In the foothills of Gurghiu Mountains, crossed by the river with the same name, Ibăneşti ends the row of the villages in the Gurghiului Valley, climbing up to the heart of the mountains. Nature has been generous here and has scattered gifts and beauty: it is surrounded by picturesque heights, it has a relief in plateaus, on altitudes, which led to the formation of an impressive biodiversity (each plateau with its characteristics), the air is fresh, strongly ozonized. Natural dowry is complemented by ethnographic wealth, the inhabitants being preservers of customs, traditions, dances and folk costumes. All this adds to local hospitality, deeply rooted in the hearts of those who live here. You will be amazed at how welcoming and open are the people of Ibănești and not just once you will hear the invitation “Let’s go to us and tell some stories!”, even if you are a tourist who has just arrived in the commune. And from here, until you taste the traditional “jinars” or feasting with a delicious pot-cooked stew with a ball of polenta next to it, it’s only one step!
The diversity of the relief (mountains, hills, meadows and plateaus) and the altitude differences in the Gurghiului Valley created favorable conditions for the development of a rich fauna: the deer, that prefers the plains and hills, the wild boar, that you can meet in the lowlands, plains, but also the hills and the mountains, and the bear and the deer climbing the mountain during the winter and descending in the spring. The fauna of the area also includes the fallow deer, the lynx, the marten, the fox, the wolf, the roe deer, the capercaillie, the eagle, the owl, etc. Emblematic for the Gurghiului Valley is the Carpathian deer, which is also found on the emblem of Ibănești. Hunting, attracting in the Gurghiului Valley kings, heads of State, princes and even Rudolf of Habsburg, the son of Franz Josef, takes place today under strict conditions. In turn, the waters of Gurghiu house the trout (indigenous, rainbow, fountain), the chub, the grayling, the barbel, the stone loach.
Lăpușna Hunting Castle
In the heart of the forest, at a height of 815 m, where the clean air, rich in ozone, filling your lungs, almost dazzles you, lies the Lăpușna Hunting Castle. The castle was built between 1925 and 1926 at the request of King Ferdinand, but the works continued in the following years, being finished and decorated in 1933. Impressive, enigmatic, full of history, with a Romanian traditional architecture, it housed the royal family and the hunting parties attracted wellknown Communist leaders, such as Khrushchev, Jivkov and Tito. Nicolae Ceaușescu also came here frequently. A guest of Lăpușna Castle was also Mihail Sadoveanu, a passionate hunter and fisherman, for whom a chess table was specially made (chess was another passion of the writer). Later on, to chess and billiard tables is also added Shuba, a Russian game, Elena Ceausescu’s favorite.
Saint Nicholas Wooden Church, Lăpușna
The wooden small church was bought by King Carol from the inhabitants of Comori Village, when he went to a hunting party and saw it, falling in love with the little house of the Lord. It was then disassembled and re-assembled piece by piece on today’s site – at Lăpușna, near the water of Secuieu, not far from its shed in Gurghiu River, near the Royal Hunting Lodge. The beams are joined in dovetail, the consoles are decorated with notches. The interior painting, in naive popular style, with extensive compositions in which the starry background can be observed, is the work of Toader Popovici, a famous church painter. Built in 1779, the Lăpușna wooden church is one of the oldest wooden small churches in the country. The Archbishop Andrew of Alba-Iulia initiated here the establishment of a monastery of monks.
Popular Craftsman The “V” chisel moves easily through the oak wood, following exactly the pattern of the Grail sketched under Jesus Christ crucified. “It’s not a big deal, it’s not that hard, just to know, to be patient”, says Petruţ Chirteş, who has been working for decades with wood, and in whose hands the sharp chisel becomes a pen that finely fits drawings and symbols on the roadside crucifix. Soon, he turns 70 and loves the wood since childhood. By the age of 7, he had already learned to make a hatchet tail. He liked it and he went on. He worked on roofs, shingles, made wood carvings, learned more and more and he became skilled. He lovingly and skillfully sculpts wood, he makes furniture pieces, ornaments of all kinds, but nothing compares for him with church objects or roadside crucifixes, where he faithfully respects all the elements to be laid: kings’ crowns, God’s eye, suns, the INRI sign, the Evening Star, the Grail, Magdalenes. “Nobody can separate me from this, I don’t think I could love anything more, especially when it comes to church things”, says master Petruţ Chirteş.
The whirlpools in Ibănești take you into a world of the past, a time when women were spinning wool from August until Christmas, were weaving under the light of the lamp, and the girls had clothes as dowry. In Dumitru Suceava’s household (Mitu Doinii de la Moară) you can see live how a whirlpool works, how it is built and you can hear many stories from the past. In addition to the whirlpool, he has a mill and a basin, all inherited from his parents, that he also wants to pass on. Lasting, efficient, without detergents and chemicals, the whirlpool needs only water. Built in the shape of a truncated cone, made of thick woods, cut in the form of barrel staves, the whirlpool receives its water from the river, diverted on a trough (gutter) with a weir. When it rises, the water flows vigorously into the whirlpool, to a side, forming a swirl of water in which are thrown fabrics, carpets, everything that needs to be washed. When the fabrics are clean, the weir is put back in place and the water stops, then the things are pulled out from the whirlpool and are stretched to dry on strings, on fences or directly on the grass.
Women in Ibănești still make traditional costumes, sewn or embroidered, who are proudly worn on celebration days, at festivals or other cultural events. Women wear Barsan costumes, with a simple but elegant (black and white) chromatic, made of a white shirt with sleeves tied up at the bottom, gathered in a bundle and adorned with floral motifs, with strings and a key, with white skirts and black apron, or an apron suit with a “feather” (with large, brightly colored decorations, made up of two pieces – apron in front and a burgundy body – “cătrânță” – in the back), the apron being taken over the skirts together with a shirt with rich shoulders. Men’s costume is made up of a shirt with a triangle embroidery on the chest and a collar, a waist belt, and white trousers – “cioareci” or “ițari”.
Starting from the initiative of the brothers Mircea and David Todoran as a small cheese factory, Mirdatod put its first products on the market in 1994. Since then, the business has grown continuously, over the past 20 years, always reinvesting its profits. Today, Mirdatod produces 50 types of cheese and some of them are certified as Mountain Products. For the assortment called “Telemea de Ibăneşti” is used only the milk based on the spontaneous flora of the area, collected from Gurghiu, Hodac and Ibănești, in order not to alter its taste and its qualities. For salting, natural brine is used in the neighboring village, Orșova, with a high salt and magnesium content. Being a 100% local product – the raw materials come only from the mentioned area and the production, processing and preparation takes place here in Ibăneşti – “Telemea de Ibăneşti” obtained on March 13th, 2016 the European Union recognition as a traditional Romanian product, with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
Dumitru Matei had the courage to be different. Professor of mathematics at the Forestry College in Gurghiu, he has his own unfiltered beer factory in his yard. In 1991, he made his first attempt together with a friend, with the filtered beer named Brădet, produced in Gurghiu Commune. Later, he turned his attention to unfiltered beer – healthy, natural, rich in the vitamins that are lost during filtration, which he produces at home, in Ibăneşti Pădure, in his own factory. No additives, just malt, yeast, hops, time and clean water. Professor Matei does not add carbon dioxide or ingredients hurrying the fermentation, but his drink ferments in peace, and the water is clean and good. “80% of the raw material is water, and our water is really good for beer, with mineral water properties”, he says.
The Gurghiului Valley Festival
The festival takes place annually in the second half of August and highlights the past and the traditions of the Gurghiului Valley communities. Organized by the Association of the Gurghiului Valley Communities, the festival gathers from year to year in the allegorical village on the Plateau of Fâncel, more and more participants, who have the opportunity to discover the local customs, costumes, folk dances (and not only, with the help of the guests on the stage), to taste the traditional cuisine dishes and to enjoy the picturesque landscapes.
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