Romania's National Day up in the Cozia mountains

Moving on, or rather going back, as mentioned earlier, in an attempt to cover the backlog, I’m going to briefly cover the short trip through the Cozia mountains I went on last year, to celebrate Romania’s National Day, together with Cristina and a few other friends I’ve mentioned in previous entries, right before taking off for Norway.

Now, keep in mind, it’s been nearly four months since then, so I’m recalling things maybe a bit too hazily to reproduce the story in too great detail or excessively accurately, which is why, much like the Venice post, I’ll try to keep this brief. Also, a slight disclaimer: I neglected to clean my camera and lenses before leaving Cluj and, as you’ll see from the photos from both Cozia and Norway, the quality leaves something to be desired; do be forgiving in your judgement.

With the specialist exam, scheduled for mid-November, looming on the horizon through most of last year’s autumn, I was unable to go on any further trips after the much enjoyed late-August Parângcrossing. As such, when the opportunity presented itself to join Cristina’s (ever expanding) group for a couple of nights nestled up in the Cozia mountains (where I’d never been before), I jumped at it without any hesitation, especially since it linked perfectly, both chronologically and geographically, with my plan to travel to Bucharest, where I was scheduled to depart for Oslo on December 4th.

As I am wont to do, apart from actual flight bookings, I left preparations for the extended trip for the absolute last moment, which meant packing the whole backpack one day prior to leaving, with Călin, for Cozia. Which, predictably, resulted in some fairly glaring omissions from my luggage, most notable of which were the snow gaiters. Of course, this didn’t strike me as too much of a problem as we left Cluj in clear (well, dry, I can’t remember if it was clear) weather, but subtle alarms started ringing the next morning when, eager to meet the rest of the group coming in from Bucharest, we waited inside a gas station, taking shelter from the drizzle which appeared intent on following us throughout the day.

Soon enough, the whole group had gathered, some 20+ people, and as is often the case with Cristina’s trips, there were a few I’d had the pleasure of travelling with before, a bunch I’d never met, and high spirits all around. After meeting everyone, we huddled back to the cars and set out to the parking spot, near the Turnu monastery, whence our trail began.
The morning weather was not very welcoming

The climb started slowly through the forest, ground covered in fallen, autumn foliage, fog obscuring the distant trees. We gained altitude at a fairly steady pace, and while the lack of the snow gaiters I’d mentioned earlier didn’t prove to be too problematic early on, before long the environment had shifted and the rusty yellow of the forest floor started slowly, but irrevocably turning white, just as the drizzle turned into intermittent snow showers. And while it took a bit of climbing before this proved to be a big issue, eventually I did manage to get a few bootfulls of snow, just enough to hopefully brand the need for gaiters in future trips deep in my memory.

The mist did, however, look quite stunning among the trees

And, even as we started walking upon snow, the skies briefly cleared slightly, towards the horizon.

The Stânişoara monastery, where we had a fairly interesting conversation with a monk

A stop at a forest clearing revealed a great view behind

The snow got deeper as we moved on, but thankfully the path was well beaten

A slightly more challenging portion of the climb, where the provided cables proved quite useful.

Though navigating them was not without difficulty

Stopping for a breath, at the end of the steep climb
Other than the occasional missteps in deep snow, the ascension went without incident and, soon enough, we reached the Cozia cabin, where we were greeted by our friendly host. After dropping our bags off in our respective quarters, we regrouped inside the mess hall for dinner, drinks and stories, before eventually going back to our rooms to sleep.

The next day, we followed a snowy, windy trail, through and above the forest, before reaching one of the local landmarks, Poarta de Piatră (The Stone Gate), an impressive, very appropriately-named structure quite fit for hoisting the national flag. I’ll not go into too much detail concerning the trip, but I will mention that it was made significantly easier to appreciate by the cabin-keeper, who graciously lent me her pair of snow gaiters. Other than that, the company was fun, the views were spectacular and Olaf, the snowman, became a mascot for the rest of the trip.
As close as we got to seeing a sunrise.

Though who needs sunrises when you can see this?

The wind and fog came and gone repeatedly throughout the day.

And the sun stubbornly remained hidden behind clouds

Poarta de Piatră

And, as seen from above and behind, celebrating the Romanian National Day.

Olaf, rightfully at the center

Only just started using the 45 mm lens

And of course the snowman made for a good target


Distant mountains seen in another clearing caught everyone's attention

Come night, we’re back at the cabin, enjoying hot steaks, mulled wine and the playful company of, I think, no less than three cats who, used to tourists, give not a second thought to joining them for games and, of course, food.

The next day, we started the descent back to the Turnu monastery, with the scenery gradually changing from foggy-white, snow-covered-everything, to foggy-green spruce trees, to the foggy-yellow floored deciduous forest. Likewise, beneath our feet, the increasingly shallower snow soon gave way to slippery, muddy slopes that slowed our progress down somewhat, though luckily with no injuries.

Eventually we made it back to the monastery; while the main part of the group remained in Călimăneşti for another day of fun and relaxation, I joined George (who serendipitously had a free seat in his car) and went on to Bucharest, just in time to celebrate my mother’s birthday, right before taking off for Norway. The story of which, like I’ve said before – is right around the corner!