Mehedinti County

The Mehedinti county is located in south-west Romania and covers over 4,900 sq km. The Mehedinti county neighbours Caras-Severin at West, Gorj at north and Dolj at South-East, and at South it borders with Bulgaria and Serbia. Mehedinti county is mostly located in the historical province of Oltenia, with one municipality and three communes located in the Banat. The Danube, the largest river in Europe runs along the 192 km-long southern Mehedinti county line. The historical vestiges at Drobeta – Turnu Severin are telling proofs of the importance of the Mehedinti area through the history. Archaeological digs attest to human settlements ever since the Palaeolithic (vestiges of a settlement dating back to the Palaeolithic have been unearthed and are still studied at the Schela Cladovei site). The Schela Cladovei culture – as it was called by historians – is dated around 7,200 B.C. The first man-made dwellings, cemeteries, and the first proofs of stable farming activities in the European continent have been found in the Mehedinti area. Just opposite to those sites, accross the Danube in Serbia, there are several ancient archaeological sites, as Lepenski Vir, Padina and Vlasac, which together with Schela Cladova, Icoana, Alibeg and others make Iron Gate region which is the cradle of the oldest settlements known in Europe, dating from 9200 BC to 6300 BC, or even earlier. In an almost symmetrical concatenation, on both banks of the Danube, within the so-called Iron Gate region, natural and historical sites, relics of the Roman and Medieval past come before the insatiable eyes of travelers yearning for beauty. Numerous other settlements superposed upon led to a flourishing Dacian settlement born under the precincts of the present town of Drobeta – Turnu Severin. The settlement got the name DRUBETA which in the language of the Dacians meant „the settlement in the cleavage area”. King Decebal’s Statue is situated in the middle of the Little Hallows, being the biggest monument of this type in Europe, only 6 meters shorter than the Statue of Liberty and 10 meters higher than the Colossus of Rhodos. Decebal was the Dacian king well known for his honesty and bravery and ruled the Dacian kingdom between 87 and 106 AD. His defeat was such an important event of the Roman Empire, that was celebrated by the Emperor Trajan who spared taxes the citizens of Rome for a whole year.

The municipality of Drobeta – Turnu Severin is the administrative seat of the Mehedinti county since 1841 with a population of about 120,000 inhabitants. The settlement experienced economically thriving periods during the Roman period and the Middle Ages, standing out as a strategic urban and trade center. A Geto-Dacian settlement existed on the location of present-day Severin that developed, after the Roman conquest, into one of the most important towns of the former empire. Drobeta was the first Roman fort in the newly established province of Dacia where the fortification walls were built of stones. The fort, which is depicted on Traian’s Column in Rome, was already built in 105 AD. It was established as a fort for auxiliary units, where the Cohors III Campestris, the Cohors I Antiochensium ,the Cohors I Cretum and the Cohors I Sagittariorum were stationed over times. The main strategic role of the Drobeta fort was to protect and defend the northern bridgehead of the famous stone bridge over the Danube, built by Apollodor from Damascus in the reign of Emperor Trajan between 103/105 AD. History-full vestiges – the Pillar of Trajan’s Bridge, the ruins of the Roman Camp of Drobeta, the Roman Baths, as well as all the other vestiges unearthed in the vast archaeological park included in the Portile de Fier Area Museum – write the history of the Roman colonisation in Dacia and of the early formation of the Romanian people.

Man molded the Mehedinti county scenery by building in the seventies of the 20th century two large dams connecting Romania to Serbia at Portile de Fier, at the former Cazanele Dunarii Straits, which was in the past a real challenge to navigators along the mighty Danube waters. The “Portile de Fier” Hydro-power System determined creation of some large man-made lakes (236 sq km and 67 sq km) that improved the hydropower system and have regulated the Danube River by improving the navigation for ships. The Mehedinti county, an old land bordered by the Danube River, is symbolically a place with all geographic and relief characteristics of Romania. Thanks to its temperate-continental climate, with warm winters and early springs, in the Mehedinti county the tourism is possible round the year.

The Iron Gates Natural Park is the second largest environmentally protected area in Romania, located between Bazias and Drobeta Turnu Severin, on the Romanian bank of the Danube, which covers around 1100 sq km. The Iron Gate Natural Park Mehedinti county got the status of protection in 1998 and contains 18 scientific reservations. The fauna and flora in the Iron Gate Natural Park area include several rare species: Herman’s turtle, the horned viper and the hollows tulip. Many species of flora (about 3700) and fauna (more than 5200) are protected under international, European and national regulations. It is especially important as a breeding, staging and wintering site for many bird species and regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds. The forest with their rich and varied fauna as well as the hydrographic network rich in fish are interesting for sportive hunters and fishers. The tourists are impressed by the wonderful landscapes of the karstic relief and interesting geological structures. Besides outstanding natural resources, a reason to visit the Mehedinti county is surely its history and vestiges. Archaeologically, the man lived since the palaeolithic (Schela Cladovei). The Romans’ arrival in the Balkan Peninsula, their wars with the Dacian Kingdom, the colonization of Dacia and the birth of the Romanian people are proved by important vestiges: the ruines of the Trajan’s Bridge, Drobeta Roman camp, or Roman Thermae. In a large archaeological park which consists also in the ruines of a mediaeval defense works from the 13th century and a mediaeval church (the 14th century) of the Severin Metropolitan Seat, in Drobeta-Turnu Severin there is the “Portile de Fier” Museum (natural sciences, history, folk art, aquarium and art). Near by Simian, on the way from Craiova to Drobeta Turnu Severin, in the middle of the Danube River, there is the Simian Alt where the Turkish houses and a mosque from the 17-th century were moved from the Ada Kaleh Island before it was flooded by the Portile de Fier man-made lake. At 6 km East from Drobeta-Turnu Severin there is Cerneti, a former capital city till 1833. The “Tudor’s Fortress” is the memorial house of revolutionist Tudor Vladimirescu, a well-known hero of the Revolution from 1821. To the North 31 km away from Drobeta -Turnu Severin there is the Ciresu mountain locality where there is the Topolnita Cave, one of the biggest and most interesting caves in Romania. The Topolovita Cave feature over 11 km of already explored galleries on several levels featuring millions of years old stalactites and stalacmites and the natural monument protected by law, located 31 km away from Drobeta – Turnu Severin. At 25 km far from Drobeta-Turnu Severin there is the town of Orsova situated at the confluence of the Danube with the Cerna River, on the site of an antique fortress named Dierna. A port of the Danube, Orsova has a modem nautic base both for performers and for leisure, being the start point of the trips by boat on the Danube to the known wonderful zone of “Cazane”. The Saint Ana Monastery watches over the town, from where opens a magic view to the Cerna Bay and the Portile de Fier Dam. At 70 km North from the capital city, the town of Baia de Arama (a former copper mine in Antiquity) is a junction to the Cerna Valley and to the natural bridge from Ponoarele (a huge vault 60 m long formed after the crumbling of a cave) and to the lilac forest with a surface of 20 ha where the traditional feast is organized every May. To the East, there is the town of Strehaia, with the a ruins of the Princely Court (the 17th century) and the church built in 1645 under ruler Matei Basarab. Even a short introduction of this county has to mention the Bala Spa, known for it sulphurous waters and mud. Mraconia Monastery is a tourist attraction Romania in the Community Dubova in Mehedinti County, 15 km west of the city Orsova. The ruins of the Severin medieval fortress, built around 1230 and which held strategic importance as the check point of the whole Danubian navigation are situated on top a hill. The rebuilt Vodita Monastery is the oldest monastic settlement in the province of Oltenia, built between 1370 and 1372 by Voivode Vlaicu Basarab prompted by the monk Nicodim, located some 20 km away from Drobeta – Turnu Severin, on the way to Vodita Valley.

The county of Mehedinti has a population of over 330,000, which makes 68 inhabitants/sq km. According to nationality in the Mehedinti county, the population pattern has the following configuration : 98,3 per cent Romanians; 0,3 per cent Czechs; 0,2 per cent Germans; 0,2 per cent Serbs; 0,1 per cent Hungarians. Urban population of Mehedinti county accounts for 47,2 per cent of the total. The major urban localities in the Mehedinti county are: the municipality of Drobeta – Turnu Severin and the towns of Orsova, Vanju Mare, Strehaia and Baia de Arama. The Mehedinti county also has 59 communes and 344 villages.