The Land of Buzau

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Geopark's landscape: The Land of Buzau, Romania by Marius Dobre and Catalina Olariu

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Name The Land of Buzau
Location Buzau County
Country Romania
Topic Landscape planning and Rural developement
Office University of Agricultural Science, departament of Landscape Architecture
Case study author(s) Catalina Olariu and Marius Dobre
Road to....JPG
<googlemap version="0.9" lat="45.338633" lon="26.732483" type="terrain" zoom="9" width="300" height="200" scale="yes" overview="yes">

45.3917, 26.533356, The center of the Geopark "The Land of Buzau" </googlemap> http:// 64.947899, -19.196045 </googlemap>

Rationale: Why is this case study interesting?

  • This case study is interesting because it presents an area that is going to be declared a Geopark. It is a case with many questions and also with lots of constraints because the territory is composed of economically disadvantaged areas but with a rich geological, biological and cultural potential, potential that it is not exploited. The combination of these elements leads to a specific local landscape. The geopark territory presents an almost optimum balance between natural and anthropic, balance that should be maintained.
  • A geopark is a protected area, but also a tool to ensure sustainable development of the communities. This development includes also tourism, which can lead to destruction of the initial values, because of uneducated tourists and uneducated local communities.

Author's perspective

The project for The Land Of Buzau Geopark (Geoparcul Tinutul Buzaului) was and it is an interdisciplinary project, containing the contribution (intake/work) of geographers, geologists and also sociologists, botanists, anthropologists, etc. but entirely missing the landscapers. Initially, our involvement was voluntary as exhibition designers for the exhibitions to launch the project of the future geopark initiated by Buzau County council in collaboration with Geomedia Center (University of Bucharest), coordinated by Alexandru Andrasanu. In time, both the project coordinator and us, realized how important it was to involve someone that could deal with recovery and preservation of the landscape and also put it in value in the future projects of the Geopark, as a complementary axis to the strategic directions, so our project aims the landscape in the future geopark.

Landscape and/or urban context

  • Biogeography and cultural features

“The Land of Buzau” is located in Buzau county, being situated at the intersection of three biogeographical zones: biogeographical alpine region in north, biogeographical continental region in center and biogeographical steppe region in south. All of these regions have specific elements of flora and fauna, resulting a dynamic character of the territory.

The site of the case study presents interesting diversity of geological, biological and cultural elements.

Geodiversity: the region is known for the Muddy volcanoes, the amber from Colti, the Salt from Meledic, the Live fires, the petroleum springs, salty springs, the spectacular relief with the “Wall of the giants” or the stone fangs, the salt caves, fossils, or other geological structural elements less known.

Biodiversity: the north part of the geopark territory is situated in the mountain forest area (with species like: Fagus and Picea), while in central-southern area there are steppe elements, species like: Stipa (herb), gopher, Carpathian Scorpio, etc. Most of the territory is occupied with a mosaic of patches of forest, bushes, pastures and arable land (result of human activity).

Cultural diversity: the territory of the geopark is situated at the interference of three Romanian provinces loaning something from all, without denying its own identity: dominance of the countryside, village settlement along the river valleys, the existence of isolated hamlet with old traditions, the existence of powerful and ancient religious and monastic center, traditionally clothing, traditional architecture, cultural and arhitectural monuments, boundary stones and religious crosses, and also customs, legends, stories, festivals.

Cultural/social/political context

The territory of the geopark is a rural area, with tendency of population aging and migration (especially abroad). The residents of the 18 districts are unevenly distributed, Berca district being by far the most developed one and with the biggest economic weight (over 2900 people working in industry, especially in the extractive industry). The rest of the geopark presents a high rate of unemployment.

The main activities that provide incomes are, in order of their importance: agriculture, animal breeding, wood processing (but with irrational exploatation of forest and geological resources), indusry, trade, tourism, beekeeping. The “place” it’s like an “encyclopedia” in which you can find all the specific elements, that gave the Land of Buzau a special atmosphere with remarkable views. The Land of Buzau presents special geological elements (like the muddy volcanoes, the amber from Colti, the salt from Meledic) as well as some weird things represented by the multitude of trinities (religous crosses) situated at crossroads, in households, on hills as a gratitude to God beacuse they could climb the hill, they arrived at some point where thay could rest at the shade of a tree, etc.; all of these elements have a visual impact in landscape.

The traditions are still respected in some parts of the territory (eg: animal breeding, the use of carts with oxen, fishing), but some have started to be lost (drying fruits, pottery, handicraft workshops, development of tools, traditional wooden models). The historical and cultural heritage is unevenly distributed. Although traces of the old housing are frequently reported, there are no flagged archaeological sites. The most important protected cultural sites are: Ratesti, Gavanu, Poiana Marului monasteries, approximately 30 religious caves/chambers (in the middle of forests).

We noticed a deficiency in the perception of the locals over: built heritage, also cultural and landscape heritage and there are no educational programs for the local comunities.

Thanks to the variety of the relief and to the geologic substrate, the site presents a series of elements with a great potential in valuing the tourism and, of course, the landscape, but just a few of them are known or valued (the salt from Meledic, muddy volcanoes).

For now, the areas that are attended by tourists do not bring any financial/economic benefit for the community, just for the private sectors.


In the historical context it is remarkable the fact that almost all the villages from the geopark have developed from the hills or mountains to plains. This was due to the fact that it was much easier to have a home on the hills/mountains for the advantages which nature offered: wood, food, etc..

Since the second half of the XIX century the population descended from hills in order to make agrigulture in the plains. Between 1864 and 1921, after the agrarian reform, people have been granted in the plain. The large distances that they had to travel through (up to 100-150 km) had brought a series of characteristics:

- It was a going up-going down process, repeated 3-4 times per year, according to the needs required by the agrigulture (soil and plants works);

- It was a social process that involved many families;

- At agriculture works participated all the family, and there they had to stay two weeks to one month, depended on agricultural work as required;

- They traveled in carts convoys, covered with coviltire of matted, pulled by oxes; in this way the cart is not just a mean of transport, his functions became more complex; the cart become a moving house with all the facilities (sleeping, food preparation and storage, etc...);

- In time, the humans in the atempt to make the staying more easyer, they started to build what is called “odaie” (meens: “room”), a house with a single chamber. In the begining this was a temporary housing (used in the period of the agriculturat works), and after that, when the village population incresed, the “odaie” became permanent housing for the young married.

Therefore this process has resulted in time to emergence of new villages.

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

Considering that the territory of the case study occupies a very large area, we tried to understand the implication of the landscape elements, elements that define the Land of Buzau and how they give this area a distinguished aspect. These elements are: the relief, the rivers and the lakes, the infrastructure, the villages.

•The Relief

- In the relief analysis we followed to understand the physical structure of the site. We had observed that the site has altitudes that vary from 100 meters up to 1320 meters, this variation gives the site a wide variety of relief forms. The relief is modeled by four major rivers (from east to west: Slanic river, Saratel river, Balaneasa river and in the south Buzau river) presented thereby, from east to west like a series of valley-hill, valley-hill. Also the site has an ascent from south to north. Therefore, one of the conclusions is that the landscape is varied and dynamic.

•The Hydrography

On the geopark’s territory we can observe four water courses with high flow at which other medium, small or temporary water courses are added. From the stage of spring to the point of confluence, the river is acting on relief shaping him. Following this actions results areas with different characteristics – various stages of the components of a river:

- Spring stage – (area with the highest altitude, is characterized by thalweg, minor riverbed is not observable);

- The delineation of the minor riverbed –( the small river gains enough power erosion on side slopes);

- Area with a minor riverbed (where the water runs frequently);

- The delineation of the major riverbed (presents land modeling by means of complex processes of meanders);

- The area with major riverbed and with the beginning of the meadow - (it’s representing the balance of the river, getting out of balance and in-depth erosion lead to deployment of the meadow);

- The area of the valley river with meadow - (is the flooded portion of the land, situated along the water flowing and characterized by a specific vegetation);

Depending on the relief and geological substrate, but also on the type of the riverbed, the landscape presents different features resulting specific types of landscape (ex. landscape with rocks, waterfall - narrow landscape / tunnel; landscape with meadow - open landscape with gravel ).

In areas with gravel bed are often extracted aggregate (sand and gravel), changing the flow of the water and directly influencing the landscape (there is no functional program to remake the environment).

•Villages typology

Considering the various forms of relief and also the landuse, in the Land of Buzau we were able to find different types of villages.

•Gathered villages

- Characterized by well-outlined “village hearth” (in romanian: vatră);

- High density of households and population are located in hearth, being proportional to their age and economic power;

- Appears as a consequence of the limitation of the “village hearth” from the vast property in order to save the free land for efficient use (agriculture use);

- Cultivated land is located entirely outside “village hearth”;

- Here, people have a big interest in arranging the front garden with pergolas and flowers and they show interest for the space from the main entrace;

•Linear villages

- Are developed along the main transport axes, water courses and especially along the river valleys;

- The village has well contoured limit, while agricultural land is not necessarily located near the village;

- When several linear villages that are developeing along the same axis tend to unite, they create a feeling/sensation of a tunnel;

•Separated villages

- Represents the typical form of the romanian village;

- It is the most common type of village in the site, which is specific to Sub-Carpathian regions and hills;

- Household’s arrangement is made according to relief;

- The “village hearth” has irregular shape, but more specifically is that it includes a part of cultivated land;

- Roads have radial or tentacular arrangement.

•Scattered villages

- It is frequently meet in mountain areas;

- The “village heart” is confused with the village boundary;

- Households have distances up to 2 km between them, being connected through short paths and unorganized roads;

- Each household has the economical landuse around it;

- The land use for agriculture occupies small surfaces; pastures and natural hayfields are predominate;

- The predominant activity of the population is the breeding;

- The scattered villages are situated mostly in the north of the site.


The geoparks territory is crossed by:

- the national road DN 18 accompanied by the railway that unites Buzau city with Nehoiu city – in the south of the site;

- the inter-county road that unites Buzau city with Beceni, Vintila Voda, Manzalesti, Lopatari and Gura Teghii districts;

- the inter-districts roads – mostly in the center of the site;

We have observed that:

- in the south part of the site the auto traffic is very intense, the road are asphalted and in good condition;

- in the center of the site (the inter-districts roads) as the altitude is growing, the roads presents different characteristics: asphalted roads in good conditions (in south) – degradated asphalted roads – not asphalted roads;

- from south to north you can also see a change of the transportation mode (types of vehicles): in south - train, car, bus, maxi-taxi (wich is a smaller bus), carts with horses.; in center: cars, maxi-taxi, carts with horses, carts with oxes, bicycles; in north: cars (rare), carts with oxes and bicycles.

•The vegetation

•The forests vegetation

- The forest vegetation is beeing represented by three types of forest:

- Coniferous forests – predominates species like: Pinus sylvestris, Pinus nigra, Abies alba, Picea alba, Picea abies along with moss and ferns ;

- Mixed forests - predominates species like: Pinus sylvestris, Picea abies, Abies alba, in combinatie cu Fagus Sylvatica, Betula pendula, Ulmus, Fraxinus, but also ferns : Drypteris, Pteridium, and moss;

- Deciduous forests - predominates species like: Fagus sylvatica, Quercus petrea, Qercus ceris, Populus, Ulmus, Betula, Acer, Carpinus betulus, Crataegus monogyna and also mushrooms.

•The pastures vegetation

- Natural pastures – contain species like: Nardus stricta, Viola declinata, Filipendula ulmaria, Juncus sp., Angelica sylvestris, Senecio subalpinus, Rumex alpinus, Stiope sp., Agrostis canina, Agostis capilaris, etc.

- Pastures – here exceed species with forage value like: Trifolium repens, Lotus corniculatus, Juncus tenuis, Poa pratensis, etc.

•Salty soils and rockery vegetation

- Salty soil vegetation - is formed from species like: Nitraria schoberi, Artemisia (maritima), Aster trifolium, Halimione verrucifera, Carex distans, Spergularia salina, Taraxacum besarabicum, Puchinellia limosa, Festuca pseudovina, Dianthus guttatus, Achillea setacea, etc...

- Rockery vegetation – is represented by: Silene dubia, Thymus comosus, Genista janensis, Jovibarba heuffelii, Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, Veronica bachoferii, sedum maximum, Epilobium collinum, Asplenium trichomanes, Poa nemralis, Silene nutans ssp. Dubia.

•Edible fruit - the spontaneously trees

- On the geoparks territory we found spontaneously fruit-bearing shrub such as: Hippophae rhamnoides, Prunus spinea, Vaccinium myrtillus, Rubus Ideaeus, Corilius avelana, etc...

•The landscape anatomy

Starting from the anthropization degree of the landscape we identified five major types of landscape (landscapes with gathered villages, landscapes with linear villages, landscapes with separated villages, landscapes with scattered villages and predominantly natural landscapes) exemplified in 5 panoramic photos describing each type.

The components of the views are generally represented by forests, villages, hayfields, rockery, orchards, etc.. The the surface and structure of these components varies from one view to another so that they give to the landscape that unique sights.

Analysis of program/function

  • What are the main functional characteristics?

To exemplify the main characteristics of the site, we choose to present them as a small list:

-rural area

-agriculture: orchards, wineyards, pasures, breeding;

-industry:extractive industry

-great landscapes

Analysis of design/planning process

  • How was the area/project/plan formulated and implemented?
  • Were there any important consultations/collaborations?

For now the case study site it is not a protected area: the geopark project is still in progress, waiting for different political approvals. The site was elected to be declarated a geopark for all the geological, bilogical and cultural wonders that it presents inside the 18 districts.

The project of the geopark was made by Geomedia Center (from University of Bucharest), Buzau Council, all 18 districts city halls, in colaboration with the National Museum of Natural History Grigore Antipa, the National Museum of Geology, the Romanian Peasant Museum, APM Buzau, etc.

Analysis of use/users

Because we are talking here about a large area we only generalised a few characters of use/users. The site is represented by a rural area with a housing concentration especially along the rivers valleys and with different relationships of land use between the districts. Depending on the type of the villages there are different land use: eg: near the gathered villages the locals are using the land for agriculture, while in the scattered villages they use it for pastures. 90% of the land it is used by locals most of them for for own purpose; there are few investitors in this area: especially in Berca where the industry sector is very developed.

The land use is strating to change because there not many young people willing to take the old traditions further; they migrate to the big cities in order to go to school or to find something better to work so they can earn money.

Cross-cutting questions

Why is participation important?

By participation of local communities we can understand influence: over tourists and landscape, or involvement in the tourism infrastructure. When a tourist (outsider) crosses a landscape, all of his/her five senses are involved in the assessment of that specific landscape quality, resulting an own subjective perception of each tourist over that landscape (perceptions that can be positive, negative or neutral. There are certain aspects of the landscape in the Land of Buzau that, as tourist, you can not understand at the first look and so you can not say it is “nice” or “ugly”, they simply just raise questions. e.g.: the multitude of trinity/ crosses on hills and crossroads). After an interaction with the local community (assuming active participation of the local inhabitants) this perceptions can change and evolve (the tourist’s own subjective perception will combine with the subjective perception of the locals over the landscape and its elements). Therefore an active local community represents the connections between tourists and local landscape, contributing to the emotional links.

- local communities can promote local stories and legends about The Land of Buzau among the tourists; - the involvement of local communities in promoting their traditions and customs by creating cultural activities (eg: festivals, craftsmen workshops, etc.). - sustaining local communities to participate in the tourists accommodation programs: programs like: “Living with locals”, etc.

Therefore, the participation of local inhabitants in the process of conserving and adding value to the Land of Buzau landscapes is essential, also because the inhabitant of a place are the first responsible in keeping alive the local identity.

In which ways does tourism effect on the local identity?

Currently, in The Land of Buzau the tourism is not very intense (taking into account the surface of the entire geopark’s). But in some punctual areas, like Berca - Scortoasa (at the muddy volcanoes), the badly managed tourism activities are starting to have a negative impact on the local identity. This negative impact is a result of the changes that occur in the behavior of the local community: the locals begin to sell a false image/do things that in their opinion would be appreciated by tourist, to attract as many tourists as they can, earning money being their only priority. Therefore, we are dealing with uneducated local communities - they chose to build faster and cheaper, but in non-traditional ways, spoiling the whole charm of the place; - they promote “kitsch”, forgetting or not realizing that tourists come in The Land of Buzau for what it really represents: a rural area with incredible landscapes and stories (the “Land Story”, “Life Story” and “Human Story” – all of these intersected giving a unique landscape ); - they sacrifice the local landscape in order to earn money; they change or alter the resource that could give them considerable incomes, only if well managed and promoted! - from earning their existence with agriculture and handicraft they pass to a new industry which they can not master by themselves (the industry of tourism).

Which are the mutual influences for protected areas and cultural landscapes and tourism and how can they coexist?

In the case The Land of Buzau there are both negative and pozitive influences between the protected area (represented by the geopark) and tourism (tourists). The most important negative influences are resulting from the changes that occur in the behavior of the local community in the goal of earning money, and also because of uneducated tourists. Positive influences are that the tourists bring economic benefits for local comunities (for now in small extent) and the site (the geopark) offers tourists space for relexation, meditation and new perspectives over nature and it’s logic (as a responsible tourist -could be a niche tourist, like an ecotourist or a scientific/etc. one- will be pleasantly surprised by the wonders that The Land of Buzau has to reveal.)

So that the geopark (with status of a protected area) and tourism can coexist it is necessary to develop an integrated plan of visitor management containing special designated areas for different categories of visitors, creating facilities and programs in some areas and promoting other area for niche tourism. It is also essential to elaborate a good strategy planning concerning promoting the Land of Buzau as a special area, suporting niche tourism and environmental education (EE).

What are the tasks of the management?

In order to ensure a good and responsible management of geological, natural, historical and cultural sites and also to value natural resources available on the Geopark’s territory, it is essential to assign areas with different type of protection, conservation and value scheme of the resources, as follows:

- strictly protected areas, having the a status of protection and preservation as a scientific reserve;

- buffer areas, having a role to ensure the protection of the above mentioned zone. In these zones certain limited activities of valuing available resources are allowed, in conformity with authorizations given by the Geopark’s administration;

- areas of sustainable use and development, that can develop economic incomes by traditional or modern practices, ecologically admitted and within the capacity of resources regeneration;

For each of these areas it is necessary to conceive different management plans.

Future development directions

Besides the geoparks objectives (especially the developement of tourism in this area, sustainable developement of the districts from the geopark, the conservation of the biodiversity and geodiversity, etc.) with which we agree, we propose the next important objectives for a good and complete developement strategy of the geopark, because the actual one aims the socio-cultural context and a haotic developement of the tourism could destroy the initial values and the local landscape:

1. Conservation, protection and to value the specific landscape from The Land of Buzau.

2. Revitalization of the geopark’s area and value the natural, material, human and cultural potential aiming a sustainable and balanced developement of the territory with ecological (environmental frendly) solutions.

Strategical directions:

- village developement in the traditional way, with the characteristics of each type of village identified.

- identification, restauration and conservation of the old buildings.

- neutralizing the effect that the non-traditional buildings have on the landscape.

- promote the local and ecological materials.

- reduce the impact and the risks to health and environment caused by the actual system of household waste (garbage) by implementing a ecological recycle and waste processing sistem.

- maintenance of the ecological balance.

- maintenance of the agricultural landscape by preservation of the percentage balance between: areas occupied by forests, pastures, natural pastures and agricultural land.

- revitalization of the abandoned chambers (odaie) with the possibility of accommodation.

- rational use for pastures in order to maintain the ecological balance and the specific pastures landscape in different areas.

- implementing rules for the rational use of the forest resources and program for reforestation in order to preserve the forests.

- developeing a tourism infrastructure that will not affect the specific landcape.

- planning proposals for a information center, tourists paths that will unite special landcapes and cultural, religious, geological targets.

- promote niche tourism: ecotourism, geotourism, EE tourism,etc.

- conservation and reabilitation of the historical monuments.

- value the declarated cultural heritage potentional.

- planning proposals for urban green spaces in Berca and Beceni.

- planning proposals for rural green spaces.

- remake the street alignments with local species like Tilia tomentosa, Juglans regia, Prunus.

- planning proposals for creating cultural centers and organisation of different socio-cultural activities.

Peer reviews or critique

  • Has the area/ project/plan been reviewed by academic or professional reviewers?
  • What were their main evaluations?

Pleas add references, quotes...

Points of success and limitations

  • What do you see as the main points of success and limitations of the area/project/plan?

Illustration: Summary table

What can be generalized from this case study?

The geoparks territory presents some malfunctions at the infrastructure level, in the socio-economic and cultural context and also in the environmental context, BUT it has a great potential regarding sights/atractivities, benefiting of many geological, cultural and religious targets, and last but not least the impressive landscape potential wich is a result of superposition and intersection of all landscape types with all their elements.

Which research questions does it generate?

- Can locals adapt to the new industry (tourism) without destroing their traditions?

- Can tourist be responsible for their actions?

- Can this project of landscape protection and value be implemented with succes?

- Can the geoparks project be implemented with success?

- Can the EE (environmental education) programs change the humas perception over nature?

ANALYSIS PHASE - Image Gallery


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