by S. Ancin
Who doesn’t know about the legend of Dracula? And who has never dreamt about visiting his castle? Yes, it does exist and to get there you have to take one of the most spectacular roads of in Europe and perhaps in the world. A well known road to driving lovers, the Transfăgărășan sinuous bends’ fame is well deserved.
The Transfăgărășan (or DN7C) was built as an strategic military route between 1970 and 1974 under the rule of Nicolae Ceaucescu. It crosses from north to south the highest segments of the Carpathian mountain range, between the Moldovenau, the highest peak in Romania, and the Negoiu, the second highest connecting the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia.
Reaching 2034 metres in altitude and due to its topography and its routine adverse weather conditions, the recommended maximum speed is 40 km and hour and it is generally close between the end of October and June. There has been occasions in which the snow has blocked access to the road right in the middle of August.
The Dracula’s residence
The journey starts in Curtea de Arges and 27 kilometres later we find the first of this route’s attractions: the ruins of the Poienari castle-fortress, next to the village of Arefu.
This fortress was the residence of Prince Vlad III, the Impaler, who served as inspiration to Bram Stoker for his famous character Count Dracula. Positioned right at the top of a cliff, you have to climb 1.480 stairs in order to reach the castle. Back on the Transfăgărășan road and it is from this point on that the real hairpin bends start.
Further along you can enjoy the views from the top of the dam at the Vidraru reservoir which is 166 metres high and 305 meters wide. Five kilometres later, before arriving at the Bâlea lake and the spa resort of the same name, the Capra waterfall appears crossing underneath the road at 1690 altitude. Later on you cross the longest tunnel in the country that throughout its 890 metres it does not need any artificial lighting.
Once at the glacier lake at 2034 metres high, the descent start on the north side of the Fagaras mountains. On this side the views and the Transfăgărășan itself are yet more spectacular. A few kilometres later it is highly recommended to make a stop at the Bâlea waterfall, the highest in Romania at 60 metres high. This is the spot where the cable car stops, the only way to access the Balea lake during the winter months. 114 kilometres of bends and slopes later the road arrives in Cârţişoara.
photos: autopista.es, recorriendocastillos.com, motoycasco.com