard Bohm in the summer of 1879, when the Danube water was low and a thorough examination of the ruins of the citadel could be made. Near the old mines, in 1850, a local landlord found some Roman lamps and plates with Roman inscriptions. All this highlights that Moldova Noua, in Roman times, was an important mining centre, exploiting in the Roman mines not only iron and copper, but also silver and gold.
Also on the ruins of the Dacian fortress Mudava there was a fortress in the Middle Ages, which disappeared in the 15th century after the frequent Turkish incursions.
After approximately 5 km of walking from the harbour towards the Locvei Mountains, you reach the locality of Pojejena.
At Pojejena there was a Roman camp and a watchtower located on the edge of the Danube meadow. Today, the ruins of Roman Bacunis (Pojejena) are covered by the Iron Gates Storage Lake. However, you can make a fresh start at the new Tourist Complex Pojejena, from the Danube, which is reached after 500 m, on the road to Socol and Bazias.
Returning to the main road DN 57, the trip to Oraviţa continues, passing the Locva Mountains across the middle of the beech and oak forests. From the Radimnei Valley’s bridge you climb 7 km in serpentines to the rest area from The White Stone’s peak, after which it descends another 7 km on other spectacular “hairpin” serpentines to the Nera Bridge from Naidas.
After 35 km from Moldova Nouă (Moldova Veche’s Harbour), the road passes next to the border point with Serbia at Naidas. Walking another 21 km down the road, you reach Oraviţa, another important mining centre with traces of the “gold” exploitation.
The temptation to visit the much searched touristic attractions in Oraviţa cannot be stopped; from the first station to the first theatre in Romania, all sights attract as a magnet. In search of the Roman roads on the Caras Valley, the journey will continue towards Gradinari. Turning to the left from the main road, at Greoni, you take the well maintained secondary county road DJ 573, leading to Vărădia, where you find the traces of the Arcidava Roman fortress.
Vărădia lies on the right of Caras, at the foot of the Chilii Hill, near the border with Serbia. It is one of the oldest settlements from Banat. During the Dacian state here was the Arcidava Fortress, and during Roman rule in Dacia, a Roman camp. It was 12 Roman miles (17 km) away from Ponte – Fluvii (Zgrebenat – Serbia). At the same time, Arcidava was the junction node of the Lederata-Tibiscum military road with the commercial Roman road from Almăj Land.
The Roman fortress was close to the bridge over Caraş and the road leading to Greoni, in the place called “Rovina”. The fortress was linked by a corridor through a watchtower on the Chilii Hill. Approaching to the top of Chilii Hill, the 12th-century Medieval Church, belonging to Baron Anton Baic of Vărădia can be spotted. There was a rich spiritual activity here in the past, now it’s one full of mystery. The creepers and the dense forest cover the former gardens that were full of roses. Stairs dug into calcareous tuff (rock) constituted the access to the chapel, today they are covered by shafts and brambles, and baths are dwelling in the cells of the former monks. When you see the unique stone slabs from Romania, near the church, on which the baron’s shadow passes, you will feel shivers of fear of vampires.
Vărădia is a Mediterranean village with frequent houses and narrow streets. In Vărădia Paul Iorgovici (1764-1808), one of the great humanists of the time was born. He was a promoter of the Latin writing, which he used in his works.
Returning to the main road DN 57 Oraviţa-Timişoara, you drive by car near the terraces and the meadow of the Caras River with the thermal spring and after 5m you reach Gradinari.
In Gradinari you can visit the monumental Orthodox Church and the monument of the heroes with its Doric style columns, in the middle of the locality.
Climbing up the hill, the road passes next to a Roman-style watchtower, so visiting it is easy. “From the peak of Cacova Hill, in sunny days, a beautiful panorama opens over the entire valley of Caras. To the east you can see against the background of the blue sky the purple mountain of Anina, to the south the multicoloured enamel of the crops and meadows, pointed sometimes by the red rooftops of the houses in the villages, to the west the undulating lines appear of the Vrsat Mountains.” [Bizera M., 1971].
Further on, the road descends to the beautiful valley of Cernovăţ, reaching the villages of Comoraste and Forotic, to Surducul Mare, near which the Centum Putei fortress lay.
Centum Putei (Surducul Mare)
The Roman fortress Centum Putei (Surducul Mare) was also 12 Roman miles (17 km) away from Arcidava (Vărădia). Here, in 1882, traces of a Roman camp were found, in the shape preferred by Romans, namely the rectangular one, in the place called by the locals “Rovina”. On several occasions clay pots, coins and bricks were found here, bearing the seal of the Fourth Legion, Flavia Felix. Fortresses, like the roads and the defence waves, were military constructions, raised everywhere where the “Roman eagle” had flown. The Roman fortresses had strong and long walls up to 200 m. They had four exit gates built into each wall. The gates and corners of the walls were reinforced with defence towers. Outside the walls, the fortresses were enclosed, with the exception of the entrances to the gates, with deep grooves of 3 to 10 m, having a width of 20-30 m, which during the siege were filled with water.
From the 12-miles (17 km) Roman road between Centum Putei (Surducul Mare) and Bersobis (Berzovia), today you can still see a 5 km section near Binis.
The ancient Dacian fortress, Bersobis was conquered by Traian ever since the first war between the Dacians and the Romans, becoming a major Roman fortress. The name of the settlement is of Dacian origin and it means “the Girl’s citadel”. The legend says that during the Traian’s war against Decebalus, Decebalus’s sister was here. In Bersovis was stationed the Fourth Legion Flavia Felix, whose stamp appears on the bricks of the fortress buildings. After Dacia became a Roman province, the Bersobis military camp became municipium. The Roman citadel acquired a strong commercial status because the roads from Arcidava (Vărădia) and Mudava (Moldova Veche) were crossing in this very point.
Besides the main roads, the Romans also built side roads. A commercial road started from Mudava (Moldova Veche) and passed through the Roman mining centres from Moldova Noua to Sasca, and from here to Ciclova and Oraviţa, and continued through Maidan, Dognecea and Bocşa ending at Bersobis (Berzovia).
The Berzobis (Berzovis) fortress was built where the mountains descend to lowlands, at crossroads, thus becoming not only a strategic but also a commercial road. The locality is situated right on the site of the old Roman fortress, and the defence wave of the fortress can be spotted quite well on the “Erinii road”, or the road of anger, as it is also called; as well as the traces of the houses built after the model of Pompeii.
The Roman road continued another 12 miles (17 km) to the next Roman camp Azizis, traces of which were found in Frliug and Ezers.
From Berzovia, the journey can continue on the old Roman road, paved in the present, passing through Ramna, Valeapai, Duleu, Valea Mare and reaching Fârliug. There are two views of the archaeologists regarding the location of the Roman fortress Azizis. Some place it at the border of Fârliug, others on the hill near Ezeriş, where the foundations of a Roman building had been discovered. Until archaeologists decide, as tourists try to pronounce the two names one after the other: Azizis – Ezeris. This can be the key to the true answer.
The trip can continue as far as Soceni, where it enters the Reşiţa-Caransebes road. Past the village of Soceni, after 2 km, you can visit the monastery “The Coverage of the Mother of God”, a place of Orthodox worship. Half way between Reşiţa and Caransebeş is located Brebu, a place whose name indicates that in the past there were beavers in this place, rodent animals with expensive fur, today so rare in the area. A road descends from Brebu to Zorlenţul Mare (5 km), a town known for the Banat traditions. Climb the hill with cherry orchards up to the intersection with the road to Delineşti and Valea Denii. At the crossroads, in May and June, you will find the most tasty and aromatic cherries in Banat.
The road leads in beautiful serpentines towards the Roman fortress Caput-Bubalis, near Păltiniş. The old name of the village was Valea Boului / the Buffalo’s Valley, the Romanian translation of the Latin word Caput bubalis. The square-shaped Roman fortress served as a point of support for the Romans’ offensive to Tibiscum.