THE CALL OF THE EARTH
In a miraculous place on the Danube Gorge, at the border between the Locvei Mountains and the Almăj Mountains, lies the commune of Sichevita with its 19 villages: Sichevita, Gornea, Liborajdea, Cruşovita, Lucacevac, Streneac, Martinovăţ, Zăsloane, Curmătura, Frăsinis, Cameniţa, Cârşie, Zănou, Cracu Almăj, Ogâşu Podului, Oreviţei Valley, Ravensca Valley, SicheviţaValley and Brestelnic.
Sicheviţa is one of the oldest settlements in the Danube Gorge, attested documentarily from the middle Ages (1363), with a pure Romanian population. It is an ancient precinct of a village, with traces of dwelling since prehistory, in the present being located at the confluence between Camenita Valley and Sichevita Valley. The village has its name from the creek and valley bearing the same name and is the “native place” of the Romanians on the Danube Gorge.
Starting from the Pazariste Bridge on the valley, you will see on the one hand and the other of the village alternating a hill, then a valley, another hill, and another valley. Soft ups and downs, like the oscillations of the traditional swing of the village of Sichevita. Always a new sight. But everywhere the same gentle harmony of the landscape. In the distance the hill arises from the watershed of the Camenita and Gravensca rivers, suggestively called by the locals Botul Cracului (The bottom of the craw).
After 650 years of existence, Sicheviţa has remained a traditional Banat village, with one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Danube Gorge: The Compound of watermills with bucket and buttons from Sichevita.
As old as the Rudaria mills, the watermills from Sicheviţa (in operation since 1809) are still functioning today. All the water mills have a “bucket” and a vertical axis, which are rightly considered to be the forerunners of the Kaplan turbines.
Look for the 10 water mills at Sicheviţa, placed on a distance of 10 km (2 hours of walking), from the Danube to the springs in the mountains, and you will see their unique element by which they differ from the ones from Rudaria. The water is not brought to the bucket through a gutter, but through the “buttons”, a wooden or concrete tube that increases the flow of water striking the radial blades of the bucket. Most of the mills are erected directly on the water course, but you will also encounter mills where the water is brought on “ieruga” (meaning a kind of channel). Depending on the location, the mills are raised on wooden forks, with a stone foot to the bed of the river and another directly on the ground. Another unique feature of this area is the construction of the “two-room mill”. If the mills are single-celled in the village, those from the hamlets have two rooms: one for the mill and one for the “stable” where they keep the horses or the oxen which hauled or pulled the carriage with the “grist” during the grinding period.
The mills are made of wooden beams “glued” with yellow earth (clay) and have shingle roof “in two waters”. Next to the mill stone directly attached to the spindle axis, there is an open-chimney fireplace, so that the “miller” could warm up at night.
Each mill is a folklore architectural monument for those who are passionate for agro-tourism and want to live the “country life” for a few days of vacation. Try to catch the mysteries of milling “live”. Of course, each mill wears a name, after the place where the mill is located or after the name of the inhabitant from Sischevita, having the “hut” next to the mill. After the name of the mill, from the Danube up to the village at the Salisut Springs, discover the “mystery” of the place:
Moza Mill – Trifu Mill – Cioaca Mill – Stupa Mill – Zassloane Mill – Creta Mill – Iedu Mill – The Crak’s Bottom Mill – Zaica Mill – The mouth Spring Mill.
The mills are located on the two major rivers, Camenita (7 mills) and Gravensca (3 mills). From the two “whirlpool” mills built in the village, the Braila’s (Macu) Mill with owlets can be seen at Liborajdea and the Braila’s (Gheorghe) Mil; with “vaiala” at Cârşie can be visited at the “ASTRA” Museum in Sibiu. The “valaie” or “busnite,” as the locals call them, are the precursors of the washing machines, in which by the fall of water from a height over the wool or linen fabrics, they are washed in a truncated funnel, made up of tilted wooden “strobor” lodged tilted in the ground and with a small space between them for water draining. By the water fall and lateral orientation of the water jet, eddy- currents are created inside and washing is carried out.
We suggest you to experience a “day at the mill” in the life of the traditional Banat village and look for answers to the questions:
• does the water deviate from the main course on the “mill race” through a dam, forming the “pond” of the mill;
• to beat the “bucket” to the mill through which the bunion is filled with water and the jet exits with pressure concentrated on the radial blades of the bucket;
• to set the “straight” or “reverse” direction of rotation of the bucket after the movement of the sun and the moon in the sky, clockwise or vice versa;
• to put grains of wheat, corn or oats from the “bellows” into the mill basket suspended over the stones;
• the grains fall into the “postavita” by a continuous and throbbing flow given by the “siocot”;
• the grains are ground in the “bosom” between the “running” and the “standing” stone;
• to place the “rod” in the mouth of the running stone for the uniform peripheral distribution of the grains;
• to make finer or rougher flour by adjusting the running stone from “lifting” through which the fork with the “frog”, namely the pivot rock with a hollow support for the “heel” of the mill wheel’s hub, is raised or descended.
•to taste the flour taken with a trowel from the mouth of the masnic to test the unique taste of the Banat flour;
• to put the flour in the bag with the trowel so as not to make “white spots” on your clothes;
• to “block” the running stone with the hammer for the mill stones to “bite” the grains and give the flour according to a recipe known from the elders and passed from generation to generation, as well as the “queue” at the mill;
• to prevent with a grid placed before the butoniu the penetrating of branches;
• to stop the mill with a wooden “dam” placed at the mouth of the butoniu.
• to fry the corn on the embers of the mill’s fireplace to be eaten with Banat cheese;
• to make the bathe at the mill drops and the “bleaching” with the white “soap flowers” growing around the mill;
• “to put the gurita over the postavita and the hay shelter is placed for fulfilled love.
Search for the “lucky mill” to feel the soul of the Romanian peasant between the call of love and the call of the earth through the melancholy songs, called doina, played with the flute and the leaf:
The call of love
The call of the earth
Come in the autumn months to taste the famous Banat Slivovitz on a “roasting day at the cauldron” and discover the secrets of its production through the questions:
• to light a slow fire down in the boiler’s fireplace, so that the slivovitz does not get “smoked” but remains good, strong and sweet;
• to put the plums in the cauldron in a ” golden proportion ” of the liquid and the mixture;
• to rotate (swing) the blade axle so as not to “catch” the plums at the cauldron’s bottom while boiling;
• to attach to the cauldron the “alembic” with a brass coil through which the condensed vapours turns into the miraculous liqueur;
• to cool the coil in the “collecting bowl” with water brought on the “gutter” from the Camenita river or the Sicheviţa stream with the help of a “wheel with causa”, a vertical wheel with a horizontal axis similar to the Pelton turbine;
• to flow the slivovitz through a “slavina” in the measuring barrel;
• to taste it with a the teaspoon so that the ” kernel’s smell” would not make you fall asleep;
• to check the strength with the “rambus” to avoid getting a too “diluted” slivovitz (with low number of degrees);
• to give the boiler his “tenth” , i.e. the 1/10 share as pay for the production of the brandy;
• to make the slivovitz to get a goldish colour with the help of “beech mushrooms”;
• to produce the “double fried” slivovitz for the guests invited to the nedeia feast (church patron day celebration);
• to bake potatoes in embers to eat them with cheese and to increase the appetite for slivovitz of all the men overwhelmed by sorrow or joy;
• to obtain the “tragula” from the stalk, for pulling the slivovitz from the “buce” or demijohn to pour it into the glasses;
• to store the Banat slivovitz in barrels of acacia, oak or mulberry to preserve its colour and taste;
• does the slivovitz got old, after a number of years and it is offered with a “tuleu” cork to “gentlemen”;
• to make the “boiled slivovitz“, which is usually served to the wedding guests at the traditional Banat wedding.
In the twilight, when the plum slivovitz wraps your entire body, Laie Chioru or Grigore Moza comes to the cauldron to play on the violin with tolcher. An authentic folk song about the village inn keeper’s wife, Aniţa:
I have been staying at the pub for three days,
Play and sing for me, fiddler, in a song,
The big fast passed,
Play and sing for me, Laie, in a song,
About a fair-haired lass with thin tall body,
The violin with a tolcher is encountered only at Sichevita in the entire Banat. It is a violin that has a “tolcher” instead of the classic violin’s resonance box. The vibrations from the membrane are taken up by the tolcher’s “callus” and amplified inside the clarion.
In times not long gone, the outlaws left traces in the Banat Mountains and on the Danube Gorge. Some have been preserved in people’s minds, others in hidden places, sheltered from the eye of the police, always in search of the hidden forests trails. You can imagine those times listening only at Sicheviţa to the The sad song of the outlaws (Nicolae Popovici):
Under the green forest
Or it is surrounded by outlaws.
It could have been twelve o’clock
Being poachers by trade.
The tradition is part of the life of this village and it is a unique chance to participate as tourists in festivals such as Sheep’s Measuring, Pig Slaughtering, Bride’s Dance, The charity Dance, Water Shedding, The Turks, The Feast of the House, The Ruga of the Village with the outdoor elderly dance, the Mărţişor and the Plugusor. The Plugusor carols are sung on New Year’s Eve, and the oldest text in the village is a special and original one, that has not been lost with the passing of time:
Good evening, cause it is evening,
There is no other night,
The first carol singer entering a Banat’s home must be a child. Children bring luck, according to tradition. The carollers get rolls and apples, money and sweets.
Look at the photo; it seems like a painting which immortalizes the carollers of 2012.
Talk to the inhabitants from Sischevita, you’ll be amazed by the idiom they are speaking. Like the Almaj locals or Gugulans, their words have something ancient, unpolished and clean. You seem to listen to a voice from the past. It’s as if they were the Dacians from almost 2000 years ago. An old idiom, like a song, that sounds familiar to you, like a music that goes to your heart.
From the village you climb up the Locva Mountains and the Almaj Mountains. You will see how rich the landscape is: meadows filled with wild flowers, lots of birds, secular woods and green pastures. All these are added to traditional haystacks and carts drawn by horses or oxen. You will have the impression that you have turned back in time and that you are in a long-forgotten era. You think that you have embraced the entire panorama, but it keeps growing, to become more and more sublime, making you understand how tiny you are. You will end up in shady forests where you can feel the fresh air, the coolness of the shade and the woodsy smell of the earth. It is the moment you can do silvotherapy or forest therapy!
Silvotherapy or forest therapy!
If you love the forest, do active or passive silvotherapy in the middle of the “woods”. It’s a therapy with the help of the trees. For athletes light running is very suitable, but also “mountainside” trekking at a pace of 3-5 km per hour, climbing and descending the hill from one valley to another, as an “active” form of silvotherapy for body strengthening.
For hiking lovers the walking is preferred, with exercises in the shade and tree “hugging”. It is the “passive” form of silvotherapy for combating stress and healing the body. Everything happens in the forest air containing negative oxygen ions, real “air vitamins” with multiple properties: it activates the blood circulation, oxygenates the brain, increases the number of red blood cells, eases the breathing and favours sleep. It is an excellent remedy for: asthma, chronic bronchitis, hypertension, insomnia, nervousness and stress. If you also take a “cure” with the forest fruits, then the traditional Banat wish “health and joy” is fulfilled.
Do not be surprised by the “huts” in the shape of bee hives that are encountered on the hills. Sicheviţa is a traditional village with “scattered houses”, the largest rural settlement in the Danube Gorge.
You cannot leave Sichevita without visiting the “Ion Dragomir” Village Museum at Gornea, the “Entrance of St. Mary, Mother of God, to the Church ” Monastery at Păzărişte and Villa Rustica from Căuniţa.
The “Ion Dragomir” village museum from the centre of Gornea, inaugurated on 27th of July 1969, has two exhibitions. One dedicated to archaeology and the other to local ethnography.
In the “Archaeology Hall” you will see exhibits disposed on historical epochs of the prehistory and the Roman period. Nowadays when the world is more concerned with the “challenges” of the present, through the passion and understanding of the local history of the teacher Ion Dragomir, in the museum you will see one of the “Danubian inscriptions” discovered by the archaeological team led by prof.univ.dr Gheorghe Lazarovici, a Roman brick with cursive writing on it in Latin from the Roman domination period.
Still here, by looking at the machete of the reconstruction of the fortress in the museum you can imagine how the Roman fortress of Căuniţa looked like, whose ruins are lying beneath the Danube in the present.
“The Roman fortress had four defensive towers at the corners, and on the southern side, towards the Danube, two towers and one gate, because the entrance was made from the water. Here lived the limitanei or ripeness, the guard soldiers who controlled the left bank of the Danube. “[Dragomir I., 2003].
The fortress was a “Contra Nove” for the Byzantine Roman citadel “Novae”, on the other bank of the Danube, the Serbian one.
The inscription containing the Latin cursive letters on the Roman brick is a “document-testimony” for the formation of the Romanian language, having a unitary meaning:
The text in Latin:
“Rogo et peto primicere
The Romanian translation:
“Please and I beg you primicer
Bariam (the slave) I Sterius
Try to identify the Roman ceramic pieces shaped by hand or on the wheel, with the insignia of the sun and fir trees, discovered at Villa Rustica from Cauniţa. Next to the Roman farm they two bricks burning furnaces were also revealed. A reconstruction of an oven is displayed at the Mountainous Banat Museum in Resita.
In the “Ethnography Hall” you can admire over 100 years old folk costumes and the so ingenious “tools” from the… wood age, donated by the inhabitants of the village: the loom from 1887with its creations following a special pattern , the wood lathe of almost 90 years old (donated by a Czech villager), the water jug made of a single piece of walnut wood decorated with Dacian motifs, the “burdus” of calfskin, in which the peasants took their corn to the mill to return with the corn flour, and the “blind key.”
Although it is a village of Romanians, in the customs, folk costumes and idiom of Sichevita you will discover the influence of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, the Gârnic Pems of German origin, the Serbs from Liubcova, the “Bufani” from Coronini and Padina Matei and the Germans from New Moldova.