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Transalpina or National Road 67C (DN 67C), the road more affectionately known as the 'King's Road' or 'The Devil's Pathway' is the highest road in Romania, reaching a maximum altitude in the Urdele Pass: 2,145 m. Situated in the Parang Mountains of the Southern Carpathians, the 150 km long road ties Oltenia (historical province in the southern Romania) to Transylvania (central and western Romania) between the towns of Novaci in Gorj County (southern Romania) and Sebes in Alba County (central Romania). The road crosses the Parang Mountains from north to south and is a parallel to the Jiu Valley and the Olt Valley.

Photo credit: (c) Simion Mechno / AGERPRES ARHIVA

From Sibiu, the alpine road runs from Jina from which it descends for a 7 km stretch until it reaches Sugag. Here the climb begins. After a few kilometres it reaches the Tau dam where the Sebes and Bistra rivers meet and further up the road it reaches the Oasa dam. The Transalpina continues, passing the Oasa dam on the left and going forward to the tourist zone known as Obarsia Lotrului.

Photo credit: (c) Simion Mechno / AGERPRES ARHIVA

Photo credit: (c) Liviu Popescu / AGERPRES ARHIVA

From Obarsia Lotrului, situated in a beautiful open valley, the crossroads there point to three possibilities: going left to Brezoi, a 60 km drive passing the Vidra Lake and going through the Voineasa health resort in the village of the same name or right towards Petrila, 28 km away. However, to continue on the Transalpina one must keep his course straight towards Novaci. The most spectacular part of the King's Road, the alpine part of the road, begins in this point. Portions of serpentine road come one after another, reaching higher and higher points coming closer to the peaks of Stefanu, Carbunele, Muntinu and Urdele. The mountain suddenly disappears however and in front the plateau of the Papusa Peak from which you can descend to the Ranca resort and then to Novaci where the Transalpina ends.

Lesser known and not as covered in the media as the Transfagarasan, this alpine road was never totally paved, even though it ranks as a national road on all maps. In 2009, the paving and modernization of this road began, seeking to upgrade the road on a distance of 148 kilometres between the towns of Sebes in Alba County and Bengesti in Gorj County. The initial estimate for completing the work was the end of 2012, however the construction work was stopped.

Transalpina — 2010
Photo credit: (c) Liviu Popescu / Agerpres Arhiva

Photo credit: (c) Liviu Popescu / Agerpres Arhiva

In Transalpina's proximity a number of glacial lakes exist, amongst them the Galcescu Lake, the largest glacial mountain lake in Gorj County. It clocks in at 230 metres in length, 165 m wide and an area of 3.2 hectares. The lake's maximum depth is 10 metres. It lies at an altitude of 1,950 metres and is naturally populated with marine fauna. The area around the lake, which was declared a natural reserve, and the Galcescu Lake itself are protected monuments of nature.

According to some sources, a first road was built by the Roman legions during the wars against the Dacians (AD 101-102 and 105-106), and this is why it is recorded on history maps as the fourth strategic Roman corridor. Later, the course was used by shepherds from Marginimea Sibiului that would move their flocks from the alpine pastures of Transylvania to the meadows of Oltenia, the road being at that point no more than a narrow and steep drover's road aptly named 'The Devil's Pathway.' Beside these accounts, a local legend exists that says that at the end of the 18th century, early 19th century, every family in the vicinity participated in building a portion of the road, according to each families' physical and financial capability.

In 1930 work began on paving the road with stone and the inauguration took place in 1938 at Poiana Sibiului in the presence of King Carol II of Romania. The road was considered at that time a great technical accomplishment with an economic, strategic and military purpose.

Novaci, the village where Transylvania and Oltenia meet
The town of Novaci lies in the north-eastern part of Gorj County where the Parang Mountains meet Oltenia's Subcarpathians, 44 km away from Targu-Jiu. The settlement was first attested through a document signed by Prince Radu the Great in 1502. In 1847 a border crossing point by the name of Plaiul Novaci was established. The settlement's recognition as a town came in 1968 after the villages of Novaci Romani and Novaci Ungureni merged together.

The population of Novaci, as the entire highland region between the Gilort and the Bistrita, suffered powerful demographic and ethno-cultural influences from the villages in the Marginimea Sibiului area and those from the Sebes Valley. Furthermore, in the period in which the political situation in the Marginimea Sibiului area made it an unsafe place for the lives of the shepherds, some of them left Sibiu and moved here. The locals were welcoming of the Sibiu families, but were careful to maintain their status as village founders and as such allowed newcomers to settle on the other bank of the river they lived near, in a village that would then be called Novaci-Straini and its people were called "ungureni" (Romanian inhabitants of Transylvania). The river that crossed the settlements, the Gilort, was considered the border of the two coinhabiting identities. The result of these influences can be found in the speech, attire and pastoral tradition similar to that of the villages across the mountain range.

Folk ensemble from Polovragi Commune, Novaci Raion, Craiova Region, 1960

Photo credit: (c) Lazar Schinderman / AGERPRES ARHIVA

Keeping the ancestral occupation of the Romanian people, Novaci is consistent with the culture and traditions that form the pastoral culture in Romania. For hundreds of years, passing the skill from father to son, they have shepherding as an occupation and even though their numbers are steadily declining, there are still numerous families that have not parted with the ways of old.

The author of "Picturesque Romania," Alexandru Vlahuta, described in his work an old tradition of the "ungureni" that were preserved until modern times. "Nedeia" or otherwise called the shepherds' party, a folk holiday in which people played the fiddle and the kobsa, dressed in their two-colour clothes, predominantly black and white, to celebrate before the departure of the shepherds towards the mountains.

Romanian traditional dress

Photo credit: (c) Lazar Schinderman / AGERPRES ARHIVA

The holiday is held on the third Sunday of May and although the meaning stuck on until today, the holiday is no longer exclusive to shepherds, the only distinctive trait of the shepherds being the black hat. The elders of Novaci regret that the beautiful part of the craft has been lost. The traditional attire — at least on holy days — the pleasure of learning to play the pipe, the dances that were held in the evenings have all disappeared from the landscape of the modern 'hora,' but also from the sheepfolds high on the mountain side. Even if modernity stole a part of Novaci's traditions, by continuing folk holidays, the place's identity can still remain obvious.

Ranca and Obarsia Lotrului resorts

Photo credit: (c) Simion Mechno / AGERPRES ARHIVA

The best known resort on the Transalpina is Ranca, situated at an altitude of 1,600 m, at the foot of the Papusa massif in one of the plateaus of the Parang Mountains.

Photo credit: (c) Simion Mechno / AGERPRES ARHIVA

The idea to build the Ranca resort first gained acceptance in the 1930's when Gilortul People's Bank at Novaci started building a resort based on Dumitru Brezulescu's design. The initial design saw the building of six lodges with five rooms each. In 1937, the central lodge in Ranca was put into service. Till December 1989, in Ranca two more lodges were built, one belonging to the County Tourism Office in Gorj and administered by the University of Craiova (southern Romania) and the other belonging to mining unions in Oltenia's coal field.

The resort remained widely unknown because to the difficult access to the area. Ranca started to truly and rapidly develop once the Transalpina project was underway. Initially two ski slopes were developed, one of medium difficulty and one for beginners with floodlights for nocturnal skiing. Two more beginner slopes were developed along the way. All the slopes were fitted with ski lifts and there is one chair lift serving three of the slopes and has its starting point at the foot of the Papusa Peak.

Photo credit: (c) Simion Mechno / AGERPRES ARHIVA

Ranca is the ideal sport for snowboarding, snowmobiling and extreme ski enthusiasts, given that the terrain offers ideal conditions. The snow powder has an average thickness of 2 metres from December till April.

In summer, tourists can ride quad bikes or practice enduro by bike or motorcycle, 4x4 expeditions and paragliding. Tourists can also hike mountain trails during the summer, tens of mountain trails being available for hiking with completion times ranging from two to six hours, the main starting points being Ranca and Obarsia Lotrului.

Furthermore, every year in September, between Novaci and Ranca, the National Speed Hill Climbing Championship hosts a stage of the competition.

Photo credit: (c) Simion Mechno / AGERPRES ARHIVA

The Gorj County Centre for the Conservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture inaugurated, on September 8, 2012, 200 metres away from the entrance to the Ranca resort, the Mountain Civilization Museum that tries to illustrate the history and traditions of the pastoral areas of Gorj.

The small resort at Obarsia Lotrului has an area of 3 hectares and is at an altitude of 1,400 metres, being a popular stop when travelling between Valcea and Hunedoara Counties.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian Nistor / AGERPRES ARHIVA

This sightseeing spot, in the warm season, between June and September, can accommodate and cater for around 100 people, being a top sport for fresh air lovers, those seeking rest as well as those seeking to hike and go on trips to the surrounding areas.

Photo credit: (c) Cristian Nistor / AGERPRES ARHIVA

Due to the superb and peculiar flora and admirable views in the area, several natural reserves have been established near Calcescu, Miru-Bora and Cristesti. AGERPRES


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