Feb 26


Evolution is not only necessary, but desirable, because it marks our constant progress towards a better and superior stage of our existence. But during this constant transformation, the past seems to inevitably get lost on the way and thus traditions, customs and artistic expressions are lost in the mist of forgetfulness.

But there are still areas in the world where people manage to maintain century-old traditions alive. Such a place is Maramures, a region located in the northwestern part of Romania. It is amazing how the inhabitants of this area refuse to change their cultural heritage and continue to perpetuate it in different aspects of their day to day life.



The traditions which date back since the Dacian period are still preserved to the present day and tourists who venture in this part of Romania would be captivated of the world they were to discover.

A relevant trait is the wooden churches which impress through their unique architecture. The structures are defined by tall pinnacles and shingled roofs. Although they are definitely not the expression of gradeur, the churches captivate through their simplicity and craftsmanship. There is a multitude of elements which harmoniously combine to complete the houses of pray.



The history behind the emergence of the wooden churches is quite complex, as it is that of the other cultural elements which have been infused throughout time in the area. The geographical, social and political influences are noticeable in each distinct part of art and architecture.

For instance, the mixture of various Orthodox religions, as well as the Gothic influences, have put their mark on various forms of artistic expression.

There are eight churches in Maramures which respect to the fullest the traditional timber architecture. These, as you have probably already guessed, are erected almost completely out of wood, with only the base of the church being constructed out of stones and pebbles.



To give an example, the Church of Saint Nicholas, dates back to the middle of the 17th century (1643) and it is considered an architectural ‘wonder’, especially if we are to take into account the timeframe in which it was constructed. The rectangular church awes through its dimensions, but more so through its traditional mural paintings which date back to the 18th century (1762). It is no surprise that the church is a part of the UNESCO World Heritages since 1999.

But artistry is easily noticeable in another traditional element. The inhabitants of Maramures are renowned for their carved wooden gates. It is a tradition which has been kept for centuries and today tourists visiting this part of the world will see how the entry to each home is presided by an enormous gate which abounds in traditional symbols and leitmotifs, such as the sun, the twisted rope, the tree of life. These symbols stand for life, continuity, youth, faith, protection from evil spirits and so on.



The conclusion is this: Maramures has preserved it ancient traditions alive and the unique forms of art which one seldom finds in other parts of the world are present here at every step. So if you want to take a journey into another realm, where the reality you are used to seems to vanish in an instant, then visit Maramures.

Jul 30

The Polovragi Cave (Pestera Polovragi)

The Polovragi Cave is the “work of art” of Oltet River, a stream that had managed throughout the centuries to corrode the calcareous rocks of the Parang and Capatanii Mountains in its path. Situated in Polovragi Commune, in Gorj District, the cave is an important touristic attraction of Romania.

Only a mountainous relief with a diversified hydrological network can offer such beautiful monuments of nature. It is only natural to assume that the surroundings are mesmerizing.



The path to Polovragi Cave takes the visitor close to nature as it goes up the straits, through the Polovragi Forest – an area protected under the law due to the Mediterranean vegetation and the edible chestnut tree encountered in this region. Leaving the forest behind and charging forward, the tourist will discover the Oltet Straits, which separate the Capatanii Mountain from and Parang Mountain.

The sensation you get while driving through this area is noteworthy. It is as if you are insignificant before the grandness of nature. The mountainous slopes on the sides seem to be closing in around you, making you admit the splendor of the environment.



The remaining portion of road which gets you to your destination, namely to Polovragi Cave,  measures 200-300 m. The cave is not left unattended. There are iron gates installed at the entrance banning access unattended. There is a schedule which needs to be respected, namely that groups of people can enter the cave at one hour intervals. There is a toll that needs to be covered but the amount is quite small and you should let this become an inconvenience, especially since you will have something to feast your eyes on.

There is a guide who will briefly introduce the visitors to the dweller of the cave, namely the  Rhynophus bat, also known as the horseshoe bat, due to its shape. There are approximately 300 bats living here, so will have no problems in spotting at least one representative of the specie when visiting the Polovragi Cave.



The temperature within the cave is lower, naturally, so it is advisable to bring along an extra shirt, especially if you don’t get along with the cold so well.

The humidity inside is of about 90% and the water still infiltrates through the walls, causing the so-called “weeping” of the cave.

Speleologists have mapped 10 km, this being the length of the area which has been transformed under the “carving work” performed by Oltet River (although according to other sources the length of the cave exceeds this number by much). However, the visible gallery of the cave measures  800 m – of which only 400 m are available for tourists. This portion has been home to many throughout time: Dacians, monks, and healers, the presence of each of them having been immortalized within the cave by means of distinctive symbols.



Just to give an example, there have been numerous monks which have come here to live as ascetics in order to reach spiritual fulfillment, a practice they engaged in from the beginning of the 16th century up until  the 20th century (1968). In order to mark this moment in the life of the cave, there is a painting performed by one of the monks which represents a black silhouette – the symbol of death.

There are various geomorphological formations encountered in Polovragi Cave, such as stalactite formations, intermediate columns, domes, stalagmites, or basins. Some of them are quite impressive so you should take your time and admire each of them at a time. The floor is slippery and because of this there are many who give too much attention to the possibility of falling, that they sometimes forget to turns their heads to their left or to their right in order to see what the cave has to offer. Just keep in mind that no one is rushing you to finish the tour so you can take your time, walk slowly and analyze this wonder of nature.

Jun 01

The Bats’ Cave (Pestera Liliecilor)

While countries have numerous buildings of great architectural value which are regarded as tourist attractions, it is also important to keep in mind that there are other attractions besides those created by the human hand. Nature has an impressive repertoire of monuments of its own. Whether we are talking about mountainous regions or the seaside, about cascades, lakes or caves, tourists who want to explore the natural environment have quite a few options to choose from.

The Bats’ Cave is one such tourist attraction. A protected speleological reservation, the cave is situated in Brasov District.

There are different names attached to this grotto: The Big Cave, Badichii Cave or Bats’ Cave, but probably the latter one is the most widespread name used in reference to this specific cavern.



There are several documents, dating from centuries ago, in which there are references to the Bats’ Cave, but the first archeological digging occurred closer to our days, more precisely in the second part of the 20th century (1957-1958). The name given to the cave comes from the colony of bats that dwells inside its walls – colony which has been extensively studied by researchers from the Speleological Institute in Bucharest. The cave was formed as a result of the erosion of the calcareous mountain, conducted by one of the streams of the Valea cu Cale River.

The cave, which extends over 4.80 ha, is located on the Bran Platform, at a 950 m altitude and it is modeled by calcareous rocks belonging to the Jurassic Era. The cave reaches 162 m in length and consists of several rooms which have diversely colored ceilings and where one can encounter calcareous formations (which are known as ‘tears of the earth’).



The Bats’ Cave is warm, the temperature being perfect (not too low and not too high), with a moderate humidity level, and it has a small muddy stream flowing through it. It is not required to have special equipment when visiting the cave, as a flashlight will do. However, it is advisable to have some sort of protection equipment in order to avoid getting dirty due to the clay or the traces of guano found inside the cave.

It is debatable whether or not visitations should be allowed inside the Bats’ Cave. The majority seems to be against this idea because of the importance of the speleological site. There are endangered species of bats living here and humans, who do not have a clear knowledge of their way of life, could destroy (even if unwillingly) the bats’ natural habitat. That is why there are so many who voice their belief that the cave should only be opened for research purposes, conducted by specially trained individuals. But for now, tourists are granted access within the Bats’ Cave.



Access in the cave is done through a small passageway, after which you will reach a small grotto which continues with a 15 m long corridor. Upon entering, you can notice the inscriptions made on the walls of the cave by those who had been there before. This goes to show that there are some who do not know how important it is to protect the beautiful natural monuments nature has endowed us with. And this also stands as evidence that maybe it is a good idea to forbid anyone (expect speleologists) from entering the Bats’ Cave.