The Transfăgărășan [trans: over, across + Făgăraș (Făgăraș Mountains)] is a paved mountain road crossing the southern section of the Carpathian Mountains of Romania.
It starts near the locality of Bascov (Argeş county) and stretches 90 kilometres to the crossroad between the DN1 and the city of Sibiu, between the highest peaks in the country, Moldoveanu and Negoiu.
The Transfăgărășan was constructed between 1970 and 1974, during the rule of Nicolae Ceaușescu, as a response to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Ceaușescu wanted to ensure quick military access across the mountains in case of a Soviet invasion. At the time, Romania already had several strategic mountain passes through the Southern Carpathians, whether inherited from the pre-communist era (the DN1 and the high-pass DN67C), or built during the initial years of the Communist regime (the DN66). These passes, however, were mainly through river valleys, and would have been easy for the Soviets to block and attack. Ceauşescu therefore ordered the construction of a road across the Făgăraş Mountains, which divide northwestern and southern Romania.
Built mainly by military forces, the road had a high financial and human cost. Work was carried out in an alpine climate, at an elevation of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft), using roughly six million kilograms (5,900 long tons; 6,600 short tons) of dynamite, and employing junior military personnel who were untrained in blasting techniques. Many workers died; official records state that only 40 soldiers lost their lives, but unofficial estimates by workers put the number in the hundreds.
The road was officially opened on September 20th 1974, although work, particularly paving of the roadbed, continued until 1980.
The road climbs to an altitude of 2,042 metres (6,699 ft), making it the second highest mountain pass in Romania after the Transalpina. It is a winding road, dotted with steep hairpin turns, long S-curves, and sharp descents. It is both an attraction and a challenge for hikers, cyclists, drivers and motorcycle enthusiasts. Due to the topography, the average speed is around 40 km/h (25 mph). The road also provides access to Bâlea Lake and Bâlea Waterfall.
The road is usually closed from late October until late June because of snow. Depending on the weather, it may remain open until as late as November, or may close even in the summer;
The Transfăgărășan has more tunnels (a total of 5) and viaducts than any other road in Romania. Near the highest point, at Bâlea Lake, the road passes through Bâlea Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in Romania, at 884 m (2,900 ft).
Along the southern section of the road, near the village of Arefu, is Poenari Castle. The castle was the residence of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.
The Transfăgărășan was featured in a segment of the British TV show Top Gear, in the first episode of Series 14 (November 2009). Host Jeremy Clarkson proclaimed that the Transfăgărășan was “the best road in the world,” a title the presenters had previously given to the Stelvio Pass in Italy.
Today’s Lesson: Keep fighting for whatever you believe in.
One of the most successful Czech Olympic athletes, Věra Čáslavská, has died at the age of 74. This gymnast will be remembered not just for her medals, but for her silent protest against the Soviet bloc invasion of Czechoslovakia at the 1968 Olympics.
“One Reason Germany Slows Down,” Montreal Star, July 23, 1938.
“Here’s the situation in Czechoslovakia as another major crisis seems imminent because of Sudeten German disapproval of the Government effort to compromise the ‘racial minorities’ problem. There have been warnings that any effort to impose the plan would create a ‘dangerous situation’ - meaning possible invasion of Czechoslovakia by Germany to ‘protect the rights’ of Czechoslovakians of German extraction.
The map shows how the hardy Czechs would meet any such invasion. The little republic’s 2500-mile frontier - touching hostile territory all the way round except for 150 miles bordering friendly Rumania - is heavily and cleverly fortified.
Military experts believe that despite the comparatively small size of the
Czechoslovakian army, any invasion across the three defensive lines built by the Czechs would be made at heavy cost.”
Fall Grün, plan of invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1938-1939.
Fall Grün was a pre-World War II German plan for an aggressive war against Czechoslovakia. The plan was partially carried out as regards psychological warfare and use of paramilitary actions, however planned open war didn’t take place due to French and British appeasement.