We were completely soaked, my classmates and I, tired and hungry after an entire day of hiking, cramped on a bench in the station of Sinaia, a small town on the valley of the Prahova river. We'd just missed the last train to Bucharest and we were getting ready to sleep the night in the station, with the hope to catch a train the morning after. As this was taking place on a Sunday, that also meant we would miss school next day (and that was a school trip !!!). I was 12 and thought that was the best day ever, to this day, one of my happiest memories about *the mountains*. Many more would come.
|The Heroes Cross from Caraiman Peak, Bucegi Mountains.|
If you lived in Bucharest, *the mountains* meant Bucegi, and Valea Prahovei with its collection of small vacation towns, Sinaia, Busteni, Poiana Tapului, Predeal, and a little bit further, on the other side of the mountains, Brasov, a jewel of a city known for its beautiful Black Church, one the most beautiful gothic constructions in Romania. Bucegi are just a small part of the Carpathians that so beautifully draw a circle in the middle of Romania. They are not the tallest - -that would be Fagaras, they are not the ones with the most lakes -- that would be Retezat, they are not the pretties ones - that would be Piatra Craiului. They had something more important, location, location, location. Just two hours by train or car from Bucharest made Valea Prahovei and Bucegi perfect for a one-day trip, away from the maddening reality of every day life in a big city. The mountains offered great hikes during the summer, and amazing skiing during the winter, with a plateau at over 2000m accessible by two cable cars from Sinaia and Busteni.
|Busteni seen from Caraiman|
|Caraiman Lodge, 2025m|
|Valea Seaca a Caraimanului, the Cross is up in the clouds.|
|Peles Castle, Sinaia, October 2000|
"Not all who wander, are lost''.
I've been to the Alps, I've been to the Rockies, and they were all spectacular. But they were not my mountains. They have not met me when I was still a blank canvas figuring out the world and myself. Through my entire childhood and young adulthood I can not remember a time when I did not go to the mountains, for a day, for a weekend, for a week, to celebrate or to recharge, to learn new things or share my favorite places with people I loved, to be seen, or just hide away. My being was shaped by the Bucegi mountains, by the camaraderie built during long day hikes, by the tears and laughs shared with a bottle of palinca or boiled wine after a day of skiing, by the songs sang near a fire, by the few trains missed and the many caught, by the times when I thought I could not take one more step, and somehow I could still get to the top (and back). I have learned confidence and resilience, and experienced true friendship and happiness because of those mountains.
|At the bottom of Heroes Cross from Caraiman.|