Mizil: from mail station to town

From mail coach and horses station to post office: the story of the emergence of Mizil, a town in southern Romania. (engraving & old postcard: Valentin Mandache collection)

Mizil is a small town in the province of Wallachia in southern Romania, which owes its existence to the once extensive Ottoman mail coach station and inn network that functioned in the Danubian Principalities since mid-c18th. Even the name of the town- “Mizil” derives from the Turkish word for coach station- “menzil”. The settlement’s location was wonderfully propitious for the emplacement of a stagecoach inn (in Turkish: menzilhan) and relay for mail horses, being on the old highway that once linked the capitals of the Ottoman protectorate principalities of Moldova and Wallachia, at an equal distance of about 20 miles (35 km) between the local county towns of Ploiesti and Buzau. That distance was generally considered as the optimal one for a team of coach horses to travel continuously at speed before being relayed with a fresh team of animals. The town thus witnessed, until the advent of the railways, the traffic of impressive horse drawn coaches as can be seen in the drawing form the lower part of the montage above, depicting such a scene from the lower Danube prairie of Wallachia, where Mizil is situated. The engraving is from my collection, made after a drawing by Denis Auguste Marie Raffet, a distinguished French illustrator famous for his lithographs of the Napoleonic wars. Raffet made the drawing in 1830s while he travelled through the region in the service of the Russian aristocrat Anatole de Demidoff. The horses, their handlers and the battered coach rushing through the prairie, excellently convey the the air of wild frontier of that region at the periphery of the Ottoman Empire. That image could not contrast more with the peaceful, near placid atmosphere of the Mizil post and telegraph office depicted in the 1920s postcard in the upper half of the above collage, photographed less than a century after the “wild east” engraving was produced. That juxtaposition conveys the tremendous process of modernisation that was going on in the whole of Romania within that time interval. The post office is built in a basic Neo-Romanian architectural style and I believe that is still in use nowadays (it was certainly there when I was for two years a high school pupil in Mizil at the end of 1970s). The picturesque elements which remind of the old coach station are the petrol lamp in the courtyard together with the well and the horse watering trough carved from a block of stone.

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I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.

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If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.

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