General description of Harghita county
The traveller heading for the middle regions of Romania can reach Harghita county by rail and by car from the direction of Deda in the northwest, by the same transport facilities from Sfantu-Gheorghe or on highway from Baraolt in the south, from Bicaz or Bacau in the east, by train or car from Blaj, Sovata or Vanatori in the west. The above mentioned roads lead through rolling countries, offering a pictoresque view delighting the traveller's eye.
The name Harghita is of unknown origin but it lives in people's minds as a Hunnish girl's name. This has been the name – who knows how long for? – of the mountain range rising to the west of the central mountains of the Eastern Carpathians, running parallelly with them in north-southern direction and surrounding the Basin of Ciuc together with the Mountains of Ciuc. Our county was named after this mountain chain of which highest peak, the Harghita-Madaras is 1,800 m.
Besides the Harghita Mountains and the Mountains of Ciuc, we should also mention here the Gurghiu's Mountains joining the former in the north, as well as the northeastern border mountains, the Giurgeu's Mountains, the Hasmasu Mare mountain range, the hill-region of the Târnava rivers in the west third of the county and the Calimani Mountains closing the county in the north with their slopes reaching down into the county. No wonder that 60% of the area of the county is mountainous- and hilly district. The Maximum level difference between the inhabited areas is approximately 400 m.
Its climate in the basins among the mountains is colder than that of the western parts, where the weather is similar to that of the other countries of the Transylvanian Basin. The climate – in the Ciuc's and Gurghiu's basins – is similar to the climate of Estonia and of the middle region of Sweden. The highest temperature (36,5° C) was measured in Odorheiu Secuiesc in 1952, the lowest, (- 35° C) in 1929. The frosty-cold-chilly weather can be felt in the above mentioned basins in 43% of the year sometimes. Because of the often very low temperature values, Ciuc-Gheorgheni is called the cold pole of the country.
The bulk of the above mentioned mountain ranges is of volcanic origin, except one, the Hasmasu Mare which hides the fossiles of the ancient sea.
Traces of the volcanic activity of great extention can still be found today. Walking eastwards in the county we come across mineral water springs everywhere. More than two thousands such springs are registered here, many of them being bottled, some even for over a century.
The annual precipitation is 600-650 liter/m2, supplying the water-basins of eight rivers with the necessary amount of water. The Olt, the Homorodu Mare and Mic flow in the south, the Bistrita, Bicazu Mic and Mare and the Trotus in the east, the Mures and the Tarnava Mare and Mica flow in the west of the county. Only the region of sources of these rivers can be found in Harghita county.
We have two “mythical” rivers, the Mures and the Olt and two “legendary” lakes as well, one of them being the solely volcanic mountain lake of Eastern Europe: Lake Saint Ann, situated in the southern part of the county, in the crater of the Ciomat lying at 950 m above sea level. The other is Lake Red, situated in the eastern part of the county, between the Cohard and the Rosu Peak, formed as a result of the rockslide in Bicaz of 1837.
The subsoil of the county is very rich in minerals: andesite, basalt, travertine, marble, salt, copper, iron, mercury ore and in mineral water springs.
The county is made up by the former Ciuc Seat (Tinutul Ciucului), Odorhei Seat (Tinutul Odorheiului) and the Toplita county. It has an area of 6,639 km2.
In 1968, the provinces - administrative areas formed on Soviet model in 1952 - were dissolved and the country was divided into counties. Then was formed Harghita county with Miercurea-Ciuc as its county seat, in the southeastern part of the former Mures Autonomous Province. Originally, Odorheiu Secuiesc was meant to be the county town, but as a result of the protests of the people of Ciuc, Miercurea-Ciuc was eventually declared chief town of Harghita county.
Harghita county is made up of the former Ciuc and Odorhei comitats as well as the district of Toplita.
According to the census of 1992, the distribution of the population is the following: 84.6 % Magyars, 14 % Romanians, 1.2 % Romas, 1.0 % Germans, 0.1 % other nationalities. According to the religion, the distribution is as follows: 65.3 % Roman Catholics, 13.3 % Orthodox, 12.9 % Reformated, 7.3 % Unitarians, 0.19 % Greek Catholics and 1.2 % belong to other religions.