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Road Trip in Romania: Part 5 – Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Prislop Monastery, Sarmizegetusa Regia

After the sad experience we had in Băile Herculane, we continued with the last segment of our August trip, towards Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa.

Each time we find ourselves in a new place, we try to see as many things as we can and to explore interesting areas. This time was no exception, so we looked on the map to see what can we visit without drifting too much away from our initial route, to the two Sarmizegetusa sites. We chose to add on our list the Prislop monastery, a holy place where tens of thousands of pilgrims go each year and which has many legends tied to it.

After deciding what to do, we drove the 130 km separating Băile Herculane from our first destination, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, hoping to find something there that would alleviate the pain from the last days.

Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa

Around 11 AM when we got there, it was not very crowded, we even found free parking spots, even though the parking lot was small. From the outside, the area does not stand out, it has a parking, a small restaurant with terrace, a fence and a gate with ticket office and souvenir shop. We don’t remember the ticket prices, but they were cheap anyway, and the students, elders and people with disabilities have discounts.

The roman city Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa was built around 108-110 AD, but its name “Sarmizegetusa” was given later, during the reign of emperor Hadrianus.

Being the capital and the political, economical, military, religious and administrative center of the province of Dacia, the city went through a period of development, the traces of its importance can be found even today on the more than 1 km2 of uncovered ruins.

Unfortunately, only a part of the old city was explored by archaeologists, so we only know a few things about the life of those who lived here almost two millennia ago.

From the ruins that were discovered until now, you can see fragments of buildings and statues, the forum, the palace, the therms, the amphitheatre and other public and private edifices.

If you don’t succeed in creating a mental “movie” about how life was in this fortress, the place is not very spectacular – there are just some ruins like any other. The site is well kept, the air is clean, and the history-spiced walk is pleasant.

If you are in the neighbourhood, you should stop here. We went on, towards Prislop, for another 30 km. We would have visited the bison reserve in Hațeg, but the time was too short, so we decided to leave it for some other time.

Prislop Monastery

We like monasteries – big and small, they are usually beautiful buildings, with harmonious architecture, located in green areas with awesome scenery, dominated by silence and tranquility. Those who live and work in these places are resourceful people, who care a lot about tidiness, plant flowers and maintain the place very well, tending to it with dedication.

The Prislop Monastery is one of the best known and one of the most visited in Romania. A huge number of believers come here each year to see the grave of the priest Arsenie Boca, which is said to perform miracles.

When we were there, it was not very crowded, we only had to wait about half an hour to see the tomb, whereas during christian holidays standing in the queue can take several hours.

People wait to get to the simple wooden cross, to pray and silently ask for something. Some of them touch the cross with various objects, believing that this will bring them health, luck, prosperity – each of them with his or her wishes.

From the grave we went up into the woods and then down, on a steep slope and got to Peșterea Sfântului Ioan (The Cave of Saint John), who was a monk that is said to have chosen this place of solitude, digging by himself this hole in the rock.

In the garden of the monastery there is a cold spring, said to perform miracles as well. We drank from it too – it was good and refreshing.

Here at the monastery we asked ourselves once again what are some people thinking. Why were the nuns forced to put signs everywhere, telling pilgrims not to put money in the water or throw them in the woods, because it’s a pagan custom, and not to put notes in the walls of the building? And why, even though these signs exist, people were doing exactly that? Why do people believe that God reads notes written on paper and stuck in the walls? Faith does not imply respect and decency? The level of culture some people have is just… sad.

We liked it here, at Prislop Monastery, it was as we expected.

Sarmizegetusa Regia

After we had lunch at a restaurant close to the monastery, we continued driving towards Sarmizegetusa Regia, on a spectacular 65 km route, with amazing views.

Having arrived at our destination, we left the car in the parking lot and went on further by foot for another kilometer until we reached the site.

Unlike Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, which is located in a village and you can see houses and gardens over the fence, here the surrounding area is totally different – mountain, forest, clean air, relaxation and beauty.

Sarmizegetusa Regia (or Sarmizegetusa of the Kings) is the largest fortress built before the roman conquest, used by the dacian king Decebal as a stronghold in front of Traian’s legions. It was the capital of Dacia until it was conquered by the Roman Empire and the capital was moved to Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa.

This place is engulfed in mystery, with strange artifacts and constructions that make you wish you could go back in time for a moment to see how people were living during those times. The interesting mix of sacred, artisan and administrative buildings and the fact that here used to live the leaders of the dacians increase your desire to peek for a few minutes in the past. There is something in the air that rouses your curiosity and some feelings you cannot define very well.

There is also a cold water spring inside, perfect for satisfying our thirst and resupplying for the road.

Sarmizegetusa Regia is a good example of using E.U. funds wisely. The place was well renovated, with respect for the environment and for history. The ticket prices are small, accessible for most people. We recommend to everyone this marvelous place, full of history.

After visiting this great citadel in the woods , the last stop on our list for this year’s road trip in the country, we got on the road again at dusk, slowly, towards home, feeling a sort of longing for Cluj…

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