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3 super cars, one outstanding landscape, unbelievable windings and curves and the result is: "This is the best road in the World!"
This is what Jeremy Clarkson in one of the best BBC car shows "Topgear" said while he was driving on the Transfagarasan Road .The peaceful quiet road can be seen (recommended) from mid of June till late September (depending on weather conditions) and also it is a fantastic way to see snow in August, while the rest of the country is "burnt" by the sun "cooking" at an average of 30-35 degrees in the shadows, to breathe in fresh air and escape from dusty cities.
Zigzagging and hair pinning through the Fagaras Mountains in Romania – this 100 km drive is a truly unforgettable experience. Not for the fainthearted, the route climbs up to an altitude of 2034 meters and links Transylvania with its neighboring province Muntenia passing through dramatic scenery and offering spectacular views, particularly from the highest peak in Romania, Moldoveanu.
It has two traffic lanes of 92 kilometers long. Because of the countless turns, the average speed is maximum 40 km per hour. Along this route there are 27 viaducts and bridges and the longest road tunnel in Romania – 887 meters, which passes through the Paltin Mountains, from Capra to the Balea Lake. The ventilation of the tunnel is made naturally thanks to the extremely powerful currents. The traffic lane inside the unlighted tunnel is only 6 meters wide and there is a one meter broad pavement.
Tourists who would like to “venture” on the Transfagarasan Road are advised to climb it from the south to the north. Romania’s most famous road runs from Arefu village (at km 61 of DN7C) in the county of Arges to the county of Sibiu, somewhere near Cartisoara village (at the crossroad with DN1).The landscape is fantastic and the differences of altitude and the curves represent a challenge for both cars and drivers. Unfortunately, because of the weather conditions, the Transfagarasan Road is opened for only a few months every year, usually from July until October.The most important tourist attractions are the Vidraru Lake and the Vidraru Dam, which is one of the greatest in Europe, then Poenari Fortress (built in the time of Vlad Tepes), the Balea Glacial Lake and Balea waterfall.
History - How it was built
The Transfagarasan Road dates back to 1970. The Romanian dictator at that time, Nicolae Ceausescu, ordered the construction of a route which would allow his military to easily cross the mountainous area should they need to protect the borders of Romania. The Transfagarasan route was then built (also known as the DN7C) and to this day is still among the highest roads in Europe.
A brief presentation with numbers might be difficult to follow, but it is worth saying that about 3 million tons of hard rocks were dislocated, 830 transverse works and 290 000 cubic meters of masonry were made for building those 92 kilometers of road. For building the Capra-Balea Tunnel there were excavated over 41 000 cubic meters of rocks. There were also used 20 tones of dynamite, 3 573 tons of cement, 89 tons of concrete steel, 24 000 of anchors, 129 tones of brazed nets, 14 200 square meters of encasements, 1750 meters of concrete tubes, 4 100 meters of pipes, 50 tones of metal composites, 6 900 cubic meters of grit, 6000 cubic meters of gravel, 3 000 tones of crushed rocks and 740 lighting lamps.
Some of those who worked at the construction of the Transfagarasan and are nowadays retired speak about the sacrifices that were made for the road that leads to the sky. Before its construction it was impossible to cross the mountains, not even on horseback. But it is said that once, before becoming president, Nicolae Ceausescu stopped by Arefu village and the idea of a road that could pass through the mountains crossed his mind. During the construction a lot of men lost their lives, like in the Vidraru’s case. Unfortunately the documents didn’t keep these numbers.But the survivors say that it is about a hundred of human sacrifices. Many of those who had died weren’t even found in the precipices in which they had fallen. It is also said that when the tunnel was being built, the miners who had been in charge of the planting of the explosive were hanging on each other, in groups of 20 or 30, not to be thrown by the strong wind into the precipice.
A story that has been spreading from "mouth to mouth" refers to a monk named Nectarie. After the construction of the Transfagarasan road he climbed it by his car, a Trabant car, up to Capra peak, where he was caught by an avalanche. He left the car at Capra, and he threw himself on the snow being carried by the “wave”. It is said that he remained alive, while his car was found after 6 months, when the snow had melt way.
The Transfagarasan can be driven either by car or motorbike or from north to south or vice versa. The route is divided by a tunnel that runs through the mountains and it is almost 890 meters long and completely unlit. On the highest level the contrast between the northern side, where the view is barren and snowy, and the southern, which is lush and green and noticeably warmer, is amazing. The road also has 27 viaducts and bridges, very tight corners, and narrow roads, and due to those corners and the difficulty of the road the average speed is to be around 50 km / hour and driving this highway at speed is not an option.The Transfagarasan practically starts from the Vidraru Dam, which is also a marvel of the “communistic era“. This Lake (dam) is built between the mountains and is one of the biggest man made Dam in Romania.
How to get there
The Transfagarasan Road can be accessed from Pitesti city when going north to Curtea de Arges City (you may also visit Curtea de Arges Monastery) and following the route to the Vidraru Dam (see on the map)From Vidraru the road splits in 2 directions: one goes to the "Capra" resort and the other one (a small 2 ways road) crosses over the Vidraru Dam, practically from that point the Transfagarasan starts.
To get to Pitesti either you come from Transilvania (Cluj, Sibiu cities) or from Bucharest on the Highway (1 hour driving from Bucharest to Pitesti), cross near Pitesti (don't enter the city unless you want to visit it, and by the way I would recommend to see the city but if you are in a hurry then try to avoid), follow the "new" part of the highway with the indicators Ramnicu Valcea or Rm.Valcea, but PAY ATTENTION: at the end of the highway (basically the other side of Pitesti city), DON'T ENTER the tunnel, but take RIGHT to Bascov - Curtea de Arges
Also it can be reached from the other side from Sibiu area but you need to pay attention to the indicators. Basically you exit Sibiu towards"Talmaciu" on national road E81. Near Talmaciu take left on E68 road towards "Fagaras" and "Brasov" cities and follow the E68 road 40-50 km.Follow the road indicators (which mark the Transfagarasan road and also some indications should appear on the right side to follow right direction) and in order to have correct infos please have a at least a road map with you.
Attractions - What you can see
Notable highlights of the route include the Poienari fortress, whose former resident Vlad III the Impaler was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for the character of Dracula. Balea Waterfall and the Glaciar Lake and the Vidraru Lake and the Dam are also wonderful sights.
It is best to plan carefully when to take on this drive as it usually closes from October until June, although it’s not uncommon for it to close for some time over the summer months also due to snowfall! At times the drive can seem a little isolated and remote, so it is best to carry out all the checks to make sure the car is up to the challenge before you set off, and no matter what the season is, warm clothing is a must. It may sound like quite a bit of planning, however, once you get going you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing and unforgettable drives you can experience.
The Vidraru Lake
Coming out from the town Curtea de Arges, the road passing through hydropower plant to Vidraru the dam followed by the lake on the right is the spectacular Vidraru Transfagarasan (DN7C). Is a reservoir lake created in 1965 on the Arges River for electricity production. Situated between the mountains and the Mountain Ghitu brow, the lake gathers the waters of the rivers Capra, Buda and several direct tributaries (River “Doamnei”, and Valsan Cernatul, “Valea lui Stan” ), with a total flow of about 5.5 m3/s .
The total area of the lake is 893 ha, length of 10.3 kilometers, maximum width of 2.2 km in the Wolf Valley –and a circumference of 28 km.Maximum water depth is 155 m high on the curved part of dam, near 166 m with a length of 307 meters crown. Water volume is 465 million m. The normal retention is 830.00 meters above sea level (mdM).The Vidraru dam's construction took five years and a half having started in 1960. For this achievement it took 42 km of underground tunnels to have been excavated, 1.768 million m3 of rock, about 1 million of which underground bands have, 930,000 m3 of concrete of which 400,000 m3 are underground and also 6300 tonnes of electromechanical equipment were installed.
Upon completion it was located, measured in height and occupying approximately the 8th place in Europe was ranked 20th in the world.In an average hydrological year, Vidraru hydroelectric power plant located underground can produce approximately 400 GWh of electricity. It has an installed capacity of 220 MW.
Here, Mount Plesa was famous for the statue of Prometheus with lightning in his hand, a symbol of electricity. Only a few hundred meters of the dam can tourists pass and they go to the House Argeseana and the pier where the practice of leisure boat racing is held.Being situated on a mountain, its ruins are seen with the panoramic Vidraru Dam and Fagaras. It is required to visit this city crossing the road with more than 1000 steps.
The Poienari fortress is recognized as one of the residences of Vlad Tepes (Dracula), a great fortress built in the way of the Ottoman invaders.
Balea waterfall, another marvel of nature, is situated in the Fagaras Mountains and is considered to be one of the most famous waterfalls in Romania. Balea waterfall is at an altitude of 1234 meters and the water flows from a height of 68 meters.
The Balea Glacial Lake is a real monument of nature (formed in a glacial circus), the Balea Glacial Lake which was formed in cirque is a true wonder of nature and lies between the valey of river Olt and Piatra Craiului Mountain.The Balea Lake reaches a length of 360 meters, a width of 240 meters and a depth of 11 meters and is situated at an altitude of 2034 meters.Since 1932 the entire surface of the lake and about 180 acres around it have been declared scientific reserve. It should be recalled that during 2006 near the lake there was built the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe.It is accessible by car during summer and the rest of the year by a cable car from the “Balea Cascada” chalet.
Since 1932 the lake and about 180 hectare of land around it have been declared scientific reservation. It should also be mentioned that the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe was built near the lake in 2006.In summer one can practice boating on the lake, while on winter one can skate, play hockey or curl on the frozen surface of the lake. One can also climb down from Waterfall by skiing on a 10 kilometers route with a 600 meters difference of altitude.On the Lake Vidraru extreme sports can practice such as bungee jumping and small ship ride across the lake.
There are many accommodation possibilities, from camping places to boarding houses and chalets. It is certain that booking should be done in advance because they are booked for the entire year.
“Valea cu Pesti” (Fish Valley) Chalet
Located on the east side of the Vidraru Lake, at an altitude of 870 meters, the chalet was one of the protocol places used by Nicolae Ceausescu.Nowadays it has 18 dwellings, meaning 45 accommodation units.
“Cumpana” (Sweep) Chalet It is located on the west side of the Vidraru Lake and has 88 accommodation units, a restaurant for 100 persons, a disco, a sport field, a pool that floats on the Vidraru Lake in summer. One can also rent from here all sorts of amusement devices to use on the lake and can take a passenger steamship (for 100 persons) that goes to Casa Argeseana (Argeseana House) and “Valea cu Pesti” (Fish Valley) Chalet.
Dracula Boarding House is located on the Transfagarasan route, about 6 km far from Vidraru Dam and 1 km far from Poenari Fortress. It has 20 rooms, parking lots, a terrace, its own restaurant and a bar.
“Paraul Capra” Chalet Capra Tourist Complex is located at an altitude of 1585 meters and has 52 accommodation units in 26 double rooms and a restaurant for maximum 80 persons.
"Cascada" Chalet It is located at the foot of Balea Waterfall, at an altitude of 1234 meters. The chalet has 80 accommodation units, an all inclusive restaurant,a day bar and, on demand, a conference room.On the top of the Road, at one of the highest altitude, lies the Balea Lake
The Balea Lake Chalet is located on a half-isle that goes into the Balea Glacial Lake, at an altitude of 2034 meters. The present chalet was rebuilt in 2000 because the old one had been destroyed in a fire in 1995. On its three floors there are double rooms, rooms with four, six or ten places and also apartments. It has its own restaurant and facilities for renting sport equipment, baby sky and scooters.
Paltinul Villa The villa is located on the border of the Balea Lake, at an altitude of 2044 meters and has 26 accommodation units in double rooms, rooms of four and an apartment. One can also rent sport equipment and professional mountain assistance is ensured as well.
Starting 01.06.2012, the Transfagarasan Road will be oppen. Incepand cu data 01.06.2012, se redeschide circulatia pe DN 7C – Transfagarasan, pe sectorul cuprins intre Km 64+000 – 104+000, pentru autovehiculele cu MTMA mai mica de 20 tone.Traficul se va desfasura pe o singura banda cu latimea de 3,5 metri.
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Sources:http://www.u2know.net - own pictures and texthttp://www.flickr.com/photos/33432580@N00/http://www.romanianmonasteries.org/romania/fagaras-mountainshttp://www.ici.rohttp://www.cnadnr.ro/drumuri.phphttp://www.ziare.com/articole/transfagarasanhttp://romaniaturistica.com/obiective-turistice/transfagarasanul.html