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Carpathian Kaleidoscope

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Find out where you can meet a bear, who the ‘houses that have eyes’ are watching, and what a
cooking pot hanging on a tree stands for

The Transfagarasan Highway

Counting turns

The Transfagarasan road was built in the 1970’s at the behest of Ceaușescu across the Făgăraș Mountains. The Romanian army’s construction units spent a great deal of effort while cutting their way through rock, but in the long run the road never proved to be of much practical use: you can drive here only in July and August, and in other months there is a threat of snow and ice. Currently, it is mostly tourists who use the road; its northern part, where a cableway is located, is particularly popular with them. A glacial lake and a scenic waterfall are within walking distance of the cableway’s top station.

Sibiu

Meeting a gaze

Built by the Germans in the 12th century, Sibiu, formerly known as Hermannstadt, was one of the seven key fortress cities of Transylvania. Up until the mid-20th century, Sibiu was mostly populated by Germans, and they defined its appearance and ambiance. You can still feel it if you take a walk in the Upper or the Lower Town – both of them remain almost unchanged since. While it has long lost its former geopolitical significance, Sibiu is still one of the cultural centers of Romania: it has three theaters, and numerous festivals are held here regularly, ranging in genre from medieval music to jazz.

Maramureș

Becoming the hero of the day

The rustic culture and authentic lifestyle of peasants are preserved intact in these parts: subsistence farming, horsecarts, haymakers cutting grass with scythes in the morning, when the dew is still there… The way of life here is not really different from how it was a hundred or two hundred years back. In the evening, after a hard day’s work, locals gather at the gates of their households to discuss the latest news and simply have a chat. A car with foreign license plates inevitably becomes a topic for discussion, of course.

Bukovina

Taking part in a service

After leaving Maramureș and getting across the Carpathians, you find yourself in a world of a completely different tradition. The history of Southern Bukovina is closely related to the Principality of Moldavia, of which it used to be a part. In the heyday of its glory (back in the 15th and 16th century), numerous fortresses and Orthodox Christian monasteries were built here. These churches remain places of worship: on a Sunday morning, they are absolutely packed, so the service is usually aired monastery-wide using speakers, and parishioners, sitting on benches or on the grass outside, listen to the sermon while admiring the frescos.

Brașov

Assessing the Teutonic might

Formerly known as Kronstadt, this city is one of the ‘seven fortresses’. It certainly had a favorable location: thanks to being situated in a hollow surrounded by hills, it has never been seriously rebuilt. New neighborhoods and industrial estates are hidden by the terrain, while the narrow streets of the Old Brașov are at tourists’ disposal. The summit of Mount Tampa, accessible by cableway, offers the best view of the city. Another must-see are the surviving towers and walls of the mighty Fortress of Kronstadt, erected in the 13th century by the Teutonic Knights.

Sinaia

Taking a break from the heat

On the road from Brașov to Bucharest, there is a small resort town which resembles Jūrmala, Latvia, if it had been transported in the mountains: the same dachas and cottages in the midst of trees and the same clean air. The residents of Bucharest come to Sinaia to find respite from the fierce summer heat. In the evening, you can go to a concert or opt for a dinner in one of the many local restaurants and cafes. The town takes its name from an Orthodox Christian monastery, which was founded here in the late 17th century, but it is mostly known for Peleș Castle, the Renaissance Revival-style residence of King Carol I, built in the late 19th century.

Text: Evgeny Gnesin

Published on: 24.04.2018