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One of the most sought for tourist sites in Caras-Severin county is Ochiul Beiului Lake, a natural protected monument, supplied with water by an underground limestone spring, of unbelievably beautiful colour.

Photographs by Paula NEAMTU / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

Ochiul Beiului Lake — meaning The Bey’s Eye — is located in a wildlife area in Nerei Gorges — Beusnita National Park, where the Aninei Mountains meet the Locvei Mountains, at a height of 310 meters. The lake has the shape of a 3.6 meter-deep crater and its water is so clean that the trout swimming in it can be admired in their full splendour.

It is an outstanding feature that the lake never freezes, since its temperature remains unchanged all the year long, at between 4 and 8 Celsius. As a result, the migratory birds — the grey heron or wild ducks — instead of leaving for the warmer countries in winter, stay here.

Legend has it that the lake emerged after the son of a renowned Turkish lord — or bey — who ruled the land a few hundred years ago, while having gone hunting fell in love with a shepherd’s daughter. The bey named Beg fell wildly in love with the local young woman, whom he kidnapped and locked in the Big Tower in Nerei Gorges. At night, however, the young woman manages to escape with the help of a rope made from her own dress and she flees, reaching the foot of the cliff at Nerei Valley. The escape enraged the bey, who ordered that the woman be killed. The bey’s son was so grieved at the news that he shed so many tears as to fill the lake that today bears his name and has the colour of his eyes. Desperate that the young woman cannot be brought back to life, the bey’s son killed himself at the lake. In fact, the lake is shaped as an oval crater or an eye, being around 20 meters in diameter.

The legend also says the woman turned into a river — the River Beusnita, and the young man into a lake — Ochiul Beiului.

The lake is located not far from three waterfalls of River Beusnita, the same-name wildlife reserve; the luxuriant surroundings as well as the ruins of the nearby medieval fortress Ilidia are some of the most beautiful tourist sites in the western Banat region.

Near the village of Sasca Romana, after the Bei flows into the Nera, the picturesque Nerei Gorges end — they are a wildlife reserve, where the hikers have to pass through tunnels dug into the steep rock on the right bank.

The International Environment Day is also the Day of Nerei Gorges — Beusnita National Park, where Ochiul Beiului Lake also lies. The Park Day was set up and organised for the first time in 2013, as part of a project implemented by Nera Ecological Collaboration Group (GEC Nera).

“Ochiul Beiului and Beusnita Falls are two important objectives in this fascinating world of the legends, because they complete each other. The area has a fantastic potential for the development of tourism, but if emphasis is laid on tourism and the two objectives, we feel the need to set up a visiting centre here. One can thus introduce the tourist in the park context, one can show him for the first time how water flows down the Beusnita and it is in this way that one makes the tourist eager to discover the impressive legends. Unfortunately, until we learn how to carry out ecological tourism, we will keep only discussing about the special potential of the area”, said GEC Nera chairman Cornel Popovici Sturza.

While GEC Nera, last year, initiated a range of major events to promote Nerei Gorges — Beusnita National Park , some of them in cooperation with neighbouring Serbia, this year unfortunately the National Park administration failed to organise any such action on the Day of Nerei Gorges — Beusnita National Park.

“We already have several brands as regards the national heritage. It is about Ochiul Beiului, Beusnita Falls and Bigar Falls where there is a flow of tourists, whom we do not know how to introduce into the area. We further plan to set up theme mini-tracks and develop ecological tourism in the area, in order to protect the environment. Also, we oppose the pressure the Park is put to when it comes to various official approvals, particularly Bigar Falls, for the development of the commercial activity”, Popovici Sturza stressed.

Last year, GEC Nera together with its volunteers used specific means to set up a theme track and organised a traditional customs and music show in the area. These are but a few examples of promoting and making good use of Nerei Gorges — Beusnita National Park.

The clear water in which the fir-tree forest and the sky mirror, the unbelievably turquoise water of the lake make the place a fairy-tale one. The locals say that if every Romanian visited Ochiul Beiului Lake at least once a year, they would be healthier and the ever-present depression would remain virtually unknown.AGERPRES

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