Travel G-spots

MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

The Transfagarasan Road was built between 1970 and 1974 by military forces on Nicolae Ceausescu‘s instructions as a result of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviets. 

Nicolae Ceausescu built the Transfagarasan Road as a strategic military route to cross the mountains in the event the Soviets attempted a similar invasion on Romania. The builders used 6000 tons of dynamite to clear a path for the road on the northern side of the mountains (this is the most spectacular) and on the tunnel. 40 soldiers are reported to have lost their lives during construction.

Purported to be one of the most spectacular roads in the world, the Transfagarasan is 90 km long and runs throught the Fagaras mountains (trans + Fagaras), a part of the Transsylvanian Alps, and connects Transsylvania with Muntenia

MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

Starting at Bascov, near Piteçti, the Transfagarasan road  follows the valley of the river Argea. Upon  mounting to the highest point, it descends to Cartisoara in the Olt valley, where the road ends. 

Besides rising to a height of 2134 meter and has sharp hairpin turns; proving a challenge for every driver, the Transfagarasan has more tunnels and viaducts than any other roads in Romania, with the longest and highest tunnel connecting Transslyvania and Walachia located near Balea Lac (Lake Balea).

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‘No one can manipulate anyone else. In any relationship, both parties know what they’re doing, even if one of them complaints later on that they were used.’

Athena of The Witch of Portobello

I am NOT a Paulo Coelho fan. I’ve always been intrigued by those who rave about it. But at MYR 14.90, what’s the risk really? 

I got ‘The Witch of Portobello’ – an enigma; dissatisfied and lost soul who conjures anger, support, respect, disgust with those she had encountered. Revered and feared, a saint and a demon, she partakes a journey around the world into an unseen spiritual world. 

As a reader I found myself highly irritable and in most part impatient with Athena, but I have to admit she left an imprint on me. 


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Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May sealed the deal by snaking their way through national road 7C in their Ferrari, Lamborghini and Aston Martin.

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I had always thought that Romania’s appeal {in my books that is} would lie with the bears in the Carpathian Mountains … and ok, a quick visit to Bran Castle more commonly known as Dracula Castle {thanks to the myth created by Bram Stoker who himself have never stepped foot into Romania!}

Who would have guessed that national road 7C {Transfagarasan Mountain Road} would be the highlight of the Romanian trip?

– for me at least.

A few miles beyond Curtea de Arges, the Transfagarasan road starts to face the mountain slope typified by the mountain landscape of pines and alpine meadows dotted sparsely with quaint houses hugging the bends of the road. Beyond the last village – Catapaneni – road signs to Poenari Castle appears. Fighting motion sickness and the temptation to be informed, I squinted at the fine prints of our Lonely Planet and website printouts we brought along. What’s cool about this castle is it belongs to Vlad III the Impaler – who for the longest of time I had honestly and naively thought was a vampire!

Vlad intrigues me in a disgusting morbid manner. Flashes of Criminal Minds appears as I read: “Vlad earned his nickname by impaling, torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people who did things that displeased Vlad.” This includes stealing, lying and adulterous relations. I supposed I can reconcile with this given the historical timeline that has barbaric elements to them, as a way to keep order in the land. 

Switching shoes from Penelope Garcia to Dr. Spencer Reid, I was all pumped to ascend the 1,480 stairs to Vlad III’s fortress!

Ascending slightly more than 10% of the way up, the prospects of sinking my teeth into some roasted corn while dipping my toes into the stream at the foot of the hill was way more alluring and logical. “He” who was trailing behind me – and thus, applying very subtle pressure for me not to lose my momentum – seems to be breathing hard. Having a conversation was not a smart move if we had intended to make it, but I honestly think we were both waiting for the other to admit defeat.  Without much hesitation on this front, I made my decision and descended the stairs. As we crossed the  road towards the car, we fished out some change and got a corn to share plus a ring of oversized “pretzels” that doubled up as edible fashion accessories … something I was sorely missing by then, having brought only 2 pieces of Tiffany & Co. with me during the 3 week trip!

MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

The corn proved disastrous by all accounts, so we tossed it and continued our drive to Vidraru Lake – a man-made reservoir, retained by a dam that is 165 meters high, 305 meters long and holds 465 million cubic meters of water. The plague says it generates approximately 400 GWh/year – one of these statistics that makes zero sense to me, like astronomy. For a fleeting moment I contemplated asking “Mr. Cornel MBA-and-engineer” with me … but really, will I be able to appreciate how many homes it powers up a year?

MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

Running over the dam, the Transfagarasan Road splits up; with one route to the left side of the lake and the other passes the right side of the lake. 

 We had taken the right one based on recommendation that it is in a far better condition than the left one despite being 3 km longer. Having gone through some car swallowing potholes earlier, despite being in a 4×4, we weren’t keen to take any risk… 

MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

While the guidebooks were going on and on about the dangers lurking at every bend along the Transfagarasan Road, none prepared us for the donkey attack!

MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

Barely surviving the “breath test”, we made a narrow escape. Thank god for the scenic spots and waterfall ahead, with calm nerves we finally made our way through the treacherous tunnel under the Paltinu Ridge, reemerging in one piece at the mouth of the tunnel to the highest point of the Transfagarasan – Balea Lac (Lake Balea).

A glacier lake with clear, icy water, surrounded by mountain peaks, it lives up to it’s reputation of dropping to sub-zero temperatures even during the summer months. With me shaking like a leaf in my Michelin jacket … I was strangely attracted to man in sheep skin!

 MY TRAVEL DIARY: Transfagarasan Road Trip

Oh, unlike Jeremy, Richard and James, you’d probably want to do the Transfagarasan Road in the comforts and safety of a 4×4 than a swanky sporty car as the maximum speed imposed is 40km/h (25 miles/h) … and even if you’d wanted to burn some rubber with your Ferrari, the car swallowing portholes at the lower altitudes would not permit you.  

The road is often closed from October till June due to snow.

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