Archive for May, 2014

The isolated Czech villages from Banat – a region with probably the most interesting mix of ethnic groups of Romania

This year, I decided together with my family and friends to spend the 1st of May extended holiday weekend in a different place: Cheile Nerei National Park, near the Danube Gorges in the Western part of Romania called Banat.

We knew that the region is a fantastic one with amazing landscapes: the Danube river flowing along the green mountains, waterfalls, caves, and we also heard about the isolated Czech villages making great plans of exploring the area as much as possible …but in the end, things were a little bit different from what we expected 🙂

Besides all these natural attractions, we found out that in a village called Garnic, near Moldova Noua, there is a music festival called the Rocker`s Challenge Garnic, taking place every year on May 1st. That was great news for us: during the day we could explore the nature and in the evening we could enjoy the concerts!

On the morning of May 1st, we left Bucharest very enthusiastic and fresh, because we had a 7 hours journey in front of us (470km)- towards Garnic village, which would become our home for the next 3 nights. Everything went as planned until we reached Orsova, a nice port city on the Danube River, above the Iron Gates. But from this spot on, the unexpected happened: we experienced the bad roads taking us to Moldova Noua and Garnic village! Imagine, it took us about 3 hours to drive just about 100 km!!! So, if you decide to discover the area and you really want to get there, you need to be calm, spare some time and have a strong car, like a 4×4 or a motorbike. 🙂 But it was totally worth it!!!

Once we arrived in Garnic, we completely forgot about the long and bumpy trip, we were instantly charmed by the beauties of the place, and we could feel something different in the air: the place, the people, the mood, we didn`t know exactly what it was, but we were about to discover it in the next days.

Garnic (Gernik in Czech) is a village surrounded by green hills and untouched by the modern world where about 500 people still speak the Czech language have preserved their customs, culture, traditions and way of living for generations – perhaps due to the difficult access to the place and the isolation. There is only one guesthouse in the village, however you could spend the night at the locals and this was for sure a challenge for all of us (30 Ron/bed/night – about 7 Euro)! Maria, our host, a very nice lady wearing a traditional Czech dress and a headscarf told us the story about her ethnic minority in her poor Romanian, which was very interesting for us.

In 1820, Banat was under the Hapsburg Empire rule colonizing this area with Czech people for various reasons: to guard and protect the military borders, to populate the weak inhabited territories or for foresting and mining of the area.

The Czech people established in several villages and today only 6 of them are still here: Garnic, Sfanta Helena, Rovensca, Eibental, Bigar and Sumita. Their way of life is a simple one: farming and handicraft work, their houses are old but well maintained and one doesn’t notice any local people sitting in front of their houses for a chit-chat (like Romanians do :); everyone is just taking care of their households. Most of them are old, while the young people have left the village mainly to the Czech Republic. Our host Maria was in the same situation: all 3 of her children live in Prague and they come to visit her every year. We were really sad to find out that the number of people from this beautiful and archaic minority has decreased significantly in the past years….

But going back to our adventure, on the first day we explored only Gernik village, walking on the streets, admiring the houses, exchanging some words with the locals we met by chance while they were cleaning the garden in front of their house and listening to the silence (as we came from never-sleeping Bucharest :)) The weather was with us, sunny with fluffy clouds, a perfect Spring day in a perfect setting where a beer was more than welcome! The local bar in the center of the village surprised us: they served Czeck draft dark beer at only 3,5 Ron (less than 1 Euro)

The friendly lady from the bar of course spoke Czech, our table neighbors were some students and volunteers from the Czech Republic who were there for a camp in Gernik. The bill was similar to those in Prague (photo) and we were surprised to find out that you could also pay with Czech Koronas! That’s when we asked ourselves: where are we, in Romania or the Czech Republic?! The feeling was just great! And another important detail worth mentioning to some of you: the mobile phone signal is almost non-existent, but you have free Wifi at the local bar. 🙂

Next day we visited two other special and quiet villages: Sasca Montana, the perfect point to start your trails into the National Park Cheile Nerei and Socolari, that impressed me so much because of its houses made of river stones. Recently many artists from Timisoara like painters, sculptures, musicians have moved here and I can understand them, because the peace and quiet along with the sources of inspiration are generous in these areas!

Our bonus trip: Rocker`s Challenge Garnic festival was an amazing and very well organized event, with great sound, good bands, free supervised activities like biking, trekking, flying fox, tasty food cooked right in front of us (15-20 Ron/big portion – 3-4 Euro) and not least, quality personalized T-Shirts, the perfect souvenir 🙂 We spent two memorable evenings surrounded by friendly people from Banat , enjoying every second, especially when we heard that in 2015 will be the last year of this festival after a 6-years-tradition (so don`t miss this last chance!) The organizers said that due to the difficult access to the location, the audience is not that numerous… We didn’t know about this festival either, we found out about on our way there! For sure next year, we`ll be there because we made a promise!


Overall, apart from the interesting history of the Czech minority, this region of Banat hosts a mix of Ethnics: Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, Germans and Ukrainian. The area has a big potential and can satisfy all needs a tourist may have:

  • adventure tourism in the Cheile Nerei Natural Park : biking, rafting, hiking, trekking, kiting, speoadventure, archery, motosport (guided ATV rental very famous), flying fox

  • a cultural experience

  • heritage and history in its purest form

Unfortunately, we didn`t have the enough time to explore the entire area; there are so many places to visit were you need at least 6-7 days, but we`ll definitely return to see the other Czech villages and the natural beauties!

I hope our story will open your appetite to travel to this unique region in Banat, to have a different experience discovering the precious Czech cultural heritage fenced under Romanian borders. And of course, we would be happy to assist you with other personal suggestions and tips 🙂

So come along friends….

Madalina Visan


Comme les panneaux avec les noms de rues de Bucarest rappellent ceux de Paris, allons y pénétrer dans les secrets d’une rue représentative pour Bucarest, dont le nom n’est pas accidentel.


Strada Franceza au gré de l’histoire.

Mentionnée pour la première fois en 1649, comme la rue de la Cour, la rue apparaît dans un document de 1659 sous le nom de la rue Royale.

Plus tard, lors la parution des ateliers des ‘islicari’ (les artisans qui confectionnaient des bonnets en fourrure qui coiffaient la tête des boyards, dont le rang était reflété par le dimension de ce bonnet) en 1789, le nom de la rue devient Uliţa Işlicarilor.

La rue a reçu le nom strada Franceza en 1798 lorsque le Consulat Français s’y trouvait. Le consul parcourait à pied la distance entre le Consulat et le nouveau palais situé sur la colline Spirei.

En 1878, elle acquiert le nom de Carol jusqu’à la chute de la monarchie (le 30 décembre 1947) l’ironie du sort fait qu’en 1949 son nom est la rue 30 Décembre.

En 1989, pour détruire toute trace du régime communiste la rue est baptisée Iuliu Maniu, à l’honneur de cet homme politique roumain, premier ministre de Royaume de Roumanie à trois reprises, président du Parti national paysan, détenu politique dès 1947 et décédé en prison.

En 2007, un boulevard s’appelle Iuliu Maniu et depuis, la rue Franceza a repris son nom de 1798.


Une rue-musée

L’artère mérite ce surnom, sans doute, non seulement parce qu’on y trouve une trentaine de bâtiments déclarés comme monuments historiques, mais aussi parce que certains remontent au XVIe siècle.

L’Ensemble architectural Strada Franceză de la fin du XIXe siècle renferme des maisons construites vers 1850 (pas avant vu le grand feu de 1847).

Les maisons restées debout valent le détour: La maison aux cariatides, La maison au balconnet, La maison Iulia Hasdeu, La maison au coin aplati, La maison aux encadrements, La maison des balcons, La maison de la ferronnerie, La maison-boutique, La maison ‘empire’ de Petrovici.

Une période de modernisation de la rue remonte aux années 1894-1900 (alignement des bâtiments, le pavage, l’introduction de drainage, la construction du Palais de la Poste – l’actuel Musée de l’Histoire).

Elle est la première rue pavée de pierre cubique amenée d’Ecosse (1860) et la première rue à recevoir la canalisation.


Trois bâtiments tiennent l’affiche dans cette rue :

Curtea Veche (la Vieille Cour Princière) construite en tant que résidence pendant la règne de Vlad III l’Empaleur au XVe siècle.

Hanul lui Manuc – l’Auberge de Manuc (construite entre 1806 et 1808 par le négociant arménien Emanuel Marzoian qui appelé Manuc Bey par les Turcs qui parlait plusieurs langue étrangères et était connu pour son don des affaires et sa finesse qui lui fait une place dans la vie mondaine parisienne comme auprès des religieux roumains

L’église Sf Dumitru- Posta (Saint Dimitris-Poste) derrière le Palais des Postes – l’actuel Musée de l’Histoire appelée aussi ‘l’église du serment’ (cf. coutume qui demandait au défendant et au défendeur de prêter serment devant les portes de dire la vérité).



Des mythes urbains: L’orphelinat hanté de la strada Franceza

L’histoire orale a réservé un ‘chapitre’ spécial aux ‘âmes tourmentées’ de coins sombres des maisons de la strada Franceza. Un tel endroit est relié aux numéros 13 et 14, où des nos jour il y a un restaurant. Peu de gens savent que cette maison aux volets fermés depuis des décennies abritait jadis 203 esprits d’enfants torturés. On dit qu’il y’avait un orphelinat où les enfants de la rue étaient amenés et puis ils disparaissaient à jamais. Le propriétaire de la maison, Stavrache Hagi – Orman ne leur donnait à manger et ils ‘jeûnaient’ jusqu’à l’épuisement ravi de leurs cris de faim. Beaucoup de gens qui erraient dans la rue après minuit diraient avaient entendu des cris tels: ’Nous voulons de l’eau ! De l’Eau’


Petite rue piétonne, au cœur du quartier historique Lipscani (quartier de ruelles pavées), la strada Franceza est un lieu de rencontres, un cœur animé de Bucarest qui draine toutes les populations et surtout un objectif à ne pas manquer lors une visite à Bucarest.

de Antonia Bogdan