During our recent visit to Bran Castle, we had a few spare hours that we chose to spend wandering through the mountains above Bran. We found a dirt road that wound its way up the mountains through a beautiful village called Sodohol and then entered into Bucegi National Park. We stumbled onto it by chance and followed it till we could go no further without damage to the underside of our car, so we parked it and walked. We had a wonderful time and I hope the photos you see here will show it. Some of them are high-resolution panoramas and one includes a view of Bran Castle from afar. Enjoy!
This is a timelapse video shot in the Bucegi mountains in Romania in spring (14-15 march 2017), more specifically in Fundățica village, Brașov county. The Bucegi mountains are part of the Carpathian Mountains and yes, they are near Bran Castle, which we all know from Bram Stoker’s novel, blah-blah-blah, vampires, blah-blah, winter snowstorm, nightfall, blah-blah, blood-sucking and all that jazz, yes, this text is intentional, hope you find it as funny as I do.
Somewhere near the Four Springs there’s a dirt road that branches off the Transfagarasan and goes off into the mountains. It’s used mainly by trekkers and shepherds with their flocks. Not many dare drive on it, because large boulders pop up here and there from the uneven ground, making it easy for the unexperienced driver to break their oil pan, bend their steering or wreck their suspension.
Those are the kind of roads that attract me. It’s exciting to pull off the asphalt and tackle the unknown, relying on my senses and experience to straddle the boulders, humps and holes carefully, pulling my 2WD passenger car through without a scratch, proving to myself, time and time again, that I can do it without a 4WD. Sure, I’ve cracked the oil pan a couple of times in the past, but I learned from my mistakes and got better at it. Now I can safely maneuver our car on roads where even 4WD cars fear to tread. And that’s what makes it possible for us to see places most people don’t see and take photographs that most people can’t take, not without some serious hiking.
This particular dirt road led off into an old glacier valley, where it split in half. Left meant climbing higher into the valley and right meant climbing into the peaks. We chose to go higher into the peaks, up to a point where we found a small waterfall that made its way down the cliff cheerfully. The view was glorious, so we climbed up the slope halfway, perched ourselves on a rock and took in the grandeur of nature for a while.
I included more photographs in the gallery below. Enjoy and remember to take some risks every once in a while. There are no guarantees but the taste of success is sweet!
Poenari Castle is a medieval stronghold used by Wallachian rulers over the centuries of the Middle Ages. It’s perched on top of a cliff just off the Transfagarasan Road and the only way to access it is to climb 1,480 steps. It takes about 30-45 minutes to get to the top and a little less to get down, though I have to say it is a serious physical effort and particularly taxing on the knees as you climb back down. Keep that in mind if you plan to visit it.
The castle is supposed to have been built in the 13th century, used for a while, abandoned, then restored during the rule of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula), in the 15th century. Stories are told of it being Dracula’s main castle but they have no historical basis. Having visited it, I can tell you it is a small castle with little space for a ruler and his courtly entourage. It is more of a stronghold than a castle and the inherent difficulty in accessing it makes it ideal for defensive purposes but hardly suitable for living quarters (food and water would have to make quite the long trip up the mountain) on narrow paths or stairs, as there is no road.
It is quite possible that Vlad the Impaler used it as a stronghold when attacked by the Turks sometime during his rule. As legend would have it, the Turks managed to drive him out after dragging cannons up the adjacent cliffs and shooting the walls full of holes. He escaped, supposedly, with the aid of three brothers, who mounted horseshoes backward on the hoofs of their mules and thus fooled the Ottoman soldiers as they got away.
Poenari Castle offers impressive views of the surrounding mountains and valleys and it is worth the trek, if you’re in good physical shape.
I would have liked to see it restored to its former glory — perhaps at some point in the future that will happen. This is an artist’s rendering of what it might have looked like. Impressive, isn’t it?