Romania: Transfagarasan Highway and Vlad the Impaler

May 24-25, 2023

This was our first time in Romania, and with only several days, we had a couple of “must see” items on our list.

First, we were headed to the Transfagarasan Highway. This road is very famous among motorcyclists and others who love scenic, twisty drives. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to do the entire 94 mile length of the road, as it was too early in the season and the road was still closed due to snow at the higher elevations. We stopped for our first night in Romania at Camping Arges, where we found a small cabin to rent for the night. I wasn’t aware when I decided to stay here that it was such a popular motorcycle campground, but as we rode up and saw the motorcycle sign on the side of the main home, we knew we had made the right choice.

Another rider at MotoCamp Bulgaria shared this photo with us, showing the north end of the Transfaragarasan Highway just a couple of days earlier. There was lots of conflicting information going around as to whether the Transfagarasan and Transalpina roads were open yet. This seemed like pretty solid confirmation, and the best info we had at the time.

It doesn’t seem to matter which country, or continent for that matter, these cabins have virtually identical layouts. Comfortable, especially on rainy nights.

One of the cats at Camping Arges looked nearly identical to Ike, our black male cat at home. We took it as a good sign.

As is the custom, we added a 2RTG sticker to the window at Camping Arges.

Due to the DN7C road (the Transfagarasan) still being closed, we were the only motorcycle guests when we arrived, and we had our choice of cabins (though they’re all the same). After unloading, I asked and was told by the owners that there was a small grocery store in town, about 400 meters up the road. So I jumped on the bike and made a quick trip to the store to find something to eat for dinner.

It took me a couple of tries to find the market; it was on the back side of a bar. I rode up to the bar and asked a few of the guys sitting at an outside table drinking where the market was. They clearly didn’t understand English, but it was also clear to them that I wasn’t there to drink with them. They pointed around the corner, and I found the entrance to the store.

As I walked into the tiny one-room store (about the size of a typical living room), the woman behind the counter watched as I wandered around. Finally, in somewhat broken but easily understandable English, she asked if I needed help.

“I’m looking for something to eat for dinner”, I said and at the same time spotted loaves of bread behind her. “I’ll take one of those”, as I pointed to the bread. “Do you have anything to put on the bread?”, I asked.

She walked over to a small deli counter, reached in and pulled out a small package of sliced ham. “I have this pig”, she offered.

“I’ll take it.”

Then she reached in again and pulled out a small wheel of cheese. “And this cheese”, she added.

“Good”, I said.

Then she looked me up and down and said “And that is enough”.

It was hard to keep my composure. I had never been told when to stop buying food before. I’m not sure if it was a compliment that I didn’t need more than she offered (“You are a fit man and this is plenty of food for you”), or if it was a somewhat sharp insult that I didn’t need more than she offered (“You could stand to eat less”). Either way, I heeded her advice, paid for the food, and returned to camp, laughing as I recounted the story to Diana.

Shortly after dinner, two more bikes pulled up: a BMW and a Ducati. Kris and Marek were from central Poland, and were headed to Turkey on a quick eleven day tour. We talked a bit about the Transfagarasan and Transaplina roads, and I showed them the closed gate photo at Transfagarasan. They had attempted to cross Transalpina (even though it was “closed”), but encountered deep snow several miles in and had to turn back.

Marek (left) and Kris from Poland.

The following morning we headed up the Transfagarasan. We knew we would eventually have to turn around, but we wanted to at least make it several miles past the lake, and to get a distant view of the remains of Poenari Castle, Vlad the Impaler’s home.

Looking up to Poenari Citadel from below on the ride up the valley.

Looking back down at the beginning of the Transfagarasan road climbing up to the dam at the south end of the lake.

Looking across to the ruins of Poenari Citadel, the one-time home of Vlad the Impaler. Vlad Dracula (1431-1476) was a Wallachian ruler and the basis for Bram Stoker’s Dracula character.

We rode about 27 miles up the road, but knowing that we had to come back the same way before taking the main road further north, we decided to turn around before we got to the good part. We still had several hours to get to our next destination: the city of Bran.

Follow-up Note: Kris and Marek made it most of the way across the Transfagarasan, but eventually were stopped by the road crew clearing the road at this point. There was obviously still just a little bit of snow…

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