Ghimes (Ghimes Valley)
Ghimes is a peculiar "stream-country" on the eastern border of the former Tinutul Ciucului, at the upper flow of the River Trotus. In 1626, Gábor Bethlen prince of Transylvania had a larger custom-house built at the border between Transylvania and Moldova, of which ruins, called Rákóczi Castle for some unknown reason, can still be seen there. The first settlements were probably connected to this tollhouse. According to another theory, the serfs, villeins and deserters having fled from Ciuc, Tinutul Trei Scaune and Gheorgheni were the first settlers. Formerly, Ghimes belonged to Ciuc, having been populated from the latter. Several historical events relate to this land.
The area of the upper water-basin of the River Trotus as far as the – Ghimes Pass – is 650 km2. The River Trotus takes its source in the Viscol Mountain (1,496 m). Flowing westwards, then northeastwards on an 8 km long section, the river changes its direction to the southeast at Orodic, on the area of Fagetel, breaking through the watershed of the Eastern Carpathians in a pitoresque valley. The Trotus Valley is a typical transversal one.
The area of the Ghimes country (Lunca de Sus and Lunca de Jos) is 201.5 km2, the number of its inhabitants was 8,958 on 1st January 1996. The Ghimes Valley can be approached from Middle Ciuc, from the direction of the Ghimes Pass. Its area is crossed by National Road 12A: the distance between Miercurea-Ciuc and the Ghimes Pass is 50 km. The Miercurea-Ciuc–Ghimes Valley railway (1897) multiplicated the connections between Moldova and Transylvania. As a result of this, lumbering and wood trading have developed.
The resort attraction and receptiveness of the Ghimeses are not significant. Only serious investment could make the small local baths attractive for tourists. Besides the natural beauty of the Trotus Valley we can also mention its cultural history and folk architectural monuments. The real touristic attractions of the Ghimeses are represented by their folk art, poetry and dance traditions.
The Ghimes Pass (at 1,164 m altitude), approached along National Road 12A, offers a pitoresque panorama of the valley with the Bálványos, Tar and Ciuc Mountains and the riverhead of the Trotus, the chief attraction of this land that makes it unique. In the Trotus Valley, on a 30 km long section, we can see the villages settled in the side valleys or 'streams' called 'holes' by the locals. The stream names preserve the memory of the family occupations. According to the oral tradition, the first settlement in Ghimes Valley was Sáncloka, from where the first inhabitants moved and settled down next to the streams, built cottages and 'conquered' arable lands and grasslands by deforestation.
The Ghimes Valley, on the area of the Trotus riverhead is populated by three large communities: Lunca de Sus, Lunca de Mijloc and Ghimeş-Făget – which belongs to Bacau county). The total population of these villages was 14,057 in 1992; that of Lunca de Sus and Lunca de Mijloc of Harghita county was 8,958 altogether on 1st January 1996. The Magyars living here are called Csángós. They are the Ghimes Csángós compared to the Moldovan Csángós.
The Csángós of Ghimes live in the 30 km long upper valley of the Trotus. The 15,000 Roman Catholic Csángós of Ghimes are regarded as a characteristic ethnic group of the Szeklers. The folk art of Ghimes, its costumes, customs, music and dance are still homogeneous. The way of life of the Ghimes people has been influenced by natural and human factors as well. Among the natural and economic-social factors we can mention the alpine farming, animal-breeding, wood processing and trade and domestic industry. Both in the Trotus Valley and in the “streams” immense natural grasslands can be found, favourable for cattle-breeding, while the alpine pastures favourize sheep-farming. The occupation of the alpine pastures took place gradually: through deforestation, an increasing number of natural grasslands could be used. This is indicated by the large number of the summer huts, cottages. 'Hutting', temporary accommodation in the summer, is one of the peculiarities of the Csángó way of life.
Sylviculture is another important factor in the life of the Ghimes people. Ghimes is the country of the spruce and fir trees. Southwards, the birch and the oak trees appear. There are alpine pastures and hayfields on the high mountainsides. The ancient form of increasing them was forest burning. The local methods of lumbering and hunting are known as additional income activities in the Ghimes country.
The people of Ghimes are self-supporting, especially what concerns building, preparation of food and clothes. Primary production can still assure these at a basic level.
The settlement structure is also characteristic: long road-villages in the valleys and several types of scattered farmsteads in the side valleys or streams. The wide plots, the large number of yards and the functional adaptation of the economic space are determining elements of the Ghimes Valley landscape, on a 20 km long section in the Trotus Valley. The Csángó house represents a type of the Szekler house, built of uncarved beams. Strong awareness of local identity can be witnessed here: the majority of the Ghimes Csángós know where they come from. Their dialect can be compared to that of Upper Ciuc. In Ghimes, only the 'innuit' is regarded Csángó, everybody else is a foreigner.
The ethnographical traditions of this country have also been formed in a special way. The country is rich in folk dance traditions, myths and folk songs. The gardon is the peculiar percussion instrument of the peasant musicians. The main opportunity for entertainment was dance. 35 different dance opportunities and 30 dance types are distinguished by experts. The voluntary co-operative work represented the most frequent opportunity. Among the members of the famous musician dinasties János Zerkula is probably the best-known.
Because of the isolated situation of the folk culture, the archaic layers of the Ghimes Csángó peasant culture can be studied from several points of view.