Distance: roughly 90 km (by car). Due to the topography, the average speed is around 40 km/h – so prepare for a full one-day trip. In fact, you’ll be a fool not to, as the incredible scenery will blow your mind.
Route: DN 7C
Directions: From Curtea de Argeş, work your way up the mountain, to Vidraru Dam, then continue uphill to Bâlea Lake. From there, the road will take you downhill to Bâlea Falls and, ultimately, the junction with DN1 (from where you can reach Sibiu by turning left, or Braşov if make a right). And what a dramatic descent that is!
Story: Constructed between 1970 and 1974, The Transfăgărăşan was built as a strategic military route, connecting the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia, going through the highest peaks in the country – Moldoveanu (2,544 m) and Negoiu (2,535 m). Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu wanted to ensure quick military access across the mountains, in the event of a Russian invasion of Romania, similar to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The road was built mainly with military forces, at a high cost both financially and from a human standpoint (the real number of deaths remains unknown, while the Communist propaganda stated that only 40 lives were lost in building accidents).
What to see:
2. Bâlea Glacier Lake. There are two chalets opened all the year round, a meteorological station and a mountain rescue (Salvamont) station. It is accessible by car (during the summer) and by a cable car coming up from Bâlea Falls.
3. Vidraru Dam and Lake. The dam’s height is 166 metres, the arch length 305 meters and it can store 465 million cubic metres of water. When completed (1966), it ranked 5th in Europe, and 9th in the world. The Dam’s symbol is Prometheus’statue, which can be found near the near-by – also named The Electric Man.
4. Poenari Fortress (ruined). Notable for its connection to Vlad III the Impaler, the castle was erected at the beginning of the 13th century by the rulers of Wallachia. Vlad made it one of his main fortresses. Due to it’s location, the citadel was difficult to take and that’s why all attacking forces simply decided to avoid and go around it. As a consequence, the fortress fell into ruins by the 17th century.
5. The Cathedral of Curtea de Argeș. Built in early 16th century, it’s famous for both its architectural grace and the legend of architect Manole, who sacrificed his own wife in order to complete the structure. Afterwards, prince Radu Negru stranded Manole and all the masons on the roof, so they could not leave and build something even greater that the Cathedral. The men tried to escape using selfmade wooden wings but they all fell to the ground. A spring of clear water, named after Manole, is said to mark the spot where he fell.
That’s the Transfăgărăşan for you. If you ask me it’s by far the most impressive Romanian landmark.