Settlements
Bălan
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Twelve kilometres of Sândominic(Hungarian: Csíkdomokos), heading upwards the Olt Valley we can find Bălan (Hungarian: Balánbánya), one of the youngest towns and industrial centres of Harghita County. The mining town lies in the narrow valley of Olt, to the west side down hills of the beautiful and picturesque Piatra Singuratică (“solitary rock”, Hungarian: Egyeskő) and the Öcsém Peak. The location is isolated, but not a dead end. Its main street continues along the Olt and connects to the 12C national road of Gheorgheni-Lacu Roşu (Gyilkos-tó) at the so called "4-es kilométerkő" (“4 Kilometre Stone”) campsite in Gheorgheni (Hungarian: Gyergyószentmiklós). In 1954 it obtained the urban-type settlement status, but until 1967 as far as the administration concerns it was part of Sândominic, and in 1967 became an independent town.

The copper deposits of Bălan were discovered by Opra János, a poor Csango shepherd in the 18th century. The local mining industry has its beginnings earlier in the 15th and 16th centuries. At the time of the national principalities, the mining consisted of extracting iron and not copper. We also know that Bethlen Gábor Prince allowed 150 furnaces to work in Bălan. By 1702, iron stores had been depleted, but the workers from Sândominichave continued the iron ore extraction for a while hoping to earn a little.

The exploitation suspended for more than a century was restarted at the beginning of the 1880s. The copper deposits gotinto the Government’s hands, and later on were bought for 5000 Hungarian forints by the Armenian family Zakariás, fact which led to the development of the mining industry in a short time. A joint stock company wanted to buy this mine, but the Zakariás brothers refused to sell. Then the competition opened a new quarry and seduced the workers of the Zakariás’ mine with bigger wages.  The two mines united that way had been functioning with professionalism and enormous profit. In 2006 the mine was closed, a place that had provided many jobs for the people of Upper Ciuc.

Around the end of the century the location of the mine became larger, the number of the population being more than 1000, with a majority composed of Szekler people and some had migrated from Bucovina. In 1910 the number of residents increased to 5391 of which only 39 were foreign speakers. According to the census carried out in 2002, the city had only 2700 inhabitants of Hungarian nationality from almost 8000.

Near the location we can find the spring of the Olt River, the Piatra Singuratică, Tarcău Mountain (Hun. Tarkő), Hăşmaşu-Mare (Hun. Nagy-Hagymás), quoting Orbán Balázs, the place is the “Szekler Switzerland”. Due to its natural conditions the city and its surroundings have become tourist attraction. Numerous tourist paths have their starting point in the town and lead to the rocks mentioned before.

One kilometre north from the town, in a beautiful setting, between the pine trees, lies a large reservoir of the mining town which was established on the Olt river. The artificial lake is a beloved hiking destination.

 
Sândominic
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The northernmost and biggest settlement of the Upper Ciuc Basin is Sândominic formed at the meeting of three valleys. The Olt flowing from the Hăşmaşu-Mare under the hills Nyáras and Dorma joins two brooks coming from right, the Nagy-Lok rising in the Fekete-Réz and the Győrmátyás (Szádokút) that starts its journey under Gréces. The village lies in the point where they meet and at the cross point of the national road between Ciuc and Gheorgheni and the county road leading to Bălan.

 

It is the most populated settlement of Upper Ciuc with a number of inhabitants around 6400. It was of course named after Saint Dominic. The settlement lies in a beautiful setting, having a fine view of the Hăşmaşu-Mare and the Piatra Singuratică. The first known mentioning of the village in a charter is from 1567, where it appears as Zent Domokos with 34 gates. In 1638 it was mentioned with its Latin name Sanctus Dominicus.

 

By the beginning of the century the village was overpopulated and not able to make a living on its poor lands any more. In order to increase the cultivatable land they broke the hillsides as well, resulting, for example, the terrace-like surface of the Garados hill. In addition to the carrying trade and lime burning, wood processing and mining meant sources of income for the families and it is still the main source. Besides the logging and wood processing, the stone mining was carried out in industrial dimensions for more than 60 years; that is the mosaic production of which raw material is the white and slightly yellow crystalline limestone found in the Garados hill near the village. Furthermore, the neighbouring Bălan and the county seat ensure living possibilities for the community.

 

After the regime change, the economic life, the agriculture and the spiritual culture of the village flourished. The multipurpose community centre stands as an example. About the region of Upper Ciuc as a whole we can state that it is a region that cultivates its traditions, but maybe Sândominic keeps its folk traditions, dances and music more representatively. There is a small museum functioning in the village, which presents the visitors the olden construction customs, interiors and textiles. A very good example of the keeping traditions is the hemp festival organised regularly.

 

The Roman Catholic church of the village was built in 1798. Previously, the people of Sândominic attended the mass at the church of Tomeşti, and there were times when they also had a common priest. The main entrance of the existing church, and the hand carved stone door frame of the vestry was made in the 11th century. The carved stone baptismal font of Romanesque style and the stoup have their origin in the 13th century. The statue “Holy Mary with the Child Jesus” was carved in the carving school of Şumuleu in the 15th century and it shows similarities with the other Madonna statues of Ciuc. Also a painted cassette and the painting of the winged altar remained from the old church. Other eight statues depicting saints can also be seen in the present-day church.

 

In Sândominic was born an eminent personality of Transylvania, Márton Áron the Bishop of Alba Iulia (Gyulafehérvár). On the inside wall of the church, left to the side entrance an impressive wrought iron relief shows the features of the bishop who was baptised in this church.

 

Near the village, in a place called Pásztorbükk, the Szeklers killed Cardinal Báthori András, the lord of Transylvania, on 31 October 1599. For the murder Pope Clement VII pronounced an anathema upon the commune. On the place of the murder a cross was erected in 1816, which today stands at the inside wall of the church, while a chapel was built in Pásztorbükk. The repentant commune bethinks itself of this event with a mass every year.

 
Tomeşti
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Tomeşti is located approximately 24 km northwards of Miercurea Ciuc. It is an ancient settlement; its name is already mentioned officially in the 14th century. To the south it is limited by Ineu (Jenőfalva) and to the north by Sândominic(Csíkszentdomokos). The name of the village was modified several times in different documents. In 1333 it was Sacerdos de Sansto Thoma, in 1441 Zenth Thomas, in 1527 Zentthamas, in 1699 Szenttamás and in 1854 Csík Szent-Tamás.

The structure of the population was similar to that of the neighbouring villages: it was composed of primipili, free Szeklers, serfs and cotters. The only difference is that in Tomeşti lived more families risen to the noble rank, like the Gurzó, Sajgó, Balaskó, Abafi families and the Lázár family that settled later in Lăzarea (Gyergyószárhegy) also had their origin in Tomeşti.

The natural population growth rate has always been high. In 1938 Bözödi György wrote that from the economic point of view Tomeşti is different from its neighbours, its land has a better quality and the well-being of the residents is also higher. He also wrote down that this well-being was accomplished mostly by selling property.

Starting from 1333 the settlement is mentioned in the papal tithe records as the ecclesia parochialis of the villages of Upper Ciuc. The village church was built in the Middle Age in accordance with Saint István’s laws, so it was the common church of the region. About 500 m of the village, north-westwards, at the end of the Garados hill line, on a little hill lie the ruins of the tower, which was part of the Gothic-style church of Tomeşti. The church was surrounded with fortified walls; its inner part has served as a cemetery till nowadays. Near the tower is situated the “bottomless lake”, which is fed by a hot spring. The Csonka tower and the Bottomless Lake build ground for the local mythology of the settlement. Concerning the formation of the above mentioned lake there are legends circling around among the locals.

The Baroque-style Roman Catholic church of the commune was built in 1778 and it is still functionning. Its age was estimated to 400 years of which majestically beautiful Madonna statue was rescued and taken into the new church. It is interesting that it has its origin in the 15th century and was carved in the same workshop as the statue of Şumuleu. On the façade of the church two statues are resting; one of them is Saint István and the other one depicts Saint László; its middle bell, the so called “Hunyadi harang” was brought over from the Csonka tower and it is still used. Sometimes the "Mátyás harang" name can also be heard.

The traditional living of the residents, ensured by animal breeding and agriculture, was also completed by a very peculiar form of mining. From the place called Illonc, situated in the eastern part of Tomeşti, good quality “frog-salt” (quartzite, chert) was extracted, and sold as an ingredient for glass making to the glass foundries of Bicsadu Oltului (Bükkszád) and Zălan (Zalán).

For a long time together with Ineu and Cârţa they constituted a single commune, but from 1 November 2003 it stands as an independent commune. It is a compact settlement, having several streets and the population reaches 2400. All the residents of the village are of Hungarian nationality, considering the communion, it is Roman Catholic. The population deals with agriculture, farming and animal husbandry. The children can attend the courses of the local elementary school and continue their studies in Dăneşti (Dánfalva) or Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda)

 
The commune of Cârţa (Cârţa and Ineu)
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The two settlements Cârţa and Ineu have always formed a commune, both administratively, and ecclesiastically. This is the only commune of the micro-region of Upper Ciuc, which is situated as two pieces of the string settlements characteristic to this region. About the origins of Cârţa there are no written records, but concluding from the Szeklers, the development of the settlement and quarters in the Ciuc Basin into a village system, it can be estimated to be around the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century. The original name of the village is highly debated, but as Nagyboldogasszony parish it already appears in the documents of the 1400’s, as proof there is the church built in the 14-15th century, which is still used in common with Ineu. Cârţa was then and still is the centre of the Nagyboldogasszony parish. The commune is crossed by the Olt and the Székaszó river, which meet at the southern part under the church hill, at the northern border of Cârţa. The natural facilities of the villages are very diverse, since its borders reach to the north, east and west very far.

The great events of the history had shown their influence in the commune of Cârţa in the same way as in other settlements of the region. The commune was once the seat of the district, fact which stamped its traits upon the construction style of the commune centre.  Its beauty is given by the buildings erected at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

On the basis of the census data of 2002 the total population is around 5500, and the overwhelming majority is Catholic. The pride of the commune is the fortified church built in 1444, which is one of the most beautiful constructions of Upper Ciuc both from the point of the aspect and the cultural value. The church occupies a central position inside the circle created by the administrative boundaries. This can be proven in the present case as well if we take the total of the territory of both villages as administrative land. Orbán Balázs wrote about this church: “At the upper end of Karczfalva, from the mountain called Madicsa rises a conglomerate hill rock, in the east surrounded by the Olt, in the south by the brook of Székaszó, on its top blade is crowned by the beautifully located church of Nagybolgodasszonyfalva, which with its olden fortified walls, shining high tower representing the highlight of this region, otherwise, it is a monument to be worth considering in regard to the architecture.”

The pharmacy, the credit union, the local branch of the savings bank (CEC) have been functioning for years and relieve significantly the settling of financial operations of individuals, economic and commercial units. Stepping into the 21st century, the development got more spectacular, since due to the possibilities offered by the projects and the board of the commune, greater progresses were accomplished (drinking water distribution network, sewerage network, consolidation of river banks etc.). On the occasion of the feast days of Nagyboldogasszony (the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) celebrated in August of 2000, according to the name of the ceremony, the school received a new name after Mártonffy György bishop, a native of the village. In the present, in both settlement functions a school and kindergarten dealing with 378 pupils.

The most important cultural programme of the commune of Cârţa is the feast days of Nagyboldogasszony (the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) which is organised every year on 15 August since 2000.

In Cârţa was built the first rural ice rink of Romania, which related to entertainment, ice-hockeying and sporting possibilities makes room for new possibilities for the entire Upper Ciuc.

 
Dăneşti (Hun. Csíkdánfalva)
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Continuing our journey along the Olt we arrive to Dăneşti. The settlement is limited by the Olt on the East, which unites with the waters of Lesőd. At the left edge of Dăneşti the Olt assimilates the Madicsa creek from the right. The settlement is crossed by the railway line and also by the highway; hence it has a very good connection both in the direction of Braşov (Brassó) and of Târgu Mureş (Marosvásárhely).

Time passed and Dăneşti grew together with the neighbours: Olt-falva with its southern part called the Town (Város) and Ábrándfalva destroyed by the Tartars. Its present position as well follows the structure of the string settlements which are characteristic to Upper Ciuc. The railway embankment is the only thing that builds a border on the side to Cârţa (Csíkkarcfalva).

The town is a settlement populated since ancient times. In its border parts called „Örvendő” and „Balázs kútja”, there were found remnants of the Bronze Age, archaeological remains belonging to the La Tène era (late Iron Age) turned up in the place of the cemetery. At the beginning of the 8th century, the historiographer Timos Sámuel called it Dani Villa, meaning Dan’s village from Latin phrasing. The first mentioning of the village in a charter occurred relatively late, it originates in 1567, where it appears under the name of Danffalwa, with 43 tax-paying gates. At the conscription of troops from 1614, the number of families increased already to 106, with the majority being primipili and free Szeklers serving on the border regiment at Frumoasa (Hun. Csíkszépvíz). In 1685 it appears as Dankfalva.

In the 19th century the population of the village had a sudden and significant increase. From the measurements carried out by Venczel József it can be concluded that the population growth between 1800 and 1935 was of 4101 people, but half of the population emigrated in the hope of a better living.  

For centuries the main occupation of the population was the agriculture and animal husbandry, but since the quality of the soil is poor, like in the other villages of the Upper Ciuc, the people of Dăneşti in order to ensure the daily living had to find other activities as well, like mining carried out together with the people of Mădăraş (Csíkmadaras), but they also had their own iron hammer mills.

In the eastern region of its territory there was discovered good quality clay fact which contributed to the slow formation of the still existing and famous pottery of Dăneşti. The basic condition of its development was the clay found which proved to be a cheap and unfailing resource of raw material. The name of the village reminds the people that live here about two things: the bath called Dugás and the black ceramics. Both of them have a representational character. The black ceramics is made of the same material as the usual tile-coloured ceramics, but during the baking the oven is closed, so the smoke cannot escape and the pots absorb the smoke in 1 cm thick layer inside and outside. Today various pots are made for decoration purposes, using two colours: red and black; both types are unglazed rustic ceramics.

The thermal water of Dugás bath, rich in minerals at a temperature of 29 C°, attracts the people living nearby. Here functions the only swimming pool of Upper Ciuc that is a popular place of amusement for the young. Till the autumn of 1919 Dăneşti belonged to the Csíknagyboldogasszony (the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) parish. Before their church was built they held the masses in the assembly room of the present parish hall. In 1922 they received a statue of the Virgin Mary and this is when they started the construction of the church. The catholic church of the village was built in neo-Gothic style between 1922 and 1935, so it is the most recent church of this region. The Patronal Feast of the church is celebrated on the 8 December, on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

One of the sights of the village is the landmark dedicated to the memory of Queen Elisabeth of Hungary, a memorial column unique in the entire region of Ciuc.

Its cultural and scholastic traditions date back almost 400 years ago. Its elementary school was expanded in a prestigious agricultural high school. In Dăneşti is the only high school of Upper Ciuc which offers to many young people learning possibilities.

The folk traditions occupy a special place in the hearts of the locals. This is proven by the folk dance taught to the young ones and also by the various traditional programmes that are organised.

 
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