Roumania Past and Present
by James Samuelson
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Of the Middle Temple, Barrister-at-Law


Post Tenebras Lux


All rights reserved


There is no country in Europe which at the present time possesses greater interest for Englishmen than does the Kingdom of Roumania, and there is none with whose present state and past history, nay, with whose very geographical position, they are less familiar.

Only about nine years since Consul-General Green, the British representative there, reported to his Government as follows: 'Ignorance seems to extend even to the geographical position of Bucharest. It is not surprising that letters directed to the Roumanian capital should sometimes travel to India in search of Bokhara, but there can be no excuse for the issue of a writ of summons by one of the superior law courts of the British metropolis, directed to Bucharest in the Kingdom of Egypt, as I have known to happen.' The reader may perhaps attribute such mistakes as these to our insular ignorance of geography, or to the fact that the proverbial blindness of justice prevented her from consulting the map before issuing her process; but the fact remains, that notwithstanding the occurrence of a great war subsequent to the date above specified, which completely changed the map of Europe, wherein Roumania took a very prominent part and England assisted at the settlement, there are few intelligent readers in this country who could say off-hand where precisely Roumania is situated.

And yet, as already remarked, the country possesses an absorbing interest for us as a nation. Placed, to a large extent through English instrumentality, as an independent kingdom, of daily increasing influence, between Russia and Turkey, for whom she served for centuries as a bone of contention, she is now a formidable barrier against the aggressions of the stronger power upon her weaker neighbour, and it is satisfactory to reflect that, so far, the blood and money of England have not flowed in vain. Then, again, the question of the free navigation of the great stream that serves as her southern boundary is at present occupying the serious consideration of many leading European statesmen, and the solution of the Danubian difficulty will materially affect our trade with the whole of Eastern Europe; whilst the peaceable creation of a peasant proprietary in Roumania about sixteen years since, and the advantages which have accrued to her from this social and political reform, present features of peculiar interest for those who favour the establishment of a similar class of landholders in Ireland.

In treating of these two questions, I have laboured under the great disadvantage of not being able to follow current events. It is understood that the Danubian difficulty will be settled on the plan, referred to in the text, suggested by Austria for her own advantage, with certain modifications, having for their object the limitation of her preponderance. My readers will be able to judge for themselves, after reading the brief review of the question, and the references to our own commercial relations with the countries bordering on the Danube in the third and fifth chapters, whether such a settlement is likely to be final. For myself I cannot believe that any solution will be permanently satisfactory which interferes with the jurisdiction of Roumania in her own waters.

As to the land question, it calls up some awkward reflections when its history is contrasted with recent and passing events in Ireland. So long as the conquerors in Roumania endeavoured to solve the problem, their efforts were unavailing. At the Convention of Balta-Liman between Russia and Turkey, where 'coercion' was coupled with 'remedial measures,' an ineffectual attempt was made to ameliorate the wretched condition of the peasantry on the old lines of feudalism; but it was not until the country became autonomous and the legitimate representatives of the people took the matter in hand, that an efficient remedy was applied. Then, as the reader will find detailed in the following pages,[1] more than four hundred thousand heads of families amongst the peasantry came into peaceful possession of a large proportion of the land on equitable terms; and whilst the industrious agriculturist is now daily acquiring a more considerable interest in the soil, the landlords, who were merely drawing a revenue from the labour expended upon it by others, are gradually disappearing. That the prosperity and stability of the country have increased through the change is shown in many ways, but more especially by the enhanced value of Roumanian Government securities, of which I have been able to append a short statement in contrast with those of Russia and Turkey.[2]

What has occurred and is passing in Ireland the reader need not be told here. Possibly the consideration of the Roumanian land question may have given a bias to my views on the whole subject, and the excited state of the public mind causes me to hesitate in the expression of an opinion which may appear to be dogmatic. Still, looking at all the circumstances—at the partial resemblance between the former condition of Roumania and the present state of Ireland, at the past history of Irish reforms (such as the abolition of the Irish Church), at the rising land agitation on this side of the Channel, and at the recent recommendation of the Canadian Parliament that autonomy should be extended to Ireland—I have been able to arrive at no other conclusion than that the measures at present before Parliament may bring temporary relief to the peasantry, and temporary, nay let us hope permanent pacification, but that the question will be reopened, coupled probably with that of 'Home Rule,' and that at no distant period.

There are many other circumstances which warrant us in seeking to obtain a better knowledge of Roumania, but these were the chief considerations which induced me last year to visit the country and some of its leading institutions, and to collect the materials which I now venture in the following pages to lay before my readers.

No one knows so well as I do how imperfectly my task has been performed, nor the difficulties with which it has been surrounded, and there are one or two matters of which I should like to unburden myself to the reader. He will probably enquire why I have put the cart before the horse, giving a sketch of the present condition of the country before treating of its past history. The answer is that it was not originally my intention to deal with the latter at any length; but when I came to read and study the works which have appeared on the subject in French and German (of which a tolerably full list is appended to this treatise), so many topics of interest presented themselves for the historical student that I determined to publish a connected history of the country, however imperfect it might be, from the earliest times down to the present day. And in this I was further encouraged by the fact that the attempt has not yet been made in English, excepting in a very perfunctory manner in Consul Wilkinson's work, published by Longmans in 1820, which is now quite out of date. That such a review of Roumanian history, condensed as it necessarily is, was sure to be considered very dry by many readers, seemed to be certain; I therefore placed it after the description of the country as it exists to-day, and for those readers the perusal of the last chapter of that part of the work, dealing with the notabilities of the day, will probably suffice. But I believe that some matters relating to the Roman conquest of Dacia, the character and movements of the barbarians (of which I have prepared and appended a tabular statement), the subsequent history of the country, its struggles for freedom, and the condition of the inhabitants at various periods, will be new to the general student of history and sociology, and if my share has been badly done, it need not prevent him from prosecuting enquiries, for which he will find ample materials in the works of the continental writers to whom I have referred. As regards the controverted questions of the descent of the modern Roumanians and the foundation of the Principalities, I would direct his attention more especially to the recent publications of Roesler and Pic, the first an Austrian and the second a Slav writer, where he will find those subjects fully and warmly debated.

The only other matter on which I desire to give an explanation is my reason for not entering more minutely into what is called 'the Eastern Question,' nor attempting, as other authors have done, to predict the future relations of Roumania in regard to it. An American humourist has said, 'Never prophesy unless you know,' and many a writer on Roumania must wish that he had refrained from dealing with probabilities, or from prognosticating the coining events of history. The future of the East depends upon a variety of divergent considerations: upon the relations of the Government of Russia with its people; the course of events in the newly acquired provinces of Austria, and the delicate relations between Austria and Hungary; the future action of the Prince and people of Bulgaria, the former of whom is at present under Russian influence; upon the growing power and influence of Greece; and, lastly, upon the possible, but not probable, regeneration of Turkey. And without speaking for others, I should feel it presumptuous, under the circumstances, to deal in prophecies.

As to the best policy for Great Britain, however, that is perfectly clear, and may be summed up in a short sentence. It is to facilitate, by pacific means, the solution of every difficulty and problem as it arises, and wherever it is possible, through our influence, to support and encourage constitutional government against autocracy and despotism. This we can do with great advantage in our relations with Roumania, and it will be a source of much gratification to me if the information which I have here attempted to disseminate should have the slightest tendency in that direction.



[Footnote 1: Chapter vi. and Appendix IV.]

[Footnote 2: P. 270, note.]
































CATHEDRAL OF CURTEA D'ARDGES Photograph by Duschek Frontispiece

VIEW OF BUCAREST " " To face p. 40



[Engraved by G. PEARSON.]









PLAN OF BUCAREST Reduced from Original by Prof. Zamphirolu 37

MONK AND NUN After Duschek 39











SECTION OF THE TELEGA PENAL SALT MINE Reduced by Author from Plan 107 of M. d'Istrati, Engineer of the Mine

SALT MOUND IN FLOOR OF MINE Sketch by Author 110

DACIAN WARRIOR (initial letter) From Piranese's Etchings of 115 reliefs on Trojan's Column







PRINCE (NOW KING) CHARLES Photograph by Duschek 251 COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, BEFORE PLEVNA taken on the spot




[Drawn and lithographed, with aid of Author's notes, by E. WELLER.]




Page 45, note, for p. 202 read initial letter, p. 200.

" 64, note 1, " 7209 " 7029.

" 162, line 19, " west " east.

" 165, " 22, " Bajazet II. " Bajazet I.



We love The king who loves the law, respects his bounds, And reigns content within them; him we serve Truly and with delight who leaves us free.


There virtue reigns as queen in royal throne, And giveth laws alone. The which the base affections do obey, And yield their services unto her will.




Limits, dimensions, and population of Roumania—Comparison with England—Configuration of the surface—Altitudes of towns—Mountains—Appearance of the country—The region of the plains—Plants and agricultural condition—The peasantry—Female navvies—Costumes—Wells—Subterranean dwellings—Marsh fever—Travelling, past and present—Zone of the hills—Plants, flowers, fruits, and cereals—Cheap fruits—Improved dwellings—Wages of labourers—Petroleum wells—Rock-salt—Mines—The Carpathians—Character of the scenery—Alpine trees and plants—Sinaia—The King's summer residence—The monastery—Conveniences for visitors, baths, &c.—Occupations of visitors—Beautiful scenery—The new palace—The King and Queen—Geology of Roumania—Scanty details—The chief deposits and their localities—Minerals—Salt—Petroleum—Lignite—Ozokerit— Haematite—Undeveloped mineral wealth.


The kingdom of Roumania is situated between 22 deg. 29' and 29 deg. 42' east of Greenwich, and between 43 deg. 37' and 48 deg. 13' north of the equator. Its general boundaries are, on the east and south, the Pruth and the Danube, with the exception of the Dobrudscha south of the latter river, at its embouchures, and on the west and north by the Carpathian mountains, along whose heights the boundary line runs. The limit which separates it from Bulgaria, on the south-east leaves the Danube just east of Silistria, and runs irregularly in a south-easterly direction until it reaches the Black Sea, about nine miles and a half south of Mangalia. (North-east of this line runs the Roumanian Railway from Cernavoda to Constanta or Kustendjie, and south-west of it the Bulgarian line from Rustchuk to Varna.) The kingdom presents the form of an irregular blunted crescent, and it is very difficult to speak of its 'length' and 'breadth;' but so far as we are able to estimate its dimensions they are as follows:—A straight line drawn from Verciorova, the boundary on the west at the 'Iron Gates' of the Danube, to the Sulina mouth of the same river on the east, is about 358 miles; and another from the boundary near Predeal in the Carpathians, on the line of railway from Ploiesti to Kronstadt, Transylvania, to the southernmost limit below Mangalia on the Black Sea, is about 188 miles.[3]

The approximate area of Roumania is 49,250 square miles, and when it is added that the area of England and Wales is nearly 51,000 square miles, the reader will be able to form an estimate of the extent of the country.[4] But having made this comparison, let us carry it a step further. According to the latest estimates of the population there are about 5,376,000 inhabitants in Roumania against 25,968,286 (according to last year's census) in England and Wales; in other words, with an area equal to that of England, Roumania has about one-fifth of its population, or about the same as Ireland.[5]

The general configuration of the surface of the country may be described as an irregular inclined plane sloping down from the summits of the Carpathians to the northern or left bank of the Danube, and it is traversed by numerous watercourses taking their rise in the mountains and falling into the great river, which render it well adapted for every kind of agricultural industry. The character of the gradients will be best understood by a reference to the map, with the aid of the following few figures. The towns of Galatz and Braila or Ibrail, situated on the Danube, are fifteen metres above the sea-level, a metre being, as the reader doubtless knows, equal to 1.095, or as nearly as possible 1-1/10 yard. At Bucarest, the capital, which is thirty or forty miles inland, the land rises to a height of seventy-seven metres;[6] still further inland, where the elevation from the plain to the hill country becomes perceptible, the town of Ploiesti is 141 metres above the sea, whilst Tirgovistea and Iasi (Jassy), each receding further into the hills, stand respectively at altitudes of 262 and 318 metres, the last-named city (the former capital of Moldavia) reaching therefore a height of over 1,000 feet above the sea-level. Or again, the plain which stretches along the whole extent of the southern part of the country may be said to occupy, roughly speaking, about a third; then comes a region of hills rising to a height of about 1,500 feet; and beyond these the Carpathian range, forming, as it were, a great rampart to the north and east, reckons amongst its eight or nine hundred peaks many that rise to a height of 6,000 to 9,000 feet above the sea-level. The highest of those summits is either Pionul (in Moldavia) or Caraiman, near Sinaia (Wallachia), the summer residence of the Court, which are nearly 9,000 feet high; the latter is easily accessible, even to ladies if they are fair climbers, and affords a magnificent view of the surrounding scenery.[7] The aspect of the country, as the traveller moves inland from the Danube to the heights of the Carpathians, is very striking; and as the writer travelled at one time or another along the greater part of the river, both by land and water, and from the bank at Giurgevo to the frontier in the mountains, a brief account of his impressions and observations may be found more interesting than a mere dry geographical description of the different zones.[8]

[Footnote 3: The mode in which we ascertained these measurements was by comparing four, independently made. One was by Mr. Weller, the artist of our maps; the second by the author, being the average of four or five maps; the third by an English official friend in Roumania, who has all the best maps at his disposal; and the fourth from Baedeker. Designating these respectively as a, b, c, and d, we obtained the following very approximate results:—

From Verciorova to the Sulina From Predeal to boundary S. of mouth. Mangalia.

a 355 miles a 185 miles b 356 " b 188 " c 358 " c 189 " d 360 " d 190 "

From Fife-Cookson's map, in his work With the Armies of the Balkans, the measurements respectively are 355 and 186 miles.]

[Footnote 4: The area is obtained by a somewhat similar process to the linear measurements, excepting that here we have been obliged to employ figures from various works (notably that of M. Aurelian and the Reports of Consul Vivian and of the Roumanian Geographical Society), and to take into consideration the exchange of Bessarabia for the Dobrudscha, which has not been done by Roumanian writers since that alteration was made. The Gotha Almanack of 1881 gives the area as 129,947 square kilos.]

[Footnote 5: There has been no census in Roumania since 1859-60, when the population is said to have been 4,424,961; now it is set down as above, and efforts have been made to analyse this estimate and to classify the population according to nationalities and religion. It is, however, quite impossible to do so with accuracy; indeed the census of Galatz taken last year shows that the whole can hardly be regarded as approximate. What we know is that about 4,600,000 of the population are Roumanians and of the Orthodox Greek faith; probably 400,000 are Jews, 200,000 gipsies, and the rest Germans, Szeklers, Servians and Bulgarians, Hungarians, Armenians, Russians, Greeks, Turks, French, English, Swiss, &c.]

[Footnote 6: Prince Jon Ghika says 87 metres.]

[Footnote 7: According to various works and maps, the heights of the mountain summits differ. In his work, Terra Nostra, edition of 1880, M. Aurelian gives the height of Pionul as 2,720.1 metres, or about 8,934 English feet, and that of Caraiman as 2,650.2 metres, or 8,705 feet; but some of the maps give measurements differing from these.]

[Footnote 8: Fuller details concerning the soil and agricultural productions will be found in the chapter devoted to those subjects.]


The appearance of the plain on leaving the flat monotonous banks of the Danube is anything but prepossessing. Although the land begins to rise almost immediately, the surrounding scenery is flat and arid. The soil, which is black or dark grey, is chiefly argillo-siliceous, and the plain is overrun with coarse grass, weeds, and stunted shrubs, diversified by fields of maize, patches of yellow gourds, and kitchen vegetables. Here and there the railway runs through or skirts plantations. The chief plants in this region (and this applies to the plains generally) are willows, alders, poplars, and tamarinds, but chiefly willows and poplars amongst the trees and larger plants; maize, wheat, millet, and other cereals, and a variety of fruits and vegetables which will be spoken of in connection with the more elevated regions. The first impression which is made upon the traveller coming from our own beautiful hedgerows and pastures, or from the richly cultivated plains of Transylvania, is that agriculture is slovenly and neglected, and that impression is never wholly lost in whatever direction he may travel; although, as we shall see presently, the higher zones are much more carefully cultivated.[9]

The peasantry at work in the fields present a novel and interesting appearance to the stranger, and still more striking are some of their habitations. The men generally wear a long white coarse linen blouse with trousers of the same material. The blouse is drawn in at the waist by a coil of cords or by a belt, and frequently sandals are worn, in which case the cords fastening them are wound some distance up the leg. Hats of common felt, cheap cloth, or high cylindrical caps of sheepskin, complete the external attire. In winter sheepskins take the place of the coarse linen tunic. There are two types of face to be met with amongst them, both of which are here depicted. The one has long moustaches and shaven face; the other type, which is said to resemble the Dacians of Trajan's Column, has the hair growing all over the face. The latter appeared to the author to resemble the generality of Russian peasants, and this view was confirmed by one or two lending observers in the country.[10]

The women, as in many other continental countries, are the chief workers in the fields, and they are said to be much more industrious than the men. They are not alone engaged in agricultural pursuits, but perform the work of navvies, making roads, and along with the men digging railway embankments. They usually wear a kerchief rather gracefully folded over the head and under the chin; the upper part of the body is clothed in a loose-fitting jacket or bodice, sometimes white, but often of very bright showy material, and the lower limbs are covered with a skirt which is usually of a darker colour than the jacket; but this is also frequently made of a bright-coloured fabric. This is their every-day dress, and thus habited the men work with square-bladed spades resembling our own, whilst those of the women have handles as long as a broomstick and bent spade-or heart-shaped blades. The gala or holiday dresses of the peasantry are very handsome, each district having its own peculiar costume, but of these we will say a few words hereafter. Sometimes, as one walks or drives through the country, he may see the peasants gossiping at the well, which is a hole dug in the ground and fenced in with planks, the bucket being raised and lowered by means of a very primitive contrivance. This consists of a horizontal tree-trunk swinging upon another tall vertical one forked at the top; a chain depends from one end of the horizontal beam or bar, to which the bucket is attached, whilst the other end is counterpoised by means of stones. Some of the wells are worked with a windlass and fly-wheel, but the one just described frequently attracts the traveller's notice.

More primitive even than the wells are some of the peasants' houses in the plains, if the hovels which serve as habitations can be so dignified. A large hole, somewhat resembling in shape an old-fashioned saw-pit, but of course of greater dimensions, is dug deep into the ground. This is lined with clay, if necessary, and from the ground or immediately above it a roof is formed of branches and twigs, in the centre of which a hole is left for the issue of smoke. Sometimes a primitive doorway forms the entrance, and the people descend either by steps or an inclined plane, whilst at the opposite end a window is inserted. Occasionally, but not always, a small drain is cut round these semi-subterranean dwellings, which, as already stated, are chiefly to be found on the plains, for the purpose of carrying off surface water. It is hardly necessary to say that in these underground cells men, women, and children live together higgledy-piggledy, and that the result of such an existence is widespread disease. Marsh fever is one of the most prevalent and malignant maladies of the plains; there is hardly a family (and the families of the peasantry are very numerous) in which one or more children have not been carried off by this fever. Still there are those who maintain that the subterranean houses are not unhealthy, and they are not necessarily an indication of poverty. Such hovels, it is said, were first constructed in order that they might escape the observation of those bands of marauders, first of one nation, then of another, who have at various times overrun and pillaged the fair Danubian territory; that they were originally surrounded by trees which have been cut down for firewood; and that the spirit of conservatism, causes many peasants, otherwise well-to-do, to prefer these underground dwellings to the cottages of modern construction which constitute the villages of the higher lands. This seems a plausible explanation of their presence; but in a country which is largely cultivated, as we shall hear, by a peasant proprietary, such a primitive mode of existence, worthy of the days when the barbarians ravaged Roumanian territory, is not likely long to continue.

So far as the peasantry are concerned, they are a fine healthy body of men and women, and we shall have an opportunity further on of enquiring into their habits and condition.

After travelling inland in imagination for the best part of a day—for a Roumanian railway train does not emulate the 'Flying Dutchman' in rapidity, although it is a considerable advance upon the old mode of progression when a dozen horses were often requisite to drag a single carriage along the muddy roads—and having left the city of Bucarest with its many cupolas and spires behind us for the present, we approach the second, more elevated tract of country.[11]

As the distance from the Danube increases, we enter upon a much more diversified and smiling landscape, and almost every plant growth of the sub-tropical and temperate zones is to be found there. Amongst trees the oak, elm, and beech are the most conspicuous; but besides these the maple, sycamore, mountain ash, lime, horse-chestnut, acacia; and of fruit trees, the walnut, hazel nut, plum, medlar, cherry, apple, pear, and vine are frequent. Fields of maize are interspersed with beds of bright yellow gourds. Wheat, oats, millet, and other cereals are common, and, in the gardens, roses, geraniums, verbenas, asters, mignonette, and a great variety of other well-known flowers of the temperate zone, add beauty and variety to the scene. Indeed, so far as natural productions are concerned, this part of Roumania leaves nothing to be desired, and that these blessings of the soil are as plentiful as they are good is to be found in the cheapness of the fruits offered for sale. Little baskets containing twenty or thirty fine purple plums may be had for a penny, and beautiful peaches or large bunches of fine grapes, of natural growth of course, are purchasable at a proportionately low price. Neither of the latter fruits is equal to those forced in our houses, but they are well-flavoured and tender.

And so, too, the peasantry and their habitations wear the appearance of comfort and prosperity. No more subterranean dwellings, but, in place thereof, villages consisting of habitations which resemble more or less the cottages and chalets of Switzerland and the Tyrol, although they are not generally so well built nor yet so picturesque. They are usually constructed of wood, bricks, and plaster, and are well whitewashed, their roofs consisting of little wooden or baked clay tiles or slates, and they have every convenience belonging to such dwellings. The roadside cabarets, or public-houses, are often very picturesque, the roof being frequently ornamented with festoons of vines indicative of the creature comforts dispensed within.

As we enter into the hill country, groups of peasants, men and women, may be seen on the roads and railways, keeping them in order, cutting banks and repairing bridges, and the women working with the peculiar-shaped long spades of which mention has already been made.

The wages of such labourers, it may be remarked in passing, are, for men, 2f. 50c., and for women 1f. 50c., respectively per day. Here, too, we begin to have indications of something besides agricultural industry. The smell of petroleum assails the olfactory organs, and we often see carts drawn by oxen or buffaloes, containing one or more barrels of the mineral oil; whilst on the hills are to be seen the rude wooden structures which cover the wells, and roads or tramways along which the oil is carried into the valley below. As we advance further into the mountains, evidences of another mineral treasure present themselves. This is rock-salt, of which cartloads may be seen moving to the railway stations or piled up in various places. This valuable mineral in no way resembles our rock-salt, and the large blocks might easily be mistaken for granite or rough unpolished marble. The appearance and mode of working one of the great mines of the country will be described hereafter; and the chief localities in which salt and petroleum are raised will be found on our geographical map. The principal salt mines are the Doftana (Prahova) near Campina, Poiana, and Slanic (Prahova), Ocnele Mari (Ramnicu), Targu Ocna (Bacau). The chief petroleum wells are also near Campina, at Colibasu, Pacuri, Doftanet, Telega &c., Moineste, &c., (Bacau). There are refineries at Tirgovistea, Peatra. Ploiesti, &c.

[Footnote 9: The Roumanians recognise that a great part of the country is much neglected, and that weeds are allowed to grow to the detriment of agriculture. The Independance Roumaine, September 13 [25], 1881, had a strong article on the subject.]

[Footnote 10: We do not intend to discuss this question, which is so interesting to Roumanians, but we cannot help drawing attention to Paget's remarks on the subject. He says, in one of his headings, 'Wallacks of Dacian, not Roman origin;' then (p. 112) lie gives woodcuts of two heads with moustache only (sketched without any reference to the question), and somewhat resembling our cut, and leaves his readers to compare them with the figures on Trajan's Column. He says that he feels satisfied they will agree with his view. They do not, however, in the least resemble either the Romans with bare, or the Dacians with bearded faces, on the column, and throw no light whatever upon the vexed question. The general opinion of persons who have observed the peasantry is that those of the mountain districts afford, in their type of face, habits, and some words, the best illustrations in support of the Daco-Roman hypothesis.]

[Footnote 11: Wilkinson's account of travelling in his day (1820) is worth quoting. 'The mode of travelling,' he says, 'in the two principalities is so expeditious that in this respect it is not equalled in any other country. Their post establishments are well organised; there are post-houses in all directions, and they are abundantly provided with horses. Every idea of comfort must, however, be set aside by those who are willing to conform themselves to the common method of riding post. A kind of vehicle is given which is not unlike a very small crate of earthenware fastened to four small wheels by means of wooden pegs, and altogether not higher than a common wheelbarrow. It is filled with straw, and the traveller sits in the middle of it, keeping the upper part of his body in an erect position, and finding great difficulty to cram his legs within. Four horses are attached to it by cords, which form the whole harness, and driven by one postilion on horseback, they set off at full speed and neither stop nor slacken their pace until they reach the next post-house. Within the distance of half a mile from it, the postilion gives warning of his approach by a repeated and great cracking of his whip, so that by the time of arrival another cart is got ready to receive the traveller' (p. 93). (This is still the system in practice in some parts of Russia, and the author travelled in this fashion, in the winter of 1849-50, from St. Petersburg to the Prussian frontier.) Fifty years later matters seem to have retrograded in Roumania, for Kunisch, an amusing German writer, describes his journey from Giurgevo to Bucarest, now effected in two or three hours by rail, which it then took him twenty-four hours to accomplish, at first with sixteen horses and four postilions, and during the later stages with eighteen and twenty-two horses. (Reisebilder, pp. 73-81. Berlin: Effert and Lindtner.)]


But we must dwell no longer in this realm of fruitfulness, and must pass on to the alpine regions beyond. In so doing we change our altitude much more rapidly than heretofore, and as we travel through the ascending valleys into the pine-clad rocks and mountains it is difficult to know with what European highlands to draw a comparison. 'Is it Wales?' the English reader will naturally enquire. 'No, for the mountains are too sharp and rocky, and yet not nearly so barren as those of our principality.' 'Are we in the Pyrenees?' Certainly not; the vegetation is not so rich, few waterfalls are visible, and there is a slovenly appearance about the clayey or sandy surface, reddened here and there by ferruginous streamlets, and covered with weedy-looking brushwood which is quite at variance with the sloping gardens of the sunny south of France. Is the scenery Dolomitic? In a sense it is. The summits of the mountains are often very jagged, Rosszaehne or horses' teeth, as they are called, but they are dark grey and not white or yellow as the Dolomites. The trees are the same as in other alpine lands, firs, pines, larch, and birch growing thickly to a height of about 5,000 or 6,000 feet above the sea-level; then come grass and alpine flowers, and finally the rough jagged summit. Whatever region it may resemble, and perhaps its nearest analogues are the wilder portions of the Bavarian Alps or the less rugged parts of the Tyrol, it is lovely and romantic, and needs only to be visited by a few Western tourists to become an extension of the playground of Europe; for, in combination with beautiful scenery, there are charming costumes, primitive manners, and some interesting phases of Oriental life. And should his way lead him to Sinaia, the summer residence of the Court, and the sanatorium to which the people of Bucarest resort, not as yet in too great numbers, the visitor will readily admit that there are few spots in Europe better calculated to afford rest and refreshment to the wearied mind.[12]

Sinaia presents many attractions for the tourist. Nestling on the slopes of hills at the junction of three valleys, and immediately surrounded by mountains which vary in height from 3,000 to 8,000 or 9,000 feet above the sea-level, and are easily accessible to an ordinary mountaineer, it consists of a fine old monastery, the temporary residence of the Court, two good old-fashioned hotels, and a large number of pretty villas, the property of wealthy landed proprietors, officials, and merchants of Bucarest. There is a casino, or reading-room, and small concert hall, a beautiful bathing establishment, and a garden in which a military band discourses lively and lovely music every evening within hearing of the guests whilst they are at dinner under verandahs in front of the hotels. The monastery is situated upon a high hill approached from the valley below by sloping walks and drives, and it consists of two large curtilages surrounded by low dwellings, which were formerly (and are still to some extent) occupied by monks, and now serve as the residences of the Court and its attendants. The two curtilages are really one divided across the centre, and in each division is a small Byzantine church, in which the service of the Orthodox Greek faith is conducted. At the further extremity of the convent are the apartments of the King and Queen, and it is hardly necessary to add that everything is done to render this old building suitable for the abode of royalty.[13] At the side of the monastery is a verdant plateau, from which there is a beautiful view, and whereon the peasantry, as well as many officers and ladies of the Court, may be seen, usually on Sunday afternoon, dancing the national dances of the country, and more particularly the national dance, the 'Hora,' of which some account will be given hereafter. Behind the monastery a small valley penetrates into the mountains. This valley is, in reality, an extensive wood, containing some magnificent forest trees and replete with ferns and wild flowers, whilst through the centre of it a river rushes headlong, forming, as it descends, three beautiful cascades, the last or highest being surmounted by a towering rock, to ascend which, alone, is a good morning's healthful enjoyment. Behind this rock rise the Carpathian peaks, Caraiman, Verful, &c., and from the summits of these, which may be reached in two or three hours, it is said that on a clear day the distant Balkans are visible across the Danube.

But if Sinaia, with its surroundings, is beautiful to-day, what will it be in the future? Close to the railway station, on a conspicuous eminence, a magnificent hotel is in course of erection to meet the wants of the increasing number of visitors. At present the King only possesses, besides his temporary residence in the monastery, a small chalet known as the 'Pavilion de Chasse,' situated in the woods behind the monastery. Although this is externally an unassuming little villa, the interior is beautifully decorated with carved oak, and is furnished with exquisite articles of the same material, and generally with a taste for which the first lady of the land is so widely reputed. But the King is also erecting, in a favoured situation close at hand, a beautiful summer palace, which will command a magnificent view of the surrounding scenery; and there he and his Queen will no doubt continue, as they do in their temporary residence, to dispense a generous hospitality to visitors, and to secure goodwill and popularity amongst their subjects.[14]

But we must apologise for this digression, and return to our general survey.

[Footnote 12: Sinaia may be visited either from Bucarest or Transylvania. If from Bucarest, the traveller may go by the railway from Vienna to that city in about thirty hours, and forward to Sinaia in about four hours more, or he may land at Giurgevo either on his way from Constantinople by Varna and Rustchuk, or from the steamer down the Danube from Pesth. If he approaches by Transylvania, it is from Kronstadt, which is only a couple of hours from Sinaia. Although a visit to Sinaia only is here described, as being the most easily accessible to ordinary travellers, there are many beautiful tours to be made in the Carpathians, and some of the more hardy of the young Roumanians who have visited Western Europe assured the author that the outlying districts of the Carpathians afford features of interest to pedestrians which are not to be found in any of our known mountain districts.]

[Footnote 13: The monastery of Sinaia was founded by the Grand Spathar Michael Cantacuzene, brother of Voivode Sherban Cantacuzene, in the year 1695.]

[Footnote 14: It is curious to note, in passing, that of about 400 men who were at work on this palace last year, 150 were Germans, and nearly all the rest were Italians.]


In speaking of the appearance of the surface it has been mentioned that it is sandy or clayey, and it may be useful now to say a few words concerning the geological formations of the country. Little has been done by the native geologists in this direction, and the knowledge which we possess is derived from the observations of a few foreigners who have published works dealing incidentally with this region.[15] The whole of Roumania may be said to form the northern portion of the basin of the Lower Danube. In Bulgaria, on the southern side of the river, where the banks often rise to a height of 300 or 400 feet, there are distinct traces of the miocene formation; but there, as on the northern banks, before the hills are reached, there is a wide plain of loess, tertiary alluvial deposit. On the northern or Roumanian bank, beginning close to the Iron Gates in the west, and extending to the eastern embouchures of the Danube, in fact over the whole zone of the plain already referred to, this alluvial deposit is found, and at the foot of the Carpathians it sometimes attains the depth of from 150 to 300 feet, and imparts to the country a neglected desert appearance where the surface is not richly wooded or agriculturally clothed in green. The second zone—that is to say, the lower hills and mountains—is chiefly of miocene formation; but beneath this, and showing itself at the surface in various parts, are strata of what Lyell calls 'a subordinate member of that vast deposit of sandstone and shale which is provincially called "flysch," and which is believed to form part of the Eocene series.'[16] In this region, which is called by the Roumanians the region of vines, are to be found marl, sandstone, chalk, and gypsum, with rock-salt, petroleum, and lignite. The last-named is an important product of the country, being used along with wood on the railways, and in brick and lime kilns.

The southern slopes of the Carpathians consist of various older strata—secondary, primary, and metamorphic—and the rocks of which they are composed are limestone, marble, schist (mica-schist and slate), and gneiss. On the summits are found conglomerates formed of quartz, limestone, and sandstone.

To this meagre and superficial outline of the geological formations of the country we have only to add that the inclination of the strata is generally downwards in the direction of the Danube, and that they are often contorted in a very remarkable manner.[17]

We have already spoken of the deposits of salt, petroleum, and lignite, and in association with the second is found the substance known as ozokerit or fossil wax. This is a brownish-yellow translucent crystalline hydrocarbon, which softens with the warmth of the hand, and burns with a bright light. It has never been industrially applied, excepting in small quantities by the peasantry, who themselves fabricate rude candles from it; but this is owing rather to want of enterprise than to scarcity of the deposit. Anthracite, too, is present in various places, but it is not worked. Of the existence of iron there is no doubt whatever. Not only are there indications of it in the ferruginous brooks and springs, but it has been found in association with coal in various parts of the country.[18] Specimens of haematite have several times been submitted to analysis, but the results were very unsatisfactory. One sample tested by M. Hanon gave only 35.5 per cent., and another by Dr. Bernath yielded 40 per cent., of metallic iron. That gold has been found and was worked in the Carpathians as far back as the Dacian age is well known; and, according to modern writers, cobalt, sulphur, arsenic, copper,[19] and lead are also present in different districts, but the workable minerals of Roumania are at present limited to salt, petroleum, and lignite; and, looking to the importance of the subject, it is much to be regretted that the Government does not take the same means to instruct the population in practical geology and mineralogy as are employed to disseminate agricultural knowledge at the excellent institution to which reference will be made hereafter. If the people are only allowed to develop their industries in peace, it will no doubt soon become apparent that the strata are charged with considerable stores of mineral wealth.

[Footnote 15: The chief are R.F. Peters (Die Donau und ihr Gebiet. Leipzig: Brockhaus, 1876. Cap. xii. p. 313), Fuchs, Bernath, and D.T. Ansted. There have also been isolated memoirs published by Roumanians, but, so far as we could ascertain, no systematic work is extant. The best general works, touching also on geology, are those of Aurelian and Obedenare.]

[Footnote 16: Principles of Geology, vol. i. p. 209.]

[Footnote 17: We believe this is really all that is known of the general stratification, and although little that is positive has been revealed, writers have made up for the deficiency by any amount of negative description. Such writers as Aurelian and Obedenare simply deplore the paucity of information, whilst Fuchs, an able and industrious geologist, says: 'It is difficult to describe the country because there are such vast tracts which have a character of despairing monotony; because fossils are rare and badly preserved, if not entirely wanting; and the different elevations present exactly similar petrographic appearances;' in fact, he says that the prominent data are wanting to enable a geologist to make a classification of the various strata.]

[Footnote 18: See Obedenare, 16-19. Also Cantacuzeno, Cenni sulla Romania, Bucarest, 1875; and Ansted.]

[Footnote 19: Copper exists at Baia d'Arana.]



The river system of Roumania—The 'beautiful blue Danube'—Appearance of the Lower Danube comparable to the Humber or Mississippi—Floating mills—The Danube in the Kazan Pass—Grand scenery—The 'Iron Gates,' misconceptions concerning them—Their true character—Archaeological remains—Trajan's road—His tablet—His bridge at Turnu-Severin—Its construction and history—The tributaries of the Danube and towns upon them—The fishes of the Roumanian rivers—Lakes—Mineral waters of Balta Alba—Roman roads—Bridge of Constantine—Roman streets, houses, temples—Statue of Commodus—Gothic and prehistoric remains—Climate—Great extremes of heat and cold—Beautiful autumn—Rainfall-Comparison with other countries—Russian winds—Sudden daily alternations—Comparison of the country generally with other European states—Resume of its productions, resources, and attractions for visitors.


The river system of Roumania constitutes one of the most remarkable features in its geography, has played an important part in its past history, and promises to exercise a powerful influence on its industrial and political future. This system comprises the great main artery, the Danube, with numerous confluents which take their rise in the Carpathians, and, rushing at first in torrents, then How as sluggish, often as half-dry streams, across the country before they empty themselves into the parent river.

The 'beautiful blue Danube' has been so bepraised that to a traveller who visits it for its scenic attractions it is likely to prove a bitter disappointment. It is not blue, although during certain seasons it is said to have a blue tinge, but a great part of the way from Vienna to the defile of Kazan, and the whole distance from Orsova to the Black Sea, it resembles in colour and appearance our river Humber, and we have heard American travellers compare it to the Mississippi. For hours and hours at a time it flows between perfectly flat banks, on which nothing is visible but reeds and willow bushes. The surface of the river is enlivened by innumerable floating water-mills, which lie at anchor either in midstream or close to the banks, and obtain their motive power from the rapidly flowing current. These are used for grinding the maize and other cereals of the country. Here and there a small town or fortification presents itself on either bank. On the Bulgarian side are the towns of Vidin, Nicopolis, Sistova, and Rustchuk, with their domes and minarets, and idle laughing crowds of gazers, either men picturesquely clad, or women sitting perched, on the rocks, and looking like so many sacks of floor all in a row. These certainly break the monotony of the great stream, but the general appearance of the river from Verciorova, where it begins to bathe the Roumanian shore, to its mouth at Sulina is one long flat reach, higher, as we have already said, on the Bulgarian than on the Roumanian side.

But although that is the stretch of the river which comes strictly within the scope of our survey, there is another portion, lying immediately above it, that well merits a passing notice, more especially as we know that it played an important part in the Roman conquest and the subsequent colonisation of ancient Roumania. There is perhaps no river scenery in Europe to equal, and certainly none which excels, that part of the Danube stretching for about seventy-five miles from Bazias—the terminus of a branch of the railway from Vienna to Verciorova—to the so-called 'Iron Gates.' It is here that the river cuts its way through the Carpathians, and whilst along its general course it varies in width from half a mile to three miles or more, in the Kazan Pass, a defile having on either side perpendicular rocks of 1,000 to 2,000 feet in height, it narrows in some parts to about 116 yards, and possesses a depth of thirty fathoms. The banks closely resemble those of a fine Norwegian fiord, rising more or less precipitously, and being covered with pines and other alpine trees, and occasionally, as in Norway or even in Scotland, the steamer appears to be crossing a long mountain-locked lake. At the lower end of this reach of the Danube are what the metaphor-loving Ottomans first called the 'Iron Gates,' and they no doubt found them an insurmountable barrier to their western progress up the river. Considerable misapprehension, however—which is certainly not removed by the accounts of modern writers, who have apparently copied from one another without visiting them—exists concerning these same 'Iron Gates.' Some of the writers referred to speak of 'rocks which form cascades 140 metres' (or about 460 feet) high, 'and which present serious obstacles to navigation.' Where these cascades are we were not able to discover. The fact is that the whole descent of the river throughout this portion does not exceed twenty feet, and where it issues from the outliers of the Carpathians the banks slope more gently than higher up, and the summits are simply high hills. The 'Iron Gates' themselves consist of innumerable rocks in the bed of the river. Here and there they appear above the surface, but generally they are a little below it, and they break up the whole surface for a considerable distance into waves and eddies, through which only narrow passages admit of navigation, insomuch that in certain states of the river the passengers and cargoes of the large steamers have to be transferred to smaller boats above, and retransferred to the larger class of steamers below, the 'Iron Gates.'


But by far the most distinctive, and for us the most interesting, features of the Danube about here, are its historical reminiscences. Almost the whole way from Golubatz (Rom. Cuppae) to Orsova, there are traces on the right (southern) bank of the remarkable road constructed by Trajan (and probably his predecessors) for his expedition into Dacia, and at one place opposite to Gradina is a noted tablet inserted in the rock to commemorate the completion of the road. This tablet has been the subject of much controversy, and it bears the following inscription:—


The Servian peasants, however, have little respect for heroes—at least, for ancient ones—and the barbarians of seventeen or eighteen centuries appear to have lighted their fires and cooked their 'mamaliga'[21] against the tablet until it presents the appearance of a blackened mass. Of the road itself we shall speak hereafter at some length in connection with Trajan's expedition, but a few words concerning his bridge at Turnu-Severin may still be added. All that remains visible to the traveller to-day are the two terminal piers, of which sketches are here given; but between those piers the bridge spanned the river, and a very low state of the water discloses the tops of several other piers still standing. In speaking of one bridge we have taken rather a liberty with the facts, for it is now pretty generally admitted that there were really two structures. Further down the river is a small island which, in former times, is said to have extended to where the remains of the bridge are found, and upon this tongue of land the ends of the sections starting from either shore rested. The land is supposed either to have sunk or to have been washed away by the current.[22] The bridge, to which further reference will be made in our historical sketch, was built after the plans of Apollodorus, the architect of Trajan's Column at Rome. It was commenced about 103 A.D., and probably consisted of twenty piers, each 150 Roman feet high and 60 feet broad, and the distance between the two terminal piers on the banks is about 3,900 English feet. The piers were of stone, but the upper part of the bridge was wood. In the northern pier the stone consists of rubble, or artificial conglomerate composed of small roundish stones and cement, and this was probably cast into blocks, but the one on the right (southern) bank is of hewn stone. On the northern side there is an old wall running up from the pier to the ruins of a tower which was evidently connected with the bridge.

But it would be better that we should reserve any further remarks concerning the archaeological relics of Roumania, and also some observations of immediate interest in connection with the Danube, until we have completed a brief account of the water system of the country.

Between the 'Iron Gates' and its three embouchures, namely, the Khilia, Sulina, and St. George's mouths, of which only the second is navigable by large vessels, the Danube stretches fora distance of about 650 miles,[23] and receives in its course numerous tributaries, whereof the following are the principal on the Roumanian side. The Pruth is the most important. It forms the boundary between Roumania and Bessarabia (Russia), and is navigable by small grain-carrying vessels. Next in importance historically is the Sereth, which divided Moldavia from Wallachia, and the remaining rivers of any moment are the Oltu, on which are situated the towns of Rimnic and Slatina; the Jalomitza, watering Tirgovistea, one of the ancient capitals, and receiving as an affluent the Prahova, which takes its rise near Sinaia. The last-named is a very interesting river, for in the vicinity of either bank are to be found the petroleum wells or salt mines. Then there is the Ardges, which flows past the little city of the same name and the town of Pitesti, and receives the Dambovitza, on which the capital, Bucarest, is situated. In these rivers are to be found in their due seasons many species of fish, and as fishing is but little preserved they furnish good sport. The most important kinds used for the table in Roumania are two or three varieties of sturgeon, trout (small but sweet), herrings, salmon, shad, pike, and carp, also perch, roach, barbel, tench, &c. Roumania is not a lake country, and the largest lakes, called Baltas, are found in the plains near the Danube, whilst amongst the inland lakes, which are few in number and importance, that of Balta Alba, in the district of Romnicu Sarat, possesses strong mineral properties, in which chloride of sodium and carbonate and sulphate of soda preponderate. Its waters are used for baths, and are said to cure certain forms of scrofula, rheumatism, neuralgia, and other germane maladies. Besides Balta Alba, Roumania possesses several other sources of mineral waters.

[Footnote 20: Paget, vol. ii. p. 44. Dierauer, p. 73, who adds several more disjointed or isolated letters.]

[Footnote 21: A dish made from maize.]

[Footnote 22: Paget, vol. ii. p. 58. Tocilesco, Plate VII. In the illustrations there given the number of piers varies, but in both cases the intermediate island is shown.]

[Footnote 23: The estimates vary from 630 to 650, but these do not make full allowance for all the windings of the river.]


Returning now to the 'Iron Gates' of the Danube, the portal, as it were, by which we enter the country, we find in connection with the great bridge, and also starting from other parts of the Danube, remains of Roman roads, to one or two of which reference has already been made; and in the neighbourhood of these, again, evidences of permanent Roman occupation. One road, west of the Iron Gates, has been named in connection with Trajan's route. It commenced at Uj Palanka, and ran in a north-easterly direction to Temeswar (Rom. Tibiscum), and thence to the ancient capital of Dacia, Sarmizegethusa (modern Varhely), whence it is believed to have been continued to the Transylvanian slopes of the Carpathians bordering on Moldavia. This road, which, along with all the other remains here referred to, will be found in our historical map, was not situated in what is now Roumania. It was joined by another starting from Orsova, which followed the valley of the Czerna, passed the modern baths of Mehadia (Rom. Ad Mediam), and joined the first road at Temeswar. A third, still more to the eastward, commenced at the Bridge of Trajan at Turnu-Severin, and traces have been found which lead to the belief that it must have crossed Wallachia in more than one direction and have passed through the 'Rothenthurm' pass in the Carpathians, whilst a fourth road, with which it was probably connected, started from the vicinity of the bridge of Constantine, near Turnu-Magurele, and is traceable in a north-westerly direction towards the Carpathians. Other roads have been distinctly made out in these mountains connecting Hermannstadt, Karlsburg, Schaessburg, &c. The road on the southern bank of the lower Danube ran along the whole course of the river, and has been followed to the neighbourhood of Galatz; whilst in the Dobrudscha there are still the remains of two Roman walls, one on either side of the line of railway from Cernavoda on the Danube to Constanta (formerly Kustendjie) on the Black Sea. As to the other archaeological remains, they are even more numerous and better defined than the roads. At Turnu-Magurele, close by, there are traces of a second bridge across the Danube, known as that of Constantine, and believed to have been constructed by that emperor. In the same neighbourhood, at Celeiu, there have been found several interesting Roman remains, ruins of buildings in which the colouring is still visible on the walls, and a statue of Commodus with an inscription. At Recika, near the modern town of Caracal, close to the river Oltu in the district of Romanati, there are also remains of streets and houses with inscriptions; and at Slaveni, close by, are the remains of a temple of Mithras. Again, at Ciglena or Tiglina, near Galatz, there is an old Roman encampment; at Vodastra, not far from Celeiu (already referred to), still older prehistoric remains have been found, whilst at Petrosa and Buzeu, on the line of railway between Bucarest and Galatz, Gothic and other antiquities have been discovered.[24] Interesting but more recent relics are to be seen at Campu-Lung, the first capital of Wallachia. At Curtea d'Ardges, the second (that is subsequent) capital, is a beautiful cathedral, which will be more fully described hereafter; and Tirgovistea, the third capital, from which the seat of government was removed to Bucarest, also presents some interesting historical remains.

[Footnote 24: We are indebted for many of those details to M. Tocilesco, whose beautifully illustrated work, Dacia, &c. (Bucarest: Tipografia Academiei Romane, 1880), contains a vast amount of information concerning Dacian and other antiquities.]


Before proceeding to deal with a subject in connection with the geographical position of Roumania, which has special interest for Englishmen, a few words may be found interesting in regard to its exceptional and variable climate.

Both the winters and summers are very trying and severe; spring is so short as to be almost non-existent, but this is compensated for by the long autumn, a genial season which often lasts from the middle of September to the end of November. In summer the thermometer often reaches 90 deg. to 95 deg. Fahrenheit in the shade, whilst in winter it frequently falls to zero, but the annual average is about 57 deg. Fahrenheit. Bain is not nearly so frequent as with us, and it seldom lasts long. Comparisons have been made between Roumania and other countries which show that whilst in England we have on the average 172 rainy days in the year, there are in Western France 152, in Germany 141, and in Roumania only 74. Snowstorms are not frequent, there being on the average only twelve days of snow in the year. The most trying characteristic of the climate, however, is the cold cutting easterly wind which sweeps over the steppes of Asiatic Russia, and often causes life to be almost intolerable in the Roumanian plains; and another unpleasant feature is the sudden change from heat to cold between noon and evening during the later months of the year.

Looking generally at the physiography of Roumania, however, it will be seen that whilst it covers an extent of country considerably in excess of some of the small but prosperous independent States of Europe, it has great advantages which they do not possess. Less rugged and mountainous than Switzerland, and not so uniformly flat as Holland, its scenery partakes of the character of both these countries. Guarded on the north and west by the Carpathian range, and commanding the whole length of the Danube in the south, its political position (to which further reference will be made presently) renders it safer than Belgium, or perhaps even than Denmark. Its soil is capable of producing, either spontaneously or with a slight expenditure of labour, every requirement of the human race, whether of necessity or of luxury. The grape, the peach, the tobacco plant thrive in the open air. Its extensive forests contain most descriptions of timber, whilst very fine salt and petroleum amongst its mineral treasures are already worked, and there is little doubt from the researches of chemists and metallurgists that coal, iron, sulphur, copper, and even the precious metals are safely stored beneath the surface. All these valuable natural productions may be readily conveyed down the slopes of its mountains or across the plains, by short and easy routes by land and water, to the larger watercourse which places it in communication with the outer world; and as to the obstacles offered by the 'Iron Gates' to the navigation of the upper Danube, these are soon likely to disappear in an age when dynamite effects such vast revolutions in the industrial history of nations. Add to these facts that Roumania offers a rich field for the fisherman, that its alpine districts are beautiful and easy of access, and that its antiquities cannot fail to attract the attention of archaeologists; and we see already from this brief and very superficial geographical survey that it encloses within its boundaries the promise of a brilliant future. And now let us turn from the natural capacities of the country to the works and ways of man.



The Danube—Its importance to Roumania—To Great Britain—Statistics of British and foreign vessels trading there—Nature of the freight—Cereals—Our imports thence compared with those from other states—Importance of Roumania as a maize-grower—Effect of the Russo-Turkish war on Danubian trade—The Danubian Commission—Its history—Austria and Roumania—The Callimaki-Catargi despatches—Alleged pretensions and designs of Austria—Necessity for the neutrality of the Danube—Pending negotiations.

There is perhaps no question of greater real moment to the newly erected kingdom than the free navigation of the Danube; for whether its possessions are limited on the southern boundary by that river, or whether at some future time they should extend beyond it, the reader cannot fail to see from what has preceded that the Danube is the great artery through which, so to speak, the industrial life-blood of the nation circulates. But if it be a matter of primary importance to Roumania, it is hardly less so to ourselves. The greater part of the external trade of the countries bordering on the Danube which passes in and out of the Sulina mouth, the only navigable embouchure, is carried on in British bottoms, as the following figures will show:—

Tonnage entering and leaving the Danube in 1880. Steamers Tonnage Sailing Tonnage Total Total Ships Ships Tonnage British flag 479 408,492 15 4,214 494 412,706 All other nations 242 150,536 1,526[25] 238,312 1,768 384,848 Total 721 559,028 1,541 238,526 2,262 797,554

Thus it will be seen that the carrying trade of Great Britain to and from the Danube amounts to nearly 30,000 tons more than that of all other nations put together. And now as regards the nature of the goods carried. They consist outwards (from Roumania, &c.) of cereals, and inwards of a great variety of manufactured goods. Of the former 5,394,729 quarters were exported in 1879; and it may be said generally that Roumania receives in return almost every article of consumption in the way of manufactured productions, and notably from this country cottons and cotton yarn, woollens, coals, and iron.

In any year of scarcity our importations of feeding stuffs from the Danube would become a most important factor, for in 1881 the Board of Trade returns show the following comparative importations:—

Imports of Cereals in 1880.

Cwts. From United States 68,138,992 " Russia 12,830,851 " Canada 9,455,076 " India 6,458,100 " Roumania 4,355,344

All other countries, including Egypt, which is considered by no means unimportant as a grain-producing country, sent us less cereals than Roumania; and when we look at one species of grain, namely, maize, which is considered equal to what is known as American mixed, and is capable of being much more largely cultivated than at present, we find Roumania third on the list; indeed, for some reason or other, her exports fell off very materially last year, for in 1879 she ranked second:—

Imports of Maize in 1880.

Cwts. From United States 31,087,773 " Canada 3,322,327 " Roumania 1,764,482

We shall have to touch on this branch of the subject again; but if the reader wishes to satisfy himself of the great importance to this country of unrestricted trade on the Danube, he has only to refer to the annual returns of the Board of Trade, and he will find that in 1876, when the ports were closed in consequence of the last Russo-Turkish war, our trade practically ceased, and that it has hardly yet recovered from the effects of the stoppage.

Indeed, the question of Danubian navigation has been for some time past recognised as one of European importance, and after the Crimean war, when the great Powers took away from Russia a small portion of Bessarabia abutting upon the embouchures of the Danube, an International Commission was appointed, consisting of representatives of those Powers and of Roumania, whose duty it was to maintain the neutrality and the free navigation of the Danube at its entrance, for which purpose they were authorised to levy tolls and construct works. Subsequently the term of this commission was renewed for twelve years from 1871 (until next year therefore), and the neutrality of works existing at the expiration of the treaty was declared permanent. By the Treaty of San Stefano (Art. xii.) and the subsequent Congress of Berlin, 1878, all fortresses on the Danube were ordered to be dismantled, and men-of-war, with the exception of guard-ships, were excluded. The rights, obligations, and prerogatives of the International Commission were maintained intact, and (at the Berlin Congress) its jurisdiction was extended to the Iron Gates.

This is everything of historical note that has, until quite recently, been published with authority on the subject, but to those who are interested either commercially or politically it has been well known that the commission was not working smoothly, and that differences had arisen between Austria and Roumania concerning their respective jurisdiction. This first found public utterance in the Roumanian speech from the throne last year, when the King said that his Government was prepared to defend its rights to control the navigation of the Danube in Roumanian waters, or words to that effect. What followed is contemporary history. Austria, regarding this as an affront intended for herself, threatened to withdraw her ambassador, and Roumania apologised. In the meantime, however, M. Callimaki-Catargi, a former Minister of Roumania in Paris and London, published in an unauthorised manner a long correspondence between the Roumanian Foreign Secretary and himself, which contained a statement of the Danubian difficulty that had been handed to Lord Granville. It was circulated largely in France and Roumania, and is interesting in relation to future events.[26] According to M. Catargi, Austria has endeavoured, almost since the establishment of the commission, to resist its action where she supposed such action trenched upon her interests and jurisdiction, whilst, on the other hand, she has been aggressive upon the rights of her neighbours. It appears from his statement that when it was attempted to form a 'Riverside Commission' to take the place of the original European Commission, and keep the whole course of the Danube clear (a very desirable object, as the reader will have seen from our description of the Iron Gates), Austria objected to any interference with her jurisdiction over that part of the Danube which flowed through her territory. But when more recently the commission appointed a sub-committee to study the lower Danube, and to report to it with such recommendations as would ensure the carrying out of the project in its integrity, it was found that some unseen influence had been at work to change and pervert the entire constitution and objects of the commission.

The report was made, but it was found quite inappropriate to the desired end, as it ignored the freedom of the navigation, the question of the coasting trade, &c.; whilst, on the other hand, it proposed a 'mixed commission, which was to be an executive committee, not at all contemplated by the Treaty of Berlin, and which brought to light pretensions of a new order.'

Those pretensions were an attempt on the part of one power, namely, Austria, to dominate the whole course of the river. The Executive Commission was to consist of four members, representing Austria, Servia, Roumania, and Bulgaria, and the Austrian commissioner was to preside and to have a casting vote. Servia has a very small interest in the river, as her territory extends only a few miles below the Iron Gates, and it is essential to her very existence to remain on friendly terms with her powerful neighbour, so that 'it results that Austria, who is already mistress of the upper Danube, would obtain further privileges and a veritable supremacy over the remainder of its course.'

M. Catargi goes on to tell Earl Granville 'that if Austria succeeded in securing her domination she would throw every obstacle in the way of the importation of the products of the Western nations into the great basin of the Danube in order to secure the monopoly of her own.'[27]

This is the present condition of the Danubian question, and we have reason to believe that negotiations are proceeding which are intended to pave the way for a settlement next year. From what we know of those who represent British interests in the matter, we feel satisfied that those interests will be carefully guarded; but this must not prevent us from bearing in mind international principles and rights everywhere recognised as equitable, and which we feel confident will not be lost sight of in the negotiations. Roumania is the most deeply interested; she has a perfect right to the executive control of the navigation of the Danube in her own waters, subject to her engagements with the Powers. The contention put forward more or less officially by Austria, that if this right were conceded to Roumania the other riparian Powers might claim the same privilege, is answered by the simple statement that such right is theirs already, as much as it is the right of Austria to control the navigation of the Danube at Pesth or Vienna, of Germany to regulate that of the Rhine at Cologne, or Belgium at Rotterdam. So far as England is concerned, it needed not the revelations of M. Catargi to acquaint us with the fact that Austria will do as she has done, namely, attempted to limit our trade in the basin of the Danube; and our interests and those of Roumania are therefore identical.

But it is to be hoped that passing events in that part of Europe will cure Austria of her aggressive tendencies, and that she will not assume the same attitude towards the Powers as she did towards her weaker neighbour. She will gain more by co-operating loyally with her to improve the navigation of the lower Danube than by striving either openly or secretly to secure a predominance which she could not permanently maintain even if her present efforts were successful.

[Footnote 25: Chiefly Greek and Turkish.]

[Footnote 26: The correspondence, which extends from June 23 to September 5, 1880, and is chiefly telegraphic, was published in the supplement to the Independance Roumaine, Bucarest, December 6 [18], 1881.]

[Footnote 27: After this despatch follows one from M. Bratiano, the Roumanian Secretary of State, finding fault with M. Calargi for his unfriendly tone towards Austria, and here is his edifying reply on that point. 'Let me satisfy you (vous rassurer) as to the consequences that might arise from the handing in of this document. Written on paper without any mark, deprived of every official or individual character, bearing no signature, this historical resume of the phases through which the question has passed cannot compromise anyone.' This is one of the men who make history, and to whom the lives and interests of the million are confided!]



The chief cities of Roumania—The capital, Bucarest—Ignorance concerning it—Conflicting accounts—Its true character—The 'sweet waters of the Dambovitza'—Dimensions of Bucarest—External aspect—The Chaussee, the ladies' mile of Bucarest—Streets, shops, and houses—The Academy—Its collections—Coins—Dacian, Roman, and other antiquities—Excellent physical laboratory—Professor Bacologlu—The Coltza laboratory—Dr. Bernath—The Cismegiu Garden—Shabby courts of justice—Other buildings—Churches—Railway stations—Fine hospitals—Dr. Davila—The Colentina Hospital—The 'police des moeurs' and the morality of Bucarest—The 'Philanthropic' Hospital—The 'Coltza'—Its museums—Life in Bucarest—Hotels—The upper classes—Places of amusement—Cost of land and houses for different classes—Wages of artisans; of gipsies—Habits of the working-classes—Cost of living, food, clothing, &c.—Native costumes made by the peasantry—Their beauty and variety—The poorest class—Mamaliga—The gipsies—Their origin and history—Their slavery—Wilkinson's account of them in his day—Their emancipation and present condition—Laoutari or musicians—Their other occupations—Their religion—Fusion with the native Roumanians—Striking contrast between gipsies and natives—Lipovans—Roumanian love of bright colours—Pictorial advertisements—Amusing signboards—Absence of intellectual entertainments and occupations—Want of exchange and market buildings—Great advances since 1857—Edgar Quinet's account of Roumania in his day—'The Roumanian Company for erecting Public Edifices'—Funerals—Octroi duties—Their onerous character—A few words on the Jews—Bitter journalistic attacks upon them—Curtea d'Ardges—Its beautiful cathedral—The exterior—Fine tracery and ornaments—The interior—Legendary history—Negru Voda and Manole—Poem of Manole—Entombs his wife alive in the foundation—His fate—True history—Neagu Bassarab, its founder—John Radul—Quaint and interesting tablets concerning its history down to 1804—Subsequent history and present condition—(Note: Brief history of Christianity in Roumania—Atheism and indifference to religion).


The chief cities or towns in Roumania are Bucarest, the capital, in the district of Ilfovu; Jassy or Iasi, the old capital of Moldavia, in that of the same name; Galatz or Galati, in Covurluiu; Curtea d'Ardges, in the district of that name; Braila or Ibrail, Craiova, Botosani, Ploiesti, and Pitesti. We have not named them exactly in the order of their size, as it is our intention to give some details of the first four only.

Of the capital, Bucarest, the reader will here find a general plan, in case he should at any time visit the city. To give any lengthened account of it, however, would be a mistake; for such a description would certainly be inaccurate a few years hence, as the city is undergoing great change and improvement from day to day. Still it is the heart of Roumania, the centre from which all progress emanates; and whilst we shall refer to some of its more valuable institutions when we come to deal with national and social questions of general importance, we propose to dwell upon it for a brief space.

Some of the questions that are asked concerning Bucarest, even by persons who believe themselves well-informed, are highly amusing. One friend, who is really a well-read man, asked us shortly after our visit whether it was not a great continuous 'Mabille,' and he looked very incredulous when we told him that, although we had walked through and through it, and had carefully looked at all the posters announcing amusements in various places, we had no recollection of seeing a dancing-garden amongst them, and that we believed none existed. Another friend, a highly educated professional man, was not quite sure whether Bucarest was north or south of the Danube; but it was a place, he knew, where the chief occupation was gambling. There may be some little truth in the latter statement, but gaming-tables are forbidden, and he need not go so far from home as that to see the law evaded.

But it is no wonder that strangers are puzzled to form a correct conception of Bucarest, and their perplexity is not likely to be relieved if they read the descriptions that have been given of the city and its inhabitants from time to time. Some writers have described it as an assemblage of dilapidated houses standing in unpaved streets. Its upper classes are represented as very polite depraved ladies and gentlemen, including a large proportion of the former who have been divorced three or four times, and are in the habit of entertaining simultaneously all their ci-devant husbands in the presence and with the sanction of the 'man in possession.' The lower classes comprise half-naked gipsies of both sexes, with a considerable sprinkling of priests or 'popes,' eating bread and onions or mamaliga (the maize pudding of the masses), or lounging on the doorsteps of the houses, or sauntering along the unpaved streets in charge of a lean pig. According to such writers the chief occupation of the Bucarester is getting divorced or being buried in state. Then there is the romantic school of authors who represent it as a city of palaces standing in their own grounds, with numerous beautiful Byzantine churches, pleasure-gardens in which plays are performed, or where the Laoutari or minstrels (gipsy bands) play wild and stirring music all day long. There are charming Roumanian belles, with flashing eyes and the sweetest of voices; dark-eyed gipsies, chaste as Diana and as fleet of foot; grave boyards, stately Turks (of whom, by the way, we never saw one whilst we were on Roumanian ground, although there were plenty, very much married indeed, on the Danube steamers); reverend abbots, with long black robes and flowing white beards; and nuns in unique costumes of dark cloth, with caps and hoods resembling a crusader's helmet. The truth, as usual, lies between these two opposite extremes.

Bucarest, or Bucuresci, 'the city of joy,' as it is called by the Roumanians, is a large, irregular, straggling city of about 175,000 inhabitants, situated on a dirty little stream called the Dambovitza (as already stated, a tributary of the Ardges), concerning which some very famous verses have been written, proclaiming its waters to be so sweet that any one who drinks of them never desires to leave Bucarest. What its retentive properties may have been in former times we are not able to say, but we can quite imagine any person who ventures to drink of the water being incapable of leaving the city for ever afterwards. However, the prosaic authorities are not greatly impressed by their national poetry in this instance. The river is being 'canalised,' or confined within stone embankments, and there is a plentiful supply of apa dulce from another source, which exercises no controlling influence whatever upon the movements of the drinker. The greatest length of the city as the crow flies is about 3-1/10 miles, and its greatest breadth somewhat less, but many of the outlying parts resemble country roads rather than streets. Viewed from a distance, or from the hill upon which the metropolitan church stands, it has a most picturesque appearance, consisting of a vast number of churches, chiefly Byzantine, only a few of which are visible in our photograph, and many good-sized buildings. But what gives a peculiar charm to the city is that all these buildings appear to be placed in one vast garden, for there is hardly a single one without some trees in its immediate vicinity, and many of the larger houses really stand in gardens of considerable extent. This, too, is the cause of the city covering so large a space in proportion to the number of its inhabitants. It is built with perplexing irregularity, as will be seen even from our superficial plan, where only the main streets are given; but the intermediate spaces are filled with narrow, crooked, and ill-paved streets and lanes, their most disagreeable feature being that, in consequence of the soft yielding nature of the subsoil, the pavement gives way, and soon becomes inconveniently undulating. There are, however, several broad well-paved streets,[28] the chief being the Podu Mogosoi, as it is still called, although after the fall of Plevna it received the more dignified appellation of the Strada Victoriei; it runs through the centre of the city from an incipient boulevard—which promises one of these days to metamorphose the whole place—to a park or garden of considerable extent, where it is further continued through an alley of trees known as the Chaussee. This is the favourite drive of the Bucaresters, and at stated hours a rapid succession of vehicles pours out from various parts of the city to see and to be seen. These birjas, as the little open carriages (resembling a small caleche) are called, contain the moat motley assemblage of sight-seers—ambassadors, state officials, and well-to-do citizens of both sexes in European dress; ladies of more humble rank in the national costume;[29] gipsies and poor workmen and women, who, one might imagine, would be better on foot, half-clad, and very considerably unwashed. In or about the Strada Victoriei are many of the principal buildings—the national theatre, the King's palace (a very modest structure at present undergoing improvements), the Ministry of Finance, and some fine hotels. The shops, which are mostly kept by Germans and French-men, are of a fair kind, though not equal to those of Vienna, Paris, or indeed of many smaller continental capitals.[30] The houses here, and everywhere in Bucarest, are built of brick, plastered white, and often very tastefully decorated externally with figures or foliage in terra cotta; but it is the cracking and falling off of this external coating, which occurs more readily in a place subject to great changes of temperature than in more equable temperate climes, that imparts to Bucarest the dilapidated appearance so often referred to by writers. This blemish is, however, likely soon to disappear; for the rise of a wealthy middle and trading class, and the general increase of prosperity, will lead to the substitution of stone buildings for what can only be regarded as temporary structures.

Besides the 'Victoriei,' there are several other very good streets, one of which is the Lipscanii, which derives its name from the Leipzig traders who formerly lived there, and it is still only a shop street. There are some small squares with central gardens, but the finest thoroughfare promises to be the Boulevard, which it is intended to carry round the city by connecting it with the wider roads. On this boulevard stands the Academy, a large classical building with a fine facade of columns; and in a square opposite is the bronze equestrian statue of Michael the Brave, engraved in the second part of this treatise.

[Footnote 28: The middle pavement is composed of a very hard kind of brick called 'basalt,' which is very solid and durable.]

[Footnote 29: The national costume is worn by Indies of high position in the country, and on state occasions, but not as ordinary citizens' dress; see the Queen's portrait, Chap. XV.]

[Footnote 30: It may be mentioned for the reader's guidance that French or German will serve him almost anywhere in Roumania.]


The Academy is the centre of intellectual life in Bucarest. Temporarily the Senate meets there, but it also harbours many other institutions. First there is the National Library, with a collection of 30,000 volumes, most ably managed by M. Tocilesco, who is at the same time a well-known author, and professor of ancient history at the University. Through his acquaintance with the literature of most European nations, his own historical and ethnological attainments, and his readiness to put these as well as the treasures of the library at the disposal of strangers, this gentleman cannot fail to raise his country in the estimation of those who pay it a visit. He is also the curator of the fine Archaeological Museum in the same building, which is very valuable to historians. It contains a complete series of Roumanian coins presented to the Academy by M. Stourdza; many Dacian, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Syrian relics; along with a smaller collection from the bronze, stone, and iron ages. Some of the Daco-Roman monuments and sarcophagi, found near the Oltu, have a special historical interest, and many of the more valuable objects, such as arms and ornaments of gold, bear runic inscriptions. Coming down to a later period, there are Albanian arms and costumes, mediaeval vestments and ornaments of the clergy, a magnificent carved oak screen of the seventeenth century, probably one of the finest in existence, and numerous other objects of interest to the antiquary.[31]

The natural history collection is poor, although local types are well represented; the gallery of paintings is small and good, the subjects being chiefly historical, with the addition of portraits of Heliade and other national heroes. The classes of the University meet here, but, with one exception, the appliances for higher scientific education are very inferior. That exception is the physical laboratory, which would reflect credit upon any public institution. It is contained in three or four large rooms, and comprises every modern physical appliance carefully protected from injury. Most of the instruments, which are of the first order, are made by Secretau of Paris, and a small engine and a Siemens-Halske magneto-electric machine were in course of erection during our visit. The selection of instruments and the order which pervades the whole bear practical testimony to the accomplishments of Professor M. Emanuel Bacologlu, of whose teaching power and wide-spread knowledge we heard nothing but praise on every side. The chemical laboratory is nothing more than a popular lecture hall, poor and disorderly in its arrangements, and quite unworthy of a national institution. On the other hand there is a small but perfect chemical laboratory in the Coltza Hospital close by, where the lecturers, Dr. Davila and his able assistant Dr. Bernath, give excellent instruction to the young medical students of the city. This is, however, far too small for its object, and we hope that the 'era of peace,' referred to in the speech from the throne last year, will enable the State to give greater efficiency to the instruction and appliances of the city. In any case, there is one practicable means of attaining this end which wilt be pointed out when we come to speak of the general education of the people.

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