ECO-SITICRAI CYCLING TOUR (ESCT) - cycling trail


     ECO-SITICRAI CYCLING TOUR (ETCT) is a charted route for bikers, which includes the natural, cultural and architectural values of Sânsimion, Sântimbru and Sâncrăieni communes. The route passes through the 4 villages of the two communes (Cetățuia, Sânsimion, Sântimbru and Sâncrăieni), including attractions in the inner areas and the outer areas connecting them. The route can be made alone, in groups and with families, as destinations are designated so that there is enough time for rest, meals and permanent fresh water is available for the tourists.
     The route starts Cetățuia village and ends in Sâncrăieni village, where the DJ 123 county road meets the DN12 highway. Route tracks and attractions can be downloaded and uploaded to your device that will help you to find them precisely. For now the route is not marked in the field.

The route starts in Cetățuia village, near a mineral water spring:

Cetățuia village mineral water spring

     In the center of Cetățuia village, in the part called Nyomás, there is a well-stocked mineral water spring. This is a hydrogeological drilling that leads to the creation of the artesian well in 1959. It is also known by its users as Nyomás spring (nyomás in Hungarian means pressure), mostly consumed as table water, but it is also used as treatment for rheumatic complaints with high arsenic content. It belongs to a group of high-iron calcium-magnesium-hydrogen-carbonate mineral waters. In the 1970’s a bath worked for a decade, today the building is empty.

The Asău stream: beaver watching
 
     According to the hunting records, the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) disappeared from the wild in Romania in 1824, and then the National Institute for Research and Development in Forestry (INCDS) Brașov reintroduced 150 beavers between 1998 and 2003 in the Olt, Mureș, and Ialomița rivers. In a short period of time, they recaptured the water network of the Ciuc Basin and the floodplain of the Asău stream near Cetățuia, where they created a wonderful habitat. You can observe the beavers early in the morning from the stream along the stream floodplain.

About beavers in general

     Eurasian beaver is our biggest rodent, which can reach 30 kg and is consuming only plant origin food. This is illustrated by its main characteristic, its large incisors, suitable for felling the trees. Its adaptability to the water is defined by its flat, scaly tail. This greatly contributes to the rapid swimming, complemented by the flaps on the rear legs and the waterproof fur.
     It is moving on the land with difficulty, leaving the water only for a short time and at a short distance (10-20 m), because of its natural enemies: lynx (Lynx lynx), brown bear (Ursus arctos) and wolf (Canis lupus). It’s a nocturnal animal, its presence is noticed mainly by the left traces, but it leaves its cavity late in the evening.
     The beavers are called ecological engineers, because they are transforming their living habitat by conscious work. This mostly manifest by the construction of the dams, although this activity is less characteristic of Eurasian beavers, most of them live in cavities carved into the bank. A castle and a dam are built when they develop a feeding habitat along smaller streams. In this case, the bank is usually low, so it builds a tall, hilly castle to be above the water level. Because in shallow water it does not feel safe, it also builds smaller dams along the stream, creating a suitable water depth. The entrance to the burrow or castle is under the water, where it also builds a food store. The beaver consumes mainly herbaceous plants during the summer months, and during the winter he is eating bark, thin branches, and buds. Its preferred woody foods can be classified as willow, cottonwood, elm, flowering dogwood, alder, ash, plum and oak, but where it is present, it also chews the pine. Its activity makes its home more diverse and mosaic-like.

The Roman Catholic Church of Cetățuia

     The Roman Catholic Church was dedicated to the Apostles of Saint Simon and Judas in 1786, of which construction began in the 13th century. From this period survived the baptismal font, carved from natural stone, featuring Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance styles. In the 15th century, it was rebuilt in Gothic style. In this age was built the main entrance door frame. You can see the pictures of a richly decorated winged altar, the baptismal font, carved from the leaf-shaped twisted-stone, the sacred chamber. The cemetery next to the church has a baroque gate, and there are many stone crosses in the churchyard, which are there because of the burial of the important persons of Cetățuia and Sânsimion villages. The tower was built between 1660 and 1670 and was renovated in 1846. The monumental church was rebuilt in Baroque style between 1771 and 1778, when the Gothic windows and vault were removed.
     You can enter in the courtyard of the church, in the churchyard and in the cemetery at any time, but you have to call the following phone number to visit the interior of the church: 0724858996.
     The sun, the moon, and the stars are visible on the cross that can be seen next to the entrance of the church, set by the Darvas family to commemorate the plague epidemic and to honor the dead. Inscription: 1707 COBODPA NECZINI.


The Endes mansion

     This mansion was built in Baroque style in the 19th century. The builder was Miklós Endes primipilus, vice-notary and royal magistrate in the Lower Ciuc Basin. The house of the Endes family, which is now owned by the composesorate, can only be visited from outside. The whitewashed wall in the court returned to its original function, which was a fence and not a building wall. There is a 400-year-old linden tree in the yard, which needs to be taken care of with the other old trees.
     Major József Endes was born here, a warriors companion of General Bem during the 1848-49 Hungarian War of Independence. The memorial plaque on the facade of the mansion preserves his memory with the following text: Major JÓZSEF ENDES was born, lived and died in this building - 1811-1906 - the hero of the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-49.
     The mansion's upgraded building, which is now a monumental building, currently has a kindergarten, and the elementary school bears the name of József Endes.

The Roman Catholic Church in Sânsimion village

     The chapel dedicated for the honor of Saint Ladislaus was built in 1713 in Sânsimion village, where the bishop András Ilyés served. The Roman Catholic Church was built between 1823 and 1835 and is dedicated to Saint Ladislaus. The area was donated to the church by Judge Miklós Endes. In 1959 he became an independent parish and was completely separated from Cetățuia village. The farewell of the village is held on the 25th of June.
     The church can only be visited when the priest is at home.

Stone crosses: were carved by local masters in the village, set to remember the plague epidemic, to strengthen their beliefs, or to commemorate an important person from local history.

Borét mineral water spring

     The spring waters have a high iron content which mix with low concentrations of mineral water. As a result, the Boréti mineral water, according to locals, will not stain the bottle, it will not have a yellowish, rusty color. It is classified in the group of calcium-magnesium-hydrogen-carbonate mineral waters. It belongs to the Olt fracture line system.

The backwater of Sânsimion: The old Olt River - thematic trail

     In the autumn of 2014 near Sânsimion, the restoration of the old Olt River riverbed began. The first step was to dig out the flooded river-bed and remove the dredged ground. This was followed by ensuring the water flow. Artificial nest boxes were made and placed by the local school's Junior Ranger team for the birds in the area. Willows and alder trees have been planted on the banks, benches and information boards are waiting for the visitors. In the backwater weatherfish (Misgurnus fossilis) have been introduced, which was once a typical fish species in the Olt floodplain and is now endangered due to the drain works.
     Spring offers the most sights for visitors: beavers are busy in the canals, migratory birds are coming back, and in the periodic ponds, colorful ancient crustaceans can be observed.
The thematic trail, which is approx. 1 km long, consists of a backdrop of information boards, offering a lot of useful information about the current and past state of the Olt River, about the drainage periods and their consequences, and the remaining natural values after the draining.

Weatherfish (Misgnurnus fossilis) in Ciuc Basin

     If we are searching for the origin of the name of the Ciuc Basin, we have to go back to the priceless descriptive works written in the second half of the 19th century, which are linked to the names of Mózes Vitos (Ciuc county booklets, 1894-1902) and Balázs Orbán (Description of the Sekler Land). Mózes Vitos quotes the oldest notes in the manuscript of the Franciscan monastery of Leonhard Losteiner on the Transylvanian monasteries: “Some think that the Ciuc name is taken from the expanse of fishes known as Ciuc (Csík in Hungarian), found in this place by the Scythulus or Siculus, Sekler by the army of Aladár, son of Attila in 475 and called Ciuc.
     Balázs Orbán, at the description of Ciuc Seat refers to the origin of Ciuc's name, where he quotes the lines from Siculia of Lakatos: "when our conquering ancestors came through Mitaci steppe, they were very hungry and in the Olt swamp, they found a lot of weatherfish (csík in Hungarian, and csík means Ciuc in Romanian)), so the unhabited area, which was now discovered, was named after the delicious food, Ciuc (Csík)”.
     Some people think the name of Ciuc is coming from the name of a Sekler leader, according to others from the shape of the area surrounded by mountains. However, in the marshy, wet habitats, weatherfish were common until the early 20th century and served as an important food source for people. This is emphasized by the description Toplița Ciuc by Balázs Orbán, according to which “most of the fishes can be found here in the marshes of the Olt River, which are playing an important role in the Catholic world during the lent; the weatherfish soup is a favorite food, which with the host honors the guests of the home. This fish is kept in the glass for a long time and is fattened with porridge, its meat is very tasty.
     Unfortunately, the 1870s-80s were a period of great regulation and draining, which probably reduced its population. Fortunately, it can survive in man-made drainage channels and regulated stream sections as well. However, a fraction of its original habitat remained in the basin (backwaters, floodplain ponds, lakes), but there are also invasive species (pumpkinseed, stone moroko, Prussian carp). Currently, it occurs in muddier inflow sections, we know its presence in smaller flood puddles.

Csíki Sör Manufactory

     In the former starch- and spirits factory of Sânsimion, a new company was born and the Csíki Sör Manufactory was built. The old traditions come to life again in 2014, when the Sapientia – Hungarian University of Transylvania and a local brewing master start to brew the Igazi Csíki Sör based on old recipes. Keeping the Bavarian purity recipe, the beer without modern chemical ingredients is a worthy follower of tradition. During the hard work, several types of Bock beers were born and different types of alcoholic beverages (Csempész products).
     The Manufactory also has a Visitor Center, where the beer tasting and guided tours are a gift from the house, but visitors can also enjoy traditional Sekler dishes and visit the gift shop. You can book a visit by filling out the form at https://csikisor.hu/latogatokozpont/. The booking is valid only if you receive a confirmation by email or phone. For more information, please call the following phone number: +40755030895.


Sântimbru

Stone cross

     We can find this stone cross next to the entrance of the cemetery, reminiscent of a large plague epidemic that began in the early 1700s. 49% of the population died during the epidemic, most of them in July 1719. During the epidemic, the funeral ceremony was forbidden, so everybody put the corpses in front of the gate, and then Tamás Tímár carried them to the cemetery with an ox cart. He and his family were not affected by the illness, so he set this cross in gratitude in 1721.

Henter mansion

     The Henter family builds the baroque mansion in 1713, one of the most remarkable architectural monuments of the area. Rectangular stone columns carved with acanthus leaves, three-petals, open chaplets with renaissance decorations. The rectangular arrangement refers to the effect of folk architecture. Above the porch on the triangle shaped fronton can be seen the crest of Henter family - a crane injured in its neck, holding a gravel in its claws. After the II. World War it was taken by the state and the yard was parceled. The condition of the building is constantly deteriorating. After 1990, the mansion was returned to the Catholic parish of Sântimbru. From 1992, it is also counted in the official list of monuments of Harghita County. The gate was renovated in 2017, which we can now admire in its original splendor.

The Roman Catholic Church in Sântimbru village

     The church dedicated to Saint Imre is one of the oldest churches named after the Saints in Sântimbru village, which means that in the 13th-14th century, the village already had a Romanesque styled church. In the 15th century, a gothic church stood at the place of today's church. The monumental church was rebuilt and expanded in 1776 at the expense of the church and of Ádám Henter (he was a prominent personality of the parish). During the renovation, the ship of the church was remodeled, only the tower and the sanctuary remained from the former Gothic church. The most valuable relic of the Sântimbru church is the large wing altar made at the end of the 15th century, located in the sanctuary of the church. The two large wings show the ceremonies of Christmas and the Easter. Another larger part of the wing altar consists of two board images capturing the scenes of the crowning and the scenes of Golgotha, made at the end of the 14th century. The paintings of Sântimbru are the earliest memories of paintings on the board. In the church, there is a larger oil painting. The picture, painted by Anthony Stephanus in 1767, shows the crucified Christ and the little crying angels above him. The farewell ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church in Sântimbru is held on the 5th November on the day of Saint Imre, the patron saint of the church and ward.

Saint Margaret Chapel

     The Roman Catholic chapel was built on the terrace of the Vermet stream, 1.5 km from the end of the part of the village called Alszeg, in honor of Saint Margaret. Based on the frescoes discovered in 1957, its age is estimated to the 14th century. There are two fragile scenes on the wall pictures: The Suffering Christ (next to him the Virgin Mary and Saint John) and the Annunciation. In addition, on the right side of the entrance, the crowned head of Christ can be seen. Its medieval origin is evidenced by the two narrows, slit-like, triangular closure windows on the south front and the gothic door frame of the western entrance. The locals believe that Saint Margaret Chapel was built by Margit Tankó, who was the owner of this place. The ruined chapel was renovated in 1970, the missing door and windows were replaced, and the brick floor was rebuilt. Saint Margaret Chapel is the property of the Roman Catholic Church.

Nyír kútja resting place
   
     The Nyír kútja (well) resting place for tourists, is situated halfway between Sântimbru, the Geological reserve in Sâncrăieni and the Stinky Marsh. Leaving behind the village, we are heading towards the Nyír kútja resting place, which is also a panoramic point. In our way, we have on both side’s meadows and pastures. Farmers mow only once a year, in comparison with the Olt River floodplain where they mow twice a year. The Nyír kútja resting place is under a large birch tree. At the well mostly the animals are drinking, but we can also drink a smaller glass from this crystal-clear water.
     There are 3 tables and 3 informational boards with benches, where you can relax and admire the Ciuc Mountains, while in the distance the Hășmaș Mountains can be seen when the weather is clear. By the south, following the flow of the Olt River, we can see the volcanic cone of Ciomad, which also gives a home to the Mohoș peat bog and the Saint Anna Lake, but at the same time forms the southern boundary of the Ciuc Basin. Before we continue our journey, we can read about the landmarks of Sântimbru (geographical location, history, monuments), the Lower Ciuc Basin Natura 2000 site, the Geological reserve in Sâncrăieni (2.459) and the Stinky Marsh (2.475) in Sântimbru.



Sâncrăieni

The chapel

     It is located in a cemetery in the south part of Sâncrăieni. We know little about the time of the construction of the chapel, our only source is the year 15X7 (1517), embedded in the stone door frame of the chapel. The peculiarity of the year is the number 10, engraved with the runic script. Regardless of whether this stone comes from the former chapel or not, it is a valuable proof for us that at the beginning of the 16th century, the runic scripts were still known and used in Sâncrăieni! Considering the year 1517, we can say that Sâncrăieni boasts 500 years of precious cult architecture.

Mineral water spring next to the tile factory

     The mineral waters in the commune is slightly thermal. The mineral water spring next to the tile factory belongs to the group of calcium-magnesium-sodium-hydrogen-carbonate mineral waters. They are consumed as table water. It is recommended for people with digestive disorders or those with blood pressure and anemia. It is located along the county road, so it's easy to reach, and it is consumed by many.

The Roman Catholic Church of Sâncrăieni
 
     It is one of the oldest churches in the Lower Ciuc Basin, which is on the official list of Romanian monuments. Today's church was built in the second half of the 15th century and the southern gate in the 16th century. The small bell of the church was made in 1562. The tower was previously thought to have been built in the Middle Ages, but dendrochronological researches have shown, that the wooden structure within the tower is from after 1688. The church was elevated between 1759 and 1773, the tower and shrine were widened. Then they removed the medieval altar on which the statue of Madonna of Sâncrăieni was standing. The church was dedicated to King Saint Stephen. The monumental church is surrounded by a strong stone wall. In the courtyard of the church, there is a double stone cross. Outside the wall, on the north side, there are stone memorials that mark the place of the old cemetery. On the eastern side of the stone fence of the church, there is a monument of the great plague epidemic created by Katalin Henter in 1719. In the fence of the church, we can find the tombs and crosses of the outstanding personalities of Sâncrăieni. On the square in front of the church, there is a memorial made in 1775 and the monument of the heroic dead of the first and second world wars, which was erected in 1971. In the same place, you can see the statue of King Saint Stephen made in 2001 and set in 2002 in honor of the Andrássy family. The farewell ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church in Sâncrăieni is celebrated on the 20th of August at Saint Stephen's Day.

Borșaroș fen

     One of the main attractions of the Lower Ciuc Basin are the water springs, containing sodium, magnesium, calcium and hydrocarbon. In addition to providing high-quality drinking water, these have created typical habitats where many rare plant and animal species can still be found. Their specialty is that the limonite precipitated from mineral water sometimes creates source cones, or spreads around the source, as a reddish coating, which the locals call borșaroș, hence the name Borșaroș is providing, which currently consists of two separate parts, the Grădina Apei (Water Garden) and the Surpătură (Omlásalj). Various types of springs, rich in minerals have been found around meadows and marshes. The extent of the marshes at the end of the Würm Ice Age was once several times higher. According to old military maps, the extension of the Borșaroș at the end of the 19th century was 15 hectares, in the fifties of the 20th century it was just over 9 hectares and today it shrunk to 2.5 hectares. In 1929, Gyula Erasmus Nyárádi, who reports on large, open water surfaces in the bog, was already aware of the rarities of the plants. It was declared a botanical reserve in 1939 and part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas from 2007 (ROSCI0007 Lower Ciuc Basin Natura 2000 site). Its official protection did not stop the change of vegetation in the area, which was mainly due to draining, water regulation and pollution: its edges were covered by disturbance-tolerant plants, and and the place of the open plant community of the fen, adapted to mineral water, was taken by tall forbs and willow scrubs..

Typical flora: plume thistle (Cirsium rivulare), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), lesser panicled sedge (Carex diandra), early marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), marsh helleborine (Epipactis palustris), sword lily (Gladiolus palustris), rosemary-leaved willow (Salix rosmarinifolia), tufted loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora), siberian ligularia (Ligularia sibirica), marsh angelica (Angelica palustris), dwarf birch (Betula humilis).
     This trail (approx. 200-250 m long) begins with the Pista András source (mineral water, which belongs to the group of calcium-magnesium-sodium-hydrogen-carbon mineral waters) and runs along with the most valuable species and habitats of the reserve, and then returns to its starting point. The trail is built on a suspended footbridge, as is the case with Mohoș peat bog. There are four information boards along the trail, featuring images and descriptions of the protected plants and habitat.

Borșaroș traditional bath

     The Borșaroș traditional bath is located in Sâncrăieni, next to the Borșaroș Botanical Reserve on the banks of the Olt River. There are four cottages in the spa area, a mineral water-pool (14.5 ˚C), a traditionally built, covered open space. In the main building, we can find a jacuzzi, a spa pool and a sauna. The archaeological excavations prove that the Sâncrăieni mineral waters have long served the people. Mineral springs have a healing effect, containing sodium, magnesium, calcium and carbohydrates. Their specialty is that the limonite precipitated from mineral water sometimes creates spring cones or spreads around the spring as a reddish coating called, borșaroș, by the locals. From there got its name the Borșaroș fen as well.

Turul bird

     The Turul bird of Sâncrăieni is the creation of sculptor Zoltán Sárpátky, for which the local community has longed. The statue was inaugurated in 2011. The Turul bird is a memory of the ancient religion of the Hungarians, which is no longer a pagan symbol, as centuries have sanctified its noble memory. Every spring and autumn, they fly over the Seklerland, under the official name of saker falcon (Falco cherrug). The Turul bird is a mythical bird of the Hungarian origin. It is believed to have led the Hungarians to Attila's land.


You can read more about Sânsimion, Sântimbru and Sâncrăieni if you click.

Route details:

Eco-SiTiCrai Cycling Tour (ESCT) – Sânsimion, Sântimbru and Sâncrăieni – cycling trail
Length of the route: 30.5 km
Duration: 6 hours (3.5 hours of bicycling, 2.5 hour stop at the destinations) and meals.
The highest point of the route: 754 m.
The lowest point of the route: 644 m.



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