CURTEA DE Argeș , ROMANIA — Often times, the place you call home is the one least explored. Romania is actually a second home for me, where I was born but not raised, where I spent my summers as a child and where I feel most connected.
While Romania gets a bad rap globally because of some internal issues, overall, the country is one of the most beautiful in Europe and has so much to offer visitors. Its remarkable Black Sea coastline, its awesome Carpathian Mountains, Dracula’s world-renowned castle in Bran, idyllic countrysides and, of course, bustling Bucharest, all add up to one terrific holiday.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the Transfagarasan Mountain Highway in Transylvania — one of the most spectacular roads in the world.
Year-after-year, when I go back to Romania and visit my family, I tell myself: “This year I’m going to do it — experience the Transfagarasan and make it all the way to the end of the road. This past year (2017), I finally did it.
You have to go at the right time, of course — not too early in the spring because snow may still block the road until late June, maybe even into early July. But weather is always a factor on a mountain road that rises 2,134 metres into the clouds.
Above: Lovely Lake Vidrau is one of the eye-catching features along the 114-kilometre route.
The Transfagarasan Highway runs approximately 114km through the Făgăraș Mountains, also known as the Transylvanian Alps. It starts in Cârțișoara, in the picturesque Olt Valley, and ends in Curtea de Argeș, a lovely city located on the right bank of the Argeș River.
The road is narrow and serpentine-like in many spots and can be quite dangerous — all part of the wonderful experience.
There are tunnels along the route and when you emerge you come face-to-face with some fascinating natural wonders, like picturesque Lake Vidrau. Considering the manmade lake consists of around 465 million cubic metres of water, its magnificence is hard to appreciate without seeing it in person — you would never know it’s artificial.
Above: You'll never go hungry on the Transfagarasan Highway - local vendors offer fresh fruits and local treats.
There are many picture-perfect pit stops along the way and getting out of your car and looking back from a mountain-high position on the route you’ve just completed is all part of the fun and thrill of driving the Transfagarasan Highway.
A note from the wise: keep an eye out for the “street food” you’ll encounter along the way. Roadside vendors will offer you local favourites like wild boar sausages, smoked deer meat, hand mixed cheeses, natural fruit syrup and water collected from fresh springs — all very good. One of my favourite things about travelling through rural Romania is the food, because it’s so different from what we find in Canada. When’s the last time you ate raw green onions for breakfast? Oh, so good!
I stuffed my face with the wild boar sausages and kurtos — spiral tubes of dough topped with cinnamon and walnuts that are found all over Romania.
Above: The magnificent mountain highway features lots of yawning tunnels and plenty of sheep-filled pastures.
At the peak of the Făgăraș Mountains, we stop for lunch at Bâlea Lake and admire a herd a sheep gathered in a valley below running together, like one giant white cloud, from the dog trying to herd them. Awesome!
Three hours later, we reach the end of the road in Curtea de Argeș and fight the temptation to get back in the car and retrace our steps along one of the world’s great highways.
Maybe next year. •