top of page

The birch forest

In Șinteu, the young birch forest can be understood as a symbol, a simulation of the forested area that existed here when the Slovaks came. As we have already mentioned, the main occupation of the Slovaks ever since the beginning of their arrival and the reason why they were colonized was forestry. The Slovaks were accustomed to working in the forest, this being the predominant activity carried out in their places of origin. Every Slovak family received wood for housebuilding. The house site was chosen especially depending on the existence of a water source (spring). After building the house, each family exploited the vast forests around their household. The land resulting from deforestation came into the free use of the one who cut down the forest, which is why they had the interest to deforest as much as possible. Secular trees like beech, sessile oak, hornbeam, wild cherry tree or ash tree were exploited with tools typical to forestry: handsaw (two-man saw), ax, hatchet, etc. Horses, but especially oxen, were used to transport the wood. The number of horses in the Slovak settlements was low at the beginning of the 19th century, but later increased due to the advantages that horse exploitation had as opposed to that of oxen: speed, endurance, mobility. The best-quality trees were cleaned, shaped and transported to Aleșd or Tileagd, from where they went abroad (Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava). The spectacular population growth in the 18th century increased the demand for wood in the major European cities. This wood brought substantial gains to landowners. The lower-quality wood was used for obtaining potash and afterwards for the glass huts. Slovak households were also built from this wood. The local toponymy (Varatik, Salajka, Do Šokut, Veľka Voda, Magura, Rovenka, Na Hanky, Rubana, Chrapcin, Palence, Polence) is reminiscent of other techniques of deforestation, less to the liking of feudal lords: the technique of burning (the forest was set on fire) and the drying technique (the trees’ stem was carved all around, which caused the trees to gradually dry out).

(lat. Betula pendula) is a tree whose height reaches 20 to 25 meters. It is an indigenous tree, which grows especially in the northern temperate climate. It is not a pretentious species when it comes to soil, withstanding frost and drought. An invading species, it is among the first species to settle in a deforested territory. It can either grow alone (birch forests), or mixed with other species.

For all the Slavic peoples, the birch is a tree with multiple uses. In Russia it is considered a national tree, celebrated during the Green Week at the beginning of January. On the Plopiș 

Mountains plateau, the birch is a very widespread species. Birch wood was used by Slovaks for maintaining the fire in households. Its thin and white bark was used for lighting the fire.

Ever since the time of the Slavs, various therapeutic effects of the birch were known. Birch sap was harvested in spring, before budding, and was used in treating different diseases, being known as “the gods’ drink”. Birch leaves and buds were used to make tea, which was also used to treat various conditions. Moreover, sticks for agricultural objects were also made from birch. It was however not used in construction, as it rots quickly in the presence of water. There is the custom in some villages that, on May 1st, birches (”maje”) decorated all the way to the top are placed at the girls’ gates for boys to express their sympathy towards them.

bottom of page