The third day of our Romanian Road Trip came up and found us in western Harghita County, in the city of Praid, famous for its salt mine.
After a morning visit in the salt mine, we went 11 km away, to Corund village. It is a national treasure and we were so impressed with the place and with the old crafts that we saw here. I discovered this place by coincidence when I was looking for interesting places to see close to Praid city.Anyway, once I found out about the village I called Zoltan Pal, which is the representative of Corund-Praid Protected Areas Custody, to help us visit the village and discover everything that it has to offer. And it offers a lot.
You can find more things and tours in Corund here: https://www.korpa.ro/ro/ecoturism/promenada-la-corund/ and here: www.slowtours.travel.com
There are many ways to discover the treasures of this amazing village but the one that we chose was the Corund Promenade.
It’s an Eco touristic package that offers interactive visits to 3 traditional craft workshops and 1 visit to the Corund Museum of Ethnography, all linked to a hike on a 2-horse-drawn wagon.
So the tours offers:
- Traditional weaver
- Unique tinder fungus (iasca) processing
- Local Village museum
The journey takes 2.5 hours with the well-arranged cart.
The participation fee is 45 lei / person which is about 10 Euro. Children under the age of 6 participate free of charge.
One day’s reservation is mandatory!
The tour starts with at least 4 paying participants.
The program runs at any time of the year. Phone: 0040745627914 or 0040757357318. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In our case, the tour started with the Aragonite Museum then we went to Tinder Fungus (iasca) processing workshop and then to the pottery workshop.
We were surprised to find out that the only Aragonite processing factory in Romania can be found here, and that it was opened in 19 century.
At the beginning of the century, a famous mineralogy engineer, called Knopp Vencel, fell in love with the landscape of the place, especially with the hills where aragonite, a semiprecious stone, appeared shining, at the surface of the earth.
Vencel set up a small factory for aragonite exploitation. At first it was hard because he worked with locals in a few wooden barracks, locals that had to be tought, but the people were glad to work. In his mines, between 25 and 50 people worked, depending on the orders and the season. Vencel paid them well.
The business went well, the people of Corund “had golden hands”, they produced special handicrafts like vases, ashtrays, stamps, cane and pipe heads, chess pieces, writing sets, watches or jewelry boxes , which were bought mostly by wealthy people all over the world.
But the First World War broke the aragonite business. After the war ended, Vencel returned to Corund depressed and in suffer, but he opened the mines again. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to create the same wonderful pieces as he was used to.
World War II began; his business was once again endangered. In 1941 Vencel suddenly died. After the nationalization, the mines passed to the communists, who, in 1950, wanted to resume the aragonite mining, but they didn’t have the knowledge to exploit the mine. They used dynamite and destroyed all aragonite reserve.
Aragonite mining has its secrets, since most of the handling should be done by hand.
Now Vencel’s descendants got the mines, and they opened a museum which shows the fabulous history of the Aragonite Factory.
The museum guide, first explained what aragonite is. It is a semiprecious stone, which is formed by the infiltration of surface water, rich in calcium carbonate. In the small museum you can admire only a small part of Vencel’s work.
Tinder of Corund
After that, we followed our guide through the narrow street of the village, up to a house on the hill top. Zoltan and his wife lived here. They are one of the six remaining family to process tinder fungus (iasca) in Corund and possibly in Europe.
What is tinder fungus?
Actually it is a tree mushroom. You can find it on trees in high altitude forests. A good one are grown on old beech trees, perhaps 200 years old. Old trees were also found in the Corund area, but nowadays the craftsmen have to roam hundreds of kilometers in Romania’s forests.
Tinder was used from prehistorical times as a medicine against pain, against wound bleeding or to ignite fire. Then it was discovered that if it’s processed, it’s good to create hats. And from here, the limit is given by the master’s imagination: caps, handbags, bracelets, marquises, all sorts of decorative objects are made.
How is made?
Well it is a prehistorical craft of ancient techniques that involved the entire family. The man peels the hard part with some kind of sickle. It is followed by cutting it into “slices”; Here comes the experience, the craftsman knows how to cut it according to the growth, which is indicated by its color. Further, the slices must be stretched. It’s hammered a bit, and from this point it stretches a lot by hand. The master controls each stage, the multitude of years of experience is telling them how to do it.
The woman creates the decoration with the help of shapes and iron.
Mr. Zoltan and his wife, Mrs. Erzsike Fabian, showed us the process. They have been doing this since 1977. Nowadays this craft is dying. Young people are not learning the old craft anymore. We enjoyed the people and we loved their work. It was the first time I’d ever had contact with tinder. As a result of the processing, the material was as soft as suede or the finest velvet. I did not expect a tough mushroom to be turned from wood into something so delicate.
Just love them.
Pottery of Corund
The next place that we visited was the pottery workshop. Zoltan again took us through the narrow streets of Corund to a house of one of the potters.
More than 300 potter families in Corund that have passed their knowledge from generation to generation. Usually, pottery is a family activity because it requires teamwork. Men create the shapes of the pots and women decorate them.
Raw material is grey and brown clay. It is brought from the village riverbed, kneaded and ground in order to be cleaned from impurities and then taken to master potters for processing. After these talented potters bring the clay to the desired form, they leave it to dry.
The pots are dyed white by immersion in white kaolin (an insoluble clay) and when they dry, women ornate them by hand with various stylized floral and animal motifs. The last stage in the creation of these works of art is to burn them once or twice in the oven. This depends on the type of clay.
Of course, they have an unique style that is defining their pottery: it has a wide chromatic variety especially white, blue, brown with floral design plus specific design of deer or birds.
The fact that these pots are made and decorated by hand makes each of them unique, authentic and special.
We entered the potter’s house and we saw for ourselves how a piece of clay can be turned into a true work of art. It is a very interesting work.
The name of Corund is inseparable from ceramics: the village is one of the most important ceramic centers in Europe. This is a Middle Age tradition that became an industry.
So it really is a village that has to be visited. Don’t miss it!