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Legends of Hangu Commune

Hangu Commune – presentation

Hangu commune, an ancient Romanian settlement, commissioned on the 13th of  February 1458, in the document issued by the Chancellery of the ruler Stephen the Great, is situated on the central valley of Bistrița river, where the strong tides create the widest Sub-Carpathian opening in Bistrița Mountains, near the blue waters of Izvorul Muntelui-Bicaz reservoir, where the legendary figure of Ceahlău Massif is reflected, ruling and embracing the eternity of the rocks, this land blessed by God and of a breathtaking beauty.

Hangu commune is also nicknamed the “Place of Heaven on Bistrita Valley”, where the houses are scattered on the hills, some of them hidden among the giant fir trees, which have always been there to share the sorrows and the joys of the locals. The waters run through the villages from one end to the other, bearing with them the unwritten history of these places, with hard-working people, who always greet you with a smile on their faces.

Hangu Commune displays its beauty along both shores of the lake Izvorul Muntelui, that the locals also called ”the Lake of Tears”, because the waters hide in their depths not only the ruins of the most beautiful and impressive churches on Bistrița Valley that the locals would also proudly call ”Hangu Cathedral” and the remains of the beautiful households from Gura Hangului, but also the dispair, grief and sadness of those forced to leave, move out carring with them all their live’s ammenities leaving behind their dearest belongings that are full of memories. This lake gives visitors, by the care of those who provide tourist services in this area, unlimited leisure opportunities, from sailing boats to motorized boats, all handled by real professionals. It is impossible for anyone not to wish to admire the sunset on the “Sea between the mountains”, in the waters of which the legendary greatness of Ceahlău Massif, also known as the Holy Mountain is reflected, during each sunny day.

Wise old Lazarus

Legend talks about the times when the Mongol hordes invaded Hangu. According to their custom, they robbed and set fire to houses, churches and the Prince’s Palace. They plundered and took many cattle, slaves, retreating with all they could get. Most of the inhabitants hid in the forests and mountain valleys. The legend also tells us that the Hangu’s locals did not leave the Mongols’ action unpunished. Led by the old man Lazarus, they waited for the Mongols in a place on the Lady’s Hill called Palanca. There they closed the road with cut down trees. They had cut down the trees holding them so that they would not overturn on their own, and at the moment of the appearance of the crowd, they let the trees fell on it, destroying it altogether. Only one Mongol escaped, which a rifleman shot down when he was on his way towards Călugăreni.

The memory of the Mongols passing through the region is preserved in an anecdotal form. The priest Simion Ungureanu from Secu Buhalniţei told the story of Constantin Mătasă: “When the Mongols entered Ceahlău, they robbed a nearby village. The poor people, fleeing in a hurry, were up in the woods on the nearby hill. A wife, who was too busy with the concealment of things that seemed most precious to her, was caught in the house and could no longer run. Being young and beautiful, the Mongol tied her hands and mounted her on the horse to take her as a slave. When the people on the hill saw what was happening, they shouted in terror at the man, who was nearby:

”Hurry up John, because the Mongol man took Mary.”

John took a look towards the valley and with his hand crossed on his chest, he said:

”Oh, poor Mongol man!” (After C. Matasă, Through Moldavia at the foothill of the mountain, in a manuscript found at the Archives of the Neamţ State).

The legend and anecdote presented above are the only local sources that mention the presence and plunder of the Mongols in the Hangu region. The question arises as to whether the Mongols reached Hangu, plundered it, and whether it was possible for the Hangu locals to destroy the Mongols, being known that the Mongols were well known for being very skilled at the art of war, had a lot of experience in fighting being used in the Turks’ wars with the German people and other nations from Europe and Asia.

The answer to this question is yes. The presence of the Mongols in Hangu is also recorded in the chronicles of that time. During the Austro-Turkish War in 1716-1718, all of Moldavia, from the mountains to Siret river, was occupied by the robing Germans; they were joined by the Moldavians, who rioted, because they were no longer willing to pay the tribute imposed by the ruler Mihai Racoviţă. The German people occupied then both Neamț Land, and Hangu. Mihai Racoviţă called for help from the Mongol hordes who managed to defeat the “soldiers”. For their service, the Mongols asked for 10 bags of money, as a price for their departure from the country, but Mihai Racoviţă did not give them the required gold, allowing them, instead, to plunder the country beyond Siret river “because that people is all so greedy, dear soldier”. On that occasion, the Mongols plundered Neamţ Land, reaching at the foothill of Ceahlău Massif. Neculce also wrote: “And from Siret river onwards, they also set free the loaves to prey as much as they could of all the Neamţ Land. And as far as Hangu and Ceahlău they plundered them and returned full of slaves to Buceag. ”(Ion Neculce, Letopiseţul Ţării Moldovei, Ed. Minerva, 1982, p.658).

Old Lazarus must have been a Hangu local, who took part in the wars of that time: He probably led the soldiers of Hangu in these battles as they were in 1674. The surname Lazarus existed and exists in Hangu, Catagrafia (population census) since 1774. It mentions Ion Lazăr, Simeon Lazăr and Lăzăroaie, the grandmother. If there was the name of Lazarus in 1774, then there was also in 1716 -1717 when the Mongol hordes invaded Hangu.

Prof., Gheorghe Drugă

The treasure from ALTAN

During the times when nomadic nations invaded the Romanian places, it is said that a crowd of these nomads, known as the Pechenegs, arrived in these lands, setting up camp in a place now called Smizi, not far from the Altan Mountain. From here they went everywhere, even to more distant places, plundering everything they could find: cattle, gold, silver, brass, coins and ornaments that they piled up here, at the foot of Altan Mountain. How long they stayed here, weeks, months or years, is not known to man, but they amassed a lot of wealth.

Other nomadic nations invaded. The Pechenegs, feeling threatened and even beaten by them, put all their gold, silver, brass and ornaments in wooden barrels. There were 10 barrels of gold, 10 full of silver and 10 of brass. They dug a large cellar with thick iron doors under Altan Mount and put all their wealth there. After this work they covered everything with soil and arranged, through their spells, that no one could open their treasure. It is said, however, that on the Resurrection of God, at midnight, when neither the devil nor the spells have any power, the doors of treasure open by themselves, revealing the way to the treasure, but only for an hour long. It is said that an ordinary man, taking his child along with him, knowing this, entered the room where the treasure was, and saw all those barrels full of riches. He took from each barrel as much as he could fit in the bag that he carried. He then hurried away from the room. His child, being attracted by the brilliance of the wealth inside the barrels, ran too late towards the exist and the door closed in front of him, leaving him captive under Altan Mountain. The following year, on the night of the Resurrection, the man went to the treasure again to find his child, but found only his skeleton.

The Legend of Audia Village (1)

During the barbarian invasions, many inhabitants fled from the invaders so as not to be killed or enslaved. They took refuge especially in the dense forests of the mountains, as far away from the invaders as possible. One of these places was also the land near Ceahlău Massif, which was later named Hangu.

Once arrived in these places, they did not leave their lives and possessions to chance. They set up guards in certain places to follow the movements of the barbarians and to signal, by fires lit on the highest places or by sounding their horns or alphorns, the coming or the retreat of enemy troops. From the places where they were hidden, any notice from these guards was eagerly awaited. The reaction of the bannished locals, that means those who took refuge in these places from the barbarian invasions, when they heard the sound of the horn or of the alphorn of those who guarded and surveilled from Altan the Main Way, the road from where the invaders always came, was: ”That’s the sound of the horn!” or ”That’s the sound of the alphorn!”. From that moment on the name of the place where the sound of the horn or of the alphorn could be heard was called Audia, that means the place where the sound come.

The Legend of Audia Village (2)

Long ago, when migratory hordes came from the east and invaded the lands inhabited by Romanians, robbing, burning and killing them, a very rich woman from those places, took her wealth and withdrew from the invaders’ way, in the forests and cocoons at the foothill of Ceahlău Massif. This woman’s name was Auda, and because she was long past her young age, the locals called her “old lady” Auda. The place where Auda settled was at the foot of a hill, called Muncelu, not far from the outflow of a rushing and noisy stream, into another larger one which, in turn, flowed into Bistrița river. She thought she would be safe here, the place where she settled being farther from the roads the invaders were walking on.

Towards the end of her life she also thought of putting her fortune in a safe place. She turned everything into gold, silver, and precious stones and buried them under Altan Mountain. Since she didn’t want anyone to seize her fortune and go unpunished, she worshiped the devil and, in the room where she accumulated her wealth, she set up a table on which she put a golden salamander which, when someone would have entered the room where the fortune was, came to life and frightened everyone by forcing them to leave the room as soon as possible.

From the name of this old woman Auda, the place and the creek were called Audia and it has remained so to this day onwards.

The Monk’s Mound

On Calea Mare, in the place called Bouleţul Mic, there is Movila Călugărului (the Monk’s Mound), a hill made up of earth and branches. Legend has it that when Stephen the Great had a great war with the Turks at Valea Albă (White Valley) and being defeated, he retreated with the army in the mountains, in Hangu’s area, in Colibița’s meadow. From this place he sent his men to watch closely every movement of the Turks, who were attacking the fortresses of Moldavia, among them was also the Neamț Fortress. One of the men sent by Stephen was a monk. As he was walking on Calea Mare, near Bouleţul Mic, he was captured by the Turks and killed, his body remaining unburied, as a prey for the crows and wild animals. After the Turks were forced to retreat, Stephen’s soldiers found the monk’s body and did what was necessary to bury him in the place where he was killed. Unable to dig a deep enough hole, because the ground was rocky, stones were placed over his grave and each soldier passed and put a fir branch. Thus, the monk’s tomb was transformed into a rather large mound, being called by the locals the Monk’s Mound. From that day forward, it has been the custom for passers-by to place a branch on the monk’s tomb, that is still preserved today.

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