The Transfagarasan road is built to go over Fagaras Mountains, one of the highest mountains in the Romanian Carpathians. It is between 90 km and 151 km long, depending on where you start. This road connects two historical provinces of Romania, Transylvania and Wallachia.
Ceausescu, the last Romanian communist leader, started thinking about building this road as a strategic advantage after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, at the end of the 60s. The Romanian army leaders thought that all the other passes in the mountains are easily conquerable, so they started to develop this strategic road for military purpose. The highest point of the road is 2042 m, in an 800+ metres tunnel that goes straight through the mountain, between the highest peaks – Moldoveanu and Negoiu.
It was actually a marvel of engineering for that time – 5 tunnels, in total of nearly 1200 m long. In its building 3 million tons of displaced rock and and almost 6 and a half thousand tons of explosive were used.
Many workers flocked to help the military in their construction; because of the rush, poor planning and unskilled workers many people died during the construction of this masterpiece road. The official numbers are around 40 people. But, like any other communist construction in our country, there are stories about the number being much higher.
To commemorate this people we can observe two monuments, one it called the the Gate of the Sappers (Engineers) and the Gate of the Meeting.
Starting from the top of the road, from Balea Lake, the tourist can easily start the hike to the most prominent parts of this mountain and connect to what is starting to be called, Via Transilvanica, a touristic rute that spreds all across the mountain range of Romania. The area is filled with hotels and places for relaxation; and, for the people that want a more rustic approach, there a numerous chalets and cabins.
The most common way to approach Transfagarasan road is starting from the south, from the old Royal Court in Curtea de Arges. Driving from there it takes more than one and a half hours to drive trough the valleys of the mountains. After that, you pass the biggest water dam in Romania – Vidraru. Also, we pass one of Vlad the Impaler’s old citadel (that has so many stories to tell – some connected to the Dracula myth) and finally start the ascent. It is an ultimate test for the driver and also for the car! One of the urban myths in communist Romania, when buying a car, was that it should withstand this route without breaking down. The older drivers still test their cars this way; unfortunately during high season, in the summer, the road is a little crowded. So really pushing the car to the limit could be tricky.
We can drive on the Transfagarasan road only 6 month a year. The rest of the year it is block due to heavy snow and avalanche risk. In 2009 it was named by the crew of the famous automobile TV Show, TopGear the best road in the world.
Today, tourism is the main use of this road, due to its famous beauty and scarcity. Although there are parts that could need an improvement people flock to drive on it; it is a very popular attraction for both the outdoor adrenaline enthusiast and the relaxation oriented tourist. Every year there are marathons, cycling competitions and even rallies. And the number of events is growing due to the increased interest in sports activities.
This route and these mountains are filled with myths and legends about its construction. We can hear stories about the the last anti-communist fighters, hiding in the mountains and even about a very famous outdoor toilet with an unique view. It depends on what you seek!
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