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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cheese Wiz Clones 'Southfork' In Middle of Romanian Plain

SOUTHFORK-HERMES LAND, Romania -- He made his fortune on cheddar cheese, not oil, and he's never even been to Texas.

But Alexandru Ilie wears a Stetson as well as J.R. Ewing ever did and has built a florid copy of Southfork Ranch in the middle of Romania.

And taking a page from flashy Texans, Ilie got a couple steps up on the Ewing family of television's "Dallas.'' His ranch has red-uniformed guards and a zoo, and there's even a 40-meter-tall replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Fortunately for Ilie, most of the visitors to this combination of ranch/hotel/ zoo/theme park haven't seen Texas.

And people who live near his development, in the nearby town of Slobozia and in poor villages such as Perieti, are grateful for the money he's brought to Romania's southeastern plain.

"This man did what others didn't dare do. He fulfilled his dreams, and by doing that he fulfilled others' dreams, too,'' said Marioara Stamate, a housewife whose relatives work for Ilie.

A paunchy man fond of cowboy hats, Ilie said he was inspired to build the 100-hectare ranch resort because "Dallas'' was so popular in Romania.

"I felt the series became part of people's lives and decided to give them what they wanted,'' he said.

So he started building the ranch in 1991 from videotapes of the series and books on southern American architecture.

Southfork-Hermes Land is a cross between an amusement park and a luxury resort. Visitors can tour the ranch, ride horses, swim in the swimming pools, visit the small zoo or enjoy the lake.

Overnight visitors can stay at the hotel or at the Texas-inspired bungalows.

Ilie's pride is the replica Eiffel Tower, which he says cost 1 billion lei, or $300,000.

"People they come to shake my hand, they ask for my autographs,'' he said.