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‘The best road in the world'
Timisoara (Romania), July 27th 2014

These are the words of the men of Top Gear: "The Transfagarasan road in Romania is the best road in the world and an unforgettable experience for any driver behind the wheel. The road with road number 7c is the highest paved road in Romania, crossing the highest part of the Southern Carpathians, between the two highest mountains in the country, the Moldoveanu (2544 m), and the Negoiu (2535 m). The road with a length of about 90 kilometres, was built at the beginning of the 70s of the previous century as a strategic route, and connects two of the larger cities in Romania, Pitesti and Sibiu. The highest pass on the road is 2034 meters above sea level.

The Transfagarasan road is a military project of the then dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu. In over four years’ time (1970-1974), he built this strategic route through the Carpathians, using the soldiers of his army, to get a faster way to transport his troops to northern Romania in case of an emergency. This project was a direct result of the invasion by the Soviet Union of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Ceausescu was afraid that Romania would befall the same fate, and therefore ordered the construction of this beautiful road. More than 6 million kilograms of dynamite was used in the construction of the road and about 40 soldiers lost their lives.

The spectacular hair pin bends on the northern side of the pass

Today, the Transfagarasan road is primarily a tourist route. The most beautiful part of the road is the northern part, between the settlement called Vama Cucului and the Balea Lake, located right on the pass. Through numerous hairpin bends you rise from the dense forests to the barren rocks and high peaks of the Alpine landscape. There are plenty of places along the way where you can stop to enjoy the beautiful scenery and take a picture. We drove the route in the middle of summer, which meant that all the snow on the mountains was already gone. How much more beautiful will the route be if you drive the road at the beginning of the season, when the area is still completely covered with a thick layer of snow? But do not come too early, because the road is a large part of the year closed due to the wintry weather. Generally the road between is passable between May and October.

The small glacier lake called Balea, located on the pass, isn’t really picturesque anymore. The area fell victim to major tourist developments. Hotels, parking lots and numerous souvenir shops and eateries, are spoiling the atmosphere. The lake is still a great starting point for hikes into the surrounding mountains. After the pass you drive through an 887 meter long tunnel, after which the road descends again through a substantial number of hairpin bends to lower forested areas. When the steepest descent is done, the road takes you along the beautiful shore of the artificial lake named Vidraru. The lake is held into existence by an impressive 1968 curved dam.

A parking place and souvenir stalls on the pass

And for the real Dracula fans, the highlight of the route will be at the end of the stretch. Just after the dam are the ruins of the Poienari Citadel, the "real" Dracula Castle. Dracula has never existed, but he was an invention of the Irish filmmaker Bram Stoker, whose Dracula character is based on the Romanian prince and brutal ruler Vlad Tepes (1431-1476). Many castles in Romania are claiming to be a Dracula castle, but for only a few of them there is real evidence that it was once connected to Vlad Tepes. But for the Poienari Citadel there is. But in order to visit the fort you have to work. The castle is located high on a cliff, and is only accessible by 1500 steps, which fortunately are mostly in a forest, so you're protected from the burning sun. All in all, the Transfagarasan road is a wonderful ride and easily done as a daytrip from one of the town or camp sites in the area. However, it is probably too opportunistic to call it the best road in the world. Anyway, you probably have to drive the road yourself to find out how beautiful it really is. It is in our opinion not the most beautiful road in the world, but certainly one of the more spectacular roads to drive in Europe.

The start of the Transfagarasan road: view on the high Carpathians
Th first of the road takes you through dense forests
After we left the forest behind us, the bare rocks start
A stray dog begging for food on one of the many stopping places
View on the road on the southern side of the pass

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