Entries tagged with “travel in Romania”.


One of the discoveries in the recent vacation spent in Romania was an architectonic and historical jewel in the hills below the Carpathians, near Hunedoara. The road that descends South to the village of Densus (read Den-soosh) is picturesque and in very good condition, allowing the travelers to enjoy the landscape.




I knew nothing about this place and I am to blame. Some of the sources describe it as the oldest church which is still active in Romania. As you are getting closer the silhouette of the church arrows to the sky in a way which is quite familiar for anybody who has seen the Romanesque churches in hills and mountains of Spain or Southern France. The history of this place is truly fascinating, its walls and stones catch some of the most interesting events of this area at the crossroads of nations and religions. It seems that there was a church in this place since the 6th century, and some of the stones in the structure have been identified as originating from the nearby Roman city of Ulpia Traiana Sarmisegetusa (not to be confounded with the Dacian capital located a few tens of kilometers from Densus). Inside the church eight Roman altars built in the 2nd or 3rd century were identified – brought here from the Roman city, or maybe remains of a previous pre-Christian religious structure.



The present rectangular structure dates from the 13th century, with a semi-circular apse to the East and a large diaconicon to the South. The denomination of the church changed several times during its history – it became Calvinist in the 16th century, and then Greek-Catholic – a branch of Christianity specific to Transylvania which unified the local Greek-Orthodox tradition with the Western Catholicism. In 1948, during the Communist rule, the Greek-Catholic faith was declared illegal, and the church of Densus (as many other) became Orthodox. It is today dedicated to Saint Nicholas.



Elements of the Roman city stones which were brought here to build the church are visible in the structure (the columns incorporated in the external wall which remind the Cathedral in Syracuse, Sicily), or decoration (the two lions on the roof on the backside). There are also Latin inscriptions on the stones around, which may have been once part of the central structure.


source http://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fi%C8%99ier:Sf_Treime_Densus.jpg


source http://www.evz.ro/detalii/stiri/castelul-corvinilor-vandut-la-suprapret-892383.html


Photography is not allowed inside the church, so I could not take pictures in the interior. You can see above two photographs I found on the Internet, they show some of the saints images painted on the interior walls that survived. The older are dated 1443, contemporary to works of Fra Angelico and they belong to a church painter famous in the his time named Stefan.

More photographs, as well as  more information and discussions about this fascinating place for these of you who can read Romanian can be found at:


As I am a passionate of lighthouses, one of my questions to the local folks during my vacation on the Danube was obviously ‘Are there any lighthouses on the Danube’. The answer was ‘no, not any longer, as today navigation is GPS-guided, but there were until not long time ago’. Their story is fascinating.




A few kilometers from the nice hotel we were lodged in on the river of Danube you can find the area of the Small Cauldrons (Cazanele Mici). This is the place where the distance between the two shores of the Danube is the smallest in the area, and in the past, before the Iron Gates dam was built the white waters looked liked boiling, hence the name. Despite the dangerous waters the small distance between the shores made the place one of the preferred escape border areas for the daring people who tried to cross from Romania to Yugoslavia, and then to continue their road to freedom away of the Communist Romania. Hundreds perished during the crossing shot by the border police, even more were caught and imprisoned. This was another kind of wall then the wall of Berlin, less famous, but not less dangerous and not less the symbol of the futile tentative of the Communists to keep the people confined within the prison that became the whole country.





Until no more than 20 years ago two lighthouses regulated the traffic on the Danube in this area. One was located on the Romanian shore, the other at the other side of the gorges on the Serbian shore. Two big commercial ships could not traverse the gorges simultaneously, and two big balls signaled the permission to cross the Cauldrons. One of them was always down, the other up, allowing ships to traverse only one way at once.



While the disaffected building of the lighthouse on the Serbian shore seems to have remained unused and unchanged since the modern traffic methods were put in effect, the location on the Romanian shore received a new and interesting destination. It became the place where the new monastery of Mraconia (or Mracunea) was built. A monastery that has a long history and tradition, which was destroyed at least five times during its history and built back from ashes. A monastery that refuses to die.

The first mention dates from 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, and the monastery was at that time dedicate to Saint Ilie (Eliah). Destroyed by the Turkish invasions, it was rebuilt and consecrated again in 1523, three years before the kingdom of Hungary fell after the defeat at Mohacs. Destroyed a couple of times in the 18th and 19th centuries during the wars between the Russians and the Turks, it flourished in between the two world wars, to be again demolished and covered by waters in 1967, when the Iron Gates dam was built. And yet the history of the Mraconia refused to come to an end, and in 1993 the spectacular location of the former lighthouse on the Romanian shore was selected to be the place of the building of the new monks monastery. In 2008 it was transformed into a nuns monastery, which is now dedicated to the Saints Michael and Gabriel.




There are still works undergoing inside the crossed-shaped church, and we had the chance to see the painters at work. It’s a beautiful place in a fabulous location, a beautiful place of prayers that could not be silenced by history. Do not miss it during your future trips in the area.



It’s one of the saddest and most painful blog entries I have written. My trip to Romania took me to a place which could be one of the touristic centers of Europe, rivaling or even pushing into shadows famous spa resorts like Baden-Baden or Karlovy-Vary. Baile Herculane is located in the Valley of the Cerna river, a couple of hours of driving from Timisoara and connected to it by a good road, recently renovated, beautiful and scenic for more than half of it. Its location is spectacular, in a narrow area of gorges surrounded by high peaks, and its thermal and mineral waters were famous since the time of the Roman rule over Dacia in the 2nd and 3rd century BC. During the Austro-Hungarian rule of the area the place became a famous resort, hotels, villas, spa and treatment buildings were built in the European style of the second half of the 19th century. The empress of Austro-Hungaria Elisabeth (Sissy) loved the place, and this is where she met with the queen of Romania Carmen Sylva in the 1880s.







It is so painful to see what this place has become today. The historic center looks deserted, the palaces, villas, hotels, spas are in ruins. Some places even look dangerous to walk near. 23 years after the fall of the Communism nobody seems to have taken responsibility for saving and recovering the buildings of exceptional architectural value and beauty, bringing back to life the touristic activities and putting in motion the huge potential of the place. There are a couple of signs talking about an EC investment, they seem too little, I hope that not too late. This place needs and deserves much more.







I do not know if a blog posting like this one can help. I wish it could. Here are a couple of more articles (in Romanian) that I found on the subject, and a youTube clip.




(video source http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRmkWX6Ix2s)