It was the autumn of 2013 when we went to Clopodia. It was one of our first trips through the Banat area. We knew that this was the place where we would find two old noble homes. We told ourselves that the visit to Clopodia would take up to a maximum of 3 hours, including the time spent getting there and returning: we would take pictures, talk to the locals (if we were lucky) and return to Timişoara. Of course that we had underestimated the potential and the beauty of the Banat area and we realized that immediately as we noticed Clopodia from up upon the hill (as seen in the picture above).
When we entered the village we had the strange feeling of turning back in time. There were many old houses, different churches (mostly abandoned), two castles (manor houses) and an old mill, in front of which we parked the car and then continued to explore the rest of the village on foot for six whole hours.
We are equipped with all kinds of churches and all types of people in this village.
Our luck made it so that we ran right into the village postwoman, Mrs Mariana. We caught her attention probably through our curiosity towards the mill, of which we would not part. The mill belongs to a man from Banloc, she told us with a welcoming voice. Because the mill was closed down, she took us into the neighbouring house, in order to see it better, at least from one side. This house is over 100 years old. In it there lived a woman who used to teach piano lessons to children of noble families. No one believes us when we tell them how Clopodia used to be, with carriages pulled by eight white horses on these roads, the same type you see in movies, kept telling us Mariana, while we were entering the house door, where the current owner greeted us, just as friendly. From there, from the yard, among the remains of the mill we noticed a hearse. I’m amazed by the fact that the hearse still stands, the Gypsies have taken all of the iron and sold it!
In the village of Clopodia there are 5 churches, each belonging to a different religion (Orthodox, Evangelical, Reformed, Greek-Catholic and Roman-Catholic). The newest one is Orthodox, finished on the inside but with the exterior walls still in the red. You can’t tell it apart from a cathedral! It’s just a few steps away from the cathedral from Timişoara! We are equipped with all kinds of churches and all types of people in this village. We did not get to visit the Orthodox church but we took a photograph of the Roman-Catholic, Greek-Catholic and Reformed Churches.
In the village of Clopodia was once a furniture workshop with 20 workers. Today, in the room of the old workshop is a grocery store. From here furniture has been sent to plenty of countries!. A school used to function in the building before the workshop was opened. Because we noticed that not many houses of Clopodia are renovated, we asked what do the locals usually do for a living: a few of them move to Timişoara and Deta and others go to foreign countries for work. Most of the teenagers around here don’t like to work. That’s it! They live from the pensions of their elders. Where you see the houses renovated, it means that the owners are either over the heads in debts to the banks or have someone working in another country. But, otherwise, there isn’t too much money, you can barely live from it. Why do they raise the pensions and salaries but also raise the prices for gas and oil? Why do they raise anything? They take more than they raise. The pension is a mockery: I have worked for 32 years and I have a pension of 510 lei a month.
The story of Catherina Zelenak of Clopodia
We have a 91 year old woman in the village. When she was 18 years old she lost her legs. they were cut off by a train. Well, she was the one who threw herself in front of the train. She was a maid and she was responsible for the silverware, the silver dishes. Meanwhile, she got a boyfriend, just like any young girl, right? One night, a silver set was stolen. The next day, when she went to work, they took her out, called her a thief and other names in front of so many people that she worked with and she felt offended. She kept denying stealing it. Because of the shame and, more so, the embarrassment in front of her boyfriend, she went and threw herself in front of the train. The train didn’t kill her, just cut off her legs. But, you should see how much does this woman work and how many things does she has inside her house. Her arms are so long that she relies almost entirely on them. Inside the pig’s pit she pulls up the nylon bag and cleans. What, a young one? Damned him if he workes like that!, says Mrs Mariana.
And she has no one. Who could have still married her being without legs? She raised a niece, her sister’s daughter, because her sister died three months after the birth. She kept the girl in high school and college and now she lives in Lugoj and comes by to tell her what to plant in the garden, depending on her needs. The woman is miserable. I keep telling her: “Stop doing things for her!” / “Well, I have to, because she gives me some. Half goes to her and half is mine, so I have to work.” There you go!
Plenty of people go to visit her, she doesn’t go into the village but knowns all of what’s going on there better than I do. I go to her and she always asks me: “Mariana, is it so? Is that how I heard it?” Catherina Zelenak. House 262. She’s very happy when someone goes and visits her.
Touched by the story of Catherina Zelenak and at the encouragement of Mrs Mariana, we went to visit her. She didn’t tell us anything about the way she had lost her legs, nor about how the nobles of old Clopodia used to be. But rather, Mrs Catherina gave us a few life lessons and showed us her house which is Swabian and which she keeps in an impeccable way, despite her old age. The story can be read here.
The Clopodia village is officially documented since the year 1598, in a Turkish deftera, with the name of Klopotiva. In the Middle Ages, it was a Romanian settlement and, later, it is remembered as an Wallachian-Slovak settlement. In the registers of the year 1717, Clopodia is mentioned as a 42 house village, belonging to the Vârşeţ district1)Wikipiedia – Clopodia. In 1779, the village is included in the Caraş-Severin county and, eventually to the Timiş county. In 1914, Samu Borovszky reminds that in Clopodia (Klopodie) there were 334 houses, 2031 locals (of which 438 Hungarians, 723 Romanians, 419 Germans and 381 Czech, most of them being of Roman-Catholic religion), post office, telegraph and train station. The Roman-Catholic church was built in 1898, the Orthodox one in 1826 and the Reformed one in 1923.
In 1826, Janics István buys the village from the Treasury and, after, sells it to the Zombori Oexel (Ronay) family, where it was divided between the three Ronay daughters. Around the 1840s, the first land belonged to Nyeki Alberte, the second one to Beniczky Miklos and the third one to Onossy Matyas. In the next years, in the 19th century, the lands were divided between different nobles of the time. In Clopodia there are two castles: one built by Nyeky Antal in 1840 (in which later lived dr. Wekerle Sandor and from whom the name remained) and another one, built in 1859 by Onossy Matyas (in which later lived Manaszy Gyula, from whom the name remained until today).
In Clopodia (Timiş county) you can arrive from Timişoara on the DN59 / E70 (see map), the village being approximately 70 km from the city, right at the border with the Caraş-Severin county. The access road is very good with a few minor exceptions on the Moraviţa – Jamu Mare route where there are currently repairs being made. There are no accommodation locations nearby. You can buy cold food from the shops inside the village.
Written by Alexandra Palconi. Translated by Doiniţa Spuză.
Photo credit: Flavius Neamciuc