Off we go into the Romanian mountains. We met up with our guide, Bogdan, in Brasov and drove to the Bucegi Mountains. Bogdan is quite the character, who told us his nickname is the Colonel, as he is a retired Colonel in the Romanian military. Bogdan provided us with a detailed history of Romania stretching back to the BC era with the Dacian people. Romania has a fascinating history, and dealt with many aggressive neighbors throughout their history (aka – Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians, etc).
In addition to history, we discussed with Bogdan about global politics, religion, military tactics, sports, the meaning of life, and human happiness. I think I have quite met my match in Bogdan regarding philosophical inquiry. Good discussions!
Back to the mountains! Our first day was relatively easy, with about 4-5 hours of hiking. We hiked up to a nice waterfall, and had some great views of the countryside. Once we made it back to the car, we drove out to a little farming village to our guesthouse. We had a very sumptuous dinner and some of Bogdan’s “elixir,” which is a liquor type drink consisting of wild blueberries and a very strong homemade alcohol. Needless to say, we had a good sleep!
Day 2 – As Bogdan was satisfied with our performance on day 1, we pressed on to the northern ridge of Piatra Craiului. This is a beautiful ridge of sheer rock, which is surrounded 360 degrees with mountain ranges. The climb was quite tough, and as we followed the ridge, we often had to climb on all fours to stay on the trail. The views were amazing, and really put our legs to the test. I was very grateful for my hiking poles (yes, I carried my poles with me throughout the entire trip). On the way back we had stopped in to a lodge house for some lemon beer, which was perfect! The total hiking time in this day was 12 hours!
Day 3 – We begin our ascent of the southern ridge of Piatra Craiului, which is even more trying than the northern ridge that we did in day 2. The views are even more breathtaking, especially when we climbed across the “saddle”of the ridge, named appropriately as this section resembles a horse saddle. At one point I was climbing around an overhang, where there was sheer rock above me, and a very steep cliff below me. Using all fours I made it around the overhang and found a very nice plaque commemorating someone who died there over the cliff edge. Yikes! Luckily we all made it back.
On the way back we stopped in to a local shepherd’s house, and he cooked us up some polenta. The polenta is made of a corn meal type food that he cooked in a large pot over a fire. He then scooped out the polenta and took a fist size of goat cheese (literally) and surrounded the cheese with the polenta. He then roasted this on the fire. This huge meal was in good order after 11 hours of hiking!
Day 4 – We took it easy on day four and went ziplining! The walk to the zipline was about an hour, and we ziplined down enjoying splendid views of the forest, rivers, and scenery – all the while dodging hikers on their way up! We then drove back to Brasov for a couple of nights to let our muscles recover!
We had a great time in the mountains, and certainly got in better shape! We’re not quite finished with our guide, Bogdan, as he will be driving us to Romania’s capital, Bucharest, through the Transfagarasan Highway (the intense and winding road as seen on Top Gear). Onward and forward!