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The million-year-old Polovragi Cave hides in its depths secretes of all those who lived here, inviting visitors to a spectacular excursion among special formations and water drops, closely watched over by God Zamolxis, about whose presence people say is still felt in these ancient places.

Photo credit: (c) Alex TUDOR / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

They say the name of the cave comes from an extinct herb called ‘polovraga’ that ancient healers would process and use as a remedy for various illnesses, but the cave’s guide, Felicia Bantea, begs to differ.

‘I would rather say the name Polovragi comes from vraci, healers. The vraci, those healers from the ancient times of Dacians were skilled in using herbs. All is inspired by nature and the shapes in this cave, man’s first habitat and home, have inspired architects and painters alike. There are many shapes found in buildings that now, unfortunately are only moments, because durable structures are no longer built. Coming back to the word vraci: it has a c and the name Polovraci means a hub, a town, a settlement for the healers first of all, because it was in the cave that they would find the raw materials,’ Bantea explains.

The cave is million years old, a fossil meander of Oltet River, the work of the Oltet in a lime patch, with the lime dating back to the Jurassic and the lime in which the cave was carved dating back later. The cave is continually forming, besides the third floor that is open to visitors. Underneath, the river excavates the last floor, the active floor as speleologists have named it. It is 25 m deep.

‘According to the latest measurements by speleologists, the cave is 10,593 m long, but we should not picture it as some boulevard. It is a 1.5-km labyrinth, the distance between the upstream and downstream gates. Inside, the cave is a continual labyrinth with an entrance and exit way. The portion open to visitors covers the downstream artery. That is why it is high and broad. It is 600 m long, plus collateral paths,’ Bantea explains.


Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

The downstream entrance has been functional since the Eneolithic, when the upstream entrance was not in existence. In the absence of a forest path, the first of which was created in the 1950s, people would not know there were entrance and exit ways, and hence the interpretations that the cave would lead farther into Sibiu, Transylvania, or Sarmisegetuza, or that the cave would hide Dacian treasures. These are mere speculations and now people know there is an entrance and an exit way. The exit way was in fact the original entrance way and so the first portion of the cave was the most often used.

Inside, there is a lot of free carbon black on the walls that has not been covered yet, because it takes time for the lime walls to get covered in clay by the infiltrating water. The first portion, the one open to the public, is less interesting in terms of speleological formations. The speleological area is open upon request, and it is dotted with stalactites, stalagmites, deep basins where water is over 1 m deep, coral like stalagmites resulting from the trickling of multiple drops. Upstream, there are candle-shaped stalagmites with a central dripping that create a real guardian, which part is to support the natural structure.

‘Cave was man’s first home and here more than anywhere else because entrance used to be difficult, which would keep the cave bear away and allowed humans to live inside continually. There is evidence going back to the Dacian forerunners. In the 1970s-1980s, diggings were performed uphill, in the Dacian settlement located on a mountain peak. Dacian ceramic shards were uncovered in the cave. The cave was clearly a hiding place, a shelter, a winter home, a healthcare facility, if the name of the place is anything to go by. In time, it would be a perfect hiding place because in the 1950s-1960s, when the forest path was crated, nobody outside the area would know there was a cave here. The first descriptions of the cave date back to the second half of the 19th century,’ Bantea explains.


Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Zamolxis has been seen by many Romanian authors as the supreme god in the Gaeto-Dacian Pantheon. Some would say he facilitated the conversion to Christianity of the Gaeto-Dacians, considered the forerunners of today’s Romanians. The cave’s guide says the god’s energy can be felt, as time stands still and metabolism completely changes inside the cave.

‘There is some measure of truth in the legend of God Zamolxis. As I was saying, the cave does not lead to Transylvania and there are no precious metals in the area, but there is a measure of truth about the story of Zamolxis. Just think about those healers. Where did their knowledge come from if there had been no predecessors to educate them? I believe some predecessors helped the creation of a functional system in the area that is functional even today. I believe that in places where there were such small Dacian settlements on Carpathian peaks, where raw materials were abundant, there were some teachers who would stay for some years to teach locals how to help themselves. We now can say, using measurements from devices attesting to the special energy of the place, that the place is out of the real realm. Inside the cave, as you travel down the moulds of sediments, there is another time dimension; there are no changing seasons and people are totally cut away from the real world outside. There is also a change in metabolism, which is necessary,’ the guide explains.

On the tourist track, there are various formations that where christened in time. On one of the walls there is a painting of Death scribbled in carbon black.


Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘Scaunul lui Zamolxe, Zamolxis’ stool, is a natural stool-shaped piece of lime from the time the Oltet would flow here at this level. This was surely used as a stool, because from the entrance to this point there are 200 m and there is nowhere else to sit. It is in this place that the healers would treat the people in need. The same as Zamolxis’ Stool, the Dacian Oven here is the place most covered in carbon black, which means it was used until recently. There is also a mural painting depicting Death, which origin is unknown, that warns the visitors of the many lateral dangers, as there was no lighting and no way out of thecae,’ the guide explains.

A bat colony was and still is a main attraction of the cave. Bats appeared 60-70 million years ago, at the same time with the lime and before the formation of the cave floor open to visitors. They are even today the cave’s guides, they were the predecessors and guides for the cavemen, who could not have managed otherwise in the cave.

‘Cavemen would hide in the cave mainly from wild animals. Bats in Romania are not big, they all belong to the Microchiroptera suborder. Because mining, forest activities and tourism have dwindled the bat population by 70 per cent, once in the European Union Romania took over bat protection legislation, and I am convinced the bats will survive because they also feed on our attention,’ the guide says.

The cave is home to a colony of nearly 300 cave bats of the Microchiroptera Suborder, of which the Rhinolophus Genus is abundant , popularly known as the horseshoe bats because of the horseshoe shape of the skin surrounding their nose. The guide says she has trained them to listen to commands. The bat leaders are called Soni, for sonar. They are the ones protecting the colony and warning about any danger.


Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘There are some 5-6 species divided in three colonies. I have noticed that during hibernation time, three months when the cave closes and electrification is down, they migrate upstream, to the tourist area, where there are better conditions, with constant temperature and the highest gallery. They can be trained and I managed to say some words and they execute the commands by association. The horseshoe bats are dominant. They are very smart because, besides their echolocation powers, they have a haired skin around their nose that enhance sounds. When they talk with each other, we do not hear them, but when we do hear them, it means they want us to hear them. Bats on the tourist trail have some clear roles. Leaders come first and leave last, staying in fixed places. When they do not hibernate, they leave the cave but stay in the area. They migrate to all the small grottos on the slopes to be close to the river, where they hunt each evening. Tourists come scared to meet them, but leave excited. There are some leaders that I call Soni, for sonar, that warn me when there is any danger,’ the guide says.

The Oltet Gorges are said to be the steepest in Europe. Their beauty takes your breath away from the very entrance to this special place, and with some luck you can admire chamois, deer, boars and other animals that live here.


Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘The gorges cannot be planned because the distance from the peak to the river is some 400 m vertically. There is only 60 cm separating Mt. Parang from Mt. Capatanii. The gorges are nearly 2.1 km long,’ says Bantea.

The cave closes December, January and February, while in March and November it is open on weekends only. Open hours: 10:00—18:00, Tuesday-Sunday. The number of visitors exceeds 30,000 a year.

Chei and the Polovragi Cave is accessible via national road DN 67 linking Ramnicu-Valcea to Targu-Jiu. Polovragi Commune is right on the border between Valcea County and Gorj County, 54 km away from Targu-Jiu, the capital city of Gorj County.


Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

AGERPRES

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The majesty of nature can be fully seen in Gorj County and it gave the inhabitants of this county picturesque areas, among which being mountain area Ranca, through which Transalpina or King’s Road, as this the road is also known, winds relentlessly, opening the whole greatness of mountains in front of the viewer.

Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES PHOTO

Nature, tranquility, beauty and adventure lovers have the opportunity to live here unique moments and to see life … from the clouds. A unique sensation, which few people had the chance to experience in their lives, is the reflection of the shadow on the clouds, when Transalpina, the highest road in the country, takes you to an altitude of 2,250 meters.

The best-known tourist settlement on Transalpina, Ranca, is situated at an altitude that starts at 1,500 meters and reaches 1,750 meters, at the foot of the Papusa Massif, one of the plateaus of the Parang Mountains.


Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”It is the tourist settlement located at the highest altitude in Romania, it starts at 1,500 meters and ends at 1,750 meters, expands both horizontally and vertically. Its internal road network from the first house to the last one, with all side roads, reaches somewhere 18km. It is huge, it is a really little town on the mountain’s top. It has a very good access by road, on Transalpina, which for more than half a year is passable also from the north, leading to Transylvania. It is the most beautiful road that comes from Transylvania to us, it passes through Alba and Valcea through Valea Frumoasa [Beautiful Valley], then it enters Gorj, where the landscape is special. Many say it is the most beautiful landscape in the country and it is so, in my opinion, because the other road, Transfagarasanul, goes in the valley a long way and your view to left and right is limited,” the Gorj Mountain Rescue Service’s chief Sabin Cornoiu told AGERPRES.

The idea to build the resort of Ranca surfaced in 1930, when the People’s Bank ”Gilortul” of Novaci materialized Dumitru Brezulescu’s project to build a resort. Six cabins were built at the beginning, with five rooms each. In 1937, the central cabin in Ranca was commissioned. By December 1989, other two cabins were built in Ranca, one of OJT Gorj, administered by the University of Craiova, and the other one — by the mining unions in the coal basin of Oltenia.


Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”At the beginning of last century, Novaci locals set fire to the mountain juniper and cleared it off the mountain, to make room for pasture, and this happened including on the current location of Ranca. Probably the first houses of the people of that time were made in that period, because they were interested to stay there with the animals. The beautiful landscape triggered in the 1930s the building of the first cabins there, which developed slowly but surely, having reached a maximum of 20 I think, each with a different purpose: forestry sector, milk collection station, hunting house, tourist cabins and so on,” says Sabin Cornoiu.

Over the past few years, Ranca has developed surprisingly. Some 600 hotels, guesthouses, cabins and private houses have been built there. Thus, the tourist offer is very varied, and tourists can opt for either 3—or 4-star hotels or for a cabin or guesthouse. They are equipped with kitchen and dining rooms and the guests can prepare their food on their own.


Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”At the Revolution [in 1989], 5-6 cabins were functional: the old one, the cooperative’s one, a bar of the cooperative, a research cabin of the University of Craiova and a former weather station. After the Revolution, some cabins were taken over by some institutions that prepared them for tourism purposes. An example is Ciuperca Cabin, which was taken over by Thermal Power Plant Rovinari. As these cabins started to degrade, they invested in them, not much. After 1990, some cabins collapsed, some burnt down, and those that remained began to be taken over by institutions and individuals who started to arrange them. By 1995—1996, applications started to be submitted for building holiday houses in the area and perhaps the present situation stemmed from that. All these application came from people living in the area, in Novaci, in Targu-Jiu, who wanted a plot of land on which to build a small house to come to fresh air. Nobody predicted such an extension. It was then when those plots of 250 and 300 sqm were given, initially on the side towards Gilort, which was the only side with cabins in Ranca. Nobody predicted what would happen there, there was an explosion and thus Ranca was filled with homes. That process lasted permanently for a decade. Power supply and water supply were extended, to cope with the demands,” says the Mountain Rescue Service’s chief.

Thousands of tourists come every weekend during the winter season to this area, where, more than 20 years ago, only a few skiers had come, recalls Sabin Cornoiu, who participated in the building of the first ski-lift in Ranca.


Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”In 1987 there was an idea to build a ski-lift in Lainici. It was not a good idea because there was no snow, and it was decided to build one in Ranca instead. This ski-lift was built with a lot of patriotic work by mountain rescuers, people from the power plant, waiters from a hotel and each dug one hole for the next pole. There and now the lift in the resort center. After the Revolution, four more ski-lifts were built, plus a chairlift. Before the ski-lift, we were up to 20 skiers in Gorj, organized even four contests per day, we often climbed on foot from Gilortului Valley, about 15 km. Those phases are memorable, it was another life, we climbed with the food on our back, we cooked for ourselves. It was nice, we were young, we love it,” he says.

Ranca now has four ski slopes equipped with a ski-lift, a slope for initiation in winter sports and one arranged for tubing.

”After the Revolution, the road from Cerbu was built and then a lot of people came to Ranca as they could get here more easily. It was later paved and then it became Transalpina. Now there are four ski slopes equipped with lifts, with lengths of 200 to 900 meters, of mild difficulty up to average, forming the ski area in the resort’s centre. In north of the resort, there is a slope equipped with a chairlift that will serve all slopes to be made high, because there another 10 sloped can be made, which can be even linked to the ski area of Vidra and then it will be one of the largest ski areas in the country and even in Europe. We have also the advantage of tourism structures of high capacity. One slope is equipped with floodlighting and perhaps the other ones will be fitted as well, ” he adds.

In Ranca, a wonderful winter area, one can go skiing and snowboarding, drive snowmobiles, there are areas for paragliding and hang gliding flights, one can also go mountain biking or cycling in the resort.


Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

From here out to all the mountain area of Gorj, tourists can go climbing canyoning, rafting and caving. Tour skiing and off-track skiing can also be done there. There are two variants: the off-track skiing is done with a single bond, as the alpine skiing, and the tour one is done with a bond that slides on the ski, and on the sole of the skies a cloth is applied, which is called generically sealskin and by which hill climbing can be done. This sport is practiced on a smaller scale, but increasingly more tourists are buying such equipment because it offers much more powerful sensations.

”With departure from Ranca there are 4-5 mountain trails, two descend to Gilortului Valley and Galbenului Valley to Muierii Cave, from Ranca the road continues on Transalpina to Parangului ridge, to the left to Petrosani or to the right to Capatanii Mountains, a very attractive ridge, with peaks of over 2,000 meters to 2,500 meters. It is very attractive, very accessible for tourists with glacial lakes on the north side, which offers a special landscape, rather attractive for tourists, especially in recent years when the access is very easy on Transpalpina,” adds Sabin Cornoiu.

Transalpina (DN 67C), known also as the ‘King’s Road’ or ‘Devil’s Path,’ road is the highest road in Romania. Located in the Parang Mountains, Southern Carpathians, the 150 km-long road connects Oltenia (a southern region) to Transylvania (centre-west), between the towns of Novaci in Gorj County and Sebes in Alba County. The road crosses the Parang Mountains from north to south and draws a parallel with the Olt Valley and the Jiu Valley.


Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES PHOTO

At Sibiu, the alpine road starts from Jina, from whe it descends on a distance of 7 km to Sugag . From here, the ascent begins. After a few km, the Tau dam is reached and then the Oasa dam. Transalpina continues by crossing the left side of the Oasa dam going to Obarsia Lotrului.

From Obarsia Lotrului, located in a valley with an extremely beautiful opening, there are several possibilities: one can go left to Brezoi, which lies about 60 kilometers away, passing by Lake Vidra and then through the resort of Voineasa, or right to Petrila — 28 km away. To continue to Transalpina, one have to go forward to Novaci. In fact, from now begins the most spectacular part of the Royal Road, the road through the alpine area. The winding road reaches increasingly high places: Stefanu, Carbunele, Muntinu and Urdele. Suddenly, the mountain disappears, and in front there is the plateau on Papusa peak, from where it descends into the resort of Ranca and then to Novaci, where Transalpina ends.

In the Transalpina area there are a few glacial lakes, including Lake Galcescu, the largest such lake in Gorj County. It is 230 meters long, 165 meters wide and stretches on an area of 3.2 hectares. Its maximum depth is 10 meters. It lies at an altitude of 1,950 meters and is naturally populated with fish. The area around the lake, declared a natural reserve, and glacial lake Galcescu are protected monuments of nature.


Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

According to some sources, the first road there was built by the Roman legions during the Dacian wars (101-102 and 105-106 AD), which is why the historic maps it is entered as the strategic Roman Corridor IV. Later, the route began to be used by shepherds in Sibiu area that moved their flocks to Oltenia, being not more than a little path with precipices, suggestively called ‘Devil’s Path.’ Besides all these, there is also a local legend, which says that at the end of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, each local family participated in the construction of portions of this road, depending on their physical and financial possibilities.

In 1930, the road paving works were started and the inauguration was made in 1938, in Poiana Sibiu, in the presence of King Carol II. The road was considered, at that time, a great technical breakthrough, with an economic, strategic and military role.

”Before the Transalpina was built, it was a pastoral road, used by shepherds. Indeed, it is said that in the 1930s the king went there, it is said that 2,000 years ago the Romans came here too, so the history is great. The fact is that at some point this choice to modernize the road was taken, it was known that the two roads that pass from south to north on Valley Jiu and Olt Valley are permanently exposed to falling rocks or landslides, and for a long time a variation to cross the mountains had been sought. And all this lobbying which we did to modernize the road at least to Ranca made authorities to do it all. In Dengheru peak, the road climbs up to 2,250 meters, is the highest peak with a road in the country. It is a special landscape, with springs, and those lucky enough can meet chamois, deer or find edelweiss flowers. Those who come to Ranca go in love with this place. There are those moments when you pass through the clouds, there is that optical phenomenon that few have the chance to meet, maybe once in a life time, where you are above the clouds and your shadow is reflected on the cloud, it is a special phenomenon,” believes Sabin Cornoiu. AGERPRES

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One of the greatest masterpieces of sculptor Constantin Brancusi, with which he blessed the Targu-Jiu city, is the Avenue of Heroes monumental ensemble, an homage paid to the heroes in the Gorj County, who gave their lives for their country during the World War One.

Photo credit: (c) Irina POENARU / AGERPRES PHOTO

The father of modern sculpture, as he is considered worldwide, Constantin Brancusi gifted the Targu-Jiu municipality, a few decades ago, when he decided to place here three of his works, with a very rare cultural destiny among the Romanian cities, and not only, succeeding thus in propelling it to the list of the localities with important tourism objectives, which is also proven by the large number of tourists interested in admiring and knowing the work of the famous sculptor.

Constantin Brancusi was born on February 19, 1876, in the Hobita village, near Perstisani and also not so far from the Tismana Monastery, a place which he used to visit very often together with his mother to attend the religious service.

As shown in Zenovie Carlugea’s documentary about the famous sculptor, Brancusi spent his childhood years surrounded by his father and the other fellow villagers who were used to making the objects that they needed in the household with their own hands. People made furniture, chairs and carved decorative elements into the wood and even houses, house pillars, which might be the source of inspiration for his famous work the Endless Column. His childhood was marked by a very close and beautiful relation he had with his mother, Maria, who was also the single one able to control him after the death of his father. After he graduated only three years of formal education, he ran away from home and went to Slatina, where he worked as a shop boy and later, in 1889 more precisely, he moved to Craiova, where he remained for several years, working as a waiter in various restaurants. One day, while he was working in a small public house near the Madonna Dudu Church, he took his clients completely by surprise when he showed up with a violin made by his own hands. The musicians working in the pub tried it to see how it sounded and, to the astonishment of all, the violin started to make harmonious sounds. The regulars of the pub, among whom a vestryman working at the church, sent him to the School of Arts and Crafts.

Brancusi was a hardworking student, and he finished the five years in just four. Already showing great skills as a woodcarver, he made painting frames and furniture. In 1898, he presented his first sculpture — the bust of Gheorghe Chitu — and two painting frames that can still be seen today at the first exhibition of the School of Arts and Crafts in the Dolj County, organised in the Bibescu Park in Craiova. In the same year he enrolled in the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, where he learnt from the best craftsmen of the beginning of the century in Romania, which gained him a lot of courage. He received mentions for his first works and he even got a medal, receiving many encouragements during the school year from his teacher Dimitrie Gerota, with whom he studied anatomy. He made a beautiful sculpture for which he received a prize — Ecorseul (ecorche — statue of a man with skin removed to reveal the muscles underneath), together with Gerota, PhD. In September 1902 he graduated from the School of Fine Arts. He travelled to Munich, but he didn’t feel good here and in 1904 he moved to Paris. A year later he was accepted at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Beginning with 1907, the great Romanian artist chose the nonfigurative art instead, becoming thus a familiar figure among the avant-garde artists in Paris.

It was his work the Kiss (1907) that finally individualized him from the other artists. The work came out as a huge surprise, since the technique was very innovative compared with Rodin’s art (Rodin was Brancusi’s former teacher). Through this work Brancusi managed to detach himself from the pattern of funerary monuments and such works that any of the amateur artists could make in fact at that time. His love affairs with Margit Pogany proved to be of great inspiration to him. The two had an exhibition together at the French Official Salon, and he made her, without her knowing, a portrait. Later he made a series of four variants to Mademoiselle Pogany. He gave one to her, he exhibited another one for the first time in 1913 at the Armony Show, from where an American citizen bought it immediately with 300 dollars, marking thus his entry to the art market in the United States and he brought another one to Bucharest, where he found no buyer, so that he gave it to the Storck family.


Photo credit: (c) Lucian TUDOSE / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

In 1926 he was involved in an unprecedented court battle with the US customs, when his work the Bird was subjected to customs duties. The law said that the works of art were exempted from paying the tax, but the customs officials refused to believe that the tall, thin piece of polished bronze was art and so imposed the tariff for manufactured metal objects. In the end, under pressure from the press and artists, the customs agreed that The Bird was a true work of art. Brancusi was 33 of age at the time, having his first personal exhibition in New York.

The important themes that captured his attention over the many decades of his career were — the Kiss, the Sleeping Muse, Mademoiselle Pogany, the Bird in Space, the Endless Column, the Danaide and the Cock.

In 1935, Arethia Tatarescu, the President of the National League of Women from Gorj, asked him to build a monument in Targu-Jiu in the memory of the heroes who sacrificed their lives for the country. It was something that he had been wanting to do for many years, as he confessed in a later to his former student, Milita Petrascu, who was in fact the very one who recommended him to Mrs. Tatarescu — ‘I cannot tell you how happy I am to make something at home.’ The artist didn’t accept any money for his work.

According to Sorin Lory Buliga, the representative of the Brancusi Cultural Centre, it seems that the initial name Brancusi gave to his ensemble was the Avenue Heroes’ Souls. The monumental ensemble the Avenue of Heroes is the modern name of the triptic made by the sculptor over 1937-1938. The ensemble was meant to praise the memory of the heroes from the Gorj County, who sacrificed themselves during the war, as the last of a series of works of art devoted to the memory of the heroes from Targu Jiu.

Professor Zenovie Carlugea also mentioned in his documentary that the years 1936, 1937 and 1938 were ones of great effervescence in Targu Jiu. In May 1936, the city was ranked as a tourist attraction, so that to be able to draw funds from the ministries for building the monuments. In 1937, Gheorghe Tatarescu obtained 5 million lei from the Ministry of Public Works for building the Avenue of Heroes, following a straight line, from the Jiu River floodplain, through the Public Garden, to a haymarket at the edge of the town.

They soon began to make the modules for the Column in the central workshop of Petrosani (Atelierele Centrale Petrosani), assembled by Brancusi’s friend engineer Stefan Georgescu-Gorjan. The travertine blocks brought from Banpotoc, Deva, were cut and put together under the direct guidance of Brancusi, who placed the Gate of the Kiss within the Public Garden, while the League of Women from Gorj County made available 750,000 lei for expropriations along the Avenue of Heroes and also for the construction of the St Apostles Church. In the same year’s autumn, under the coordination of engineer Stefan Georgescu-Gorjan, they laid the foundation for the Column, mounted the central pillar and then put together the elements: Brancusi attended the mounting of the first elements of the column.


Photo credit: (c) Mihai POZIUMSCHI / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Next year, he covered the Endless Column in metal; he sculpted and finished the Gate of the Kiss and the two banks which he placed on each side of the Gate. He also mounted the Table of Silence from two elements he previously ordered, the twelve round chairs around the table and the thirty square chairs along the alley between the Gate and the Table, specified Professor Zenovie Carlugea.

Sorin Buliga also mentioned that the sculptures in the Public Garden were made from travertine brought from Banpotoc, while the Column was made from 16 rhomboidal brass-clad, cast-iron modules, measuring 29.33 metres in height. Each module measures 1.80 metres in its height. The Gate of the Kiss measures 2.15 metres in its diameter and 0.88 metres in its height. The distance between The Table and The Gate is of 121 metres and that between The Gate and The Column is of 1,154 metres.


Photo credit: (c) Zeno TUFEGA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

‘As regards the signification of the enigmatic elements of the Brancusian works, we know that they were the result of long and very profound meditations over the modality of reflecting (often symbolical) of the sacred in art. Although most of them have as deep source of inspiration the Romanian folklore art, they maintain at the same time a universal value, attracting artists, philosophers, scientists or simple admirers from all corners of our world,’ Sorin Buliga also said.

In the years that followed the completion of the monumental ensemble, Constatin Brancusi created just a few works, motivating that his work was already completed. Beginning with 1946, his health began to deteriorate; he retired in the loneliness of his workshop, among the sculptors that he liked to watch, as they remembered him about his life. His last exhibition while he was still alive was organised in New York, in 1955. Very ill, he refused to go to the hospital: ‘Well, I just prefer to wait for the Good God in my workshop.’ He died on March 16, 1957.

The manager of the ‘Constantin Brancusi’ Municipal Culture Centre, Doru Strambulescu, appreciated that the monumental ensemble had a sacred signification, all its elements representing a sacred cycle. ‘First of all, the monumental triptic ensemble the Avenue of Heroes has a sacred signification. It was made in the memory of the heroes from Gorj, who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield neat the Jiu River Bridge in the World War One, as an homage paid to these heroes. Of course, the symbolism of the ensemble as a whole is a vast one, if we consider all the studies that were made over the time related to it. We are talking about thousands of books, interpretations, but in its essence the Brancusian ensemble has a sacred signification. If we were to look into the water of the Jiu River, if we watch the Table of Silence, the Alley of the Chairs, the Gate of the Kiss, the St Apostles Church and the Endless Column, they all represent a sacred cycle,’ said Doru Strambulescu.


Photo credit: (c) Irina POENARU / AGERPRES PHOTO

He also said that in 1950 there was an attempt to dismount the Endless Column and use the material for other purposes, but the project failed. ‘In the 1950s the communist authorities were thinking to dismantle the Column and to use the material for user purposes. However, the project failed,’ Strambulescu said.

The Gorj county and local authorities wish that all the works related to Constantin Brancusi’s activity in the County could enjoy a better promotion. Te manager of the Municipal Culture Centre also said that, besides the idea of creating a museum to bear the name of the famous sculptor, there exist another plan to create a national institute and a big library to be dedicated to the sculptor’s memory. ‘So far, we have been discussing the plans related to the creation of the Constantin Brancusi museum. We want very much that all that we have in our country that is related to Constantin Brancusi to gain more visibility. Both at national and international level. Besides the museum we are thinking of creating a national institute and a big library where to bring documents about the great artist. I have nourished big hopes that the City Hall as well as the Ministry of Culture and the other institutes, such as the Romanian Academy, the Art Institute, will help us to think of a larger project. Besides the fact that Brancusi is a great personality, we need cultural marketing, we need to learn how to sell this image to the world,’ said Doru Strambulescu.


Photo credit: (c) Irina POENARU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

About the memorial house of the sculptor in Hobita, the manager of the Culture Centre said that, unfortunately, it was left to ruin by the local and county authorities, from unknown reasons. Another construction close to the true memorial houses was presented to tourists as being the memorial house and the authorities left it like this. ‘The memorial house in Hobita is representative for the style of the peasants’ houses that were built at that time in the areas. The one that was left to ruin is the ruin and, unfortunately, time left its mark on what was left from the house [….] However, we still hope that we will be able to do something for the true house. Either we will try to rebuild it or just to stop the deterioration process and save what it’s left of it. I believe that the Romanian state, through its authorized bodies, should take more care of everything that is related to the life and work of the great sculptor. The Romanian state has a duty to honour the genius of Brancusi and all that he left to us as inheritance,’ Strambulescu also said.

In 2007, once Romania joined the European Union, the Avenue of Heroes monumental ensemble was included in the UNESCO’s European heritage. Subsequently, the relevant authorities have initiated the procedures to include the masterpieces on the list of the monuments that belong to the world heritage, following this to actually happen in 2025.

‘We already started the procedure to include the ensemble on the UNESCO list and we hope that in 2015 this will finally happen. The files are already following its course, we just received the approval after they passed the verification stage, but we don’t know exactly when the next stage will be. I don’t believe that we will encounter any problems, since the year 2015 is already announced as one when UNESCO will add new monuments to its list,’ Doru Strambulescu said.

The French say ‘Noblesse oblige’ and Romanians should learn to say ‘Brancusi oblige!’ And I don’t mean an effort of perception or interpretation of the sculptor’s work, but the greatness of it, in its entirety. Constantin Brancusi returned the Romanian spirituality to the universal one and left us a priceless inheritance: he made us citizens of this world. We own him not because he is Romania or French, but because, due to the greatness of his work, his huge value cannot be denied. Which is something that we cannot say about many Romanians today: Brancusi is a citizen of the universe and we have the duty to follow into his steps and to cherish him. AGERPRES

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Cu o vechime de aproximativ patru milioane de ani și o istorie care amintește de timpurile bântuite de războaie, atunci când femeile, copiii și bătrânii se adăposteau aici în timp ce bărbații plecau la luptă, Peștera Muierilor din comuna Baia de Fier este unul dintre cele mai populare și vizitate obiective speologice din țară, anual numărând zeci de mii de vizitatori.

Foto: (c) ALEX TUDOR/ AGERPRES ARHIVA

“Arhitectul” peșterii, râul Galbenu, a sculptat în calcarele de pe partea sudică a Masivului Parâng galerii impunătoare care adăpostesc stalagmite și stalactite care au dat naștere unor forme de diverse mărimi, aici fiind găsite și rămășițe ale unor specii de animale dispărute de mii de ani.

Ghidul peșterii, Constantin Ispas, precizează că aceasta are o lungime totală de circa 4,5 kilometri, dar traseul de vizitare se întinde pe 800 de metri. Galeriile peșterii sunt suprapuse, fapt care a dus la delimitarea a cinci niveluri. Cel vizitabil, pe care se face trecerea cu turiștii, este nivelul superior, sub acesta mai fiind încă patru niveluri inferioare, greu accesibile și cu un statut aparte de rezervație speologică. În peșteră, temperatura este plus 9 — 10 grade Celsius pe tot timpul anului, iar umiditatea se modifică de la 20-30% până la 90% în anotimpurile ploioase.

Celelalte niveluri sunt cercetate, sunt catagrafiate, însă sunt greu accesibile. (…) Sunt spații foarte înguste și tavanul coboară foarte jos, sunt puțuri pline cu apă, crevase, iar ultimul nivel coboară până la 70 de metri mai jos, acolo râul încă mai construiește, spune Constantin Ispas. Peștera are mai multe intrări în părțile de est, nord și sud, fiind un obiectiv speologic destul de accesibil. Există porțiuni în care înălțimea galeriilor scade sub 1 metru, turiștii fiind nevoiți astfel să facă mersul piticului, dar sunt și săli foarte înalte unde înălțimea depășește 17 metri.

Foto: (c) NICOLAE BADEA/ AGERPRES ARHIVA

Foto: (c) NICOLAE BADEA/ AGERPRES ARHIVA

“Denumirea provine de la faptul că ultima încăpere, ultima sală din peșteră, adăpostea femeile și copiii când bărbații erau plecați la război, în cele mai vechi timpuri de năvăliri barbare, atacuri otomane, până inclusiv în Primul Război Mondial. Am apreciat că poate adăposti până la 200 de persoane, acolo găsindu-se cele mai multe vetre de foc, unelte preistorice din paleolitic, (…) și se mai spune că se adunau femeile rude sau neamuri să toarcă lână, să depene amintiri, un fel de clacă, de șezătoare la gura peșterii. (…) Peștera este foarte bogată în stalagmite, stalactite, coloane, media de creștere a unei stalagmite fiind de 3 centimetri în 100 de ani. În peșteră s-au găsit mai multe fosile, animale comune, de hienă de peșteră, de leu de peșteră, iar specia de urs de peșteră care se regăsește pe întreg teritoriul țării este o specie dispărută acum 10 mii de ani din motive încă necunoscute. De asemenea, s-au găsit peste 180 de schelete de urs, ursul speleaus, unul de dimensiuni mai mari decât ursul actual”, povestește Constantin Ispas.

Acesta spune că în anul 1952 s-a făcut marea descoperire a peșterii — un craniu de femeie și alte câteva oase care, după primul test efectuat la Moscova, a rezultat că au aproximativ 29.000 de ani vechime. “De atunci s-au tot refăcut testele, dar confirmarea finală a venit de la Londra și Washington, rezultând că au 30.000 de ani vechime. În acel moment erau cele mai vechi fosile umane de homo sapiens fosilis descoperite vreodată în Europa. Craniul însă nu s-a aflat absolut deloc expus la noi în peșteră, ci numai la Institutul Speologic din București. Ulterior, într-o peșteră nevizitabilă, Peștera Oaselor din Munții Aninei, a fost descoperit un schelet complet de bărbat botezat Ion din Anina sau Ion, cel mai vechi european, datând 35.000 de ani vechime”, mai spune Constantin Ispas.

Intrarea prin partea de nord în peșteră deschide traseul vizitabil, turiștii putând întâlni formațiuni precum Sala Altarului unde plafonul ajunge la o înălțime de 17 metri, Poarta Altarului, Galeria Electrificată care cuprinde bazine de diferite dimensiuni numite Bazinele Mici și Bazinele Largi, care uneori sunt pline cu apă. Înaintând către ieșirea din sud, se ajunge la Sala Turcului, una dintre cele mai frumoase locații ale peșterii, aici putând fi admirate stalagmite uriașe, domuri, diverse concrețiuni pe pereți și plafon — Moș Crăciun, Turcul, Soția turcului. Domul, Orga — denumiri date de primii speologi care le-au găsit câte o asemănare. Există bazine care se mai numesc și zidul chinezesc, fiind apropiate, digulețe care se umplu cu apă când plouă foarte mult.

O altă atracție a peșterii o reprezintă coloniile de lilieci care numără circa două mii de exemplare. Specia este una comună, care se mai întâlnește și an alte zone din țară, iar primăvara și toamna, atunci când se pregătesc de hibernare sau intră la hibernare, pot fi admirați strânși în colonii, câteva sute.

Peștera Muierilor a fost prima peșteră electrificată din țară, amenajările fiind începute în anul 1963 și finalizate în 1978, obiectivul devenind astfel cel mai vizitat și popular din România în acest sens. În anul 1955, peștera a fost declarată monument al naturii, iar etajele inferioare capătă statut de rezervație științifică speologică.

Pentru o modernizare a sistemului de iluminat din peșteră, dar și a zonei în care se află, precum și pentru o promovare mai bună și, implicit, atragerea unui număr cât mai mare de turiști, autoritățile locale au în plan ca, până la sfârșitul anului, cel târziu la începutul anului 2015, să acceseze fonduri europene pentru a putea realiza o schimbare totală a peșterii.

Foto: (c) NICOLAE BADEA/ AGERPRES ARHIVA

“Am tot încercat în ultimii ani să accesăm fonduri, sperăm ca la sfârșitul anului, dacă nu cel târziu la începutul lui 2015, să accesăm și să investim, dorim să realizăm o schimbare totală a peșterii, iluminatul se va face cu lumină rece, cu leduri care să nu mai emane căldură, să nu mai influențeze microclimatul din peșteră, vom amenaja o sală de așteptare modernă unde intrarea se va face cu cartelă, balustradele schimbate, iar turiștii nu se vor mai întoarce pe șosea înapoi la mașini circa 800 de metri, vom amenaja un loc de promenadă pe malul apei”, a spus Constantin Ispas.

În zona respectivă mai sunt alte trei peșteri — peștera Iedului, peștera Corbului și peștera Pârcălabului — cu un nivel mai mare de carstificare, dar care nu sunt însă deschise vizitării. Cea mai mare dintre ele, peștera Iedului, cu statut de rezervație, are o lungime maximă de 300 de metri, iar galeriile sunt înguste și joase, pe anumite porțiuni trebuind să se meargă pe burtă. Autoritățile spun că în viitor este posibil ca și aceasta să fie inclusă în circuitul turistic, dar numai după ce va fi amenajată corespunzător.

La Peștera Muierilor se ajunge de pe DN 67 Târgu-Jiu — Râmnicu — Vâlcea, virând la stânga pe DJ 655 spre Baia de Fier, la circa 45 de kilometri de Târgu-Jiu. După intrarea în localitatea Baia de Fier, se urmează indicatoarele către peșteră, distanța de la intrare până la obiectiv fiind de circa 5 kilometri.

AGERPRES / (AS — autor: Irina Poenaru, editor: Marius Frățilă)

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