The Lacu Sarat (Salt Lake) Resort, known worldwide as a source of health, is located in the lowlands of north-eastern Baragan. It’s said that the miraculous therapeutic properties of the lake’s water were discovered centuries ago by Prince Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes).
Photo credit: (c) Cristian NISTOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE
The legend says that Vlad the Impaler tried to punish several Turkish soldiers who had dared to set foot on Romanian territory by putting them in brine. The Ottoman troops have been kept prisoners in the salty waters of the lake for an entire week, and when Vlad Tepes ordered his soldiers to impale them in the forest nearby the lake, according to the costume, the Turks resisted unexpectedly well to the torture. This showed that the brine treatment has strengthened the Ottoman troops and since then, the Prince ordered his troops to heal their battle-stricken horses in the lake’s waters.
The Salt Lake resort is located in the Chiscani rural town, only 5 km from the Braila municipality, with a tram line built as early as 1900 and a bus line being permanently available.
The lake, formed on an old Danube river course, which is now completely isolated, is surrounded by 70 forest hectares that mitigate the steppe climate. The water depth varies between 0.6 and 1.80 meters, and the bottom of the lake is entirely covered by healing sludge highly mineralized. The lake stretches on an area of 1.72 square km; due to the high content of iodine, caused by the anaerobic digestion of invertebrate species (artemia salinas), the resulted sludge alleviates dozens of diseases, for which reason sick people from all over the world have been visiting this place to get treated.
The therapeutic properties of the Salt Lake water and sludge have been highlighted as early as 1879. I. C. Apostolescu, in his work ‘The Salt Lake Baths’ released in 1884, wrote about a patient who was unable to get out of the carriage when arriving to the resort, and after about 15 baths, he managed to take long walks on foot.
It’s said that one of the country’s most values types of sapropelic mud and waters with the highest salt contents are found here, proved by the fact that the majority of patients are in a better health condition at the end of their spa treatment. After a stay at the Salt Lake resort, Nicolae Iorga wrote about “the picturesque location and ancient park stretching far away, with narrow alleys and thickets filled with charming mystery on summer nights.”
A century ago, the resort was known in Romania and in Europe as one of Romania’s luxury resorts, visited by the country’s aristocracy. In 1875, the spa complex included rooms for cold and hot baths, freshwater showers, individual or shared baths, “hydrotherapy, physiotherapy cabinets, massage rooms, electric baths and midwife for gynecological treatments.” In late 19th century, the resort could boast a modern casino, an English park where a fanfare used to sing, a room for “bowling and croquet”, chic villas such as the Royal Villa, Popescu Villa, Nisipianu Villa, and modern restaurants such as Untaru and Cazacu.
The spa complex includes its own treatment unit equipped with basin for hydro-kinetotherapy, sauna and gymnastics room, sun and mud baths facilities. The resort can receive up to 250 patients and is open the entire year.
Access to the private beach costs 5.5 lei for adults and 2.5 lei for children; a chaise-longue can be rented for 9 lei.
Tourists can also rent one of the 23 wooden little houses, with 2 beds, for 45 lei per night.
The resort also offers therapy for the tourist’ souls, as it hosts the Lacu Sarat Monastery dedicated to Saint Pantaleon. The Maramures-style wooden monastery was built in 1996, at the initiative of the Lower Danube Archdiocese, being an oasis of tranquility and greenery for the patients of the spa complex.
The lake contains significant reserves of sapropelic mud and hypertonic mineral water, with sulfur, chlorine, magnesium and bromine compounds, mineralization of 70-84 grams per liter. Patients come here to be treated for degenerative rheumatic diseases, inflammatory diseases, gynecological, dermatological, endocrine diseases, peripheral nervous system diseases, post-traumatic disorder, respiratory affections.
The main natural curing factors of the resort are: the lake’s water with high contents of sulfate, chloride, sodium, magnesium, a mineralization of 83.955 mg/liter, sapropelic mud that contains 41 percent mineral substances and 39 percent organic substances rich in hydrogen sulfide.
Patients have available procedures for the following groups of diseases: degenerative rheumatic disorders — cervical, dorsal and lumbar spondylosis, arthrosis and polyarthrosis; inflammatory rheumatic diseases; abarticulaire rheumatic diseases — tendonitis, periarthritis; post-traumatic disorders — traumatic joint stiffness, recovery after immobilization in a cast, after surgeries on muscles, joints and bones, twists and sprains; skin damage — some forms of psoriasis, neurodermatitis; peripheral neurological diseases; gynecological diseases — ovarian failure, chronic cervicitis; endocrine diseases; musculoskeletal impairments — rheumatic, inflammatory, post-traumatic after fractures, strains, sprains.
Among the procedures used to treat these diseases, there are: hot baths with sulfur water, warm mud body wraps, galvanic baths, heat therapy, aerosols, electrotherapy with low, medium and high tension frequency, with shortwave and ultrasounds, laser therapy, procedures with low frequency magnetic fields, massage therapy, physiotherapy and medical gymnastics.
In recent years, Lacu Sarat has experienced two extreme phenomena: in the summer of 2009, 90 percent of its surface dried, and since 2010 it turns into a natural ice rink every winter.
According to the manager of the treatment unit and beach in Lacu Sarat, Ion Tanase, the curative properties of the lake are the same also during drought periods, because in the areas where water withdraws, the salt forms a crust that protects the mud layer. “The lake is fed by the underground waters and totally depends upon their condition. It’s similar to fountains, they have water when the ground water rises and they run out of water when the ground water decreases. In 1947, it dried up completely, but the lake returned to its initial water level afterwards,” Ion Tanase said.
The elderly claim they heard about an alleged spring of the lake that if cleared of obstructions, it would allow the return to the lake’s initial water level.
However, SC Traian SA Director Sorin Bosneag argues that this is only a legend, there is no spring, the lake being fed only by the region-based ground water, which is currently very low.
He explained that the lake cannot be fed with water brought from elsewhere because the salt of the lake is a mineral deposit that has to be surrounded by anaerobic environment and have minimum 50 cm of water, in order to preserve its qualities. “If we got water from any other source, either industrial, from the Danube or elsewhere, we would damage the qualities of the lake, we would knowingly kill those little worms in the water,” said Bosneag.
Another phenomenon facing the Salt Lake in recent years is frost, with the ice layer on the lake measuring over 10 cm, although water has a salinity of 300 grams per liter.
Sorin Bosneag told AGERPRES the employees of the Braila-based complex are forced to clasp the healing mud, because there are many patients who cannot interrupt their treatment.
In 2008, the Chiscani Town Hall sued SC “Unita Turism” SA, the company that operates the Salt Lake beach and the therapeutic mud, requesting the collection of taxes and fees, because the Salt Lake resorts would belong to the rural town.
The Braila City Hall was called party to the suit, for SC “Unita Turism” to be given back the money paid to the municipality, if the Chiscani Town Hall was granted a favourable ruling.
After several terms and adjournments, the Galati Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Chiscani Town Hall, but the Braila City Hall and SC “Unita Turism” appealed and in April 2014 they got a final favorable ruling issued by the High Court of Cassation and Justice.
Braila Mayor Aurel Simionescu told AGERPRES that a map of Braila dating from 1968 he managed to obtain following repeated requests to the Government, has played a vital role in winning the suit. “I managed to obtain the original map that shows clearly that the resort is part of Braila’s administrative territory. So far, there have been no copies of the 1968 map in Braila. Before the adoption of Law no. 2 in 1968, there have been various proposals. According to one of these, the territory of Braila municipality should not go beyond the belt highway, what’s beyond this line should belong to Chiscani. But this was just a proposal. According to the original map, the resort belongs to Braila municipality,” Simionescu said.
Modernization works on the resort could have started as early as 2010, when the Government allocated 570,000 lei for investments, but the money remained stuck at the Treasury due to the suit pending before the Court.
No funds have been invested in the resort over the past 20 years, and the state of degradation has become more and more visible. There are no chaises longues on the beach, access bridges to the lake, hot water showers, the solarium was also destroyed. The Braila City Hall has finally managed this year to set up the access paths to the beach.
According to Aurel Simionescu, the resort will undergo capital repairs as of next year, with three million lei to be invested in this project by the County Council, the Braila City Hall and the Center for Information and Documentation, all three administrative units being part of the Lacu Sarat Inter-community Development Association.
The Braila County Council also seeks to develop here in cooperation with the Braila County Hospital a pilot project to treat infertility. Within the project, a group of women who want to become mothers will be treated with salt baths and sapropelic mud. An example in this regard is the Baile Sovata resort in Mures county visited annually by hundreds of women facing sterility problems and other gynecological diseases, the rate of success of this type of treatment being of 45 percent.
The Lacu Sarat treatment complex in Braila is one of the most popular spa resorts in Romania, director of the Braila County Pension House, Sorin Enache told AGERPRES.
Despite the lack of investments over the last 20 years, the resort continues to be visited each year by hundreds of tourists who are only interested in the healing properties of the sapropelic mud.AGERPRES