Since the last post became rather longish I had to divide it into two parts. Here is the last bit from my journey into the Transgarasan highway.
IN case you have missed the first two parts, here are they again:
I am posting the video as well, in case you missed it in the previous posts. It shows only part of the road, the full video is too long for even me to process. Besides, I have included only the most interesting parts of the road. Anyway, here it is:
Back to the story, then. So we got to the serpentine part. They start when the pine forest ends. It's an alpine landscape - you wait for the cow from the Milka commercial to appear with a bar of chocolate at each turn. It's really picturesque. Balea lake - some 34 kilometers away.
|One of the views when the landscape starts to change.|
The Transfagarasan - around 1 pm.
By the time the scenic curves start, it's raining cats and dogs. I start grumbling and the driver smirks - it's what he had been dreaming about. The last 30 km of the road to Balea lake - the part with the serpentines and the alpine landscapes is closed from November to May (see the Transfagarasan website for more info.) because of avalanche danger.
|The Transfagarasan in winter - image taken from|
If you want to visit Balea lake in winter, you still can - there is a cable line between the hotels and chalets at Balea lake and the ones at the Balea waterfalls 30 kilometers below. The waterfalls are very beautiful, or so I've heard. As you may rightly guess, we didn't go there because of... TA DA-A-A - the rain.
However, there is a little compensation - at this point of the journey you'll see some waterfalls by the very road - you'll see some on the video as well. Here is one of them - not the biggest but the one closest to the road I managed to take picture of:
|One of the waterfalls|
At almost each curve you'll feel the urge to take a picture. Even bad weather couldn't hide that.
|View from the second (or third) viewpoint|
If you don't want to shoot while the car is moving, there are plenty of places where you can pull over and enjoy the scenery. The only problem is that they are (most of the time) 15 to 25 centimeters below the level of the road. This is done to keep the water/snow away from it - to help it get down the slope and not stay on the road.
|What I saw from the first viewpoint|
In this part of the road you'll rarely encounter a car with a foreign registration plate - Romanians do love that road but to foreigners it is either unknown, or they skip it because it takes a long time to go through all the curves.
In 2009 when the Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May named it 'The best road for driving in the world' - I've posted the whole episode in the previous post about the Transfagarasan - see it here - it became more popular. Many people, like me, saw the beauty of the pass on screen and decided to see it live :)
If you have a free hand (I mean, nit occupied with a camera already) or just don't want to miss a second of the journey, do make a video clip. To me, the video is the best result from the journey. I posted it above, but here it is one more time, in case you didn't notice:
The Transfagarasan - around 2 pm.
Next stop along the road is Balea lake. It is the highest point of the pass - a beautiful glacier lake with depth of only 11 meters. The landscape is amazing - as if you are transformed to the Alps. On the video or photos, however, you'll see little of that. I even joked that I have seen not Balea lake, but Magla (the Bulgarian word meaning 'fog') lake. You'll see for yourself why.
|What I saw from Balea lake|
|What other people see from Balea lake - image taken from|
There are a few chalets along it that (as far as I have heard) are open all year round. The Romanians have done a great job in organizing the area - there is a big parking (costs 5 lei for a day to stay there) and there is a person who watches over the cars while you enjoy yourself. From the parking (which is directly next to the lake itself) you can see the spendour of the place. There are even paths that allow you to go around it and have a closer look. If you have time and the weather is better than the one I was in - definitely go and take a look at the place.
|The chalet that was closest to the parking|
On the opposite side of the road there are a lot of souvenir stalls - I really mean A LOT. They sell almost anything there - so take a look of what's on display. There is some space next to the stalls where you can take a look at the twisting curves of the road below.
For a better experience you can sleep in one of the chalets at Balea lake and have the opportunity to see the sunset there. Speaking of sunsets - the road is closed from sunset to sunrise.
|Courtesy to Tony Goran - here is a link to the picture in 500px -|
Back to the story - after the lake there are a lot of viewpoints - I really mean A LOT of them. Do pull over there because at each curve the landscape changes. We had nothing to see there - you'll see why if you watch the video but from those viewpoints you'll see an amazing panorama of both the lake and the road. See the picture below (not mine, unfortunately)
|Image taken from|
The next landmark on the milestones says Sibiu - the next big town down in the valley. At that point I got the impression that the more we get to the lake and then up towards Sibiu, the more the weather got worse. Somewhere at that point the focusing motor of the lens just gave up. I have no idea what happened but that is something I see for the first time in my life - and I have shot in blizzard and in torrential rain. It just gave up on the rain and the fog. So I just stopped taking pictures and - well, I haven't really stopped grumbling but resumed doing so with more commitment.
After a few minutes - they don't seem that long because you know what to expect - you get back into the pine wood. In the video you'll notice that there are a few bikers - I don't know what kind of motivation you need to climb the Transfagarasan in this particular weather but they seemed to have it. Speaking of two-wheel vehicles I have heard that climbing the pass with a motorcycle is amazing.
More information (and pictures) about Transylvania and the Transfagarasan you can find here:
As for driving a motorcycle there - check out this site:
Those who speak Bulgarian can check out these websites:
As you get closer to Sibiu, you'll probably encounter more and more cars. After all, Sibiu is the biggest town in the area. The lower you descend the more the landscape ceases to be an alpine one. Back to the pines, then ordinary trees and then of, course - to the picture postcard villages.
All in all, the whole journey took us 4 hours (would have been 5 if the weather allowed me to take pictures at every viewpoint.) So I'd advise you to head for it early in the morning in order to be able to enjoy the scenery. The best time to take picture with no shadows is midday (see, there are a lot of high mountains around). As I mentioned above - the pass is closed when it gets dark - because of the danger of falling 1 kilometer down - so you should plan your trip in such a way that you are either able to get to a hotel in the pass (mind you, Romanians have dinner quite early so if you go to eat at 9 the kitchen is very likely to be closed) or to get out of it before it is closed. The average recommended speed limit is 40 kilometers per hour so even if you want to drive very fast - you cannot.
The road - especially the serpentine part (top 60 kilometers out of 152) is in perfect condition. It is wide with proper signs and markings but no safety fences at most places. If you drive carefully, you'll have no problems.
If you get hungry or you are desperate to find a toilet (you should prepare for roughly 5 to 6 hours WITHOUT going to the toilet, just in case) there are plenty of places to eat in - big and small, for each taste and pocket.
So we continued our journey to Hunedoara - what lies there you'll see in another post.