Imagine a path that led you along a dramatically changing natural landscape of spectacular waterfalls, rugged mountains, ancient underground temples, volcanoes, and prairies where wild buffalo still roam. You might believe that it was the path to Heaven itself.
In fact it is Romania's own road to Heaven; a brand new superhighway under construction, costing about 2 billion EURO, with an expected completion date of 2010-2012. This new highway will ultimately connect Romania with Europe and Asia, as it connects with other super highways in the region. It will also transform out-of-the-way Romanian "boon-dock" towns into blossoming resort oasis-es.
They say that there is no such thing as Heaven on earth. However, after recently following the path of this new highway, I am convinced that if Heaven is not on earth then at least the road that leads there soon will be.
If a picture paints a thousand words, then what follows, short on verbiage and heavy on visualization, provided by photos taken along and near the path of the new route, should give good expression to the magnificence and sheer raw beauty that I encountered on my journey along this soon-to-be highway to Heaven.
We began our journey at the border town of Bors near Hungary and continued along it until we soon reached our first destination.
Retezat National Park And Surrounds
At over 38,000 square hectares, 800 square kilometers, Retezat National Park is a monumental tribute to the beauty of Mother Nature.
In the lower part of the park there are deep narrow valleys, while the higher parts consist of glacial plateaus with more than 80 glacier lakes. The largest single area of pristine mixed forest in Europe covers the lower levels of the Park.
Visitors experience alpine pastures, wide plateaus covered with flowers, extraordinary passes, gorges, and cavernous limestone caves. There are also sky-scraping peak-pyramids, deep ravines and ice-scoured parable sync-lines decorated with glacial lakes. Glaciers have helped to create terraced valleys that end in magnificent glacial bays, lakes and waterfalls. It is a virtual cornucopia containing the vast diversity found in the awe-inspiring majesty of nature.
A network of tourist trails is currently being renewed in the Retezat. Camping and parking sites will be established around the park. Visitor centers and information points are also being built. The park is gearing up for an onslaught of tourists that will start to come as the new highway is constructed.
There are many towns, villages, and resorts as you explore the county of Hunedora - the county where the Park is located. As the area is not economically developed, the region also offers some of the best values on land and home construction in all of Romania. Labor costs here are likewise very low. At the same time, foreign investment is on the rise, helping to develop resort towns in Hunedora county, some which include modern ski slopes and modern accommodations. There are a number of locations both for the establishment of inns and personal homes in the midst of breathtaking natural beauty and within close proximity to the national park. These areas will all go from being "out-in-the-boondocks" towns to centrally located resort villages after the new highway is completed. In the meantime, excellent opportunities to invest exist.
After several dazzling days basking in the unspoiled beauty of nature we are ready for a little city-life in nearby Cluj-Napoca.
Try to imagine a medieval fairy tale village and then turn that village into a small city and then bring it into the 21st century and you have Cluj-Napoca or as the German residents and tourists here refer to it "Clausenburg".
Filled with a warm and hospitable population, the city of "Cluj" (the shorten name of the town), is a delight. The city, a business, artistic and cultural capitol of Romania, is also considered by many as the country's best maintained, cleanest city.
I believe that Ina, a tourist to Cluj from Macon, Georgia, described the city best when she said
"It's a mixture of old and new, of tradition and experimentation, definitely a destination for people breathing the past and the future with the same breath."
Thanks Ina, I couldn't have put it better myself! This city is definitely worth a visit, or as a place to live.
After spending several days in nature and several days in the city, the only thought on my mind was how wonderful it would be if you could live in both nature and city simultaneously. You can, the places are called Brasov-Predeal-Sinaia.
Brasov (Brashov) is Romania's best known, year-round resort mecca. A city in bloom, Brasov offers an old and new city putting a variety of attractions and conveniences at easy reach. There is a new international airport under construction that will allow visitors to bypass Bucharest and fly right to the heart of Transylvania.
The city makes a great base for travel to resort towns and natural landmarks in the region. My favorite resort station in the area is the charming village of Predeal.
I happened to have met several Swiss tourists while I was in Predeal. They told me that they have been coming for several years now to Predeal, as the environs are very familiar to what they are used to back home, but with prices a mere fraction of what they would have to dish out in Switzerland for a similar vacation.
From there, it's just a little further south until I reach Sinaia - technically outside of Transylvania - it is still considered the "Pearl of the Carpathians (the famous Romanian mountain range)." This resort town is home to Peles Castle, one of the most stunning and well-kept castles in Europe and open almost daily to the public.
This resort town is not to far outside of Bucharest, which we will pass by, as we follow the route of the new highway and travel on to our next destination, another natural wonder of Romania. All this before the highway veers off into two directions; one towards the Black Sea port of Constantza, also home to a large US military base, and the other towards Bulgaria and the highway which connects Europe with Turkey and Asia.
The Danube Delta And Environs
At the end of the great river Danube's 2,860 km ( 1788 miles) journey from the Black Forest mountains in Germany to Romania's Black Sea coast, a natural paradise spreads out in front of you. Over countless centuries the silt brought down by the river has enlarged the Delta into a network of channels, lakes, reed isles, tropical woods, pastures and sand dunes that now cover nearly 5,640 sq km. (2,200 sq miles). This amazing wetland shelters over 300 species of birds, countless species of fish and, 1,150 kinds of plants It is no wonder that UNESCO designated the Delta a "Reservation of the Biosphere".
For 5,000 years a small community had lived in harmony with the Delta's extraordinary ecology, making a living on fishing, breeding livestock, and reed harvesting. The villages, crossed by the waterways, seem untouched by time. As a visitor you can explore this astonishing retreat of natural silence and calm by boat, an experience which feels very much like entering the living pages of a National Geographic Magazine article.
You could even make your home or second home inside such a magical place. For example, the Danube Delta town of Salina would be an excellent place to settle. Reachable today only by boat, a new road will soon make it reachable by land as well. The town has been nearly abandoned with approximately 3/4 of the population having left, leaving a few thousand inhabitants. This has led to great bargains on land and home construction. When the new highway is a reality, European tourists looking for a safari-of-sorts will quickly choose this incredible natural reservation over similar options found only in Africa.
This opportunity, like many others now available in Romania is exceptional and available in the short term. With the help of real estate experts in the region, I have compiled more details on these rare opportunities to be found in the first quarter 2005 publication of Escape Artist's sister publication, Real Estate Quarterly, set to be published in early March. Reader's are also invited to contact me directly regarding this or any other questions or comments about Romania.
As wonderful as all of the above destinations were and are, my favorite stop along the way of the future highway was at the house of a simple village man, quite like the one pictured here.
I had gotten a little off track and a lot lost and decided to knock on the door of a hut-like house that I had noticed in the corner of my eye. A little old man, half bent-over, came to the door and I proceeded to ask him for directions. He insisted that he would gladly give them to me, right after I drank some homemade wine with him. He proudly raised his glass and uttered the following beautiful words "My long lost friend, I have very little to offer you, but whatever I have is yours. You are always welcome here." The old man and I spoke for what must have been two hours as he shared with me his life experiences and I with him my more limited ones, both in Romania and in America. He told me that in Romania, people had little money, yet at the same time, they did not have much need for money. I looked out his window towards rolling hills, grazing cattle, gardens and wildflowers all set against the backdrop of towering mountains, and I wondered if I might ever be as rich as he. At least I can say now, that I am working on it.
I'm not quite sure where along the route the little old house was, but maybe you'll find it on your journey here. If you do, please tell the kindly old man that lives there that I haven't forgot him and that I thank him again with all my heart for pointing me towards the road to Heaven.