Roșia Montană - a name that for some of you might sound familiar and for some not.
Maybe you are thinking it's a city or a famous place like some of those popular sightseeing attractions every country has.
In reality, we are talking about a village from Alba County, Transylvania, but the difference over here is made by what actually means Roșia Montană when you think about Romania, but also to a lot of famous countries out there who are very dependent to this place.
The name of the village was given after the Roșia River which is very rich in minerals, especially iron that creates a bloody trail into the water and on the surfaces crossed by this.
Of course, we can't talk about a red river by nature, but actually about the things that caused this, namely the excessive mining for over 2,000 years.
Sounds familiar? Maybe if you are an old follower and have read my posts for a while, you remember about Geamăna and the sunken village by the toxic lake that also resulted from excessive mining activities for a copper mine.
Back then, when I visited that place and barely found 2-3 people who were still there, waiting for their death, I had mixed feelings. I was surprised by the over 13 colours found on the same lake but also felt sad and helpless in front of those who said that we are coming to see and take pictures of the thing that is slowly killing them. Not to mention that these were probably the most painful words I ever heard.
However, I didn't randomly mention about Geamăna, because along with the existence of Roșia Montană there have been a lot of controversies and debates about what should happen with it.
There were basically two separate camps: those who wanted to keep the gold mine as it is, and the other one, wanting to clear the metals from the mine the same way happened with Geamăna, by flooding (and killing) an entire village.
While 2 years ago I got to visit the disaster produced by some silliness who were leading the country back then, now I managed to reach a place that could write the history again into the detriment of the less fortunate ones who are living in the surroundings of Roșia Montană.
Now, if things are not clear enough, we are talking about Rosia Montana Gold Mine from Transylvania that is not a simple mine but actually the biggest one from Europe, and which is probably the most controversial place from Romania, that comes with a luggage full of both good and bad parts.
Anyway, since there are a lot of stories hidden by the eyes of the curious ones, it was really important for us to get to explore the gold mine with a guide that would have the energy to say the same story one more time for our group which was the last one for the day. Happily, we managed to meet not just a guide, but a very passionate man about everything Roșia Montană means, and where, our journey wouldn't be so easy to remember without him and his dedication put in every single sentence said or answers given to our questions.
Our journey began with a long walk down the stairs that were bringing us into the underground world, without too much light or fancy gadgets/decorations around, because the real point of interest was about to be discovered in the stories that the man was going to share with us soon.
Roșia Montană village was known for its existing mine a long time before the conquest of Dacia, and it represents one of the oldest places that carry out mining activities for precious metals from Europe.
The gold mine used to be recognized with the name of Alburnus Maior, the first official document being a wax plate that dates since 6th February 131, because the Romans were the ones who discovered this place and made the mine become accessible from the outside.
That's how, when the archaeologists got into the mine for the first time, they managed to find lots of settlements of the Romans, graves, mining galleries and tools, various inscriptions made in Latin and Greek languages, and around 50 wax plates.
However, not only the gold mine was the one that was attracting lots of curious eyes, but the whole village which was surrounded by hills and valleys where various mills could be noticed, being used for grinding ore.
Some of these have been saved and kept intact to be able to be seen even in the 21st century at the museum located right next to the mine, but also in the little yard of it.
When you think about a place that dates for over 2,000 years, I'm sure you instantly think about how much history it's in there and how many events this place was part of, and I totally have to agree with that because Roșia Montană met and lived all the events of the Romanians, while in 1784 the houses of the miners were destroyed with no mercy by the revolutionaries of Cloșca.
Even though we are talking about a gold mine that was so important for the whole Europe, Roșia Montană was never just a mine but also a project of promoting tourism in the Apuseni Mountains.
However, one of the most controversial debates about the mine, was in 1997 when the people who were leading Romania, decided to leave behind the tourism of the country and focus more on the gold that was resting into the mountains turning everything into excessive mining actions that were becoming dangerous for everybody.
Now maybe you are wondering what was so bad about this aspect. Well, the main interest for everybody was to create a sustainable development for Romania and especially Transylvania, by doing both mining activities but also focus on promoting tourism further to bring more investors and people who could make a good change be felt for the population.
But as, probably, most of the countries has some corrupted members into the leading of their places, the same happened in Romania where those with the power to do something for the country focused on getting rich faster and extracting as much gold as possible into a very short time without thinking about the risks everyone was exposed to. Without any doubts, that was going to ruin all sustainable development projects in no time.
But when I say that everyone was going to suffer from this action, I'm not talking only about the people who were carrying out the mining activities, because the more gold you extract in a short time, the more time you need to get rid of all the toxic solutions used to clean the metals and bring them into the shape everyone is used to see.
Since the people with the power to protect Romania decided to ruin everything, there was also built up a huge dam that was going to set free all the cyanide used underground over the mountains, villages, and the houses of the people who were living nearby. A story that it's almost drawn to indigo with the disaster that happened at Geamăna, where even if you just look at the pictures from that post, you will understand what I'm talking about.
However, some proofs of the long mining activities can be seen even nowadays, especially around the village where the forests, valleys and hills had to suffer and there are some regions with a lot of trees being completely dry with no visible reason.
But the real reason is down into the ground where they have their roots which got tired to fight with all the chemicals.
In plus, there are over 105 artificial lakes created in the Apuseni Mountains which were initially created with the thought of being used for mining activities, but today they are used for recreational purposes.
Even though you won't find vampires or Dracula in Transylvania, there are a lot of cool legends and stories that almost every single place has.
Of course, Roșia Montană couldn't be one of those who are missing the whole fun, and there are two legends.
The first one is related to morojnițe and vâlve, where morojnițe are considered some creatures that turn upside down for three times in a row after the midnight and then transform into a squirrel-like animals that are stealing the milk from locals households.
Vâlve are called the ghosts that can turn into different creatures and that are considered as still living down into the mine, while some locals are saying they have seen them for a few times.
Another legend is related to a woman called Cotoroanța who was doing her daily walk on the hills with the goats she was rising until she found a huge stone that was shining into the sunlight and that's how she figured out it's gold. She's the first person considered as discovering the gold in that region and that's why one of the galleries is called like that.
When it comes to the touristic part, the people who are visiting the gold mine doesn't have access to too many galleries or places from the underground world because it's not safe. However, you will notice that most of the galleries have a rectangular shape which are specific to these created by Romans and which are a few kilometres long each. There are very few galleries created by the miners and they don't really have a shape. We got to walk through both types of galleries, and from what our guide told us, these created by the Romans, even if they are way older than those dug by miners, are the safest ones and most used these days.
As we are used to saying, Romanians are sitting on a real treasure and don't know how to take advantage of that while the mountains from Romania are known as the richest in all kinds of precious metals from the whole Europe, but unfortunately, it looks like my country always had just two options - to either be greedy and do excessive activities that are bringing a lot of risk for the others, or to either don't do anything and wait until people from other countries come and buy us.
There is no in-between relationship that could pump the country a lot into some of the most interesting rankings about tourism and the well being of living in a specific country, and that makes me both angry and sad at the same time.
That's how, Roșia Montană became a little bit more known, after a company from Canada came and tried to illegally do mining activities from which it was planned to extract at least 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver, also trying to use very low-cost equipment and mining techniques that of course were leading into another disaster like the one from Geamăna.
Another similar mistake was made in 2000 when in another city from Romania, Baia-Mare, a dam created with this purpose simply collapsed and polluted with cyanide both Tisa and Danube Rivers, coming with the death of over 1,200 tons of fish and water contamination for 2 million people.
Happily, as nothing bad lasts forever, after more than 20 years since there were a lot of debates and protests regarding the gold mine to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage, the magic happened at the end of July 2021.
The good news didn't come alone, but also with the mention of Roșia Montană on the List of World Heritage in Danger that could bring some more protection measures for this place.
Of course, the announcements made the population split into two different camps again - those who were looking for this step to be taken for a long while with the hope that the tourism from Romania will finally gain some more exposure in front of the world, and those who have seen the decision made as a silent conviction to poverty since it was going to make the miners being forced to stop extracting the precious minerals, and implicitly to lose their jobs.
However, while everyone is either fighting to get some of these precious gems for themselves or for a better future of the country, our guide started laughing saying that the real treasure, is behind the treasure everyone is fighting for.
The total volume of precious minerals that are resting in Roșia Montană and Apuseni Mountains is of 365 million of tons from where only 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver, while the rest of the volume is completed with various deposits in high demand such as: platinum, titanium, germanium, arsenic, molybdenum, vanadium, nickel, cobalt, gallium and wolframite.
On a funny note, from all of these, Romania only has around 100 tons of gold while Hungary has 95 tons of the same precious material extracted from Roșia Montană.
As soon as we finished the stories from the underground world, we followed the same long way of stairs that was bringing us outside. The whole visit to Roșia Montană was composed of 3 different stages: the visit of the gold mine, the visit of the yard where real gold can be seen, as well as the machinery used to extract gold in its natural shape and then get through the whole process to turn into the gold we all know, and the 3rd stage which comes with the visit of the museum located near the mine where antique and important tools, rocks, stones, and images can be seen.
However, when I said that we were lucky enough to not only have a guide, but also a man of the place, I figured out that we received more than what we expected. The man was also the one who takes care of the whole area and even sells souvenirs and tickets. However, when we wanted to purchase the tickets, he refused saying that first, we explore the mine and the other 2 stages of the journey and then we decide if it's worth the money if we manage to stay until the last stage, namely visiting the museum.
The man was basically putting more price on sharing the real story and not focus only on the news and what we see on TV, instead of selling some visiting tickets. Unfortunately, there were a few guys whom you could see on their faces that they don't understand a thing from what that man was saying and they simply left in the middle of the conversation like nothing happened. Very rude!
Before leaving the gem we visited in the true sense of the world, the guide made a little joke with us saying that now we have little parts of gold even on our boots. However, we found out that the man is not just a guide but also a man who inherited Roșia Montană from his father and that for many years Roșia Montană have been transferred from a generation to another. So he's more like a man of the place instead of a guide and there are a lot of stories shared that can't be found anywhere else.
The gold mine and museum can be visited hourly from Monday - Friday between 8 AM - 2 PM, with the need of paying a visiting ticket of 10 RON / 2.04 EUR for an adult and 5 RON / 1.02 EUR for a kid.
Reaching the Roman-Era gold mine named Roșia Montană is pretty easy since it's located in the center of the Apuseni Mountains and there are quite a lot of road signs leading to it.
The little village full of history and real treasures is located:
- 177 km away from Oradea and if you come from that direction you need to follow the national road DN75 & DN76 on the next route Oradea - Beiuș - Ștei - Nucet - Câmpeni - Roșia Montană;
- 127 km away from Cluj-Napoca and if you come from that direction you need to follow the national road DN75 on the next route Cluj - Turda - Baia de Arieș - Câmpeni - Roșia Montană;
- 80 km away from Alba Iulia and if you come from that direction you need to follow the national road DN74 on the next route Alba Iulia - Zlatna - Abrud - Roșia Montană;
- 15 km away from Câmpeni which is close to DN74 & DN75;
- 11 km away from Abrud which is close to DN74 & DN75.
SEE YOU IN THE NEXT TRIP! 🗾
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