Many Romanian treasures are embraced by the legends, stories, and tales, and they are often a testimony of the passing time. There are stories about places, stories about people but the ones I like the most are those where reality and legend melt together. This story has it all. Being one of Romania’s greatest tourist attractions, the Bear’s Cave near the city Oradea in western Romania, will transfer you into an underground world.
Late discovery of the Bear’s Cave in 1975 was a coincidental one and due to a curiosity of one person. People that visit this place can be fascinated by nature’s work of art. Traian Curta was doing some mining work in the area, and while firing some explosives, he saw a hole. In the many interviews he gave, he recalls the firing of explosive exactly on the 17th September 1975 and that a curiosity urged him to climb down to this spectacular site. He also recalls spending about three weeks near his discovery, being afraid that someone else would attribute this underground world to themselves or that it will remain hidden so that the mining work in this area would continue. There was a lot of courage needed, but Traian Curta was the first to go down to this incredible site, and as he recalls, he didn’t get scared by the bones he found because what he saw was breath-taking. Traian Curta left his job and started working on the exploration of the cave, where one can still find him today.
Since the discovery, the archaeologists spent five years researching this cave. First amateurs started exploring the cave, but then the scientists of the Emil Racovița Speleology Institute took over the process. The Bear’s Cave was opened to the public in 1980. The light installations were installed so that the visitors can enjoy this breath-taking place. There are one and a half kilometers of the built road since one-third of the cave is declared a natural reserve. Three galleries were arranged, the Bear’s Gallery, the Candle Gallery, and Emil Racovița’s Gallery. Later, the forth gallery was opened for the public - the Scientific Gallery. One can also be amazed by the four halls: the Bone‘s Hall, the Candle Hall, the Emil Racovița Hall and the Spaghetti Hall.
The journey begins at the Bear’s Gallery. This is where the scientists found the skeletal remains that couldn’t be attributed to any known species at first. The research revealed that this underground world kept the remains of the bear species that became extinct about 15.000 years ago - the Ursus Spalaeus. There were six bears found here, and one can admire the remains of five of them. The research also showed that this species was about four meters in height while standing up and had a weight of approximately 1.000 kilograms. The fossils of ibex, lions and hyena were also found in the cave.
Did I already tell you that the Romanian places are often linked to the legends? Let’s see what those about the Bear’s Cave tell us. The first legend is about 140 bears that were trapped in the cave, due to the fall of a giant stone that blocked the exit. The bears started starving and ate each other, and from those 140 that were trapped, only six died of old age. The second legend is a tail of Zmei, Romanian supernatural creatures (similar to an ogre) that lived in this cave and built it through magic.
The next time you will find yourself near the city of Oradea, don’t forget to plan a visit to this extraordinary underground world of Bear’s Cave.
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