středa 8. srpna 2012

Transfagaras highway trip

Transfagaras - Across the Carpathian mountains 


Road 7C is well known as the Transfagarash highway. But don't be confused, the road has so far to highway as i have to superhero. Although it is well managed and pretty passable in the summer, between October and  May is closed since it is impossible to maintain it during the tough intercontinental Romanian winter. Romanians call the Transfagarash highway "Ceauşescu's Folly" since he planned to build that road in order to move armed forces much quickly from north(or to the north)...well his concept, I doubt there was any concept at all for this road. Anyway trying to pass this road in a hedge back is a challenge so I would love to see tank driver maneuver that curved road.

Our trip started at Brasov

the evening before. We gathered at the Beke hostel. Lovely place almost in the heart of Brasov. No more than 3 minutes from Biserica Neagra and less than 5 from cable car station to the famous Brasov sign on the hill. Find that hostel is not easy, but the comfort is worth it. We paid 40 Lei for overnight and had our own facilities.

While I was still testing Assassin's Creed 3, David with Monica, for whom this was the last trip before departing to their native country of USA, rented a car in Bucharest airport. I was supposed to travel to Brasov with them, but AC3 was more importnt in that time, so I decided to join them in the evening at the Brasov train station. Which is by the way quite far from the historical center. All of the trains from Bucharest will drop you off at the Gara Centrala Brasov and you have to take trolley(in front of the station) or buss (a little to the right from the station) to get there. Numbers that are going to take you are 4, 51, 23 and 23B.

While I was waiting for my travel buddies I met 2 backpackers from Germany. They already visited Predeal and were on their way to Bran castle and Peles near Sinaia. I offered them to join us at the Beke guest house, but they were much better prepared and their surfer picked them up in the next minute. Couchsurfing is definitely worth the try:-)

8.30 in the morning multiple cellphones alarm clocks started to ring and sunny morning welcomed us. Quick shower, small mic dejun in the city center and the car was ready to try one of the toughest roads in Romania. David mastered the European, well more Romanian style of driving pretty fast and we departed no later than at 9. On our way out of Brasov we stopped at Real to buy supplies and refill the fuel tank.

First part of the road

might be pretty monotonous. Though the views and sights on Romanian countryside are breathtaking. The air is fresh and smells much better than in Bucharest. Its a completely different world.
In fagaras we met this "Google street view car" so in case we are lucky, we are going to be immortalized(well our car most likely) on google maps:-) We were all so excited that almost forgot where to take the left turn to start the second part of our road - the ascend.

Just a few hundred meters past Arpase de Jos is a roundabout that will decide your adventures. If you continue to the west, you will end up in a region of Sibiu and one of the most beautiful cities in Romania where Mari-An studies. But we turned left and head south towards the majestic Carpathian mountains and region called Arges.

Passing the sign

announcing Transfagarasan road 7C is opened only from June to September our expectations were rising so was the adrenaline level. As the curves started to lead our car uphill, the scenery began to change. Flat meadows were replaced by deep coniferous forests, calm rivers by swift creeks and sunny hot afternoon changed into a cloudy cold one before we even reached the peak.

Tee peak

of the Transfagarasan highway is located at 2014m above sea level and is one of the most elevated roads in Europe. (Another one is the Transalpine highway located also in Romania.) The peak is pierced by a tunnel that leads underneath it and will take you from one side to another. North side is dominated by the Balea Lake. Beautiful glacial lake with 2 hotels at the bank (third one in construction for more than 20 years). Should you have the time, powers and suitable weather conditions take one hour hike to a nearby Balea waterfall.

As we reached the other side of the tunnel, which is by the way the longest tunnel in Romania, we stopped for a snack and obligatory "Picture time". Cloudy weather was left behind on the other side of the mountains and we used all the time before the clouds crossed the mountains to make some pictures. Stopping on almost every curve and taking pics of everything and anything - we enjoyed that time.

As the time was passing so were the miles and we eventually reached Poenari fortress. in the lower elevations. My stomach was begging for something more to eat and also to rest from the curvy road. I was never a fan of bus/car traveling in the rear seats and Transfagaras tested my resilience well. Poenari fortress is an actual place of rule of the most famous Romanian - Vlad the 3rd, Wallachian Prince known as Vlad Tepes - Dracula. Fortress is located on top of a steep hill and visitor has to beat more than 1800 steps to get there.

Curtea de Arges

Considering the time and that this was Monica's and David's last trip we decided to leave it for another time and head to the nearby town of Curtea de Arges which posses the most famous cathedral in Romania (check out the 1 LEU bill and you will know why;-) Monica is a big fan of these sacral architectural jewels in Romania.

The time was running out and we decided to quickly drop Mari-An in Pitesti and hit the road to Bucharest as fast as possible. On the way I was sleeping or chatting in turns and what I remember vividly enough is that in Curtea de Arges they have much more stray dogs than anywhere else I have been in Romania.


Round 2 - Transfagaras sequel in Toyota Corolla

Right! We did one more trip through this extraordinary road. With borrowed car from Avis car rental. Toyota Corolla 1.4 was our vehicle. And the driver - Holistr. I simply wanted to drive the road on my own. Have the opportunity to drive those serpentines for myself and squeeze from the engine what it takes.

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