A UNIQUE MULINOLOGICAL RESERVATION IN EUROPE
In the Almaj County, there is a place where mills and rocks keep each other company, and the world of the past presents a stunning freshness. Here one “grinds” a time without time!
The main tourist attraction on the Rudăria Gorges consists of the 22 water mills spread over 3 km near Eftimie Murgu (former Rudaria).
Under the shingle roof, the stone, wood and water are writing, simply and clearly, the history of the Mountainous Banat’s civilization, which lingers as a miracle even today.
If you want to rejuvenate and see the “ancestors” of the Kaplan turbines of the major hydroelectric power plants from all over the world, take a trip to the Almataj Country in Mountainous Banat, on the Rudaria Valley, where there is a unique mulinological reservation, being the largest park (3 km) of water mills from Europe. You will see that “watermill’s science” has been here since the beginning of the world …
To get to Eftimie Murgu (Rudaria) you can choose either DN 58 Reşiţa – Anina, then DN 57B to Bozovici and DJ 571F to Eftimie Murgu or the European road E70 from Caransebeş to Băile Herculane to the intersection from Iablaniţa, from where you take DN 57B to Bozovici and finally to the left, on DJ 571F, to Eftimie Murgu (Rudaria).
The village that currently bears the name of Eftimie Murgu, after the well-known man of culture and a forty-eighters revolutionist born in these places, bore the old Rudaria name until 1970 , after the river Rudărica, which in Slavic means the “river of iron” (ruda = iron ore and reka = river, i.e. the place where the iron ore is extracted.
Come here, let yourself get caught up in the “deafening bustle of the mill stones, echoed by the smiling murmur of the mountain water.” [Irimia N., 2005].
You will experience for a few moments the unique feeling of “everlasting youth” and “love at first sight”:
“The struggle between water and rock in the gorges is the testimony of the beauty embodied in the “eternal life of the living water, ground by the mill wheel “, as prof. Danila Sitariu wrote. That’s why, in the place where the mills and rocks keep each other company, the world of the past presents a stunning freshness. “[Irimia N., 2005].
The river on which the mills are located with still and calm water, having an almost unobservable level difference, one would not think it won’t be able to put in function a wheel. Still, the people of the place, with much patience and ingenuity, turned the impossible into possible. Generation after generation, the peasants of Rudaria drilled the hard rock and made tunnels and canals in stone to direct the water, build ditches from tree trunks and created small storage lakes, and eventually raised mills with buckets (a horizontal wheel with 12 radial buckets and a vertical axis) on both sides of the river.
Thus, in 1874, 51 mills appeared on the “Miracle Valley”, out of which there are still 22 watermills strewn on the river bed in the present day, extending to the village, starting with the Tunnel Mill and ending with the Mill of Tarsus.
The bucket is set in motion by the free fall of the water. The wheel driven by the force of the water is the heart of the mill. At first, the wheels of the mills were made of wood, and then replaced with metal, for a greater durability. The bearing supporting the mill wheel is still of white flint, and it is the safest solution, because bearings cannot resist here. The mill wheel itself engages an axle, which conveys the motion of the upper mill stone. The wheat or corn grains placed in the basket are shaken by “the socot” and, passed through the “postavita”, reaching the mouth of the millstone. The grains are milled by rubbing between two stones.
For today’s traveller, who buys a piece of bread at the supermarket or at the corner of the street, entering a bucket mill can create the feeling that he has arrived in a world of beginnings, when stone, wood, and water, being all under a shingles roof, wrote plainly and clearly the history of a civilization in the Mountainous Banat, which, behold, still exists today like a miracle.
The flour produced here has a unique taste, because the “grains” are crushed with stones spinning at a low speed, crushing over 100 kg of flour a day.
Since immemorial times the peasants use the mills in common, in “association” of 15-25 inhabitants, each family having its grinding round that repeats itself periodically. A small round means a day to grind. A big round – means one day and one night. This “round to the mill” could be sold or inherited, by papers written with a “stamp” obtained from the mayor or the notary. Once a month it is organised a day for the maintenance of the mill. They “rub the stones”, in other words, they cut rays in the stone to pull sweet and alluring flour by friction, using a “recipe” kept from the elders. If the stones are good, flour is also good. The former has to be hard and the latter soft, because “this is the way to do it”. It yields “first-quality flour” that cannot be compared to the one ground in the modern mills, which is burned and has a bitter taste due to the high speed used in grinding.
“The song of the mill stones, the very birth of the flour, passed through the peasants’ fingers, the golden and round light of the polenta resembling to the sun’s wheel,” [Irimia N., 2005], all constitute as many reasons for the visitor for wondering and dreaming, as Almaj’s constant poet, Joseph Băcilă always offered:
“The moon goes to the spring,
Maybe it’s its turn to grind at the mill?“
According to the custom of the place, going to the mill is like going out to town; it’s a meeting opportunity. A marriage is being set up, spells are bound or unbound, chantings are made, they debate unspoken “neighbour’s deeds”, as they say it today, a kind of social networking.
They are also called the “mills of fulfilled love” because in the past it was the meeting place between gals and lads.
The proposed itinerary comprises only the 10 mills situated outside the village. For not feeling the difficulty of the round trip, it is preferable to get to the Tunnel Mill and drive down the valley to the village, following the route bellow:
Tunnel mill – Roşoanea – Viloanea – Trăiloanea – The reckless between rivers – Bătolea – The reckless from the wall – Patoanea -Firiz – Prundulea.
The access road was recently paved and paths were set up to the mills.
At Rudaria, as in other parts of Banat (Cornereva, Sicheviţa or Gârnic), the mills have names. They are baptized either with the name of its “founder” (Rosonea, Trăiloanea, Bâtolea), or with the name of the place (Tunnel Mill, The reckless between rivers, The reckless at the wall).
Out of the 10 water mills, eight of them are rotating traditionally to the right, that is, in the clockwise direction, and only two are “rebellious”, turning to the left in the opposite direction. The impression that the mill is rotating in a “stubborn” way creates the traveller the feeling that he has entered in a “tunnel of time” and … feels younger. Look at the image of the mill called The reckless between rivers, with the old woman dressed in black and the granddaughter dressed in red, and you will understand that the mills “grind a timeless time.” [Irimia N., 2005].
On a trip to the Rudaria Valley, beside the fascinating spectacle of waterfalls combined with the sound of the mills, the places offer the traveller some unpredictable surprises. The whole area seems to belong to a fairy tale. The Rudaria Gorges begin right at the exit from the village, stretching over 5 km. On both sides you can see forests with wild lilac bushes that, in spring, when they bloom, make you lose your olfactory sense:
“In spring, it is charmed by the timid breeze of the crudest green, born on the banks of the Rudarica river, and at the beginning of summer by the unearthly fragrance of the lilac flowers, then, in the middle of autumn, the place breathes enchanted at the unrivalled wedding of colour … Recovered colours, more than once, even on the whiteness of the gown kept in the dowry chests of the soul. “[Irimia N., 2005]. The gorges are dominated by steep cliffs, two of them having a human appearance, which the locals called Adam and Eve according to a legend of the place. The Adam and Eve cliffs of the Rudaria Gorges are stone testimonies of the eternal beauty given by the lights of the Midsummer’s Eve, when at Eve’s girdle and Adam’s head “flames are playing reminding of the treasures hidden by the Dacians, the ancestors of the Romanians.” [Irimia N., 2005].
The locals say that a secular beech is still standing up in the woods, preserving the inscription: “Eftimie Murgu, Nicolae Balcescu – 1848. Passers-by.” It is said that in those years, the troubled Eftimie Murgu, accompanied by Nicolae Balcescu , briefly stopped at home, and then headed to safer places. Here lies the highest peak of Almăj Mountains, Svinicea Mare, with a height of 1224 m.
At the mills that are grinding on your visit day, you will be greeted by “villagers in queue” who, with the simplicity of words and their working hands will show you how to put the grains in the basket, how to turn on and stop the wheel, where the flour comes out, and how to put it in the bag with the bucket, so as not to “get whitened by flour on your clothes”.
Furthermore, the legends and stories of the mills are equally alluring, and the locals are talking also about a mill that can rejuvenate you or the one where you have to go when you have a headache or for undoing spells or the children’s enchantment.
The Legend of endurance
If you spend a night at The reckless between the rivers mill with your lover, while the mill is rotating in the hollow, you wake up in the morning rejuvenated, because the stone of the mill grinds the time backwards.
Surely, the word “mulinological” can make you think rather of Moulin Rouge, but the charm of the famous Parisian cabaret, through the word “moulin = mill in French” can be found in the “under hand” spin of the beautiful dancers in the evenings with dances, songs and Almaj folk costumes. Only one more endeavour is needed in order to restore the mills to their appearance from the past, as the “Astra” Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization did in Sibiu in 2001, and to valorise them through events.