ROMANIA's volcanic springs have healed and helped a region in its hardest times.

One morning in the small Transylvanian mountain resort of Baile Homorod, in Romania, travelers and residents gathered under the shade of a wooden canopy near three streams of sparkling spring water to fill up a row of empty bottles.


It flows from volcanic mountains nearby and pours into the springs here, At it's best, it's cool, clear and prickly, with a rich taste of minerals. At its worst, it can quickly develop a foul smell and stain everything it touches a dark amber. But residents swear by its curative powers.

Balint Vencel, 36, a frequent visitor, says the water helps with his kidney trouble.

''I've seen doctors and they didn't help.'' he said. ''But ever since I've been drinking this water, I haven't had any pain in my kidneys.

The naturally fizzy water is slowly filtered through layers upon layers of volcanic rock, making it crystal clear and sparkling most of the time. In villages like Baile Homorod, dotted dotted with cottages in sight of a single ski slope in the easternmost region of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, residents once helped to monetize the springs - turning the region into Switzerland of the East.

They expected visitors to flock to spas and resorts and nathe and heal in in the waters, as wealthy tourists did in the Alps.
That dream faded because of war, politics and economic failures.

After World War 1, the empire collapsed, and the balneotherpahy industry - natural healing based in therapies like cold and warm baths - eventually went out of fashion. The end of World War II brought Communism, and most of the private spas and resorts were nationalized, closed or mismanaged under state officials.

Communist Romania was late to invest in Tourism, and it focused not on on the mountains,but on the Black Sea coast. In the 1980s, the dictator Nicolae Causescu's repressive regime, along with increasing shortages made the country an austere and unattractive destination for foreign tourists.

But reminders of the water culture are everywhere in the Transylvania region : in half-timbered villas of old spa towns, wooden pools in pristine surroundings built and used by villagers and roadside pavilions sheltering springs.

The mineral water is deeply embedded in the local culture and mythology. It's Romanians' favorite drink, advertised on billboards and television. Most shops sell local varieties - sparkling, mild and still, stocked next to internationally known brands.

Water is also part of many ancient local rites : On Easter Monday is some villages, boys visit girls to 'sprinkle' them with ice-cold water - a ritual holding its promise of youth and fertility.

In one village, locals talk of two springs of salty water : one brings on stomach acid, the other cures it.
Nowadays, popular springs post the water's chemical composition to calm visitors fears of any ill effects.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on ''Countries and Tourism and Attractions'' , continues. The World Students Society thanks author Palko Karasz.


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