Struggle. Love. Cry. Hope.
For Romanian click here.
A novel first published in Romanian (Eikon 2017), available in English (translated by Mihaela Alecu) on Amazon (click on the image).
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Transfăgărăşan is the most picturesque and spectacular road in Romania. According to Top Gear, season 14, episode 1, it seems that in the world as well. Near the tunnel that runs beneath the Făgăraş Mountains’ ridge at 2034 meters high there is Bâlea Lake.
“Did you know that it was again due to the Russian’s threat, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, that it was decide to build the Transfăgărăşan road?” Mircea asked his three friends.
“No,” they answered.
“I’ve done some research,” he continued.
“Someone really took advantage of M. P.’s history classes,” said Ana smiling.
“Yes,” Mircea smiled back.
Then he continued his idea:
“The road was built from 1970 to 1974 and it was of strategic importance. That is probably why its building was accelerated, despite the fact that, as you know, this area is pure evil, long winters and one could only work here for four-five, six tops months a year, but they pushed it and they worked throughout the entire year. A lot of lives were lost here, both soldiers and workers.”
“Really? I didn’t know that,” said Amanda sadly.
“Yes, this wasn’t said too often, and it seems that the real numbers are, anyway, much higher than the official ones.”
“That is so sad,” Ana said as well. “So many people losing their lives over building a road.”
“Yes, and that is how it happened all over the world,” Ioan added. “What do you think that people didn’t die while building the roads in the Alps?”
“I don’t know,” answered Mircea, “did they?”
“I would imagine,” said Mircea. “I have no idea, but it’s unlikely to be otherwise.”
“Maybe, however, not as many as here,” Mircea thought. “It seems that here there were a few hundred. Officially they declared forty, so you can imagine…”
“Forty? Or, God forbid, a few hundred? It’s not like it was a war,” Amanda was all surprised.
“Oh my God, that is so sad,” repeated Ana.
“Sad, but look, nothing can be achieved without sacrifice. And now we have this road that we can take pride in,” said Ioan decisively.
“And yet, you are not going to believe it,” said Mircea gravely, “it’s not the highest road in the country, it is the second tallest. The first one is Transalpina, which reaches about 2100 meters, more exactly 2145.”
“Where is this?” Asked Amanda.
“In Parâng Mountains,” answered Mircea.
“I know it, a while back I went with my parents up to Rânca, anyway one could only reach that far,” said Ioan.
“I didn’t even know about it,” said Amanda again.
“That is probably,” Mircea tried to comfort her, “because although it is a lot older, legend has it that it was a road built by Romans, and left to decay! Anyway, the last ones to use it were the Germans during World War II, and it’s never been maintained or renovated since.”
“Wow, but that is such a pity. I bet it is very beautiful as well. I mean, look around, and you can see,” said Amanda, pointing to the bus’s window that was reaching little by little, fighting hard and conquering with a lot of effort and smoke each meter, getting higher, closer to the Bâlea Waterfall.
The landscape was truly amazing. The mountains’ peaks were already in sight, some still stained with snow… From Cîrţişoara, from where the youngsters had taken the bus to Bâlea, there weren’t many kilometers, around seventeen, but when the serpentines started and the ramp was more accentuated, the old bus blew hard and run very slowly.
The four friends were sitting in the back seat with four places. It was convenient because they didn’t have to separate, sitting two by two.
“It’s good, however,” Amanda laughed at the bus, “we won’t get dizzy like this.”
“Yes,” Ana accompanied her, “we’ll get enough time to get used to the altitude.”
“My ears still got blocked,” Ioan said glumly, pressing his ears with the hollow of his hand.
“Pretend you are swallowing,” said Ana.
Ioan was swallowing, but he couldn’t unblock his ears.
“It’s really annoying,” he said a little louder than he should have, because he wasn’t able to hear normally.
The three laughed.
“You don’t have to shout, honey,” said Amanda.
Ioan tried to smile, but it was more of a grin, as the discomfort was too accentuated.
“Here you go,” Ana handed him a chewing gum, “try this. It should work.”
“Thank you,” whispered Ioan, fearing not to shout too loud again.
He chewed the gum for a while, then his face lid up.
“It really does work,” he cries. “Thank you, you are my savior!”
“You are welcome,” Ana smiled.
“It’s so good to have a doctor around!”
The bus had arrived and stopped in front of a hotel in Bâlea Waterfall complex. After everybody got down, the four friends, the last to descend, picked up their backpacks and headed towards the cable car. After they bought the tickets, they sat on some rocks, admiring the landscape.
They had ten more minutes until the next cable car would leave towards Bâlea Lake, so the girls handed everyone a sandwich, and all four of them began to gobble hungry.
“This fresh air is already working,” said Ioan in one of his chewing breaks.
“Yes,” laughed Amanda, “it is as if we haven’t eaten for a week.”
The other two contented in approving by nodding their heads, but didn’t stop eating until they finished the entire sandwich.
A cheerful man signaled the tourists to get in the cable car. They went in along with another couple, a family with two children which seemed around 10-11 years old, 7-8 years old respectively, and two other boys dressed like true mountain men. After they all got in, the airway tramway waited for a minute longer, and then the cheerful conductor pressed some buttons, and the cable car started, dangling.
“How long is the cable car’s route?” one of the two parents asked the conductor, namely the father.
“Three thousand and seven hundred meters,” he explained.
“Wow,” said the man.
Then, turning to the kids:
“It is almost four kilometers long.”
“Wow,” they cried.
They were all smiling seeing how cute they were. They were holding their hands on the rod and looking out the window with open mouths.
“Look, the waterfall!” exclaimed one of them.
“It’s so big!” almost shouted the little one.
“It is the biggest waterfall with steps in Romania,” said the conductor. “The water falls for over sixty meters high.”
“Great!” said the two children with one voice.
“I want to go to the waterfall too,” Amanda said to Ioan.
“We could go there, on our way back, it’s a one hour trip.”
“Just to get there, or a round trip?”
“Just to get there. And the same for getting back.”
“Or half an hour if you meet a bear,” the conductor laughed, as he had heard the conversation without ears’ dropping.
All adults in the cable car laughed, but the children who hadn’t paid attention were looking baffled:
“What is it? What?”
They were upset because they didn’t know what was it that the others were laughing about.
“Nothing,” their mother answered. “The man made a joke.”
“What joke?” asked the younger one.
“That if they were to meet a bear, the children,” answered his father pointing to the four youngsters, “will get to the cabin faster than they would expect.”
“A bear?” the little one got scared.
“Don’t worry, the bear is not coming. That is why it was just a joke, that mister made,” his mother calmed him down.
“Aaa,” said the boy, but he wasn’t quite convinced.
“You have to stay closer to me,” Ioan whispered to Amanda, pulling closer to her, “otherwise the wolf will eat you.”
“The bear,” she said laughing.
“Where, where?” the kids asked as they had only heard the last reply.
“He’s the bear,” Amanda told them, pointing to Ioan.
“No he isn’t,” said Ana, pulling out of her backpack her little Teddy bear. “This is the bear!”
“It’s so cute,” the younger boy cried.
“Wow, I’ve never seen such a Teddy bear,” the big one added.
“It’s old,” said Ana. “I’ve had it since I was little and I never go anywhere without it!”
“So sweet,” said Mircea.
He pulled Ana closer to him as well and he kissed her on her hair.
“You are a child too, or what?” he said.
“Child,” she answered.
“Or what,” Amanda answered as well.
Ana gave her a friendly nudge.
“You mind your own bear,” Ana smiled at her.
“Yes,” Ioan confirmed, growling like a bear.
When the cable car got to the upper station, from Bâlea Lake, a white cloud was coming from the top towards the lake, like a thick fog.
“Look at it,” said the conductor, “let’s hope that the weather won’t change its course!”
“No, it’s not allowed,” the three youngsters yelled.
Then they said thanks, they greeted and they started walking one behind the other towards the cabin.
Downwards, the valley stretched menacing, interrupted only by the serpentines of the Transfăgărăşan road. On the other side, the mountains’ tops rose majestic and haughty.
They immediately noticed the glacial lake, which gave the place its name, sparkling in a blue-green, reflecting the tops of the surrounding mountains and the cloud that wouldn’t stay put and continued its sliding.
The four were watching and they were speechless. They drew a deep breath; they would move their eyes from one wonderful place to another. And all over again.
“I’m so happy we came,” Ana was the first one to break the silence.
“I told you,” said Amanda.
“You were right. I am happy you insisted,” said Ana.
“Let’s take a picture,” said Mircea. All three of you stay here, he pointed them.
The three complied. Mircea took the camera out of his backpack, he placed it on a rock, he pressed the auto start button, and then he quickly joined the other three friends. A few seconds later, the camera made a click, and what was registered on its memory card was going to be the group’s favorite picture. The four friends, joyful, delighted and happy, with the mountains and Bâlea Lake behind them, with a white and fluffy cloud coming straight towards them from one side, to cover the valley before they got to the cabin where they had booked two double rooms, each with its own private bathroom, elegant and hospitable.
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