Berca Monastery

Berca Monastery
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The municipality of Berca

The municipality of Berca
The municipality of Berca website (Romanian language)

miercuri, 3 octombrie 2018

Rătești Monastery  

Răteşti Monastery is a monastery of Eastern Orthodox nuns located in Berca Commune, Buzău County, Romania, on the left bank of the Buzău River. The monastery was erected by the boyar family of Dragomir, an army captain. The oldest known document relating to it is a donation deed, dated 6 May 1634. At the time, it was a monastery of monks. Because of the lack of monks, the monastery went deserted in 1752, and in 1760 was revived as community of nuns. As of 2006, about 75 nuns live there.The monastery church was built in a mixed neoclassical and local ecclesiastical style. It was painted in 1843-1844 by Nicolae Teodorescu and his nephew Gheorghe Tattarescu. The bell tower, erected by Dionisie Romano in 1854, was re-designed and reduced in height to 18 meters in 1894, when it was rebuilt after an earthquake.The compound includes a museum, near the water-well (which dates from 1911). The museum was opened in 1975, in a wide hall painted in 1859 by a monk from the nearby Ciolanu Monastery. It exhibits a multi-language Bible printed in 1629 in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. The visitors can also see a fragment of the original 1688 Bucharest Bible, the first edition translated into Romanian, along with the anniversary reprint of the Bucharest Bible from 1988. Other items on display are numerous icons painted on wood or glass, as well as gold and silver-thread embroidery.


DESTINATION: ROMANIA/Plescoi sausages (Buzau), an outlawry invention

Initially only made of mutton, abundantly seasoned with pepper and garlic, the Plescoi sausages are a traditional product, specific to the entire Buzau valley. On April 1st 2014, the Buzau County Agricultural Department together with the Association for the Plescoi Sausages Protection has launched the action of protection of the 'Plescoi Sausages' traditional brand with a view to get the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) certificate.

The Plescoi locality, mentioned for the first time in a document issued by voivode Vlad Calugarul (Vlad the Monk) on April 24 1484 in the Seat of Targoviste under the name of Placicoi, the village which is to preserve, conserve and use the recipe of the most renowned sausages in the Buzau area, is one of the oldest settlements in Wallachia, with over 528 years of age documentary attested. Age is the main argument of keeping the secret of the Plescoi sausages, says historian Marius Constantinescu.

Later on, after the 17th century, this product is made almost exclusively in the Plescoi village (today embedded in the Berca commune), which it took the current name and reputation from. Initially called Buzau sausages, their preparation (of mutton) was linked to the big number of sheep that were grazing on the Buzaului Mountains' hills and pastures. The product was made in almost every home, they were kept smoked and dry, and together with the salted, smoked meat known today as pastrami, they were for the locals one of the main products constituted in their canned meat supply which didn't alter. 

'These sausages appeared in very ancient times, older anyway than 2000 - 2500 years. It's hard to say what were their spices back then, but certainly condiment gathered from the area's flora were used - garlic, thyme, basil, watercress, dill, horseradish, poppy seeds', Marius Constantinescu added.

The Buzau historian says these sausages were already well-known in the 13th - 14th centuries and in particular after the establishment of Wallachia under voivode Basarab I (1324-1352), as they were traded in the Dragaica Fair known as The Fair between the Lands, which was organized for two weeks from June 10 to 24, before the Birth of Saint John the Baptizer, at the bottom of the Penteleu Mt., since 1778, in Buzau. 

'Were coming at the Dragaica Fair fishermen with fish from the Danube's marshes, people with cereals from the grains rich Baragan, people of the hills with selected wines, Wallachians with the renowned Buzau tuica (plum brandy), others with tasty cheese, the shoemakers, the tailors, the furriers and other merchants and craftsmen to sell their hand-made clothes, countrywomen with homespun or sisters with angora hand-made clothes, gardeners with their vegetables. The Plescoi locals came too with their reputed pastrami and also came the Buzau or Candesti folk musicians (...)', a source of the time mentions. 

In her turn, Cristina Partal, the chair of the Buzau branch of ANTREC (National Association of Rural, Ecological and Cultural Tourism) seems to have another explanation. 

'To the end of the 18th century, as a result of the Russian-Turkish wars which devastated the Balkan Peninsula, many Bulgarian and Serbian nationals have crossed the Danube and settled in the Buzau area, where they've set the well-known sarbarii (Serb settlements). They've brought and implanted here the vegetable's cultivation, contributing to the zone's economic development. Pepper, very much used in their daily consumption and in canned-food is among the vegetables cultivated here by Serbians. Some Serbians have settled in the Berca-Plescoi too, and there they've introduced the pepper in the local sausages' seasoning, this contributing to giving their taste a final touch, as well as to the appearance of the local salami - babic, made of beef and pork, strongly seasoned too. In time, these sausages grew to get known as Plescoi sausages, and under this label they were sold and consumed not only during the Dragaica, but the long of the year as they were one of the delights of the reputed taverns of Buzau and of the entire area', the chair of ANTREC Buzau said.
Cristina Partal holds the original recipe of the sausages: 'After the mutton is taken off from the bones, the bones are boiled in a pot and the mutton is kneaded with that warm sauce, together with garlic, thyme and chopped pepper. The composition is left aside for 1 to 2 hours, then a last seasoning is made. With this composition the goat intestines will be filled. The sausages will be dried and smoked, and will be ready to be consumed both raw and roasted'.
In his turn, publicist Viorel Francu, author of several works of the local history believes that 'these sausages are an outlawry invention'. 
'The outlaws needed several weeks well-canned supplies, and the Plescoi sausages are ideal for the homeless, meal-less outlaws ', Viorel Francu said.
On April 1 2014, the Buzau County Agricultural Department together with the Association for the Plescoi Sausages Protection have launched the action of protection of the 'Plescoi sausages' traditional brand with a view to getting its Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
'The Plescoi sausages will be the first traditional brand of the Buzau County re-certified according to the new European regulations. The Berca area, land of the Plescoi sausages, and the neighbouring communes will have a brand with the PGI mention which they will be able to enter the European market with, and the documentation will be sent to Brussels ', the Buzau County Agricultural Department (DAJ Buzau) officials said. 
They hailed the initiative by which the raw material for the traditional brands will be mandatory to be produced in the area only. 
'So far, anybody could make the reputed Plescoi sausages, even if they brought the raw material from any corner of the world. In accordance with the new European norms, as it is normal, the raw material should be from the area, which will contribute to the stimulation of investments and traditional job'.