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Cula Houses of Gorj County

Gorj County and the nearby counties of Oltenia region have a special type of house that has intrigued and fascinating researchers for centuries. Built like castles in miniature, these houses helped the noble families of the rural area protect themselves against Ottoman raids in the past. Also present in some other countries of the Balkans, there were once around 20 such buildings in Gorj County. Today only a handful still stand and several have been renovated and can be visited safely. Nevertheless, their amazing and unique architecture makes them exceptional attractions in any condition. Usually, a cula has the form of a square rectangular tower, with several levels and strong stone or brick walls, sometimes several meters thick. The windows were small enough just to fire through them, the upper levels were hard to reach with narrow mobile stairs. Nevertheless, the interior offered perfect comfort, some having sanitary groups in annex buildings accessed by a leveled bridge or tunnel.

Three of the cula houses of Gorj County are included in the tourist circuit, two being located inside the Traditional Architecture Museum of Gorj County in Curtisoara. The Cornoiu Cula is one of the most beautiful constructions still preserved, beautifully renovated and housing a small collection inside the Architecture Museum. The second one is the Gheorghe Tatarescu Cula, originally built in the Poiana Village (today extinct) and once in the possession of the prime-minister of Romania between the two wars. Another well preserved cula house can be found in the Glogova Village, about 50 km from Targu Jiu. The others are spread throughout the county, most of them found in poor state, heavily damaged or nearly demolished. The Cioaba-Chintescu Cula is located in the village of Siacu (Slivilesti commune), about 50 km south of Targu Jiu. Crasnaru Cula can be found in the village of Groserea, part of the Aninoasa commune, about 60 km south of Targu Jiu. I.C. Davani Cula of Larga Village (50 km SW of Targu Jiu) is in a very poor state, almost collapsed.

Roman Fortifications of Bumbesti Jiu

During the Roman Period in the first centuries AD, the area around the entrance of Jiu Defile, today the town of Bumbesti Jiu, was heavily fortified. These were among the most important strategic defensive Roman fortifications in Oltenia, built to protect the passage over the Carpathians to Transylvania. During those times, the Roman Road passed over the Valcan Mountains through the Valcan Pass, an itinerary that can still be used today for fascianting hikes. The Roman fortifications of Bumbesti Jiu are actually a large complex of defense structures, Roman baths, houses and other buildings, developed over the course of three distinct periods.

Archaeological research has discovered fascinating ruins and remains of this extensive complex, with highlights over an area of several kilometers on each side of the Jiu River. The landmarks can be reached by following the E79 Road north from Targu Jiu to the town of Bumbesti Jiu and the first ruins can be seen on the left side of the road, with others spread in and around town. Today, most of the ruins and excavations have either perished down in the river or are overgrown with vegetation, but they still represent important tourist attractions for those passionate about the past.

Cross of Ursache

Located at about 1000 meters altitude over the village of Polovragi, the Cross of Ursache stands on a mountain ridge on the left side of the Oltet Gorges, on top of the Polovragi Cave. Polovragi is located about 60 km north-east of Targu Jiu, while the cross can be reached by following a steep hiking path from the village. It is a charming and mysterious monument dating back to 1800, a two meters tall cross with unknown inscriptions. The path towards the cross starts close to the Polovragi Monastery and is marked with a red and white circle, taking about 30-40 minutes of fairly difficult climbing. Nevertheless, the reward is exceptional, with breathtaking panoramas of the gorges and the village below. Close to the cross, there used to be an ancient Dacian fortress with legends of gods and golden treasures.

Michael the Brave Monument

The monument of Michael the Brave is situated on the old Roman road that passed over the mountains and over the Valcan Pass towards Transylvania. The 664 road starts from the village of Schela, about 25 km north of Targu Jiu, then continues up the Valcan Mountains. From the village, the monument can be reached on foot after 5 km, with breathtaking panoramas towards the plains of Gorj County. The monument was built in 1932, with the face of Michael the Brave and a bronze eagle on top. It is located in a place known as the “Meadow of Michael”, where the great ruler of Romania stopped on his way to Transylvania. The extraordinary beauty of this monuments comes from its isolate and idyllic location.

"Pades Proclamantion" Monument

The monument of the “Pades Proclamation” commemorates an important historical event, the place where local hero Tudor Vladimirescu read his famous declaration of liberty and justice, marking the start of the 1821 Revolution. It is located in the Pades Village, about 40 km west of Targu Jiu, following the 67D road and then taking the 671 road north for several kilometers. It was built in 1921 as a stone pyramid with a base of 10 meters and a height of 9.5 meters. At the top, it features a triptych with scenes from the revolution and the face of Tudor Vladimirescu. It represents a wonderful artistic monument located in a charming area, but is also important due to its commemorative character.

Traditional Architecture Sights

The commune of Balteni is located 35 km south of Targu Jiu, along the E79 Road. The architecture complex features several buildings with a very interesting architecture and rich historical value. The fascinating House of Dinca Schileru, a small castle style house on a nearby hill, the school built by Dinca Schileru and a church are part of the complex.

The old center of Targu Carbunesti town features almost 50 old houses and buildings that form a beautiful architectural complex. The town is located 25 km to the south-east of Targu Jiu, along the 67 and 67B roads. The houses can be admired along the Roses, Heroes and Gilort streets of Targu Carbunesti, dating back at least a century.

The settlement of Tantareni is located at the southern extremity of Gorj County, at 70 km from Targu Jiu along the E79 road, right before passing into Dolj County. The village was once an important commercial crossroad, now preserving about 20 houses and several other buildings with interesting architecture dated around 1920.

Other Historical Monuments

Among the historical monuments of Gorj County, one can also find hundreds of old houses, most of them made of wood with traditional technologies. There are many villages that preserve several or more of these exceptional landmarks, examples of traditional architecture and testaments to the lifestyle of peasants at least a century ago. While many more have been lost or replaced by modern buildings, many can still be found throughout Gorj County. The most interesting examples of rural architecture can be admired in the villages of Bengesti, Scoarta, Balanesti, Barbatesti, Plopsoru, Baia de Fier, Arcani and more.