Looking over the railway tunnel near the Gura Văii locality from Mehedinti county, one can still see a rocky formation with a human form. The formation, which resembles a troubled old man, seems to guard the surroundings as a loyal watchman. The elders from the nearby villages tell today the legend of this rock, which they call the Stone Old Man. Until about 1965, there is a similar rock nearby, which the locals called Baba (Old Lady). For millennia, the Old Man and the Old Lady have dominated the rocky peaks of the area undisturbed.
Legend says that, at the beginning of history, Saint Peter, living in those parts, would have fallen seriously ill in bed and in need of cures. This is why the Saint asked some old ladies from those parts to go to the other side of the Danube, in the Serbian lands, to bring him some weeds of cure. But the old ladies, as the old ladies are, went slowly and kept on talking, seeming to be sent after death, so they were in a hurry to find the cures of St. Peter.
Days passed like hours, one after another, and St. Peter received no sign of returning from the old ladies. Without the healing weeds, the powers left the saint, who was feeling increasingly weak. Then he sent for them the birds of the sky, who, if they saw them coming, would announce him to keep the breath alive and keep the death away. And the saint sent the birds of heaven once without luck, and sent them a second time in vain, and only when he sent them the third time they told him that the old ladies had returned, but that they stopped to rest their feet on a stone nearby. There, the old ladies had began to talk, slowly telling stories and impressions from foreign lands they had travelled in search of cures.
Angry that the old ladies had not stopped to talk when his death was around him, Saint Peter threw the following curse on them: Turn into rock and should be never split away! This is how the formation known as the Old Lady, which remained separated from her old man until the 1960s, when people separated them, and they paid with their lives for this fact.
When works started on the Iron Gates I of the Hydroelectric power plant, it was considered that the rocks were in the way of the builders and had to be removed. Thus, the Old Lady formation was blown up by the workers working on the hydropower dam, when they started digging the tunnel in the rock. Not only did the blast shake the surroundings then, but also another incident that shocked the residents and area and public opinion.
In the team designated to blow up the rock formation were 9 workers. They were given an explosive charge and were shown the previously established places where they had to place the dynamite to remove the rock. One of the 9 workers, being a local, knew the legends that the Old Man and the Old Lady had guarded together for centuries in the surrounding villages. He was the only one who refused to mount the explosive that was going to destroy the Old Lady rock.
Once the dynamite was settled at the base of the rock, the wick was ignited, and the explosion transformed the Old Lady into thousands of pieces of stone. The whole Danube valley was filled with noise and mourning because it had lost its millennial guard. When the dust settled on the ground, the whole area was plunged into a quiet foreboding of evil…
When the evening came, the workers put their tools and equipment aside and climbed into a wagon-trolley to return to their homes. They could not imagine that they would never see them again! On the railway, the wagon was surprised by the locomotive of a train, which completely destroyed it. The only survivor of the tragic accident was the worker who refused to place the dynamite at the feet of the Old Lady.
According to the ethnographer Vasile Șișu from Mehedinti, “On the day when it was dynamited, the master and his workers (nine in number) boarded a wagon were caught on the railroad by a locomotive. Only one escaped: the one who did not work on the destruction of the Old Lady. And then the people were left with the impression that it was a curse on them because they had destroyed this rock”.
Due to the fear of the curse, no worker had the courage to try to blow up the Old Man, who remained the sole guardian of the Danube Valley. Moreover, an access path was built up near the rocky formation Old Man, so that locals and tourists can alleviate their loneliness.
· Alexandra Georgescu, “The legend of the old man stone guarding the entrance to Severin. The workers who dynamited his “pair” would later be cursed”, 23 February 2015, https://adevarul.ro/locale/turnu-severin/legenda-batranului-piatra-vegheaza-intrarea-severin-muncitorii-i-au-dinamitat-perechea-fost-mai-apoi-blestemati-1_54eafe5f448e03c0fde5d700/index.html
· Tudor Pamfile, “Stories”, 1910.