Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Pesteana, Retezat Mountains

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I intended to make this post some time ago, as I’ve seen many people were interested in my stories about our travels to other Romanian mountains. Romanian mountains overall had an considerable interest increase in the last years, it was not once we’ve met people hiking our mountains, and asking for directions, and to our surprise, many of them were not Romanians. The reason for this fact is that many of the developed countries had transformed their mountain resorts in something too commercial, while in Romania and other Eastern European countries you can still find untouched nature, unspoiled animals(did you know that Romania has the largest population of bears in Europe? I like this but it’s also the thing that scares me a bit when hiking our mountains) and peasants still living in the old traditional way(peasants living to high altitudes were always so happy to meet us, they would show us their animals, their houses, offering us whatever they have made with their limited resources, usually cheese and fresh milk. They were also very happy to be gifted with flour, don’t you think they were greedy or something, but they didn’t have means of cultivating cereals, so bread was hard to find in those villages..but this was like more then 15 years ago, don’t laugh of me, I’m talking childhood memories now. Since I was little we had this custom in our family to travel to the one place(the same every year) to the mountains in our country, not to Retezat, but some other wonderful place, I’ll tell you, guys, about that, some other time. So if you’re wondering what the hell is this girl doing, traveling to remote places in mountains and living in tents..you might have one explanation at least.

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This post it’s about my trip to Retezat Mountains, I’ve made 2 years ago together with my husband. I always have in mind other touristic places that are on the way to the destination. So when we traveled to Retezat we also visited the ruins of Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, that was the capital of roman Dacia. This place is very easy to find, just near the main road, you’ll find the parking place and the site.

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Next we visited the mythical place from Pesteana swamps. The popular legend has it that in the past, the so called “Lake without the bottom” from the village Pesteana, in Hunedoara county, used to literally swallow the animals stopping by to drink from it. The villagers don’t know much about the place but they think that the swamp communicates with the ocean and that the animals, attracted by the Devil, remain stuck in there. So when we told them we’ve traveled to this place to see the carnivorous plant: Drosera rotundifolia they shrugged, but a woman told us she remembers some scientist visiting this place some years ago and then all of the sudden she calls her young son and asks him to walk us to the lake. Our intention was only to ask for directions so we refused the lady, but she insisted to help, so we happily headed to Pesteana Lakes with our teenage, shy guy, companion. The swamp is situated half an hour distance from Pesteana village, surrounded by the peaks of 3 hills. You can only get to the swamp, walking through the meadows, beautiful flowers and butterflies with enchanting views over “Tara Hategului”(a historical region in Hunedoara county) and plenty of fruits like blackberries and apples for you to enjoy. The guy guided us to a place where he could point directly with his finger the place we were searching. We’ve heard scary “real” things about this place, like people and animals drowning in the swamp, but still we didn’t hesitate to walk all the way to its center, trough the birches forest, stepping on the mobile land covered with moss, in search of the pink carnivorous flower. You might think what a mobile land might be, believe it or not it’s self explanatory, imagine you walk on the land that is moving at the same time, and you can feel it! I’ve always wondered how an earthquake might feel, I think this experience might have been a little close to it, as a perception. I’ve never experienced such things till then and it’s really incredible ..and dizzy! We were very lucky though..you have to be there when the weather is really dry for a longer period of time to be able to walk on swamp, even though we didn’t know this, we were there on a perfect moment. I kept searching for the little pink flower, I can’t explain why I was really curious about it but my husband kept saying we should leave as maybe the flowers are very rare or extinct and we won’t be able to find them. My husband sank harder then me so I told him to wait for me if he could no longer continue. I was amazed by the moving land and the mystery surrounding this place and continued to jump from one island to another making my way through the white birches…but I didn’t find anything, I was so disappointed.

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We returned to the entrance in the forest, then passing it by, we tried to find alternative routes. Somewhere near the middle of the forest we entered making our way once again on the moving land, through the dense forest, and the spider-nets, then all of the sudden..pink spots started showing off, and Oh my gosh, I found them!! The little pink, sticky flowers were now, all around us.

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I knew our destination point, the meadow called “Poiana Pelegii”, was just 20km off the main road, so I figured half an hour would do. I had lots of plans for the day, it was 5 o’clock and he headed to our next destination, “Slivut” Bison Reserve. Let me tell you something I know about the bisons. These are the heaviest animals on land from Europe, with approximately 3m in length and 2m height they can weight up to 900kg. Unfortunately these animals are almost extinct, and you’re able to find them in reserves or at the zoo. There are only approximately 3000 specimens all over the world, all descendents to the same 12 “great-grandparents”. Visiting this reserve you’ll be able to watch them closer, but be careful, these animals are very capricious, and along with their heavy structure you can get screwed in no time!

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It was 7 o’clock when we arrived at the “Barajul Gura Apelor” dam…The sun was setting, it was so nice, so we took a break to take some pictures, after all we had only 20km left to make..

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The entrance to Retezat National Park is made passing a barrier and paying a small tax fee. After waiting some time for someone to let us in, we continued on the road described by the woman from the entrance to the park as being “incomparable worse” to what we’ve encountered to that point, but that many cars of different types had been there and done that ..before us..hmm, we thought..”incomparable worse”, sounds really bad, but than, still “others had made it”, doesn’t sound that bad, so then we should make it too. How does 20km in 3h sound? I’ll tell you it was the worst nightmare, of skidding on gravel and placing rocks on the giant holes from the road to gain some speed to keep as going. I’m sure driving a 4×4, here, would have been a joy, though..but what does it matter, we arrived safe and sound to the magic place “Poiana Pelegii”. We were very tired so we decided to sleep in the car for that night. It was a harsh night, we woke up many times during the night as we were not prepared for such a cold weather. But let me tell you more about our adventure from the next days in Retezat mountains in another dedicated post..

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