Many things have happened in the past 2 months, Sadly I don’t always feel like blogging, But when I do, Amazing stuff will be brought to you. So today I will tell you stuff about Roșia Montană, A quiet little town in the Alba region. The place where I have been Volunteering for the Adoptă o Casă project the past few weeks. I know, I know, well alright then. before all this I took a little road trip to Sighisoara and Brasov where I tried to find a bear without luck. I Hitchhiked a Gypsy with a mustache who was actually pretty damn cool, Traded 20Lei and my Road Atlas to get a 1000km Ride from Romanian border to Nurnberg and even convinced this awesome Dutch dude with a Porsche to take me from Nurnberg back home. Cluj to Amsterdam +/- 1800km in 36 hours. Thats how I Roll! But that’s all you’ll get. lets start with some Roșia Montană shizznit.
A little bit of Roșia Montană History
Roșia Montană once was a great and wealthy place, it is located within the Metaliferi mountains which are full of metals like Silver and Copper, but what made this place so attractive was its high concentrations of Gold present in these mountains. Before Roman times and throughout the Roman times it was a the place for mining, when you take a hike through the area you can find many sorts of galleries and open mining pits. There are about 7 km of Roman galleries present, which were all cut by chisel and hammer. These galleries were very specific in height and width, shaped in a trapezium form and would follow the vines of Gold in the mountain. Within the galleries are different systems present to transport water up and out of the mine, galleries for circulating fresh air and galleries for transport. Quite a complex and complicated infrastructure really. In the middle ages when knowledge was lost, mining continued. Even though these galleries still follow the Golden vine, they were nothing like the Roman trapezium standards and quite random in shape. Exploitation continued, between WWI and WWII. In these times there were regulations but mining was done by government or privately, a whole society developed around the exploitation of gold. Where the men would be in the mines and the kids and woman would carry and process the rocks. The town was full of Stamping mills which made constant sounds unimaginable to us and the mountains were barren of vegetation. There were between 3- and 4000 people living in the area working the mines and mills. Throughout the history Guards were patrolling and entry to the mines without permission was prohibited. If you were caught mining someone else his mine at night, or having gold on you that you were not supposed to have it would imply big trouble for you! After WWII most of the land became property of the state, they basically nationalized everything implying the end of private mining. The time mining slowly modernized
in 1970 they started an open pit mining project on the Cetati mountain, over the years they tore down the whole damn mountain top to take whatever was in it. This open pit mine lasted until 2006 when the state mine was closed. Around 1999 Roșia her gold became very interesting and the mining company arrived. They have a great vision for this place, they want to tear down 4 mountains sides and while doing so flood part of the nearby valley of Corna for the chemical wastewater related to the process. They started buying property around the area to relocate the people. At first a high percentage of the locals were against the company and there fatal plans for these wonderful mountains, they did not approve and did not want to sell their land. The Save Roșia Montană Campaign started to spread awareness of what was going on. Sadly by pressuring the people, threatening them to be evacuated and offering them big money the company managed to get ownership of about 78% of the land to this day. It seemed that Government supported the company through their actions and lobbying. They wanted to pass a law that would allow the mining company to ignore regulations concerning historical monumental and protected environmental areas and it would also allow them to expropriate. Basically giving them the right to send away anybody living in the area without any refusal possible if given an amount of money. The company even manged to silence the media concerning stories about Roșia Montană for a long time. Meanwhile here were public discussions organized where the Government of Romania and surrounding countries but also the citizens could submit questions that the company then had to answer to verify the legality of their plan. But when push came to shove and the law was close to passing the people of Romania protested Massively throughout the country for an extended period of time. With the result: No New Pro Mining Law! due to great co-operation of the Save Roșia Montană campaign and the local NGO’s who do not want to sell to the company. The mountains are still live and kicking today!
What once was a wealthy mining hub called Alburnus Maior, is now Roșia Montană a quite little town with not more then a few hundred inhabitants. Located in a beautiful environment great to take hikes, where you can find interesting Natural protected areas and historic monuments like the Roman galleries. A little town which is full of life in summer time due to Festivals organized like FânFest and Volunteers restoring houses to try and maintain its heritage through the Adoptă o Casă Project. A place where you can see what the history did to its environment, but also a place to become aware of what people can achieve if they work together. A place where you can really see the contrast between Beautiful nature and mountains, while if you cross the next mountain you can see a deserted open pit mining site. Its hard to imagine that if the people did not do what they did, this place could just as well be one flat Barren Wasteland.
A little bit of Adoptă o Casă Tales
I arrived in Roșia on the 14th of August, the weekend Fănfest was held. The festival was pretty cool. Basically at night there’s Music, campfires and jamsessions. At day there are activities like Workshops and Presentations about Activism, Environmental problems and Roșia related shizzle. There is also a Forum for discussions and activities for little kids so the parents can do their grown up stuff unbothered. At day its basically a big Social hub to raise awareness and discus on-goings in today’s society, at night the place to relax, listen to music and drink some. I kinda felt like working and being productive but due to the festival i was obliged to relax instead!
That Saturday we took a little hike, our destination was a cross on top of the hill Cirnic, with a detour through Cetati. (the open pit mine) The first part of the hike was somewhat different then usual. Instead of grass, trees and trails. we were walking rough rocky roads, roads where big trucks and machinery used to drive. We trespassed the Cetati mine to check it out and passed some Gallerie entrances. The higher we went, the more green it became but all along the road there were traces of heavy machinery driving there once. Eventually we went off-road and climbed the last bit to reach the top of Cirnic to check out the view over Roșia, the surroundings and the festival. On the way down we passed the Raven rock from which you can see the Valley of Corna.
After the festival we all had to come around, The cleaning and disassembling of the market and stages started and slowly the people started leaving until only the volunteers from the Adoptă o Casă were left. Then finally, it was time to do some work! The first project I got assigned to was the Țarina house (Traditional Farmhouse) which will become the Headquarters of the local NGO Alburnus Maior. Basically the facade of the porch was full of gaps. The windows were fixed with nails but around the windows was open space that had to be filled, I found myself a handsaw and a chisel and started to fill the gaps. As usual with hand tools I took me some time, but superman came to save the day! A local dude named Andrei, even though I didn’t know his name at that moment, I recognize him for I hitchhiked him a few times on his Quad/Trike and his car. When he saw me cutting the boards by handsaw he basically told me that he had a chainsaw I could use. Lovely! with the chainsaw things went so much faster and I managed to fill all the gaps in one day. Andrei also Nicknamed me Tâmplar, at first I thought he meant the Templars with swords and horses. But later I found out it basically translates into Carpenter.
Next step was to apply new wood to the facade to close up everything and make it look beautiful. I wasn’t sure how to do this without proper equipment so I talked to Stefan, he is one of the Founders of the Adoptă o Casă project and I shared my dilemma, luckily the problem was easily solved. The Adoptă o Casă people have quite the reputation around town for they are doing great work for the local community. Basically there is a carpenter in town with a workshop, but he doesn’t use it anymore because he has a different job now. He allowed me to use his workshop anytime I need it! WoopWoop! This gave me access to a Stationary Planer, Thicknessing machine, Stationary Router A Panel Saw, Some old skool hand tools and many Electric hand tools. I felt so at home in his workshop, its hard to describe really. It had been almost 2 years since I used any of these cool machines I used to work with daily back in the days. Anyway due to these developments, Lots of options opened up.
I was one of the few volunteers with some experience in woodworking, Basically they considered me a Master and Master Woodworkers need Apprentices! thus a lady named Andreea wearing awesome scarfs who does woodcarving (like statues and ornaments n stuff) became my apprentice, I had to tell her and teach her everything I was doing. Besides that a little help was very welcome! I started taking some measurements and made some drawings, afterwards we carried the rough wood from Țarina’s to the workshop. An amazing 10 to 15 minute walk through wonderful Roșia country roads.
We started with planing one side of the wood on the stationary planer and made a 90 degree angle to the boards. Then we used the thicknessing machine to make them on the proper thickness. Afterwards we used the panel saw to cut the boards on the right width. As for the length of the wood, We kept it with a few centimeters extra for I preferred to cut them on the right size at the house itself. Working in the workshop was just great! The smell of fresh cut wood, The noisy sounds of the machines, the wood fibers and sawdust flying all over the place getting stuck in your Beard, hair and clothes is just amazing. Doing this again after such a long time working more with Straw and Clay rather than in a wood-workshop I realized how much I like doing this shiz.
While talking to Stefan about making the Facade we decided it would be pretty cool to make a miter joint on the corner of the house. Sadly the panel saw was not able to change angle, instead I cut a 45 degree angle with the router and finished the miter joint with the electric planer. Indeed it wasn’t perfect but it was good enough for what we wanted. That day working on the miter joint Daniel joined us, hes the brother of Andreea and also a woodcarver. Why I share this is because he “photobombed” a picture that gave me quite a laugh when I saw the picture, I didn’t notice it at all at the moment. It was a great day, we managed to apply most of the wood to the facade and the Corner turned out to be almost perfect, Andreea was also of great help and very pro-active, while I was busy, thinking, calculating and doing stuff. She chiseled many little annoying parts of access wood in preparation for applying the wood to the facade. The next week when I was working on a different project, three other volunteers with experience in laying stone terraces made one for Țarina’s. The end result is quite amazing!
You might be thinking, Dude your shizz is not even close to perpendicular, True, the house is quite crooked. but don’t let him play Jedi mind tricks on you! everything is parallel to the windows and door!
When you do work you like, dayZ pass by fast. Before I knew it it was already weekend. I kind of wanted to continue working like a mindless zombie due my my high level of enjoyment working da wood :))). But yeah, you are together with a group and I was kind of obliged to join on a hike and visit some Roman Galleries. Which in the end was pretty cool. The Roman Galleries were quite the adventure, I’m slightly claustrophobic, not in an elevator or anything. but when I have to crawl under a house for example, or in tiny spaces with a dead end where I cant easily maneuver. Chances are high ill shit my pants one way or another while doing it. The Galleries itself were quite oke actually, around 1.70m high (I am +/- 1.85) and about a meter wide. But we were with a big group, when at some point we stopped in this place to listen to a story of the guide I started feeling a bit funny, somewhat squeezed between all these people in this place I could just barely stand straight. In the end everything was fine and I did not shit my pants. Below some pictures of the different hikes we took and the Area surrounding Roșia Montană.
Even though the facade of Țarina’s still had to be sanded, after the weekend it was time to work on the next project. A Gutter had to be made! Actually Țarina’s needs gutters to but the priority was for Casa Parohială (Unitarian Parish House). Traditionally the gutter for these houses were made out of a split log, hollowed out to make one solid gutter. Due to the time consuming work it would take us to make these kind of gutters we started brainstorming on a different solution. Eventually we decided the best way to make some proper gutters is to make a V shape with a Tongue and Groove joint and cover it with lead. At first I wasn’t even sure if we had the proper router heads, but luck was on our side again! there were some usable router heads present! The total length of gutter needed for Casa Parohială was 9.7meter. The board we had were about 4meters implying it needed to be made out of 3 segments. Routing a 4meter board is not exactly the easiest thing to do by yourself if you want to minimize failure in the joint, Besides that Andreea had left the project that weekend. I had to find myself different help. Even though everybody had their work and there were not much people available, Ioana and Val managed to make some time for me!
The steps were quite similar to machining the wood for the facade, First we would plane the wood, give it a 90 degree angle and make it on the right thickness. Once this was done we could start with machining the Tongue and Groove joint. The workshop is quite small though and a 4 meter board would not fit in. I had to move the router/panel-saw/multipurpose awesomachine a bit diagonally to make it fit. Basically one would hold the board outside the workshop, while I would guide it through the router, after milling half of the board, the person outside had to come inside to support the board on the other side of the workshop. luckily there was a small storage room in the back of the workshop allowing us enough space to safely and properly machine the 4 meter boards.
After the Groove we could cut the Tongue, It took us a few tries to get it centered and fit properly but eventually we did it! Considering the router head for the groove had rounded corners and our tongue perpendicular corners I had to break the edges of the Tongue with a little old skool hand planer. By hand I chiseled a half-lap joint to connect all 3 segments of the gutter into one big piece once we attach it to the roof. Afterwards I glued the Tongue and Groove joints to make the V complete.
Due to lack of ladders we were not able to attach the gutter to the roof after I finished constructing them, Project gutter was put on hold. To keep things organized ill add the pictures of the result anyway. Because Time travel. Meanwhile the next project was to Restore the gate for the porch of Casa Parohială. I planed two boards in the proper thickness and copied the shape of the fence ornament to it. With the help of a jigsaw I cut out the shape to make a template. I also needed a little piece to fix a tiny part which I kinda stole from the template :)) After gluing the tiny part and applying the newly made board to the gate it looked all cool again!
Again the week flew by as if it was nothing and the end of August was nearing, This meant the end of Adoptă o Casă 2015. Over the week volunteers slowly started leaving and going back home. By the end of the week it was just Me, Ioana and Sorana left. That weekend the locals from Roșia organized a “get together” in the mountains! We decided to take a hike and join them. It was located very close to Detunata, a nearby natural monument. Basically its a big as Basalt rock which looks pretty crazy due to all the obelisks reaching out. We left for the hike Saturday early afternoon. the hike was great! so many edibles along the way like Hazelnut, Blackberries, Raspberries, Plums, Cherries, Apples, Mushrooms and many nice little villages to walk through. The walk took us around 7 hours, we arrive perfectly at sunset.
The night was good, I like fire, Big or small, any campfire is a guaranteed good evening. In NL its prohibited to make open fire, obviously we would still do it. But these campfires are small and if you don’t know the right location police will definitely come ruin your night. Here we were somewhere in the mountains, unbothered. They found multiple fallen and dry trees that we burned over the night. The fire was huge! It for sure reached 2meters and more! I cant recall seeing a “campfire” that big before. At some point I had some mental clashes, Part of me didn’t approve of the fact that we would basically burn 4 whole trees in one night just for fun. Though after talking to the people and finding out they do this once every 2 years or so I could let it rest. Were only human, Even if you are the 100% Eco friendly Sustainable Hitman. There is nothing wrong with doing something completely contrary once in a long while in order to create a very nice moment. Moderation is key!
We chilled, drank Tuica, Talked, Drank more, some around the fire dances occurred, we made food in the fire, Gazed deeply into the fire and just had a great evening until the early morning. Together with three other people we slept in the grass next to the fire. It was the greatest sleep I ever had. When the heat radiating from the remains of the fire became low and the Sun slowly reached the crowns of the trees we moved into the sun to complete our lovely “nights” rest. After waking it was time to check out Detunata but first we cleaned up everything including every single cigarette bud! The view on top of Detunata was really nice, but we had to get going. Due to some shortcuts but also taking our time to gather some mushrooms for dinner, we managed to get back to Roșia in 4 hours.
Even though Adoptă o Casă 2015 came to end that Sunday, Stefan asked me to extend my stay in Roșia Montană to continue with the carpentry. I Gladly accepted for I was really enjoying the projects and kind of felt the urge to finish as much as I could. Sorana also decided to stay for another week. The two weeks were nice. Even though i’m not really the big group kind of dude and generally prefer to be either by myself or in a smaller company, there were many interesting people I got to know via Adoptă o Casă and great times were had! Sadly this picture does not contain everybody. But anyway Thanks ya’ll for your company and laughter.
With everybody gone the quiet returned to Roșia Montană. Because me and Sorana were the only ones left, We moved from the Volunteer camping which was close to Țarina’s to Casa Parohială which became our new home for the time being. My next project was renovating the gate for Locuinţă minerească (Miners House), Tică his gate to be exact, I think Tică is a pretty cool guy, eh makes syrups n woolysocks and runs for Roșia Mayor. Anywayz his gate had some ornaments broken or missing and it was not very stable. Long story short, I machined some wood and copied the arches of the ornaments on the new pieces, which I then re-applied to the door, I also restored some broken and devoured wooden parts.
On Fănfest they applied new shingles to the gate in a workshop and they restored the bottom of the supports because they were all rotten. The hinges for the gate though were not yet put back in place. I was in need of help though, so I asked the locals Andy and Andrei to assist with hanging the doors back in place. It was fun working with them. Andrei basically only speaks Romanian with me and refuses to speak English (which is a great thing really) communicating with him goes pretty well actually. Andy though speaks English so in case technical terms had to be communicated concerning the work we were doing he could help with translation. We managed to get the hinges back in place and hang the doors. To celebrate we did some Donuts with the Quad, No people got hurt.
With the gate finished I could continue with the porch of Casa Parohială, There was another gate completely missing that had to be made and the corner of the porch was missing some boards too. I started with adding some pieces of wood to the frame of the porch to make it even with the beam of the floor. Afterwards I machined some wood as usual and with the help of the Template from earlier I cut the nice shapes in the boards. I also had to replace the sill on top of the fence which needed to be fit due to funny things going on in that corner. Everything went better then expected.
The original fence has a rail on the top and bottom, It has a nice profiles too, which I wasn’t sure if I could recreate. I copied the profile on a piece of wood and started checking all the router heads in the workshop. After some thinking I figured out a way to recreate the profile that was not exactly but very similar to the original. This was great news, for I didn’t expect to be able to recreate the profile implying I would not be able to complete the porch.
The first step was to mill the corner with the profile. Once that was done I changed router head to a small half circle and milled the distance of the profile from the edge. Once those two proceedings had been done I just had to use a simple cylinder router head to take away the access wood in between. and voila! EzPz. The sill also needed a profile, basically just some rounded corners and a little profile to connect the sill to the rail. quite the piece of cake really, I just love the way profiles make simple wooden things so much more Awesome!
With the Fence practically finished I could start on the gate. I made some more boards with the nice shape on it and two wooden pieces at the width of the gate, In the workshop I nailed all boards to one of the rails and checked the diagonals to be sure its perpendicular. Then I brought it to Casa Parohială to check how high I had to place the bottom rail, not to obstruct any ornaments, but also not to hit the floor. While working on the gate I got more sudden visitors! The cows they came from the woods quite randomly and just stormed in the garden. I could hear them coming actually, the goats though. I don’t know exactly where they came from. I remember I heard a loud noise, my reaction to that noise was. Huuu? Goats?? then all of the sudden there were goats. No green things were harmed that day if you don’t count all the beheaded grass.
It was to bad we didn’t have the hinges for the gate, I was not able to hang it in place. At least I did manage to finish the gate and the porch corner. Sooner or later all the sills and the rails of the porch need to be replaced, for they are all either devoured by woodworm, broken or warped. This will be a project for next year though. For my days in Roșia Montană have come to an end for now.
Its 13th of September now. That Sunday morning when I was enjoying my last breakfast at Casa Parohială with the company of Rufus, (he is a local stray dog who became my friend) the priest came to visit. At first I didn’t realize he was the priest owning Casa Parohială and the church up the hill. but after a little chat I found out. He was the coolest priest I ever met, If i would meet him in a western capital city I would probably presume he was a Gangster, for he was wearing this cool suite with a fedora and had a goaty. He left quite soon for he had to ring the church bell. But afterwards we met at the local shop. There he was just chilling, poppin jokes being a really damn cool priest.
I decided to take the bus back to Cluj instead of hitch hiking, I just felt like staring out the window towards the mountains that were next to the road. allowing me to process everything that happened in the past month. To nutshell it: My time in Roșia Montană was great, Mainly because of the work I could do there that relates so much to my profession, but also due to the amazing people that either live there or came to visit. Its hard to leave a place when everybody is telling you to stay.
Special thanks goes to:
Adoptă o Casă founders: For giving Architects students and Volunteers a chance to Experience, Learn and Develop.
Claudiu: For allowing me to use his workshop, It was of great help!
Andrei & Andy: For being awesome Dudes and assisting me with work.
Gaby: For cooking the greatest of foodz for the volunteers
Ioana: For introducing me to Roșia and suggesting me to visit.
Rufus: Because Rufus that’s why!
The other side of the coin,
Arriving back in Cluj that evening was quite something, All these people and cars again. pffff. I met with Victor&gang and we had a beer with some friends. One of Victor his friends is a Geologist who has worked for the same company the Roșia people are fighting against. Talking with him was very interesting, I really value both sides of the coin. After hearing Anti Company stories for a month. I opened up my mind for the other side.
When you think of the fact that Roșia Montană has been a mining town throughout the history, and basically only exists because of the mining. You might get the question what changed? From what I understood the main thing the people are against the company is because they tend to destroy 4 whole mountains, and with that many Historical monuments and Protected areas. Threatening the Environment due to the Cyanide used for exploiting the gold and other heavy metals waste threatening the water supply. At first it wasn’t such a big deal. But after realizing that the mines in Roșia could supply around 214 tons of metals, it became a big deal. Its hard to grasp how much they could gain out of this, but to summarize it in understandable terms. If they would start the mining in Roșia Montană they will basically get enough gold to make New Iphones for the whole planet for the next 10 years.
Damn you Apple!
Talking to him and checking out the site of the company. I came to realize they don’t completely want to destroy the whole mountains. They want to continue Cetate until a certain depth indeed, when it come to Cirnic they only want to take out one side of it containing high quantity of metals, Preserving the other side which has lots of galleries and some protected areas. And they want to start 2 smaller pits only on the places where the quantity of metals is very high. After exploiting the metals, they want to refill the pits with the waste rock and re-vegetate it as once was. for all this, they do indeed have to flood part of the valley of Corna to store the Cyanide waste.
Also not all of the people are necessarily 100% against the mining. They would approve if it can be done in a more sustainable way without harming the landscape. For they don’t want their home and surroundings destroyed. Some of the NGOs and locals currently fighting against the company Actually used to be miners them self. Some of them had parents and grandparents in ownership of private mines. They tried to get the privileges back to open up there families mines again. But Government disagreed and instead gave all the rights to the company and thus they started fighting against it. Its a very sensitive topic and there is really lots of stuff going on I can not even grasp. But if you look at it with open eyes and think about it with an open mind you can easily become aware of the Pro’s and Con’s of both side of the story.
The Save Roșia Montană campaign did a great job when it comes to spreading awareness and mobilizing people to fight for Roșia. But Roșia is not the only place with valuable metals. The mountains around Roșia also contain metals. In recent times there have been new mines started and approved in the neighboring valleys to Roșia without any problems. How does this work? Are the people not Aware, do they simply not care or do they not have the power to stop them all? I have many questions. But basically I Know Nothing, Nor do I want to pick a side or point fingers.
Conclusion: Roșia Montană is a wonderful place, with a big history and a high emotional story. I met and spoke to people from both side of the coin. But the Truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I came to Roșia not to fight for or against a mining company, I came to Roșia as a Volunteer carpenter because the Adoptă o Casă project interested me. I enjoyed the month I stayed in Roșia greatly! Simply because I met wonderful people, I could practice my profession and while doing so really feel and see how much my work was appreciated. When I return, it will be for these reasons.