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Romania: Bran, Bucharest, Sibiu, Sighisoara, Transalpina Highway, Transfagarasan Highway
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania: Breathtaking backdrop
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Surrounded by a breathtaking scenic backdrop, exhilarating mountain routes and mysterious landscapes, the 116-km route runs between Transylvania and large Wallachia.
As per our itinerary, we were to negotiate the Transalpina Road this morning; however a major cycling event was happening on the road. It was only prudent that we kept this road for the next day and drive the Transfagarasan instead. This little change did add to our excitement because whilst turning back we missed a turn (since a new route was planned to reach Sibiu - our base) thus giving us an opportunity to drive through gravel roads and some off-road touring. After wandering for an hour or so (GPS wouldn't work), we finally touched the road and reached our hotel late, albeit safely!
The Transfagarasan was constructed between 1970 and 1974 during the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Ceausescu wanted to ensure quick military access across the mountains in case of a Soviet invasion. At the time, Romania already had several strategic mountain passes through the Southern Carpathians, whether inherited from the pre-communist era or built during the initial years of the Communist regime. These passes, however, were mainly through river valleys, and would be easy for the Soviets to block and attack. Ceausescu therefore ordered the construction of a road across the Fagaras Mountains, which divide northwestern and southern Romania.
Reaching over 2000 metres above sea level in some places, the Transfagarasan Highway is still one of the highest roads in Europe. It's most striking feature is an 890-metre section offering great panoramic views. The unlit tunnel through the mountains forms a distinctive border between the barren, snow-covered mountain landscape in the north and the lush valleys in the south.
The highlight of the trip will surely include the setting of the Balea Lake and the majestic dam Vidraru.
Balea Lake is a glacier lake situated at 2,034 m of altitude in the Fagaras Mountains. We stopped on the shores to walk around, take pictures and do some souvenir shopping. There are two chalets opened all the year round, a meteorological station and a mountain rescue station. In 2006, the first ice hotel in Eastern Europe was built in the vicinity of the lake.
Vidraru Dam was completed in 1966 on the Arges River and creates Lake Vidraru. The arch dam was built with the primary purpose to produce hydroelectricity. The dam's height is 166 metres, the arch length 305 meters and it can store 465 million cubic metres of water. The reservoir has a total shoreline length of 28 km. We parked our cars at the other end of the dam and walked back over the dam wall. Not a good idea for those with vertigo to look down at the waters!
Transfagarasan Highway Image Gallery Photo viewer
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