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Traditional Architecture

The people of Gorj County have always been renowned for their ingenuity and creativity, the best example being Constantin Brancusi. He was greatly inspired by the traditional woodcarving craftsmanship of the elder peasant masters, many motifs and symbols being used throughout his career. There were always people that were born with the talent of discerning the secrets of construction without any formal training. These were mostly determined by the ancestral needs and aspirations of the Romanian peasant. In Gorj County, there are some of the most beautiful rural architecture examples, with an infinite variety of carving and cutting techniques.

Examples of this highly appraised traditional architecture can still be found in some villages of Gorj County, from wooden houses and churches to fountains and altars, all bearing the mark of talented craftsmen. Among the architectural elements that can still be admired in Gorj, there are beautiful shacks, houses, mansions, mills, churches, schools, stables, barns, cellars, gates and many others. A special category that is very interesting for its architecture is a combination of a house and a stronghold, the “cula” that is only found in the northern part of Oltenia region, including the territory of Gorj County.

Traditional Occupations and Handicrafts

Like many other spaces of Romania, Gorj County has been recognized over the years for its traditional handicrafts, some of them becoming more important and predominant. The exceptionally diverse and valuable traditional creation has been the work of some amazing craftsmen. Over the years, this destination has become famous for some traditional crafts, including woodcarving, pottery, church and icon painting, weaving and others. The wealth of forests and variety of trees has determined the development of a veritable wood civilization in Gorj, especially in the villages located at the foot of the Carpathians.

Over time, the craftsmen have created a rich thesaurus of wooden buildings, churches and bridges, annexes and gates. Some woodcarving masters can still be found through the villages of Gorj County, although fewer every year. Another important craft is pottery, once very developed in this area, today only a handful of old masters remaining in the rural area. Highly appreciated, the pottery products of Gorj can still be found in some villages like Glogova, Galesoaia, Stroesti or Stefanesti. Gorj County has also given some exceptional church and icon painters, testament to the spirituality of the people after almost two millennia of Christianity. Many of the painted churches exhibit rural art traits, with lively colors and saints dressed in traditional costumes. One of the greatest church painters was Iosif Keber, also an architect, whose memorial house can be admired in Targu Jiu.

Authentic Traditions and Customs

The county is a space of rich and diverse traditions, with deep roots into its past. Gorj is one of the few regions of Romania where many traditions and customs are still being kept. Over centuries, older pagan traditions and Christian orthodox feasts have mixed to create an eventful calendar. Many of the authentic traditions have been lost, but many more still survive and offer a glimpse into the soul and spirituality of Gorj County. Most customs and traditions are linked to the Orthodox religious feasts and events of a year, the most important being Christmas, New Year and Easter, each with unique traditions.

Traditional Costumes

The traditional costumes of Gorj County bear the marks of time, centuries adding or changing its characteristics according to various external factors. Nevertheless, the authentic costume of this destination is unique and impressive. In Romania, someone with a passion for the traditions will immediately recognize the region or county of people dressed in traditional clothes. The costumes are characterized by rich and lively colors, simple designs and elegant natural or geometric motifs. Nowadays, the best places to admire these costumes are museums and cultural events, although the elders of some villages still proudly wear them.

Traditional Songs and Dances

Gorj County has always been one of the best places in Romania to discover the traditional songs and dances, still very much loved by everyone. Some of the best folklore can still be found here, with exceptional artists that continue to preserve the authentic songs and dances. The famous group “Doina Gorjului” is considered among the best in the country and has presented the traditions of Gorj in the whole world. Watching and listening to these artists is a truly rewarding experience, one is able to feel the whole range of emotions expressed through songs and dances.

Traditional Gastronomy

Hearty and delicious, the traditional gastronomy of Gorj County represents an important tourist highlight of the destination. With accents of specificity determined by the history and geography of the area, it also shares certain characteristics with most of southern Romania. Developed from simple and natural ingredients and from the ingenuity of the peasant, the recipes of today have created a fascinating cuisine. There are even certain special dishes that can only be sampled in Gorj County, making any meal a truly delightful gastronomic experience.

Bread has always been one of the main elements of any meal, often replaced in the past by mamaliga (a type of polenta) and turta or malai (made of raw corn flour baked in clay ovens). A wide variety of soups (ciorba) also stand at the base of the Gorj gastronomy with ingredients depending on the season (beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and others). Meat is another pillar of the cuisine, with pork and chicken as the stars. Each family grows pigs which are usually sacrificed before Christmas and each part is used in some type of dish (grilled, stewed, baked or smoked, sausages and other marvels). Milk and eggs are also often used in recipes.

Some of the most traditional dishes include sarmale (pickled cabbage leafs stuffed with a mix of meat, rice and vegetables) and piftia (pork pieces boiled and then cooled to form a gelatinous mix), mainly served together and cooked for special events. At fairs and special events, no grill is complete without the delicious mici or mititei (pork and beef or sheep minced meat with spices). From the dessert category, there are many cakes and sweets prepared traditionally, including the famous cozonac (a pastry filled with cocoa, walnuts, raisins and more, baked in ovens for special events). Wine and tuica (strong brandy from plums or cherry plums) are the most popular traditional drinks.