Introduction to the Transylvanian Alps
Retezat National Park an Piatra Craiului National Park
My birthplace and source of continuous inspiration, the Carpathian Mountains is one of the most biodiverse and unique mountain ranges on Earth. The Romanian Carpathian Mountains form the eastern wing of the great Central Mountain System of Europe, curving 1500 km (~900 miles) along the borders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and northern Hungary. Romania contains by far the largest area of the Carpathians, and forms the eastern and southern boundaries of the region. 55.2% of the Carpathian region is located within Romania. The highest peaks are in the Fagaras Group – Moldoveanu (2544 m/8,346 feet) and Negoiu (2535 m/8,316 feet). The Carpathians’ ensemble is characterised by its varied landscape owing to the different types of relief particularities (glacial, karstic, riverine, structural-lithological), the alternation of mountainous and depressions units, gorges and valleys and the diversity and configuration of the vegetation. They contain the highest concentration of large carnivores in Europe, with estimates of over 6000 brown bears, 2500 wolves and some 1750 lynx living in the region. The Romanian Carpathians represent an exceptional tourist attraction.
Retezat Mountain Range is by far my favourite place in this world. The name of the range derivates from one of its peaks (Varful Retezat), whose summit has a particular aspect as seen from distance: its top looks like having been cut off (retezat meaning cut off in Romanian). There are a couple of legends explaining the reasons. One legend says that two giants fought, and one of them cut off the summit’s top. Another recalls three fairies, which agreed to build three fortresses. Two of them asked for God’s help, the third one was very lofty and claimed she will built the fortress without the help of God. The other day the castles of the other fairies stood finished (Deva and Colţ), but the third one could not accomplish anything. In her anger, the third fairy threw her trowels towards the other fortresses to destroy them, but missed them – instead, the peak of Retezat was hit, and cut off.
Retezat Range is the most prominent mountain area of the Southern Carpathians (also called sometimes “Transylvanian Alps”), covering almost 500 square km. Its average elevation is over 1500 m, with a quarter of its territory rising above 1800 m (and still rising in our days, by about 3.5 mm/year). The region, made up of mostly granite/grandiorite massifs, was formed by glaciers in the Pleistocene era. These glaciers stretched over several kilometers (the longest one, in the Bucura Valley, could have surpassed 15 km). As a result of the recent glacial activity, Retezat is rich in beautiful tarns and waterfalls. Particularly the abundant blue and turquoise tarns which are situated mostly, but not exclusively, between 1900 m and 2200 m above sea level) give this place a special charm. There are 82 lakes in total, including Romania’s largest (in terms of surface area) and deepest glacial lakes: Lacul Bucura and Lacul Zănoaga, respectively. The lowest and highest lakes of Retezat are Tăul dintre Brazi (1740 m) and Tău Porţii (2230 m). Tău Ţapului is remarkable because of its small island. In wintertime, all lakes get ice and snow cover, blending totally with the surroundings.