At the end of June, I had a weekend trip to Făgărașului Mountains (Munții Făgărașului), looking to find the pink meadows of summer and to explore new and rarely seen places.
The high ridge of Făgărași rises at 2544 meters above sea level and is the highpoint in Romania. Often regarded as the Alps of Transylvania, Făgărașului Mountains stretch over 2400 square kilometers and are a formed by a backbone, central ridge, and numerous lateral ridges. A national road, DN76C, called the Transfăgărășan, traverses the main ridge and is considered by many as the most beautiful road in Romania. Made famous by a Top Gear episode, the Transfăgărășan road is very popular with foreign tourists.
It’s no secret that I am not fond of Făgărași during summer. It may be because they are not easily accesible from Bucharest without a car, but, mainly, because I find no joy in their monotone rocky greys. Damn me and my obsessive aesthetics! In winter, however, they are a joy to look at and, often, a serious climb.
Back to last month’s trip, we arrived quite late in Breaza, at the foot of the mountains. It was already very hot when we started the hike along the Pojorta Valley. I really enjoyed this part. The trail is seldom travelled and full of luxurious vegetation, offering a genuine sense of wilderness. After walking along the river for some time and a short, but exhausting climb, we reach to site of the derelict Urlea chalet. Sadness. It’s sad to see a once great and famous chalet in the mountains turn to ruin, become firewood for all sorts of miscreants and people with no love for the mountains or the outdoors.
Leaving the chalet and its memory behind, we start up the Moșu ridge (the Old Man). Gradually, the forest gives way to junipers and rhododendron shrubs. It is only after reaching the alpine shelter where the rhododendrons are in bloom and transform the landscape into a pink wonder!
After a making our beds in the shelter, we have a good supper and start looming around the place. I take dozens of images. I am drawn by the mesmerizing pink around me, bathed in the golden light of the sun going hiding behind the Cațaveiu ridge. It was a sunset to remember!
In the morning, as the alarm clock broke the silence of the night, I jumped right out of my sleeping bag, grabbing my camera on the way out. I climbed fast on Moșu peak – the highest in the area – and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, as the Sun rose above the whole Transylvania. I could see as far as the Bucegi Mountains, in the east!
Returning from my sunrise adventure, I take a short nap outside the shelter, on the grass. Everyone wakes up in a short while and we eat breakfast. Soon, we are ready to go! Our destination for today is the glacial lake of Urlea and the main ridge of Făgărași, before going down on the Cațaveiu ridge.
We reach the lake after a short walk and take some time on the shore. The reflection is impressive, but the water is freezing! Going up, we reach the main ridge after a short exposed section. The view here is simply stunning! Our eyes turn towards the roof of Romania, a trapeze formed by the Moldoveanu Peak and it’s smaller brother, Viștea Mare, the first and third highest in the country.
Hot, it’s very hot. There’s almost no wind around and we feel the sun burning our skin. Descending the Cațaveiu ridge, we take a short break at the shelter there. Before reaching the shade of the forest, we refreshen at a nearby cold spring – it was such a joy! The forest, however, is a sad story.
Man, in his greedy ignorance, destroys nature. Cuts down the forest and makes changes to the environment that will hurt his children. There is no love. No respect. I feel like crying inside. I feel rage. The disaster is real.
Sadness shadows the ending. We are exhausted when we reach the car, after a very long descent through a cut down forest. I have mixed impressions. I very much loved the sunset scenery, with lots of rhododendrons around, yet the ecological disaster I just witnessed is something else.
Recently, it has been announced that a number of primeval beech forests in Romania made the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is good news. However, it still not changes the fact that Carpathian forests disappear by the minute. It is our duty to change this. We need to teach the young. Make them understand that nature is our past and future.