Sledding in the Carpathians

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We dragged ourselves out of bed early this morning with work to do and preparations to make. We had a rental car to pick up at 10:00. By 9:30, we were on our way with one stop to make. Ben desperately needed a haircut.

Unable to find an adorable barber the likes of which we visited in Italy or Vietnam, we settled on a regular old salon where we were greeted by the world’s sternest Romanian woman. She did not smile. She did not appreciate Ben miming that he wanted a very short haircut. Never once did she look even the slightest bit amused or even ok with the task she was doing. The good news is that she was admirably fast and soon we were back on our way to Autonom.

Unfortunately, we had forgotten our passports, necessary for the car rental, so Ben jogged back to the hotel to get them. Then we did the paperwork and were soon trying to figure out how to back our car out of the one way dead end it was parked in. We spun around town and arrived at the hotel where we had a literal puzzle on our hands- two bikes and all our luggage needed to fit in our Panda Fiat, the same car we rented in Italy.

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Confident from the knowledge we’d solved the problem before, we actually got everything loaded in less than fifteen minutes and were soon on our way out of town, unnerved by the insanity of the local drivers cutting around us and speeding away even in tight traffic. Though it can be stressful to be on a bike, driving in real traffic seems much more dangerous to me. We were however, glad for the air conditioning, a creature comfort completely absent from this hot corner of the world.

Forty five minutes later, we turned off the main road onto the Transfagorasan road, a mountain pass that Top Gear deemed to be the best road in the world. Though we pondered getting out and riding it on our bikes, the weather loomed heavy above us and the air temperatures had sunk to being downright cold. Knowing we were unprepared for such a mighty ride, we powered up in our little Panda, rubbernecking at every overlook at the stunning views both above and below us. Sighisoara_06.24-018Sighisoara_06.24-024Sighisoara_06.24-026Sighisoara_06.24-031

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Before we’d actually made it very far, the clouds broke in half, spilling profuse amounts of rain. We occasionally pulled over to wait out the worst of the downpour so that we could get out and take pictures. Eventually, we gave up on that altogether and just decided to be wet. We wrapped the camera in a bag so it would stay somewhat dry, and carried on with our endless photo taking at every pullout. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

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The trees eventually gave way to grassy tundra, switchbacks sweeping the entire width of the canyon in tight hairpin turns. We were making enormously slow progress simply because we were stopping every minute or two to gawk at the stunning scene rolling out before us. Romania is so, so beautiful!

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Then, finally, we reached the top, drove through a long, terrifyingly dark tunnel which spit us out the other side of another wide swath of grassy slopes and cliffs. On this side, the weather was working at double speed with rain and hail nearly obscuring our vision and leaving inches of rain crossing the switchbacks. We carried on at a snail’s pace before visibility from the top became low and we realized it was time to turn back if we were ever going to make it to Sighisoara before dark.

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On our way back, we stopped at the top where a huge patch of snow was still lingering on the side of the hill. Ben was pretty excited about the glacier, so we pulled over so he could stand on it. I asked him if he wanted his picture on the snow at which point he went running up the side of it so that he could sled all the way back down. It isn’t very often one gets to go sledding in June!Sighisora_06.24-201Sighisora_06.24-212

 

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3 Responses

  1. Kirk says:

    The shots of the valley with the road snaking all around are incredible. I’ll have to go watch the Top Gear Romania episode again. Sounded like a good day to be out of the rain and in a Fiat!

  2. Kim says:

    I love the little waterfalls on the side of the road!

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