Saturday, September 23, 2006

Transfagarasan Highway—Riding the Transylvanian Dragon

Ah…did we ever save the best for last! The entire summer we waited for the snows to disappear from the peaks of the Fagaras Mountains (Romania's tallest), so we could experience the most magnificent road in Romania—the Transfagarasan. It is the highest paved road in the country with the wildest curves, turns and panoramic views. The road lived up to its expectations—it IS a rider's paradise!

The road runs for about 100 kilometers, almost half of which is made up of nothing but hairpins and zigzags, competing with stunning views of the Fagaras Mountains. The road climbs to 2,020 meters at its highest point with several waterfalls springing out and snow still visible in August. The road is shared by backpackers and tourists who, even in August, wear layers of warm clothing against the low temperature—it hovers around zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit). We were happy to have our fleece-lined riding gear. The road is also used by sheep roaming from one pasture to another on the mountainside.

We approached the road from the north, as the road quality was quite good. As you might suspect, we stopped frequently on our initial ascent—the fresh air, the constantly changing sky, the tall pines and firs, the waterfalls, and the incredible road…

Riding to Balea Lake, the highest point on the road was absolutely amazing. After taking in the breathtaking views and walking on snow cap bordering the lake, we passed through the tunnel heading south.

The tunnel is half a mile long. On the opposite side of the mountain, the road is just as dramatic, but more sinuous in nature. The views are fantastic and the riding experience unique. Several kilometers after the descent, the road quality decreased. We took this opportunity to enjoy a picnic lunch roadside before retracing our route to film. Yes, the ride up the south side and down the north side was captured on film. We look forward to having this available on our website soon!

In celebration of our passenger's birthday, the first snow of the 2006 winter season fell on the Transfagarasan on August 31st! It is well known throughout Romania that the road is open for traffic mainly between June and September. Moto-enthusiasts, if at all possible, we highly recommend you plan your visit to Romania in the summer!

However, the journey is not complete without mentioning the many lives sacrificed in creating this spectacular road. The road was the vision of former dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. It was built between 1970 and 1974, as a north-to-south crossing at the historical border between Transylvania and Wallachia. It came as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Ceausescu wanted to ensure quick military access across the mountains in the event the Soviets attempted a similar move into Romania. Consequently, the road was built mainly with military forces, at a high cost both financially and from a human standpoint—roughly 6 million kilograms of dynamite were used on the northern face, and about 40 soldiers lost their lives in building accidents.

Riding the Transfagarasan was an exhilarating experience. Recognizing the sacrifice made to build it was humbling. At the end of the day, we can only enjoy, celebrate and share the road in honor of all those lives who made it possible.

We cannot think of a better way to close our motorcycle journey through Romania. Knowing it was our final riding destination, we took our time to savor every moment. And from the top of the Fagaras Mountains, looking towards the Transylvanian Plateau, the realization finally dawned on us—we have just completed an incredible, life-changing journey! - BGR & HSR

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Born in Romania and currently live in Toronto, ON, I have never had a chance to "ride" this road. For sure I will do it in the very near future. Thank you both for the amazing pictures you have posted on you site. Looking forward to see the movie !

Best regards


Torono, ON May 29, 2009