Les « coules » de Petite Valachie

Photo by Roman Bruehwiler.

Les « coules » de Petite Valachie is part of the Tentative list of Romania in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The “coules” of Little Wallachia are tower-houses. They are three or four levels high and were used by nobility. They were usually built at strategic points to watch the passages.

Map of Les « coules » de Petite Valachie

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Malta - 19-Dec-23 -

Les « coules » de Petite Valachie (T) by Clyde

I visited 3 "coules" or culas while driving around Romania. From the little information about this rural tWHS and based on the photos from other reviewers, I was going to skip them since I had quite a fair share of WH locations around Romania already on my "to visit" list. That said, just after visiting Horezu Monastery WHS, John Smaranda texted me to remind me that I should really put in a small effort to take in the nearby locations of Cula Duca and Cula Greceanu. I asked him again whether it was worth the small detour, and he sparked my curiosity be replying "Depends on your expectation level!". Well, I had no expectation at all and I wanted to avoid more near misses, so I drove towards Măldărești, Vâlcea, in the Oltenia region of Romania.

Visiting times are quite restricted and like other place in Romania, even during summer, an old lady with the keys lets you in for a small combined fee or you can call her number displayed near the gate (closed on Mondays). Apart from the etymology of the word "cula", the Ottoman influence is very clear upon viewing Cula Duca from a distance. By visiting the interior of the different floors you get a glimpse of the now tranquil rural setting enjoyed by nobility, but the lofty thick walls and exterior of these tower houses hint quite well at how nobility had to make sure their safety was guaranteed at all times. They were originally built as homes for the ruling Boyar class to defend against violent raids by rebels from the south of the Danube during the 18th century and also against riots by local population against the Boyars. Inside Cula Duca, on the first floor, there are a number of information boards on all the different locations and culas, put forward as a tWHS. While going up or down the stairs, you'll also notice some rural geometric designs mixed with Christian figures, which are quite similar to the interior art of the wooden Maramures church at Ieud, and they also reminded me a bit of the Decorated Farmhouses of Sweden.

The ground floor and attic were mainly used as storage places while the first and second floors had living quarters with long dining tables for banquets or receptions and splendid panoramic views, since the tower houses were often the highest buildings and were built at strategic points to watch the different passages. Most tower houses had thatched roofs and were completely white-washed, with intricately carved embrasures for ventilation. The only recurring decorations were the nobility coat of arms, often next to the chimney, as well as the pretty architectural designs of the windows and/or balconies in the upper floors. Cula Greceanu, apart from being the oldest cula in Romania (built approximately in 1517), is quite special above all for its lovely (albeit modern, around 1934) mural paintings by Olga Greceanu of “sponsors”, drawing her inspiration from the portraits painted at the entrance of the Măldăreşti church, which is located in the close vicinity of the cula.

These 2 culas reminded me of the wonderful Skenduli and Zekate town houses in Gjirokastra, Albania. Most probably, they are the "star location" among the different locations, as my positive experience here was not repeated at the other location I visited after visiting the tWHS at Targu Jiu: Cula Gheorghe Tătărescu at Curtișoara. This cula is now on the premises of the Gorj Folk Architecture Museum and has been relocated from its original position at the village of Poiana in the commune of Rovinari. The cula is made up of a ground floor and an upper floor, but it lost most of its original form following some important changes made in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century when it is turned into a modern dwelling. The walls of the building are very thick, with large windows and a shingle roof. The entrance is guarded by stone lions and goes through a walled arch gallery. The inside areas of the building were redecorated as commissioned by Aretia Tătărescu. Although this cula was not on par with the other 2 locations I had visited previously, and could have easily be seen from the street without the need to pay a ticket, it was a pleasant continuation to the tWHS I had just visited in Targu Jiu, since Constantin Brâncuşi apparently lived in this cula during the construction of the monumental ensemble in Targu Jiu (1937-1938). Photography is supposed to be allowed only outside the 3 culas I visited.  

Ralf Regele

Germany - 30-Jun-23 -

Les « coules » de Petite Valachie (T) by Ralf Regele

Some reviewers have already noted that the 'coules de petite valachie' TWHS is quite close to the already inscribed Horezu monastry WHS. So is this just a minor sidestep on the way to something more worthwhile, or can it stand on its own ? My initial reaction was indeed "Ah, it is so close, might as well spend a couple of minutes there". However, the site at Maldaresti is actually quite a nice heritage area, with two of the mysterious 'cula', an old church, a little heritage house and some nice green surroundings. The culas itself are interesting, too, being a mixture of a country house and a fortress from a time when the area was seemingly so dangerous that everything needed to be fortified - castles, villages, churches, houses. Still waiting for the 'Fortified outhouses of Transylvania' to show up on the list. I had a good time rummaging through the old houses, and probably spent an hour doing so. The visit also was quite easy, with everything being open and a friendly caretaker going around to collect the small entrance fee. The site is indeed only 5 kilometers away from the entrance of the Horezu monastry, with a pretty direct street connection in between. I had a car, but the distance seemed to be walkable to me. The 'cula' concept is interesting and unique enough to make it worthwhile for the list, so all in all, a thumbs up from me for the site. It would have been a shame to miss such a nice site while in the area.
Visited in June 2023.
Importance 3/5 Beauty 3/5 Uniqueness 4/5 Environment 4/5 Experience 4/5

Lisu Marian

Romania - 11-Aug-19 -

Les « coules » de Petite Valachie (T) by Lisu Marian

In the heart of Romania, The Oltenia-area is a land dominated by wide fields and gentle hills, represented the granary and, on the other hand, the good wine or the fruit distillate.The small local governors - the boyars, have accumulated over time wealth, through the exploitation of poor-people and the fruitful land. But as they all have a price, insurers for the protection of goods had to be taken.
Hard to believe, but on the territory where the Wallachian population lived mainly in specific medieval dwellings dug in the ground, it can be noticed here constructions that anticipated the appearance of blocks with 3-4 levels.
The word "cula", which draws its origin from the Turkish tKula (tower), designates such creations, specific here only to the Oltenian area.
And why the Ottoman influence? Well, it was from then on that the boyars of the place appeared to protect their household and their lives, by striving to erect buildings with 2, 3 or even 4 levels - small fortresses.
Their location was strategically designed, it would have been easy for them to retreat in case of distress, but to observe their movement in the distance, and from all sides fire could be carried through numerous firing holes.
And it was not just the fear of the Turkish-attacs from the top of the Danube, but also to the haiduks of the place, who could easily access from the surrounding area.
Despite the lack of interest of the central or local authorities, we have found near them good hearted people who care for the memory of the place and the historical buildings of the present.Some coulas are simple, raised on a square base, with an internal staircase.All of them have an open space at the top, like a terrace, from here one can contemplate the landscape or observe dangers.
The interiors remind us of the time of the long pistols and the sculpturally decorated flint, which left many legends in place.
The best preserved and well-kept ones are those from Măldărești, two steps from Horezu, in Vâlcea, where a complex was organized: Cula Greceanu, Cula Duca, the Duca Memorial House and the Old Church, are all elements that must be visited for understanding the history of the place.
Cula Greceanu, the oldest of the 18th century, has a special charm. The outside is surrounded by a hard stone wall, the old door having a special locking system. The yard is large, everything is abundant green, but well maintained, and on the side is an old dwelling, with red flowers and a wooden cross porch.
The interior preserves original furniture, and some rooms have a very well maintained fresco, as well as the popular port that is present in the place of honor.The stoves in each room are different, the tubing looks like a miniature organ.
The upper terrace leaves the viewer with a panorama of sensation, and the bridge trembles with a small attic where the access is made on a wooden staircase, which, if necessary, can be withdrawn with haste.

Cula Duca, a bit newer, belonged to the Maldăr boyars, has a huge cellar, supported by heavy wooden pillars, carved with local motifs.
The access is made on a short staircase, its ceiling being painted in vivid colors. On the first floor there is a true museum, the objects of everyday life, old furniture, styria, but it attracts the room with a colossal stove, with the royal crown of black iron.
Upstairs there is a wooden door trapped in the ceiling, which still has multiple security systems. It is a delight to watch from the terrace, and on the ceilings we find the family coat of arms.
Across the road, Casa Duca is an unaltered story of the former prime minister of the interwar period, who fell victim of the assassination organized by supporters of the Iron Guard. Inside, the rooms are still preserved and the bohemian air for 100 years now, the gramophone is still working over there, the chiller looks like you are opening the casket and putting it to work, the library also becomes a bidder to get tired of the couch next door. What amazing times ...


Read more from Lisu Marian here.

Full Name
Les « coules » de Petite Valachie
Structure - Residence
1991 Added to Tentative List

The site has 5 locations

Les « coules » de Petite Valachie: Cula Greceanu, Maldaresti (T)
Les « coules » de Petite Valachie: Cula Duca, Maldaresti (T)
Les « coules » de Petite Valachie: Cula Racovita, Mioveni (T)
Les « coules » de Petite Valachie: Cula Gheorghe Tătărescu, Curtișoara (T)
Les « coules » de Petite Valachie: Cula Cuțui, Broșteni (T)
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