The town of Borsec is located 26 km away from Toplita, on the Toplita-Piatra Neamt national road, in the Borsec Depression, in the northwestern part of the central county of Harghita. It is situated almost 900 m above the see level, with a population of nearly 2,585 inhabitants.
Besides a picturesque environment, the spa resort of Borsec is famous for the quality of its mineral springs, for which it was created a spa town in 1953. Since then and until the early 1990s, a time when it was known as the Carpathian Gem, Borsec became a resort of national interest.
Some researchers say the name of Borsec comes from generic noun 'borviz' (mineral water in Hungarian) and 'borviz szek' (the seat of natural water). By agglutination and elimination of the word 'viz' (apa) that was understood in the name of the town, Borsec emerged. Others say the name would come from the acrid, wine-like ('bor') taste of the local carbonated mineral waters, wherefrom the name of the main stream of the depression, called the 'wine stream.' The world 'szek' (seat) alleged to the political organisation of the place.
The mineral water springs
There are many mineral water springs in Borsec, with variable flows, yet enough to be the main economic engine of the town. Their mineralisation put them in the category of mixed sparkling bicarbonated, calcic and hypotonic waters also rich in magnesium.
The Borsec Depression springs are divided into two groups: northern, on a patch of crystalline limestone (springs 1, 2, 3, 5, 6) and southern , on a patch of tufa (springs 10, 11 and 15). The most important springs in quality and flow terms are springs 1 and 2. Both are channelled and their sparkling bicarbonated water is bottled for consumption or used for external and internal medical treatments. Next in importance are the Boldizsar/Madonna/Horia Spring, of the highest water temperature, the Laszlo/Closca Spring and the Lazar/Crisan Spring.
First research into the effects of the Borsec waters was conducted in 1773, when Professor Krantz Heinrich, asked by Austria's margrave, studied and highlighted the qualities of the Fykut and Lobogo springs, both of which went dry in 1926. In 1774, L. Wagner published a study of the Borsec mineral waters in the Academische Dissertat magazine. In 1825, Dr. Schneit Daniel wrote a book on the mineral waters of Borsec. In 1863, J. Mayer and in 1873 Dr. Neustadter analysed the effects of bathing into the Borsec water and started the construction of baths known by their names Lobogo, Lazar, Saros, etc. In 1893, new illnesses that could be cured by using Borsec water were mentioned in the Siebenburgische Quartalschrieft journal.
The first analysis of the chemical composition of the water was conducted in 1927, at university laboratories in Bucharest, Budapest and Cluj.
The Borsec natural mineral waters were found to have a balanced content of minerals, a low content of iron as well as a high content of stable natural carbon dioxide.
In 1844, poet Vasile Alecsandri arrived in Borsec, and one year later he would speak enthusiastically about the quality, bottling and transportation of water there. In an article published in the Calendarul Foaiei satesti (Villager's Calendar), he said about water treatment at Borsec, 'This is a two-step method: one, drink as much water as possible, and two take a bath in the springs of Lobogo, Saros, Elisaveta or Lazar. These are the four water basins of Borsec. You may pick your favourite. For instance, Soros is particularly good for rheumatism while Lobogo is good for weaknesses.'
Internal treatment, meaning direct consumption, is recommended, among other things, in digestive diseases, chronic hepatitis, biliary conditions, nutrition conditions such as non-insulin dependent diabetes, mild hyperthyroidism and renal conditions. External treatment, that is bathing, is recommended particularly in incipient cardiovascular diseases, easement of joint, rheumatic and post-traumatic pain.
Short history of the discovery and exploitation of the Borsec water springs
The Borsec springs were known way back to the Roman times, as Romans discovered them after conquering Dacia, most of today's Romania, in 106 AD. Archaeological diggings in 1857 in the Tulghes Pass unearthed Roman coins dating back to the years 337-361, as well as Roman sarcophagi.
Many centuries later, the Borsec mineral waters started being bottled in burnt clay jugs that were mounted on mountain horseback to be carried to Transylvania, Moldavia, Wallachia and Hungary There are historical records indicating that the Borsec mineral water would be carried by wagons in 1597, in oak barrels, to the Alba Iulia Royal Court, where it was used for medical purposes by ruler Sigismund Bathory, at the indication of Italian doctor Bucella.
In the second half of the 18th century barracks, cabins and spa buildings were built. Little by little, Borsec became a famous spa equipped with wood cabins in a Venice style and practicable baths. The fame of the curing waters of the Borsec Depression spread to the entire Europe, with records of 1767 indicating that 'Borsec is the place where desperate ill people from the country and abroad congregate.'
A factory is born
In 1803, Viennese citizen Valentin Gunther took a treatment at Borsec, curing himself of an illness that would be considered untreatable. Upon returning home, he ssuggested to Vienna city councillor Anton Zimmethausen, a geologist by trade, to trade in Borsec mineral water. Borsec, which at that time was only a hamlet, was annexed to the communes of Lazarea and Ditrau. In 1804, Zimmethausen and Eisner, a mining engineer, went to Borsec to negotiate a lease and look into the possibility of building a glass factory for bottles. A 28-year lease contract was signed. As faith would have it, the Borsec soil had glass-making material aplenty.
In 1805, Zimmethausen moved to Borsec, where he started deforestation , home building and road building. Once the glass factory was in place, glassmakers from Austria, Czechia, Bavaria and Poland were brought in to make glass by hand. Some of them settled there, which explains the existence now of many families there bearing the names of Fokt, Eigel, Schiller, Krammer or Kamenitzky.
In 1806, Zimmethausen and Eisner started industrial bottling of the Borsec water. The process would continue night and day spring through autumn. Recordings by Otvos Agoston indicate a daily output of 5,000 bottles.
The bottles would be packaged in crates filled with hay or fir tree branches as shock absorbers. The glass bottles were sealed with part of animal's stomach, maze stalks or fir tree corks. Legend has it that 'corks would not resist the Borsec water when carried,' and that 'the corks would have to be stuck in again and again until the water would reach its final destination.'
Exploiting the Borsec water since 1932
In 1832-1916, bottling of the Borsec water was conducted by various business owners. In 1855, a heated bottling line was commissioned that would provide bottling in winter as well and wagons were replaced by motor vehicles for transportation. Oelhaffer bottling machines were brought in that increased the daily output to 20,000 bottles. The mineral water would then soon reach Egypt and the US.
In 1916-1918, production stagnated as a result of World War I. In 1918-1943, bottling was provided by the Borsec Natural Water Spring Enterprise and then taken over by the Crissoveloni Bank of Bucharest. Two years of inactivity followed because of World War II, while in 1945-1948 the bottling business was provided by several entrepreneurs.
With the 1948 nationalisations, bottling became a Government-run business and significant investment was conducted in modernising production and developing the area. Tourist villas were built, with tourist accommodation increased to 9,000 places. New drillings were made and the bottling factory, renamed Apemin, was equipped with modern bottling lines. Also back then, a viaduct was built and the local narrow-gauge railroad was expanded to include the station of Toplita, from where the rail cars of the CFR national railroad carrier would further carry the mineral water. The Borsec mineral water would be exported to Hungary, Moldova, Greece, Spain, Germany, the UK, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Sweden.
After December 1989, changes were made in the factory, with its name changed into the Queen of Mineral Waters Ltd. A significant chapter in the history of water bottling at Borsec opened in 1998, when the Government-run enterprise turned private as Romaqua Group Borsec, with Romaqua Holding, running on Romanian private capital, becoming its major stockholder.
State-of-the-art bottling lines started casting plastic bottles on an investment of nearly 40 million US dollars and still water was for the first time bottled. The most important Borsec water importers now are in Hungary and Israel. Borsec mineral water is also exported to the US, Germany, Moldova, Cyprus and Taiwan. While two centuries ago 3 million litres of water would be bottled a year, the current bottling capacity at Borsec is exceeding 570 million litres a year.
In its over 200 years of history, the Borsec factory has bottled some 34 billion litres of mineral water.
National and international recognition of the Borsec mineral water quality
In 1873, Emperor Franz Joseph awarded a gold medal and a merit medal to the Borsec natural water at the Vienna International Exposition, making it the 'queen of mineral waters.' Its recognition has followed a constant path throughout history, winning many more distinctions, including an honorary diploma at the Paris 1878 International Exposition; a silver medal and an honorary diploma at the Berlin and Trieste 1876 International Exposition and a silver medal at the 1885 Budapest Exposition.
In the 1970s, Borsec would win an honorary diploma at each edition of the Bucharest International Fair. In 2002, it won a silver medal at the International Fair in Moscow.
In February 2004, Borsec was named 'the world's best mineral water' at the Berkley Springs Festival of West Virginia, the US. In 2005, the Borsec sparkling water was awarded a special gold medal, while the Borsec still mineral water won a gold medal in a World Quality Selection show of the Brussels International Institute for Quality Selections.
In 2013, for the fourth year in a row, Borsec came out on top of name recognition and consumer confidence rankings of Romania's top 50 brands drawn up by Unlock Market Research. AGERPRES