You may usually classify travel attractions according to the travelers that visit them. Some prefer churches because of their religion or their passion for imposing architecture or history. Others enjoy the spas with all the comfort and spoiling that surrounds them. The younger travelers will choose most of the time the mountains and the adventure. And so on.
We tried to classify Sinca Veche according to this, but without any luck. Why? Because the place attracts in the same time the skeptical and the religious kind of people, the adventurous but also the comfort lover. Most of the people that hear about this place will visit it sooner or later. There are lots of old legends and stories that surround it. Whether they’re true or not, it’s not our job to decide. Our job is to tell you a much more recent story…
Our story is about a small cave in the Plesul Hill, near the Sinca Veche village, called by the locals – The Temple of Fate. You’ll find it at the end of a dusty country road that leaves the village, leading its way through the forest and passing by a large concrete cross, that shows in a way the Christianity of the place.
One of the things that strike you once you reach the entrance it’s how incredibly clean is all around you. You won’t see the typical remains of the (un)civilization in the form of McDonald’s wrappings or empty bottles and although you’re in the middle of the forest, you won’t see a leaf lying on the ground near the small cave.
The secret? It’s simple. For almost nine years, someone dedicated his life to this place. He is probably the poorest man from Sinca Veche but in spite of the wrinkles the time had left on his face, he greets you with the warmest smile you’ll ever see. He’s not quite the average type of guide, as we will se further.
There’s no entrance fee. You may leave some cash on a blanket, as much as you wish, and get some candles which will be quite helpful inside.
As soon as you step into the cave, it’s impossible not to see a spiral shaped tower which allows the sunlight to enter the temple, creating a link between the skies and the underground. And then you walk further. You slowly pass through the second room, guided by the lights from the candles you’ll see in front of you. Finally, you reach the third room and the largest of them all.
You stop and look around. Probably a strange feeling of inner silence will try to conquer you. Then you touch the brown walls and realize they’re built of clay. Petrified clay, to be more specific. How on earth such a fragile place could last for so long?
You take another step and notice two scratches glowing in the lights of the candles. The first of them is surrounded by several icons and small crosses brought by the locals. You expect it to be another cross or at least a Christian symbol. Surprisingly, what lies there has nothing to do with Christianity. You’ll be amazed to see the Chinese Ying and Yang symbol, surrounded by the six cornered star of David. It’s the only place in the world where you’ll find that together. The two pieces symbol is bordered in its left and right by two small rectangles. We hadn’t figured out what they mean. Maybe you will.
Then you will notice to your left another scratch, this time a bit larger. It resembles amazingly enough to a human figure. While touching it with the light of a candle, we noticed some drops of water. Strangely enough, the walls were filled with scratches and holes, but this was the only one that was moist.
We went after the guardian of this place and asked him about this. He answered with a smile:
“It’s going to rain”
The only logical answer that comes into your mind is that this happens because of the phreatic, underground water. But why the rest of the scratches were dried?
…and you reach the forth chamber, separated from the second one through some kind of a window, maybe half a meter wide. Here we found another scratch, another unidentified symbol, still wet. And of course, everything around it, dried.
We continue to study this bizarre place. There are crosses and icons everywhere, signs of the Christian people that wandered by. But in spite of that, this was not a Christian site.
Its impressive though to see that the people are still believing in something, even if that “something” is somehow not included in the Church’s patterns.
In the small holes from the walls you will see lots of bracelets, small crosses, scarves and banknotes, left by the visitors. Our companion tells us that people think that leaving things there will bring them good luck. And then, guessing our questions, he begins his job as the guide of the temple. So far he left us alone, because “it’s good to be alone in there so you’ll have the opportunity to see inside your soul” He starts telling us the history of the temple. About seven hundred years ago, the Empress Maria Tereza ordered that the four churches from Sinca Veche should be destroyed. And so they were, together with the monks that built them. He is convinced though that this place is much older than that and the monks built it on top of some ancient remains.
And he keeps on speaking about the temple, with a somehow paternal tone. He takes a break and lights up a cigarette. We ask him about the crack in the wall between the first and the second room. His blue, child-like, eyes are glowing when he sees that we’re interested in this. He tells us than when you pray, if your soul is open, God will send a ray of light on you and on the altar. The light will pass slowly through the two small holes in the walls separating the rooms and in the end, it will make the two magic symbols glow in the dark.
We arrived there around 1PM. Captured by the conversation and by the magic of the place, we hadn’t noticed the three hours that passed by. We returned in the temple a bit later and saw that the altar was getting brighter and brighter due to the position of the sun. Maybe it was more about the sun’s mood and our luck than about faith and prayers. We stood still for a few moments and watched the ray of light guiding its way slowly towards the last wall. In the end of the show, the only bright place in the temple was the Star of David with the Yin – Yang symbol in the middle.
We returned to the surface and continued the conversation with our guide. Apparently this place remained deserted since the monks were killed and was visited from time to time only by curious locals. One of them, impressed by the visions he had in the temple, founded an organization – Gheorghe Sincai – meant to rehabilitate this place and build a monastery on top of the hill. Unfortunately, he died in US several years ago, before getting to see his dream realized.
We told our guide that we’re about to write an article on this and asked for his opinion on spreading the word about this place. He answered that he would be happy to see more people around there, because the temple will only bring good things into their lifes. Maybe then, the authorities would be more interested in it and would start investing in its preservation.
But, he said, he doesn’t want to see many things changed around there. Maybe one or two, but the essence of this place should be kept untouched.
While packing our stuff, we looked at the man who kept us company for more than four hours. Maybe, in his simplicity, he had the power to understand many things that are unreachable for most of us. Or maybe he was just biased. Who wouldn’t be, after spending nine years in that place.
We didn’t write this story as an attempt to uncover the misteries of Sinca Veche and its Temple of Fate. Nor to affirm or to deny the credibility of the magic in it. Maybe it was built thousands of years ago. Or maybe some locals played a trick on somebody and scratched the symbols themselves. The time will tell the truth. For us though, it was a special place, magic or not. While writing this lines we took a second, imaginary trip to Sinca Veche but the intense feelings we had when we first “discovered” that place didn’t quite change. That should tell a bit about its value, at least as a travel destination.