The Transfagarasan Highway was made famous by a British TV show which named it the world’s best highway for sports car enthusiasts. It obviously would be great fun in a sports car with the road blocked off for a race, as it was a few days after these photos. However, this was a very worrisome ride due to dodging fallen rocks and the aggressive Romanian drivers constantly passing on blind curves.
“The Long and Winding Road”
The Transfagarasan Highway is a winding mountainous road in northern Romania. “Fahrvergnügen” was the word used in the Volkswagen advertisements some years back describing the ‘joy of driving’. It is not a made-up word and is very appropriate for the Transfăgărășan Highway. The crazy drivers detract from it a bit, but a wonderful drive for sure.
A Questionable Military Road
This road crossing the Fagaras Mountains was completed in 1974. It seems to be another colossal ego project of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Nicolae supporters say the road was an important military route to quickly move equipment and men north as defense against an invasion from the USSR. The Soviet’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was very worrisome to the Romanian leader. This road is only open six or fewer months of the year due to the altitude and heavy snows . So my vote is for yet another nonsensical project by Nicolae. Junior military men untrained in blasting techniques built this road. The official death toll was set at 40. Unofficially it is believed hundreds died during the four years of construction.
My Commute from Corbeni
The small village of Corbeni, Romania was selected for what we hoped would be a good central location for my trips to photograph this famous road. As it turned out this was a 90 minute drive, one way, to my desired photo spots. The northern New Mexico mountains where I grew up provided good training for driving on roads with sharp turns and abrupt cliffs. The tailgating Romanians and passing on blind curves was, however, a new experience. There never was any horn honking by alarmed on-coming drivers. Just swerve, get out of the way and move on.
Another Romanian driving practice seemed to have the goal of scaring me off the road. From a distance of 15 car lengths behind me, they would speed up rapidly and come to withing a half a car length, back off and do it again. Maybe they were trying to pass and deciding against it at the last moment. According to the posted speed limits, I was already going 10 or so kilometers over the limit. With terrible driving practices like these, speeding and passing on blind curves, somehow, I was the one to receive a speeding ticket in Romania.
A rising full moon was the cause of the reflection on the small stream in the lower right hand corner.
I ventured further along the highway the following evening, this time past the peak, down the other side toward Sibiu and found even better curves.
The following day on my third crossing of the Fagaras Mountains there was fog. The people driving up from Sibiu had to have a lot of faith that the fog would eventually break for worthwhile views from the top.
The Peak of the Fagaras Mountains Road
Along the Transfagarasan Highway are many structures built to deflect the expected winter avalanches, countless twists and turns, a few waterfalls and large flocks of sheep being herded down the highway in the dark. The sheep were encountered on each of my three trips. After 90 minutes of driving up a the most twisted road in the world, what awaits at the top? Over 40 food and tchotchke shops serving unlimited variety of meat and slabs of pork fat.
Do you cook with this or eat it? A BBQ type sauce seemed to be coating the surface of the pork fat.
The pretzels and the fruit were very good.
Such an inventory! It amazes us there is so little differentiation between the many sales booths. Posting prices was a requirement for me to make a purchase. Note the big ring of pretzels were marked 5 lei, which converts to $1.25. The circular pretzels on a wire and cups of blueberries and raspberries were very good.
My final trip over this famous mountain pass was to get to the town of Sibiu. Approaching Sibiu, there was a town of numerous storks nesting on the chimney tops.
Next stop is Sibiu, Romania