Hiking in Făgăraș Mountains, towards the highest peak of Romania

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Lower than the Alps, but spreading over a longer distance, the Carpathians are a unique eco-system of Europe. One third of the plants on the continent can be found here, in the vast and wild forested areas, full of life. The majority of Europe’s carnivores lurk in these forests, with more than half of Europe’s brown bears living in Romania alone. Făgăraș Mountains are the ultimate fortress of the Carpathians, with some of the most unconquerable slopes and peaks, which include the highest point in Romania: Moldoveanu Peak, 2.544 m altitude.

It is a place of great natural beauty, with hardened people, trained to withstand the harshest conditions. Făgăraș is also a symbol for the anticommunist armed resistance, that took place in many Romanian mountains for a decade and a half, after the Soviet occupation, that followed the second world war. Also, a place of great spirituality, with a tradition of solitary monks living in the wilderness, far from a disoriented world. While for others is just an excellent tourist destination, where you can find peace of mind, fresh air and be inside a landscape unchanged by the hands of man.

At the feet of the Făgăraș Mountains rests the marvelous Orthodox monastery of Sâmbăta de Sus, a masterpiece of Romanian architecture and center of theology and thinking. Only three kilometers on a gravel road through the huge forests of fir, there is a beautiful meadow and many, in the neighboring village of Vistișoara. But following the stream of the river, you can climb to some splendid landscapes, if you follow the red triangle that leads to Sâmbăta Chalet and a place called the Window of Sâmbăta. The first kilometers are even accessible by off-road vehicles, the road being improved due to an investment in a future hydro-electric plant somewhere upstream. We don’t know for now whether this investment will affect the environment, because some of the water of the river will be diverted in some tubes that are installed right now, or it will mean a development for the area, with a better road and green energy.

The river itself is a real treasure and flows rapidly towards the village of Sâmbăta de Sus, right from the tip of the mountain. Upstream you will meet some smaller creeks, some forming beautiful cascades over walls of grass. The fresh water they provide is so cold and welcomed on a heated sunny day, and is probably the cleanest water you will ever taste, much better than any bottled water you might buy. The forest also provides some delicious desert, with various types of berries: blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Some one kilometer upstream from the monastery the is a trout lake and the last hotel and restaurant you will meet on the way, before the chalet. From here is all a beautiful wilderness, silence interrupted only by the humming birds. But is not really a walk in the park. The path is demanding when climbing, as well as when descending. The route is inaccessible during winter and a real danger on rainy seasons.
Near the Sâmbăta Chalet there is also a point of mountain rescue: Salvamont Victoria. From the Window of Sâmbăta (Fereastra Sâmbetei) you get a view over the hill, and if you are prepared with a tent, you might attempt to continue towards the Moldoveanu Peak. Otherwise, note that the road from Sâmbăta de Sus to Fereastra Sâmbetei, and back again, would be enough for a full day or marching and climbing, just in time not to be caught by the sunset in the forest. An alternative route from the Chalet would be to the Vistișoara Lake, through Răcorele.

Mai multe despre: Nature, Romania
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