The Glykon Snake

The masterpiece was discovered in 1962 at Constanţa, the ancient Greek colony Tomis. The statue of the Serpent Glykon is the only cult statue of the deity known by now throughout the Roman Empire and whose size and craftsmanship of achievement are impressive. The statue, which dates from the 2nd century, is carved with its support from a single block of marble, with a side of 66 cm, and the snake is 4.76 m long. The serpent has a lamb nose, human hair and ears and tail of a lion. Working technique used was the carving and polishing. The Glykon Snake is exhibited at the Museum of National History and Archeology in Constanţa.

The cult of the snake god Glykon was introduced in in the mid-second century CE by the Greek prophet Alexander of Abonutichus. This is, at least, what we can deduce from the writings by the Greek author Lucian of Samosata (c.120-c.190), who devoted an extremely hostile (and extremely amusing) pamphlet to the charlatan he called Alexander the Oracle Monger. Ignoring Lucian's bias, we can probably accept from his work that the cult -or at least the snake Alexander venerated- originated in Macedonia, where similar snake cults were already known in the fourth century BCE. (It was told that the mother of Alexander the Great, Olympias, had become pregnant after she had slept with a snake). The prophet Alexander brought the god, a very large snake, to his home town Abonutichus in Paphlagonia and built a temple, which became an important oracle.

In Abonutichus, Glykon was venerated as New Asclepius, and seems to have gained great renown when he protected the believers during the plague of the late 160s. However, the breakthrough may have been earlier, because in 160, the oracle of Glykon had already found a protector in the governor of Asia, Publius Mummius Sisenna Rutilianus (consul 146), who was to become son-in-law of the prophet. Abonutichus, once a small village of fishermen, became an important town and accepted another name, Ionopolis, 'Greek city'. Today, it is still called Inebolu.

Several dedications, statuettes and coins, found in the entire area between the Danube and Euphrates, prove that the cult of Glykon remained alive until at least a century after the death of the prophet in c.170. Alexander, now recognized as son of Podalirus and grandson of Asclepius, received religious honors after his death and was considered to be the god's prophet even now. His success in establishing a new cult seems symptomatic of the shift in religious attitude, away from the traditional beliefs, that took place in the late second and third centuries, and culminated in the rise of Christianity.

Black Eagle Palace

The Black Eagle Palace (Romanian: Vulturul Negru) in Oradea is an architectural masterpiece in the center of this old Transylvanian town. The ensemble built between 1907-1909 on the base of the old Eagle guesthouse.

In the early 1900's, in Oradea spreads out a new style, regardless the academics, forging the promises of a stylistic diversion based on ingenious and originality. Following the principles of 1900 Art in general and of the Austrian Secession in particular, the Secession style in Oradea closely re-evaluates an artistic formula that was to be completely different from the still dominating academic artistic tendencies. The new created style had two great periods, the curved and floral line and the geometric purged form.

The Black Eagle Palace (1907-1909) designed by Komor Marcell and Jakab Dezso is a grandiose monument due to its verticality; the buildings are united by a metallic structure, having both a technical (framing stained glass) and decorative role. The interplay of the curving facades, the decorative display of stucco work alternating with bas-reliefs, exhibiting a floral and figurative theme, all these arranged in a symmetrical composition, enhance the grandeur of the edifice, originally meant to house a casino, a hotel, a restaurant and offices, grouped in 3 non symmetric bodies.

Incorporated into the architecture of the surrounding complex, a passageway covered overhead with lead glass lazily winds through a nest of shops and comes to a point where one of three paths can be chosen, each leading off into different sections of the city. The interior glass-covered passage has three entrances linking three streets, each entrance dominated by an eagle, the symbol of the building. The mark of the building the Black Eagle has been accomplished in 1909 in the K. Neumann workshop.

Aristide Caradja

Aristide Caradja, Princeps Biologorum Romaniae (1861-1955), discovered thousands of species of butterflies and compiled the most comprehensive catalog of Microlepteropterae. "3000 types (species, varieties, forms, aberrations) discovered and described by Caradja. How many systematician naturalists worldwide, from Linné to our days, can be compared with Aristide Caradja in terms of richness of material studied and presented new knowledge?" (Traian Săvulescu)

Born in Dresden in 1861, Aristide was the seventh child of a well-off family of Greek extraction. His paternal ancestors had settled in Wallachia in the 17th century, some of them even reaching top positions in the principality. His mother also came from an illustrious family – Şuţu – of Phanariot descent. After completing his secondary education in Dresden, he followed the advice of his father and read law at the Law Faculty of Toulouse, but this was also the time when he developed a passion for natural sciences, a field in which he was going to acquire an impressive expertise. His first publication, on the butterflies from Haute Garonne, dates from 1891, but the rich Lepidoptera material (848 species) had been collected several years previously, during the time of his studies in France. That was the beginning of a collection that would go on growing for 56 years (1887-1943).

1887 was the year of the loss of his father and of his return to Romania, where he settled permanently at Grumăzeşti, in a manor situated in the middle of an immense forested park. He seldom travelled, but kept in permanent touch with great specialists in Microlepidoptera from London, Berlin, Bonn, Vienna, St Petersburg, Stockholm, etc., receiving from them a lot of materials which he studied, describing hundreds of new species. His collection was already significant at that point, but he went on enriching it by the acquisition of famous private collections, exchanges with great collectors, and acquisition of rare species, for which he never hesitated to pay considerable sums of money. Moreover, Aristide Caradja subsidised expeditions to Asia, Spitzbergen, North Africa, Spain, and South America, receiving in return collectable Microlepidoptera.

Due to his reputation as a consummate specialist, several famous expeditions, such as those of Sven Hedin, Max Korb, Paul Chrétien, Karl Ribbe, sent him their Microlepidoptera materials for study. He was also commissioned to do the revision of the whole Microlepidoptera collection of the British Museum, the biggest in the world. Millions of Microlepidoptera passed through his hands and before his eyes. From Hermann Hohne’s Chinese collection alone, Caradja studied and classified 400,000 items.

The papers published in the best known international reviews, as well as in the Romanian Academy Journal, brought him an enormous prestige. If in a first period (1891-1924) they were primarily interested in systematising, in the description of new species, Aristide Caradja moved on later towards trying to unravel the mystery of the origin and development of the Lepidoptera fauna. He turned from analyses to generalizations, using data offered by paleo-geography and paleo-climatology to present new theoretical views on the biography and systemic organization of Lepidoptera. He also studied the mechanisms of mutation.

In Aristide Caradja’s opinion, Central Asia was where the Lepidoptera colonization of the Eurasian continent, of the whole world even, started. It is worth noting that Aristide Caradja was, at that moment, the best acquainted with the Asian Lepidoptera fauna. He studied the materials of the Hermann Hohne collection, gathered in China during the 1917-1923 expedition, describing 927 species, 271 of which were endemic and 91 new. Aristide Caradja’s collection owes its great scientific value to the rich Microlepidoptera material gathered in various regions of China, which places it among the most important collections in the world, but also to the 3000 types, the items that enabled the description of the new species and that have a special scientific value. Besides Microlepidoptera, the collection also contains 5000 Macrolepidoptera, big diurnal butterflies that enchant the eye with their forms and colours. Among them, the famous Morpho, from the Amazonian jungles, Chrysiridia madagascariensis, considered the most beautiful butterfly in the world, and Ornithoptera, the bird-butterflies from Borneo. Aristide Caradja sacrificed his entire fortune and put a lot of work into his collection, but on its basis he could build an important scientific work, which revealed the profoundness and originality of his thinking.

In 1937, Aristide Caradja published a philosophical synthesis entitled Meine Weltanschauung (My Conception of the Universe), which, as he confessed in a letter of January 28, 1938, to Aurelian Popescu, he had sent out into the world in the hope that with it I could help some people find a peace of mind similar to that I am enjoying now, after a lifetime of restlessness and doubts. He lived a long life – almost a century – he lived through adverse times, but also through serene moments, which he experienced with the wisdom of a philosopher.

The Black Church in Braşov

Braşov’s strategic geographical position, close to the commercial route Rucăr – Bran, through the Carpathian Mountains, has influenced the economic development of the city. Thanks to its nearness to Bucegi Mountains and the Bran Castle, Braşov is one of the most important destinations in Romania.

Braşov's most important landmark, Biserica Neagră (the Black Church), the largest Gothic church in Transylvania and, in some historians’ point of view, the greatest religious edifice between Vienna and Istanbul, towers over Piaţa Sfatului (Coucil's Square) and the old town. Originally dedicated to Virgin Mary, the church was Roman-Catholic for more than a century and a half and later with the reformation sweeping across Europe it became a Lutheran one. Service is still held today for the small German community from Braşov on Sundays.

The Black Church has a turbulent history: the construction began in 1380 or 1385, in the time of Vicar Thomas Sander, and finished in 1477, on the site of an earlier church (destroyed by Mongol invasions in 1242), the construction of the Marienkirche was hampered by extensive damage caused by Turkish raids in 1421. The church was given its new name after disaster struck again in 1689, when the Great Fire, set by Habsburg invaders, leveled most of the town, heavily damaged the church, blackening its walls. Restoration took almost 100 years. Of the two towers planned, only one (65,6m high) was finished. The year 1477 is written in Gothic letters on the front gate, the only piece made in wood that resisted the fire. The original Gothic interior has suffered under the restorations, and the lofty, light space you see nowadays is mostly Baroque. Most of the objects inside the church date from the reconstruction time except for the baptismal font which was cast in bronze by a local craftsman in 1450.

The church is built of friable grit stones and andesite arranged in cubic shape. That's the reason why the statues placed on the exteriors couldn't survive the time and had to be replaced by new ones. The oldest statue still standing belongs to Saint Peter and it is to be seen on the Southern part of the church. The church comprises six portals, representing different architectural styles from Gothic to Renaissance style. The portal placed on the East side of the church was built in 1436 by Matei Corvin, a Transylvanian ruler. He also added a fresco to the interior gate. Inside the church there are three naves split by pillars. Gothic elements mix with Baroque. On the Southeast portal there is a fresco, dating 15th century, representing Saint Mary sitting on a throne with Jesus in her arms, surrounded by angels and Saint Ecaterina and Barbara. On the North side there is a Golden gate with a small portico placed somewhere between the buttresses. The portico is covered by a simple ogive and on the facade there is a semicircular arch. Right above there are sculptured leaves, reminiscence of the Gothic style. The Black Church exhibits the heaviest mobile bell in Romania (6 t), murals in the Italian Renaissance style and an organ, with 4,000 pipes, 7 scales and 4 keyboards. It was built in 1838-1839 by the organ creator Buchholz from Berlin and it ranks among the biggest organs in the South-Eastern Europe. It is the only organ of the Buchholz's firm which has preserved its original form. The organ recitals held here are very famous and many tourists attend them.

The Black Church has the richest collection of Anatolian carpets in all Europe. Most of them date from the 17th and 18th centuries. They come from Brussa, Uschak and Ghiordes, famous Anatolian names for carpet weaving. They were donated by the city's merchants on their return from Orient to show their gratitude towards God. The church windows have recently been fit out with special UV-filtering glass to protect the 119 fabulous carpets. Exiting the church, in the courtyard, you will see Johannes Honterus'(1498-1549) statue (2.5 m high). He was an important reformer and humanist who became Stadtpfarrer (priest) a few years after bringing Lutheranism to Braşov in 1542. The statue was cast in bronze by the German Harra Magnussen. The public saw the statue for the first time on August 1898, when they celebrated 400 years since Johannes Honterus was born.

Alexandru Proca

Alexandru Proca (October 16, 1897, Bucharest - December 13, 1955, Paris), great Romanian physicist, author of the modern approach of the nonzero photon mass and the superluminal radiation field, of the theory of strong interactions, of the Proca massive vector boson field, co-author of the Maxwell-Proca and Einstein-Proca theories.

Alexandru Proca was born in Bucharest in 1897 into a family of intellectuals. A brilliant school boy, mastering a few modern languages as well as Latin and some old Greek as was the curricula of any modern high school at that time, he showed an early appetite for mathematics. Soon after graduation, in the middle of World War I, he was mobilized (1917) and, after a brief instruction in a Military School, was sent to the front. 1918 was a triumphant year for his country, Romania, which saw most of its historic and ethnic borders settled. However the infrastructure for higher education, especially in the sciences and engineering, was quite weak and many young people used to go abroad, mainly to France and later to Germany, to acquire a proper training and qualification. Proca graduated from the newly inaugurated Polytechnic School (PS) in 1922 as an Electromechanical Engineer. He was employed by the Electrical Society Câmpina, a company at the centre of a rich oil field. At the same time he served as assistant professor at the chair of Electricity of the PS, which was headed by Professor Vasilescu-Karpen, a celebrity among many generations of engineers.

The young Proca felt however that he was betraying his natural aptitude for the fundamental sciences, mathematics and physics. Already familiar with Einstein’s papers he anticipated a major breakthrough and thought that he had something to say in this field. It is amazing that as early as 1920, still a student in engineering, he wrote a first paper on relativity, one of not many in the world at that time. So he left a promising and lucrative career to go to Paris (1923), full of expectations. Here, to his disappointment, he discovered that his diploma was useless. What he had to do was to matriculate from a French University and to pass the examinations for the 4-years curricula. This he did brilliantly and one year later he was Licencié en Sciences at Sorbonne, Paris.

In 1925 Marie Curie offered him his first job in her Institut du Radium where he was assigned to make measurements of β rays emitted by thorium descendants. He completed successfully the subject with a publication in Comptes Rendus (Nov.1926), but that marked the end of his experimental investigations. Though he enjoyed much sympathy and appreciation from Mme Curie, she allowed him to pursue his natural calling towards theoretical physics that persisted during all these years in spite of his official daily duties. He was attracted by fundamental problems, such as the intimate nature of light quanta, the atomicity of entropy and even of time; he was one of the first thinkers about a discontinuous spatio-temporal frame. It was however de Broglie who directed him towards the mainstream of theoretical pursuits at that time, namely the Dirac equation and the quantum relativistic fields that had just started to take shape in the pioneering works of Born and Jordan,Dirac himself and Heisenberg. Proca engaged seriously in the programme and after a series of six papers devoted to the Dirac equation published in C. R Acad. Sci. Paris, (1930-33), and two more on the properties of the photon, he submitted an exceptional doctorate thesis to a commission: JeanPerrin, Louis de Broglie, Léon Brillouinand, Aimé Cotton. In 1930 Proca received French citizenship and married Marie Manolesco with whom he had a son, George Proca.

From 1929, when Les Annales de l’Institut Henri Poincaré was founded, Proca was the editor of this famous journal. In 1934 he spent one year with E. Schrödinger in Berlin and a few months with N. Bohr in Copenhagen, where he met Heisenberg and Gamow. From 1936 to 1941 he developed his masterpiece work, the theory of massive vector (spin 1) boson fields governing the weak interaction and the motion of spin-1 mesons. Prestigious scientists such as Yukawa, Wentzel, Taketani, Sakata, Kemmer, Heitler, Fröhlich and Bhabha, reacted favourably to his equations in 1938. W. Pauli mentioned Proca’s theory in his Nobel lecture. As a particular sign of his world-wide recognition one can mention his invitation to attend in 1939 the Solvay Congress. To his misfortune, this Congress could not take place due to the outbreak of World War II. During the war he was for a short time Chief Engineer of the French Radio broadcasting Company. In 1943 he moved to Portugal where he lectured at the University of Porto. In 1943-45 he was in the United Kingdom at the invitation of the Royal Society and the British Admiralty to join the war effort.

After the war he started in 1946 the Proca seminar series in Paris with many prestigious invited speakers from France and abroad including A.Einstein, H.Yukawa and W.Pauli. This seminar contributed very much to the education of young French particle physicists. He accepted to organize with P. Auger in 1950 the Theoretical Physics Colloquium of CNRS and in 1951 to be the French delegate at the General Meeting of the International Union of Physics. By that time the Proca equation was indeed famous as the only sound theoretical basis of the Yukawa meson.

Starting in 1953 Proca began a fight with a laryngeal cancer that lasted until December 13, 1955 when he passed away. He left a major heritage in theoretical physics that by its actuality goes beyond historical interest.

Augustin Maior

Augustin Sabiniu Maior (August 22, 1882, Reghin - October 3, 1964, Cluj), great Romanian physicist and engineer, the inventor of the multiple telephony.

Maior was born in Reghin as son of a schoolteacher and attended high school in his hometown, then at Târgu-Mureş and Budapest, developing in this years an original electrical work. He graduated as an engineer in Budapest Polytechnical School (1905), while hearing courses of mathematics and physics at Vienna, Göttingen and München (as a private student), taking knowledge of the great scientific conquests of the early-century, from quantum mechanics and Planck's theory to the Einstein's relativity theory. In 1905, Augustin Maior was employed as an engineer in the Electricity Laboratory of the General Directorate of Posts in Budapest. After World War I, was briefly (1919-1920) General Director of Posts, Telegraph and Telephone in Transylvania and the first leader of Schools of Telegraph and Telephone in this Romanian province. He becomes at the same time, for many decades, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cluj (1920-1956), appointed to chair this specialty in Romania.

In the early years of our century, the phone was in a considerable expansion, but the existing network could not cope with increasing needs of telecommunications. The researches were directed to increasing transmission capacity by multiple telephony, but the results were unsatisfactory. After many trials, unsuccessful or only partially successful, Augustin Maior made an operational station using alternative currents carry high frequency in 1906, to send at first two, then five calls on the same telephone circuit, 15 kilometers long. In 1907 he published its results and the scheme of the multiple telephony in the best-known speciality journal of his time (Elektrotechnische Zeitschrift - ETZ) and the following year presented a communication at the first Conference of PTT Engineers. However, in March 1911, the English magazine "The Electrician" assigns the invention of multiple telephony to the U.S. Major George Owen Squier, who had in 1910 (four years after Maior), another system of multiple telephony, more rudimentary, with only two of simultaneous phone calls and on a much shorter cable; but Squier achieve, shortly thereafter, to bring his new technology to the market.

To mention in addition, the scientific contributions of Augustin Maior in electricity and electrotehnics, theory of relativity, thermodynamics, radiation. He proposed early transmission of electricity over large distances by currents of high frequency and introduced in the quantum theory a new function called quasientropic.

Lazăr Edeleanu

Lazăr Edeleanu (September 1, 1862, Bucharest – April 7, 1941, Bucharest), great Romanian chemist, the first to synthesize the Amphetamine and the inventor of the modern method to refine crude oil.

Little Lazăr, showing real skills to acquire scientific knowledge, is sent at the age of 12 years in Bucharest to continue his studies. He studied at St. Sava College, working hard for one year after sustaining baccalaureate (1882) to spare money to enroll at university. After graduating, he studied chemistry at the Berlin University, with A.W. Hofmann, C.F. Rammelsberg and H.L. Helmholtz.

In 1887 obtained the title of Doctor in Chemistry with the thesis "On the derivatives of fatty fenil=metacrilic and fenil-izobutiric acids", in which it finds fenil-izopropilamine, known in medicine as benzedrine, with an important action on the nervous system stimulants. Edeleanu leave for a period in London and works as a lecturer at the Royal College of Artilery. During this period he worked with Ch.F. Cross and E.J. Bevan to obtain a type of artificial fireproof silk and with R. Meldola to obtain oxazine-based dye. Back in the country, has won the appreciation of the great chemist Constantin I. Istrati, who keep him as assistant and then as a lecturer in Organic Chemistry Department of the Faculty of Sciences in Bucharest. In 1906 is appointed Head of Laboratory of Chemistry of the Geologic Institute (founded in that year) and while director of the Vega Refinery. The following year, 1907, is part of the organizing committee of the Congress of Petroleum in Bucharest and published together with Ion Tănăsescu an important monograph on Romanian oil - physical and technical properties.

1908 is the year of his most significant invention - the Edeleanu process, consisting of refining the petroleum with liquid sulfur dioxide as a selective solvent, which provide selective extraction of aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene, etc.). The procedure was first applied experimentally in Romania at the Vega refinery, in France (in Rouen, the German Borsig Company) and subsequently the world (in 1960 there were 80 Edeleanu facilities in different countries of the world). "The Edeleanu method", highlight Costin D. Neniţescu, "became and is still today, as its many variations, the basic process of manufacturing high quality oils".

He obtained 212 patents for inventions, in Romania, but also in USA, Germany, France, Austria, Sweden, Holland etc. He was a member of the Society of Natural Sciences in Moscow (since 1910), honorary member of the Institution of Petroleum Technologists in London (1925) and in 1932 was awarded the medal Redwod for the entire scientific activity undertaken.

The defense walls of Sibiu (Part III)

The Haller Bastion (Corneliu Coposu Boulevard and Pompei Onofreiu Street), 1552-1553
The spade shaped building was initiated by the general Castaldo, at the time when Petrus Haller was the mayor of Sibiu. The architect was Alessandro Clippa and the masters were Peter Nürnberger and Georg Waahll. The building was finalized in 1553. The bastion is built in brick and filled with earth, its walls having a total length of 223 meters and the maximum height of the wall is of 9 meters. For a better defense, the walls were equipped with stone spacers installed at approximately 1 meter from its superior limit, meant to impede the installation of the assault ladders. The openings of the pill boxes for the cannons are preserved both towards the Thick Tower (two openings) and towards Manejului Street (three openings).

In 1771 a riding school was built on the bastion, and during the first decade of the 20th century the building of the nowadays Neurology Hospital was erected.

The Soldisch Bastion (Bastionului Street at the corner with Alba Iulia Road)
Built between 1622 and 1627 as a defense fortification of the Upper Town, it is from a chronological point of view the last of the city’s bastions. On its superior part it has a pronounced belt which was meant to impede the rising of the assault ladders. From the point of view of the dimension, the bastion is small compared to the Haller Bastion. Its shape is that of a half of club with the straight lines oriented towards Filosofilor Alley.

A beautiful coat of arms of the city is placed on a white marble plaque on the exterior side of the bastion. The Bastion wall preserves nowadays four cannon balls embedded in it. The Ruin Garden styled according to the tastes of those times by Baron Michael Brukenthal (1785), the nephew of the Transylvanian governor, Samuel von Brukenthal, also had a brook which crossed one of the long ago deallocated pill boxes of the Bastion.

The defense walls of Sibiu (Part II)

The curtain wall at no 2-8 Bastionului Street (up to the Soldisch Bastion)
Between the Soldisch Bastion and Mitropoliei Street, on Ioan Lupaş Street, there exists a defense wall built between 1357 and 1366 belonging to the third fortification precinct.

The curtain wall on Centumvirilor Street
Spreading between Odobescu Street and Tribunei Street, was erected between 1357-1366 and transformed in the 18th century.

The section is over 200 meters long, and it is located on a wave area between the Lower Town and the Upper Town. Seen from the inside the precinct, Centumvirilor Street has a convex profile, and Konrad Haas and Odobescu Streets seen from the foot of the wall have a concave profile, the two ranges uniting at the ends, which makes the elevation of the wall receive a lens shape with a maximum height of 10 meters in the middle section where the "Poschen" stairs were created meant to connect the two districts of the old town.

The defense walls of Sibiu (Part I)

The exterior defense wall
between the Haller Bastion and the fragments of the Cisnădie Gate Bastion.
The third fortification belt may be admired in all its splendor along the Coposu Boulevard. A green area with trees separates the sidewalk from the wall. The green area was first arranged in 1791 between the Haller Bastion and the Thick Tower, later prolonged till Cisnădiei Bastion and is known as the promenade.

At the extremity towards Unirii Square as well as near the Thick Tower, the wall is pierced by a semicircular arch which allows the access of the pedestrians. At the crossroad of Filarmonicii Street with Coposu Boulevard, a break was made into the wall in order to allow the access of vehicles. This is where the former Corpse Gate used to be situated, opened in the wall in 1554 during the plague epidemics. Across the street from the gate, where the new wing of the hospital is located nowadays, there existed a cemetery which functioned until the end of the 19th century.

The wall on Manejului Street, near the eastern side of Ursulinelor Monastery (1357-1366)
At the extremity towards the Ursulinelor Church, the wall forms two arcades which sustain a passage gallery towards the courtyard once named the courtyard of the monks. Nowadays this gallery makes the connection with Constituţiei Street. The Babers' Tower existed here once, nearby the Salt Gate. The fragment of wall along Manejului Street is represented by a series of semicircular arches which were meant to sustain the guard gallery.

The wall on Cetăţii Street, between Unirii Square and Carpenters' Tower (1357- 1366)

The fragment of the fortification walls situated between the Carpenters' Tower and the Potters' Tower escaped the "systematization" in the 19th century. Nowadays the wall preserved its aspect from the 15th century, when it was rebuilt in bricks and equipped towards the interior with ample arcades which support the guard path. This includes a wooden parapet and a roof sustained by wooden poles.
Across the Carpenters' Tower, towards the inner part, a sort of balcony appears, the tower being placed on the exterior of the wall, flanking it. The initial firing holes of the wall are adapted to arquebuses, the bulwarks meant for bows having been modified.

The defense towers of Sibiu (Part III)

The Tanners' Tower
The tower belonging to the fourth precinct and built in 1457, is one of the two towers preserved in the Lower City. It is four stories high, the last floor stands out in a console and includes three crude oil holes, above which there exists a square firing hole with the superior part in a circle arc, meant for light artillery items. The eight sided pyramid shaped roof has relatively soft gradients. The last floor is arched with eight sphere surfaces which form inside bound ridges.

The tower was damaged and rebuilt in several occasions. During the great fire on March 31st, 1566 it exploded because of the gunpowder deposited here and the same occurred on September 7th, 1570 when another catastrophic fire occurred. On August 28th, 1638 the tower exploded a third time, this time due to a lightning. Built on an octagonal base 3 meters in length, the tower was used by the tanners' guild.

The Gunpowder Tower
The tower was erected at the middle of the 16th century within the fourth defense belt, one of his roles being that of storage place for gunpowder and was part of the strongest fortified formation of the city which defended Ocnei Gate (or the Shoemakers Gate).

It is a massive tower, on a circular plan, built in this manner to resist the attacks of the siege artillery. As its name shows, it was used to deposit gunpowder.
From a chronological point of view, it belongs in fact to the new fortification system conceived at the end of the 15th century.

The Thick Tower
It is a massive construction built on a semicircular base, with brick walls (the base being made of stone) and a platform where the canons were once placed. The tower is u-shaped standing out by 25 meters from the exterior wall. It had several defensive levels representing a genuine war machine.

The tower was erected by Marcus Pempfflinger around 1540. The first theater in Sibiu functioned in this tower since 1778. It was recently rehabilitated entirely and it is now the headquarters of the State Philharmonics in Sibiu.

The defense towers of Sibiu (Part II)

The Arquebusiers Tower
It is the southernmost of the three towers on Citadel's Street. Build between 1357 - 1366, it later became the Weavers' Tower, named after the guild which administrated it.

The tower has the shape of an octagonal prism with the superior part standing out from the main body, supported by consoles with arches in which holes for launching are placed. The firing holes at the first level have the shape of a key hole. Up to the height of 1 meter the tower is built in stone and the superior part is made of bricks.

The Potters' Tower
It was built in stone in the 15th century and it was consolidated a century later. Its superior part, standing out from the main body, is supported by a row of consoles with holes used for launching. Five firing holes for arquebuses are placed all around it. Under the rain shadow: stair-like ramparts.

The Potters' Tower is connected to the next tower through a wall built in two stages.
The tower has a rectangular plan with the inferior part on rough stone and the over-raising on brick.

The Carpenters' Tower
Build between 1337 - 1366, it is a flank tower annexed to the second precinct. It has a circular plan at the base. From the level of the cornice, the tower has the shape of an octagonal prism concluded in its superior part by a body standing out towards the exterior and sustained by consoles with crude oil holes between arches.

It was restored in 1967. The connective wall between these towers is a recent reconstruction of the old wall that once connected them.

The defense towers of Sibiu (Part I)

The Stairs' Tower
Situated in the historical center of the city (3, Huet Place), it is the only one of the three access gates in the first precinct of fortifications which was preserved and dates from the 13th century, being the oldest construction preserved in Sibiu. Its actual shape dates from 1542.

The tower presents itself in the form of a one-story massive brick construction, hosting at the first floor an arched passage way through which one can arrive at the stairs connecting the "Upper Town" with the "Lower Town" in the direction of Tower's Street, and on the lateral it has an arched passage way leading to the Expiation Corner (Busswinkel) situated under the curbed wall separating the garden of the Parish House.

The Gate Tower
Situated also in the very center of the town (1, Al. Odobescu Street, near the Museum of History), the tower was erected in the 14th century and it is one of the best preserved towers from the third defense precinct. The Altemberger House (The Old Town Hall) was built nearby this tower.

It has the shape of a prism, on a rectangular plan, erected on two floors. The ground floor, barrel vaulted, was the way of access into the city's precincts.

The Council Tower of Sibiu

Turnul Sfatului (The Council Tower) is one of the most famous monuments of Sibiu. It bears this name because it used to defend the entrance gate into the second precinct, situated in the immediate vicinity of the building which once hosted the City Hall of Sibiu, mentioned in the documents for the first time in 1324 (no. 31, Small Square, recently rehabilitated).

The nowadays edifice is the result of several construction phases, the building having been super-elevated and even incorporated in a group of buildings. Only the nucleus erected at the level of the first floor was probably preserved from the initial building. The probable dating corresponds to the building of the second fortification precinct, that is the period between 1224 and 1241, in its initial form the building's height not surpassing four stories. Following an archeological probing, a coin from the time of the reign of Andrew II (1025-1235) was discovered in the defense moat of this precinct. Complex rehabilitation works were carried out between 1586 and 1588, after the upper stories collapsed on February 17th, 1585, painter Johann David being trapped under the debris while painting the arch. After it was repaired several times after the 18th century, the tower underwent radical works in the superior part.

In its nowadays shape, the tower is seven stories high, successively withdrawn, its facades being marked by narrow openings with the shape of ramparts. At the ground floor the tower has an ample passageway. The second tunnel is in fact under the building situated at no. 2, Large Square and it was opened in 1930. On the southern wall of the tower there exist a series of stone relief representations of two lions, assumed to be part of the original structure of the tower dating from the 13th century. The access in the interior of the tower is made through a narrow door and by means of a spiraled stairway one can reach the superior floors. The mechanism of the clock may be observed on the penultimate floor, and the last floor represents an observation deck for the old city.

The tower had various uses over time, from a granary to an observation deck for fires, a location for temporary arrest and even a museum of natural sciences at the middle of the 18th century. Between 1962 and 1998, the tower hosted a section of the Brukenthal Museum displaying medieval exhibits.

Saint Michael's Church

The Church of Saint Michael is a Gothic-style Roman Catholic church in Cluj-Napoca. It is the second largest church (after the Black Church of Braşov) in Transylvania, Romania. The nave is 50 meters long and 24 meters wide, the apse is 20×10 m. The tower with its height of 76 meter (80 meter including the cross) is the highest one in Transylvania. The western portal is decorated with the three coats of arms of Sigismund as King of Hungary, as King of the Czech Kingdom and as Holy Roman Emperor.

The construction was begun probably in place of the Saint James Chapel. The financing of the church was partly done by the citizens, partly from the income of indulgences. (The first related document from 1349, signed by the archbishop of Avignon and fifteen other bishops grants the indulgence for those contributing to the illumination and furniture of the Saint Michael Church). The construction was completed between 1442-1447, the old tower was built between 1511-1545. The tower that stands today was erected in 1862. The oldest of its sections is the altar, inaugurated in 1390, while the newest part is the clock tower, which was built in Gothic Revival style (1837-1862).

The church was Protestant between 1545-1566, and Unitarian in the period 1566-1716, after that it was re-confiscated by the Catholic Church during the counter-reformation.

Some important historical events that took place in the church:
  • 26 July 1551: Queen Isabella of Hungary gives the Hungarian Crown to General Castaldo, the deputy of Ferdinand I, and cedes with that Hungary and Transylvania
  • 23 October 1556: Queen Isabella returns and takes back the reign of Transylvania, in the name of her son, the child John II Sigismund Zápolya
  • 27 March 1601: the third investiture of Sigismund Báthory as Prince of Transylvania
  • 12 February 1607: election of Sigismund Rákóczi as Prince of Transylvania
  • 7 March 1608: election of Gabriel Báthory as Prince of Transylvania
  • 13 October 1613: election of Gabriel Bethlen as Prince of Transylvania
  • 18 May 1944: the speech of Áron Márton, bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in Transylvania in which he condemned the deportation of Jews.

Turda Salt Mine

Turda's salt deposit (Romanian: Salina Turda, Hungarian: Torda Sóbánya) has been known and exploited by ancient times, but it was put into systematic operation of the deposit, by underground mining work, during the Roman conquest in Dacia. The salt was exploited in rooms of 17-34m depth and 10-12m width, disposed one near the other an separated by a safety consolidation. This system ensured a massive extraction of the salt, but it worked only in those areas where the salt was exploited near the surface. Salt was continuously extracted during the 6th and 9th century, along with other very useful minerals.

The Salt Customs in Turda are mentioned for the first time in 1075 a.d. During the 13th century, Turda Salt Mine is mentioned in official documents at the 1st of May 1271, when the mine was offered to the Transylvanian leaders of the Catholic Church. These and the bishop of Transylvania subsequently, would get privileges for using the salt from the mine in Turda. Salt Rooms where built in order to better coordinate the extraction, transportation and storage. According to a report made up by the royal inspectors Paulus Bornemisza and Georgius Wernher in 1552, the main salt room was that in Turda and the salt was extracted form both, "the large" and "the small" mine. As for its quality people would say that salt "is good and solid" (Latin: sal ipse bonus et solidus).

Towards the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, the mining in Transylvania revigorate due to some initiatives of the Royal Court in Vienna meant to encourage the economy of the province. The salt was exploited in the same mines that worked previously, but those in Turda were still the most important. The mineralogist Johann Fridwaldszky in his Mineralogia Magnus Principatus Transilvaniae, published in 1767, stated that "the mines in Turda worth being visited". After a detailed presentation of the bell-shaped mining system as well as the evacuation by vertical transporter, the author relates that the mines in Turda have five important wells: the first one is called "the upper one", the second is "the low one", the third called "Cojocnean", the fourth called "St. Terezia" and the fifth called "Sf. Anton".

The Salt Mine from Turda, known as one of the most important in Transylvania, started to fall into decay after 1840, due to the growing competition with the salt mine in Ocna Mureş. The building of a new transportation gallery (Franz Jozef gallery), 916.65m long, was decided in 1853, in order to facilitate the salt transportation to the surface. At the same time, the Terezia well was modernized by adding two side rooms to it: Ghizela and Rudolf, the latest running the extraction of the salt. Throughout that time, prisoners were never used as workers (Latin: inncisoresm salium). Tha salt was brought to the surface by other workers (Latin: famuli). They used a vertical mechanical transporter. The mines were lighted by candles and tallow rush lights. Explosives were never used for exploitation nor mechanical equipment for cutting the salt. Turda Salt Mine ceased its activity in 1932. During the World War II the mine was used as an anti-aircraft shelter.

The microclimate is characterized by yearly variations of the temperature between 11-12 0C, an average humidity of 80%, the air pressure is between 747-752 mm Hg and the air's moving speed between 0.02-0.7 m/sec. All these factors, the lack of pathogen bacterium and a moderate ionization of the air have their contribution to the well-known benefic effect over the breathing apparatus. The mine entered the touristic circuit in 1992. The mine hosts a Contemporary Art Museum, is used also for classical music concerts, exhibitions and, of course, as an important treatment base.

Turda Gorges

The Turda Gorges (Romanian: Cheile Turzii; Hungarian: Tordai Hasadek) are situated 8 km away from city of Turda, in the North of Trascău Mountains, (Western Carpathians), forming a wonderful Karst landscape.

The Hăşdate River has cut in Jurassic limestone an impressive corridor more than 3 km in length. The corridor is guarded by steep rocks, rising up to 350 m, with lofty peaks, about 60 caves, sinkholes and vertical walls. In the Turda Gorges one can admire various species of butterflies and approximately 1,000 species of plants (greatest number in Romania per surface unit), some of them unique in the world. The Turda Gorges represent a complex preserve (geological, flora, fauna, archaeological) and are declared monument of nature, protected since 1938. As a curiosity, this is the place with the lowest altitude from Romania (540 m) where the edelweiss appears.

From Turda Gorge one can find trails to Tureni Gorges, Hăşdate Ravine, the Ciucaş Waterfalls, the Borzeşti Waterfalls and Gorges and the Old Roman Road. The Turda Gorges area is well-known as ideal for climbing, hiking, trekking, soft enduro, but also as a visited touristic objective.

Photos by Cristian Bortes, published on Flickr here, here, here, here, here. You can see an extensive set of photos (238) taken by him in Turda Gorges here.

A refused Nobel

Nicolae Paulescu (October 30, 1869 – July 17, 1931), Romanian physiologist and professor of medicine, the inventor of insulin.

Born in Bucharest, he displayed remarkable abilities as early as his first school years. He learned French, Latin and Ancient Greek at an early age, so that a few years later he became fluent in all these languages and was able to read classical works of Latin and Greek literature in the original. He also had a particular gift for drawing and music and special inclinations towards natural sciences, such as physics and chemistry. He graduated from the Mihai Viteazu High School in Bucharest, in 1888. In the autumn of 1888, Paulescu left for Paris, where he enrolled in medical school. In 1897 he graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree, and was immediately appointed as assistant surgeon at the Notre-Dame du Perpétuel-Secours Hospital. In 1900, Paulescu returned to Romania, where he remained until his death (1931) as Head of the Physiology Department of the University of Bucharest Medical School, as well as a Professor of Clinical Medicine at the St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Bucharest.

In 1916, he succeeded in developing an aqueous pancreatic extract which, when injected into a diabetic dog, proved to have a normalizing effect on blood sugar levels. After a gap during World War I, he resumed his research and succeeded in isolating the anti-diabetic pancreatic hormone (pancreine). From April 24 to June 23, 1921, Paulescu published four papers at the Romanian Section of the Society of Biology in Paris:
* The effect of the pancreatic extract injected into a diabetic animal by way of the blood.
* The influence of the time elapsed from the intravenous pancreatic injection into a diabetic animal.
* The effect of the pancreatic extract injected into a normal animal by way of the blood.
* Research on the Role of the Pancreas in Food Assimilation, an extensive paper on this subject, was submitted by Paulescu on June 22 to the Archives Internationales de Physiologie in Liège, Belgium, and was published in the August 1921 issue of this journal. Furthermore, Paulescu secured the patent rights for his method of manufacturing pancreine (his own term for insulin) on April 10, 1922 (patent no. 6254) from the Romanian Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Eight months after Paulescu's works were published, doctor Frederick Grant Banting and biochemist John James Richard Macleod from the University of Toronto, Canada, published their paper on the successful use of a pancreatic extract for normalizing blood sugar (glucose) levels (glycemia) in diabetic dogs. Their paper is a mere confirmatory paper, with direct references to Paulescu's article. Surprisingly, Banting and Macleod received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of insulin, while Paulescu's pioneering work was being completely ignored by the scientific and medical community. International recognition for Paulescu's merits as the true discoverer of insulin came only 50 years later.

In 1990, Nicolae Paulescu was elected posthumously to the Romanian Academy. On June 27, 1993, in Cluj-Napoca, a postmark was dedicated in Paulescu’s honor to observe the World Day Against Diabetes. Paulescu was also honored on a postage stamp issued by Romania in 1994. The stamp is one in a set of seven stamps honoring famous Romanians. In 1993, a new Institute of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Diseases in Bucharest was named in his honor.

World's thinest LCD

Eugen Onac, a Romanian from Luduş (yes, from our town) is behind the prototype developed by Philips, whose dimensions revolutionize the industry: with a diagonal of 81 inches, the screen is only 8 millimeters thick and have a weight of 5 kilograms.

Employed for almost three years at Philips, Eugen Onac is 33 years and is a graduate of the Faculty of Physics at the University of Bucharest, where has also followed a master program. He then did an internship for several months in Germany at Cottbus, and continued with a PhD in the Netherlands, at the Technical University of Delft. Immediately after the end of 2005, Philips Research Eindhoven has committed to. Eugen remembers the first contact with the cathode tube, in his childhood: "The first TV set that I remember was a black and white one, with lamps".

The record reached by the Dutch company Philips, currently translated by a prototype, was "approved" at the IFA Fair, held in Berlin during September 4-9 2008. The screen is a real delight for users, who will hang on the wall as a commonplace painting. The previous record in terms of thinness was a Sony LCD (9.9 mm), launched at the end of August 2008. Philips preferred to keep the response for Sony's product in secret: "The World (from Philips) was very enthusiastic, and the model has been shown for the first time at internal level for several months now. Only later it was decided to be presented for the public at Berlin".

The difference is made by Philips in the screen lighting. "Normal LCD screens have backlightning, which has a thickness of 20-30 millimeters. We managed to do 20 times thinner, reaching a millimeter. I used a light guide, which is a plastic light conducting. We got 30 LEDs at the bottom of the screen and another 30 in the top. They inject their light into the light guide, which then spreads all over the screen in a uniform layer". The biggest challenge for Onac's team was the point where the light links with light guide, "because the guide is just a millimeter thin, and it is very difficult to do a coupling effectively without losing much light".