Tour of Romania - Nica Ioan Vlad
wanderer on two wheels, I love nature with all its
sights as much as I love the thrill of adventure.
Although I majored in Economic Studies, I chose
to work as a personal trainer at a gym in my hometown.
I currently own a Suzuki V-Strom 650 (DL650), perfect
both for on-road and off-road riding.
My journey was due to start on a
Saturday morning. Right after work on Friday evening,
I went to my garage and made sure everything was
in order with the bike and the maps, so that I could
leave bright and early the next day. I had quite
a ride ahead of me.
I woke up at around the break of
dawn, which was no easy thing to do. Got on my bike
and didn’t stop until I reached the first
gas-station, where I filled the tank and ate my
version of a power breakfast: coffee and a chocolate
croissant. I tanked up the Suzuki four times during
my trip, but I refueled on coffee much more often.
About 19 gallons of gasoline went into a 1242 mile
(2000 kilometers) journey. Luckily, the DL650 makes
for a good ride on any kind of road, which sadly,
is paramount on Romania not-so-great asphalt.
first stop I wanted to make along my way was at
Bran Castle, better known to the Western World as
‘Dracula’s Castle’. It’s
located on the Bran-Rucar mountain-pass, a wide
gorge which basically surrounds you with mountains,
everywhere you look. However, the gorge was not
at all linear, but more of a mountain corridor made
entirely of curves. It’s as if someone gathered
all the winding roads in the country, glued them
together somehow and decided to spread them between
Rucar and Bran.
infamous castle is situated on a 20 ft. (60 meters)
high hill, framed by the peaks of two mountain chains,
called Bucegi Mountains and Piatra Craiului. It
is like you are in the inside of a snow globe, minus
the snow. The castle definitely has a sense of eeriness
about it, the kind that makes you want to go inside
expecting a paranormal experience of some sort.
Most likely you won’t find any in there, what
you will find however is extremely small and narrow
hallways, rooms and stairways that make you wonder
just how short people were back then (in the 15th
century, that is, when Vlad the Impaler aka Count
Dracula ruled Transylvania).
After visiting the castle I proceeded to a small
town called Novaci, which is the starting point
of the Transalpina, a road of royal origins which
goes up so high, you are literally above the clouds.
It is the highest paved road in Romania.
Transalpina reaches the highest altitude
in the Urdele mountain pass – aprox. 7037
ft. (2145 meters). The beginnings of this road are
somewhat in the mist, as there are many theories
as to when/why it was built. It has been dubbed
everything from ‘The Devil’s Path’
to the ‘King’s Road’, which says
a lot about all the things that might have happened
on it. Also a story has it that Nicolae Ceausescu
had the Transfagarasan Road (DN7C) built during
the communist regime just to surpass the Transalpina.
Works began in 2007 in order to transform this spectacular
road into a modern highway, 92 miles (148 km) long.
It’s definitely not an easy
ride and the quality of the road leaves something
to be desired, but the twists and turns along with
the breathtaking sights make it all worth it. As
you ride upwards and the road gets bumpier, the
air you breathe gets fresher and the sense that
you are standing above the world is almost overwhelming.
After the Urdele Pass I went down to the place called
Obarsia Lotrului, from where I entered the Cernea
Valley, a 37 miles (60 km) road that dives right
into the heart of nature. This is a great place
for a pit stop, taking picture and clearing your
head and lungs of all that urban pollution.
dusk I got to the Baile Herculane, one of the oldest
spa cities in the world. It was first mentioned
in documents over 1800 years ago. Baile Herculane
is also found within the Cernea Valley (Valea Cernei)
and it is part of the Valea Cernei-Domogled National
Park, a particularly rustic location. Cernea Valley
is a fascinating place to see and Baile Herculane
is located at an altitude of 524 ft./160 meters,
on the same parallel as Nice and Venice. That ensures
a calm and pleasant climate, with Mediterranean
Since the Watermills Park was very
close to the the spa city (only a 12 miles ride
away), I decided it would be best to spend the night
in Baile Herculane, so that I could be at the Rudaria
Molinological Park quite early the next morning.
The road leading to Rudaria Valley
(Valea Rudariei) is nice and straight. Once you
get there, it’s better to park your motorbike
and start hiking, the sights are just too beautiful
to miss. Along the river which gave its name to
the Valley, there still are 22 watermills from different
eras. It’s not often that you can enjoy such
a visual and auditory feast, provided by the water
motion in combination with the sounds of the mills
at work. There used to be a number of 35 watermills
in this region, but a great flood occurred here
in 1955 which narrowed the number down to 22 mills
that today make the Rudaria Molinological Preserve.
Not far from Rudaria is the Bigar
Preserve, whose highlight is the Cascade Fall with
the same name. This wonderful waterfall is famous
because it falls in thin threads of water, which
flow over a moss-covered cliff. Moreover, it is
located exactly on the 45th parallel north.
It was well worth it
Castle (Dracula’s Castle) – Built between
1377 -1382 on a 20 ft. cliff, between two mountain
chains. Bran Castle is known to tourists around
the world as Count Dracula’s castle, which
is one of the reasons why CNN included it in a countdown
of the world’s most beautiful castles. It
was partly furnished by Queen Marie of Romania,
one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters who
chose to marry the king of Romania instead of the
future king George V of England.
– the highest paved road in Romania, as well
as in the entire Carpathian Mountains chain. It
reaches the highest altitude in the Urdele mountain
pass – aprox. 7037 ft. (2145 meters). The
origins of this road are a bit unclear. Some sources
claim it was built by Roman legions during the Roman-Dacian
wars (101-102, 105-106), which would explain why
on the history maps, Transalpina is mentioned as
‘4th strategic Roman corridor’. Other
historians say that the highway was built and paved
by Germans during WWI, who put it to little use,
Rudaria (Eftimie Murgu) molinological park
– a preserve made up of 22 watermills from
different eras. The watermills that exist in these
places have a built-in hydraulic system which uses
something called “ciutura” ( a turbine
similar to the Kapllan system), thus being the most
vast molinological park in Southern Europe. It is
a fascinating place where the wilderness melts with
The Bigar Cascade Falls
- Late in 2012, Bigar ranked #1 in a countdown of
unique waterfalls around the world, compiled by
the online magazine World Geographic, and rightfully
so. To paraphrase from the original World Geographic
article, it is one of the most beautiful waterfalls
in this country, very unique in the way the water
is spread and also in the way it falls in thin shreds
of water. The waterfall is situated exactly on the
45th parallel north, which is again, quite unique.
The dramatic moss-covered falls is formed by a spring
located in a cave and spills into the Minis River.
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