The first word coming to my mind considering Romania must be authenticity. Being part of what modern Europe is, Romania still holds its own unique rank both in natural and in medieval cultural beauty. Unspoiled mountains of Carpathian range are home for large european beasts even today while medieval cities and villages are somewhat forgotten jewels of past centuries. This combined, Romania and mostly the region of Transylvania, is wonderful place to see some stunning landscapes.
The skies are clear for days, which on the one hand makes me happy, on the other hand complicates my photographic efforts. I have to wait for the last golden light just before sunset, but by then the whole valleys are already filled with shadows. Finally, fortune smiles on me and the distant grassy ridges of the Godeanu mountains stretching to the horizon are gilded by the rays in an absolutely perfect way.
Moring at Scărișoara lake
There is not much water in the Godeanu mountains, just endless grassy plains. A large lake under the slopes of the Piatra Scărişoarei peak seems then even more extraordinary. I descend from the ridge to the lake for night, it's not far. The shores of the lake provide a nice shelter from wind, and the lake itself provides beneficial water.
I climb to the top of Godeanu early in the morning. Down by the river the shade and cold still lingers, I only need to climb a little higher and the white morning sun blinds me. The slopes above the river, strangely rounded and stacked in layers like loaves of bread, are cut by the sunrays in half.
Șes river valley
The mountains of Țarcu and Godeanu are separated by the Șes River, which cuts deeply into the grassy slopes. The mountains here are not high, but rather rounded hills. Towards evening, I climb from the shade of the river to the nearest hill, its peak still bathed in the rays of the low sun. The grassy landscape here looks strangely vast and empty, yet it is surely captivating.
Odpoledne u útulny
It is a rare autumn afternoon, a huge number of insects are flying in the air, as if sensing the harbinger of the approaching winter. A winter that may come in a week, but also tomorrow. The sun shines with scorching power, but one step into the shade and it is unbearably cold. It's as if the whole mountains want to take their last breath before the fog and snow come. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Șaua Între Izvoare
The Între Izvoare saddle in the heart of mountains immediately becomes my favorite place in Rodnei. Not only you can find a nice refuge there, but the surrounding slopes are covered with the largest number of flowering rhododendrons and the peaks extend above the saddle on both sides. And yet it is possible to enjoy this beautiful place all by yourself.
Path from Repede
As the sun moves down to the horizon, its rays continue to reach the slopes of Repede. I really like a small footpath seemingly leading towards the highest peak of the mountains, Pietrosul Rodnei. I shoot this scene with the sun setting many times, but the best moment comes when clouds begin to form directly below Pietrosul.
Rodnei mountains from Repede
The entire slopes of the Repede peak are colored by thousands blooming rhododendrons. As I ascend there, I hope that at least some of them will remain in the sunlight till the end of the day. The views from Repede are almost perfect, it is possible to overlook the whole Rodnei mountain range. But what I like the most is the prominent peak of Puzdrelor, which reminds me so much of the highest peak in Romania - Moldoveannu.
End of the day in Gârgalău saddle
As the day ends, heavy clouds come from the west. I'm almost giving up and start packing up the camera, but in the end the clouds part for a few more moments and the sun shines even brighter. View towards the top of Puzdrelor from the Gârgalău saddle in the middle of Rodnei mountains.
In the Gârgalău saddle
As soon as I come to the Gârgalău refuge, I am fascinated by the distinctive peak of Corongiș. When the valley below it darkens and turn blue with the evening coming, I have a clear idea of how to capture the whole scene. In the foreground, sunlit rhododendrons and in contrast with them dark valley and peak rising above. I have to search for a place with strongly flowering shrubs for a long time as most of them grow on the opposite, northern slope.
Blooming Rodnei mountains
I hike along the ridge of the Rodnei Mountains towards Gârgalău (top left) in the middle of the day. However, the low-floating clouds provide an interesting contrast to the whole scene and the blooming rhododendrons add an interesting color.
Crests in clouds
The outgoing storm leaves torn clouds all around the mountains. However, there is too little od interesting light to capture the whole scene. I am more interested in individual details, such as a cluster of clouds flowing over the ridge leading to the Rotunda pass.
In the evening I climb to the summit of Ineu. The first time I am forced to leave by incoming storm, the second time I watch it leave further east. Looking towards the top of Roșu from the meadows below the summit, I immediately get the idea of a simple centered composition. Empty meadows, Roșu peak in the middle rising above them and a storm in the distance above it all.
After the storm, the remains of clouds flow over the ridges of Rodnei mountains. Occasionally the fading golden sun shines through and floods some of the slopes with light. However, this shot is not about light but about the movement of clouds. I'm waiting for the sun to disappear behind the mountains and capture this almost black and white scene.
The dramatic transformation of shapes, colors and shadows was incredibly fast this morning. When I got out of the tent, it was almost already late. The opposite ridge of the eastern part of Făgăraș stood in rich colours of the first sun, which seem red and purple so early in the morning, only to gradually turn golden. Two distinctive illuminated peaks on the right, Belia Mare and Buzduganu, practically close the main ridge of the highest Romanian mountains.
Under the summit of Păpușa
With the advancing morning, golden sunrays illuminated the main ridge of Iezer Păpușa mountains with a distinctive Păpușa peak. In fact, everything came together perfectly that morning. Remnants of snow in red grass, lines of fog advancing from the valley and thinning clouds. A bit paradoxically, every distinctive stone on the ridge is marked with a tourist sign (yellow triangle, white framed), while deep in the forest markings disappear completely.
Eastern Făgăraș in the morning sun. The illuminated Mezea ridge leading from the left of the Roșu peak connects the Iezer Păpușa mountains with the Brătilă peak in Făgăraș. Somewhere in the distance, the two highest peaks are hidden in the clouds - Negoiu and Moldoveannu. 10 vertical images stitched together.
A great Carpathian gift
When we pitched a tent in the rain on only wide flat place around, which was also filled with wet snow, I didn't believe that any of it could change by morning. I definitely didn't believe in a crazy sunrise full of rich colors. And yet it came. Only then did I realize how great place we found ourselves on - here the snow did not melt. It effectively separated the foreground from the distant mountains.
Winter arrives fast in the mountains. Just a few hours and the path gets lost in the snow and fog. Just below the flat summit of Piscanu, the clouds spread at least for a moment, revealing another part of the mountain ridge. Although the photo lacks perfect light, it is one of my favorites from the Iezer Păpușa mountain crossing. Perhaps it is the falling snow that gives it both a calming and a dramatic feel. Illuminated by flash.
Small saddle during the ascent to the main ridge of the Iezer Păpușa mountains just below the peak of Obârşia. Autumn plays with all the colours here, the grass turns gold, the blueberries red and only the junipers remain green. Moreover, when the opposite ridge of Văcarea partially shrouds in clouds, you can find many dramatic compositions there. Stitched from 7 images.
A small Carpathian gift
After a rainy afternoon, a small Carpathian gift arrives. The sky is clearing, the clouds remain just in the southeast above Leaota Mountains. Şaua Portăreasa saddle dries slowly. All that remained in terms of composition was to find a place where the whole line of the forest could be seen (which was not as easy as it seems). 9 images stitched together.
Descent along the Cascoe ridge to the Dâmbovița valley. Just at the edge of dark forest stands a repaired shepherds hut - already abandoned before winter. In the background the limestone mountains of Piatra Craiului (Royal Stone) are visible.
A little wish
All I hoped for when I planned trip to Făgăraș mountains in summer 2019 was to catch good light conditions at least in one evening. It came true the very first day in the mountains when I rushed to Vânătoarea lui Buteanu. Sunshine touched just the summit of that pyramid mountain over the valley and also jugged ridge below. Whole moment lasted just a few seconds so I had to be very quick to get all the shots I needed (had to shoot more of them because of narrow field of view of my 60mm).
Dents of Dracula
Overlooking Bâlea lake from Șaua Caprei saddle. I picked here one of many rugged ridges bathing in evening warm sunlight. With a little imagination even the mountains in Romania resemble vampire teeth, do not they?
Tent at Capra Lac
Capra lake is often refered as the most beautiful one in all of Făgăraș mountains. Maybe it is because of the nice view from its shores towards distant peaks. It is indeed what draw my attention and made me pick it as one of many campsites. Two other tents shared this location with mine - and also experienced huge thunderstorm coming at night.
Scars on Făgăraș
The only place where Făgăraș mountains meet modern world is high alpine road crossing it. At the very top the road passes Bâlea lake. There it is one huge mess of overly large cabins, cable way and parking spots. Luckily the world changes immediately once you leave it behind with mountains playing the main role again.
Inferno over Ucişoara
Overlooking Viștea valley from the path to Refugiul Viștea Mare. Long it seemed it will be another unattractive evening with no sunlight as heavy clouds were rolling in from the north. At the very end of the day, for just a few minutes the Făgăraș inferno began. Of course it was just a prelude for the night hell of strong winds and rain.
One of many lakes as seen from the Făgăraș ridge trail. Quickly moving clouds with scattered sunlight were just ideal that day. Everything changed rapidly so fog one minute could mean plenty of sunlight just aa few moments later. Here I wanted to emphasize the colours and contrast of the water while smaller cloud passed over it.
Mountains of Făgăraș always seemed a little special to me. Mountains this high (reaching easilly over 2000 meters) come usually in rocky form (which is true also for other parts of Carpathians), while here grass grows all the way to the top. However, it does not make Făgăraș landscape any less dramatic.
There is one unwritten rule in Făgăraș mountains: you want to camp, you have to get out of the ridge. As famous Făgăraș storm can come any minute and even kill you, it is best option to go to any of the side valleys along the route. There you will usually find one of many lakes. For example Podragu where you can also find one of very few huts in the mountains.
Podragu hut as seen from my campsite near the Podragu lake in the evening. The hut is one of the very few options in whole Făgăraș to get some rest or food. But do not get this wrong, Podragu is real mountain hut where everything has to be carried up by donkeys so the offer is limited. And that is how it should be.
From the roof of Romania
It was cloudy day at first and rain forced me to stay in tent until noon. How the things have changed during ascent to Vistea Mare, sibling-summit of Moldoveanu! There it was already closer to evening and I was happy to see all those mountains revealing in the sunlight.
Ridges of Făgăraș
From the highest mountain in Romania, Moldoveanu, you can overlook almost all of Făgăraș mountains and even side ridges with milder slopes. Those are places that even today remain home only for shepherd people and flocks of sheep sideways of tourist routes.
I was prepared long before sunset on the hill above village to capture its fortified church. However I was quite unsure when the best light will occur - church could be either lit but then the light would still not be ideal or it could be in shade and I was afraid it would be too late. Villagers solved this riddle for me: as smoke started to rise from the end of the village, I immediately knew that was the right moment.
Under the old pine tree
Out of all the places I have camped on, hill with this old pine tree overlooking village of Copșa Mare has to be among the best. Hilly landscape of Transylvania, village "at the end of the world" and first sunlight make waking up in the morning easier. Originally planned as a backup spot if nothing better comes off, Copșa Mare proved again that best things should be expected out of nowhere.
I was a little sceptic about the fortified church of Viscri (Deutschweißkirch) at first. It simply did not seem as interesting as for example one in Bierthalm, however what a surprise! Whole village is wonderful example of medieval Transylvania and the church itself is the icing on the cake. Of course I was lucky again with the light conditions...
Tartlau wall rooms
Fortified church in Tartlau (Prejmer) is probably the most fortified one in all of Transylvania. It is encircled with 5 meters thick wall which served also as a housing in times of need for the whole village. Quite an effective solution.
Largest glacial lake in Romania Bucura towards Curmatura Bucurii peak. Sometimes the best atmosfere is not created by bright setting sun but rather by just a small gap in the clouds letting just a tint of colour through.
In the evening there was just the right amount of clouds coming from the other side of the mountains so that the setting sun could paint them in bright orange and pink. I used a few stones just below Salvamont hut as a foreground in this shot.
With a view like this it does not matter that it is cold and windy, you just enjoy the morning knowing that it will get calm and warm later. View from Retezat overlooking Saua Plaiul Mic towards Piule Iorgovanul.
This evening colours were not that ideal as I thought it will be and I was almost put up with getting no interesting images. Luckilly everything changed once clouds started to rise from the valley like a steam from hot pot.
Morning at Tăul Porții
It was nearly morning sprint to get to Tăul Porții to catch first sunrays touching great Judele peak. From all the peaks it is Judele that is blessed by orange colours first as other high peaks are shaded by the highest one of them all - mighty Peleaga.
From Retezat to Piule Iorgovanul
Evenings at Bucura lake are simply great. Light conditions change with every minute and clouds start to form in the mountains. With beautiful landscapes all around, camera shutter simply can not stop.
Every night I spent in Retezat mountains, skies got almost completely clear and dark by midnight. Being so far from any large city, the Milky way stood stunningly clear over the mountains. It was actually so dark, that slight green airglow was visible as well. Lake Bucura in lower right corner, peaks from right: Bucura I, Judele, wall of Slaveiu. 7 vertical shots.
High mountain pastures
Romainian mountains are not home only to bears and wolfes but also for shephards with their sheep and herds of horses. When the first sunrays got through the sky after a little rainshower, I was just passing some horses and included them into this shot.
It is necessary to pass the tree line to get high into the mountains. But below this line, the scenery is not even a little less interesting. Dense forests full of water are home to the greatest european beasts and wonderful place for imagination. If it is because of the bears is up to everyone to find out.
Rainy morning in Alma Vii
Driving from village to village in Transylvania rewards you every time as almost every village is guarded by fortified church. Sometimes it does not even matter that it is raining and dull gray, it just adds to the mysterious atmosfere of vampires homeland.
Purple dusk in Biertan
From all the villages with fortified churches, Biertan is probably the most stunning and one not to be missed. The church itself is one of those examples of medieval architecture that make your jaw drop. After few days of heavy rains I got lucky to see it in interesting colours at least in the evening. Next morning I could not see it at all because of the fog.
Essence of Transylvania
Transylvania is full of medieval villages consisting of small traditional houses. These villages, originally built by saxon collonists, lost nothing of their beauty to this day and are part of what defines Romania. In this case village of Biertan.
Surprise in Hosman
Sometimes you visit the most interesting places just by chance as in this time when I got somewhat lost in the heart of Transylvania and found village of Hosman with its fortified church. Incoming storm made the place even more interesting. I had to go to the cemetery to find better composition as from other sides the church was shielded by houses.