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The majesty of nature can be fully seen in Gorj County and it gave the inhabitants of this county picturesque areas, among which being mountain area Ranca, through which Transalpina or King’s Road, as this the road is also known, winds relentlessly, opening the whole greatness of mountains in front of the viewer.

Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES PHOTO

Nature, tranquility, beauty and adventure lovers have the opportunity to live here unique moments and to see life … from the clouds. A unique sensation, which few people had the chance to experience in their lives, is the reflection of the shadow on the clouds, when Transalpina, the highest road in the country, takes you to an altitude of 2,250 meters.

The best-known tourist settlement on Transalpina, Ranca, is situated at an altitude that starts at 1,500 meters and reaches 1,750 meters, at the foot of the Papusa Massif, one of the plateaus of the Parang Mountains.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”It is the tourist settlement located at the highest altitude in Romania, it starts at 1,500 meters and ends at 1,750 meters, expands both horizontally and vertically. Its internal road network from the first house to the last one, with all side roads, reaches somewhere 18km. It is huge, it is a really little town on the mountain’s top. It has a very good access by road, on Transalpina, which for more than half a year is passable also from the north, leading to Transylvania. It is the most beautiful road that comes from Transylvania to us, it passes through Alba and Valcea through Valea Frumoasa [Beautiful Valley], then it enters Gorj, where the landscape is special. Many say it is the most beautiful landscape in the country and it is so, in my opinion, because the other road, Transfagarasanul, goes in the valley a long way and your view to left and right is limited,” the Gorj Mountain Rescue Service’s chief Sabin Cornoiu told AGERPRES.

The idea to build the resort of Ranca surfaced in 1930, when the People’s Bank ”Gilortul” of Novaci materialized Dumitru Brezulescu’s project to build a resort. Six cabins were built at the beginning, with five rooms each. In 1937, the central cabin in Ranca was commissioned. By December 1989, other two cabins were built in Ranca, one of OJT Gorj, administered by the University of Craiova, and the other one — by the mining unions in the coal basin of Oltenia.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”At the beginning of last century, Novaci locals set fire to the mountain juniper and cleared it off the mountain, to make room for pasture, and this happened including on the current location of Ranca. Probably the first houses of the people of that time were made in that period, because they were interested to stay there with the animals. The beautiful landscape triggered in the 1930s the building of the first cabins there, which developed slowly but surely, having reached a maximum of 20 I think, each with a different purpose: forestry sector, milk collection station, hunting house, tourist cabins and so on,” says Sabin Cornoiu.

Over the past few years, Ranca has developed surprisingly. Some 600 hotels, guesthouses, cabins and private houses have been built there. Thus, the tourist offer is very varied, and tourists can opt for either 3—or 4-star hotels or for a cabin or guesthouse. They are equipped with kitchen and dining rooms and the guests can prepare their food on their own.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”At the Revolution [in 1989], 5-6 cabins were functional: the old one, the cooperative’s one, a bar of the cooperative, a research cabin of the University of Craiova and a former weather station. After the Revolution, some cabins were taken over by some institutions that prepared them for tourism purposes. An example is Ciuperca Cabin, which was taken over by Thermal Power Plant Rovinari. As these cabins started to degrade, they invested in them, not much. After 1990, some cabins collapsed, some burnt down, and those that remained began to be taken over by institutions and individuals who started to arrange them. By 1995—1996, applications started to be submitted for building holiday houses in the area and perhaps the present situation stemmed from that. All these application came from people living in the area, in Novaci, in Targu-Jiu, who wanted a plot of land on which to build a small house to come to fresh air. Nobody predicted such an extension. It was then when those plots of 250 and 300 sqm were given, initially on the side towards Gilort, which was the only side with cabins in Ranca. Nobody predicted what would happen there, there was an explosion and thus Ranca was filled with homes. That process lasted permanently for a decade. Power supply and water supply were extended, to cope with the demands,” says the Mountain Rescue Service’s chief.

Thousands of tourists come every weekend during the winter season to this area, where, more than 20 years ago, only a few skiers had come, recalls Sabin Cornoiu, who participated in the building of the first ski-lift in Ranca.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

”In 1987 there was an idea to build a ski-lift in Lainici. It was not a good idea because there was no snow, and it was decided to build one in Ranca instead. This ski-lift was built with a lot of patriotic work by mountain rescuers, people from the power plant, waiters from a hotel and each dug one hole for the next pole. There and now the lift in the resort center. After the Revolution, four more ski-lifts were built, plus a chairlift. Before the ski-lift, we were up to 20 skiers in Gorj, organized even four contests per day, we often climbed on foot from Gilortului Valley, about 15 km. Those phases are memorable, it was another life, we climbed with the food on our back, we cooked for ourselves. It was nice, we were young, we love it,” he says.

Ranca now has four ski slopes equipped with a ski-lift, a slope for initiation in winter sports and one arranged for tubing.

”After the Revolution, the road from Cerbu was built and then a lot of people came to Ranca as they could get here more easily. It was later paved and then it became Transalpina. Now there are four ski slopes equipped with lifts, with lengths of 200 to 900 meters, of mild difficulty up to average, forming the ski area in the resort’s centre. In north of the resort, there is a slope equipped with a chairlift that will serve all slopes to be made high, because there another 10 sloped can be made, which can be even linked to the ski area of Vidra and then it will be one of the largest ski areas in the country and even in Europe. We have also the advantage of tourism structures of high capacity. One slope is equipped with floodlighting and perhaps the other ones will be fitted as well, ” he adds.

In Ranca, a wonderful winter area, one can go skiing and snowboarding, drive snowmobiles, there are areas for paragliding and hang gliding flights, one can also go mountain biking or cycling in the resort.

Photo credit: (c) Nicolae BADEA / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

From here out to all the mountain area of Gorj, tourists can go climbing canyoning, rafting and caving. Tour skiing and off-track skiing can also be done there. There are two variants: the off-track skiing is done with a single bond, as the alpine skiing, and the tour one is done with a bond that slides on the ski, and on the sole of the skies a cloth is applied, which is called generically sealskin and by which hill climbing can be done. This sport is practiced on a smaller scale, but increasingly more tourists are buying such equipment because it offers much more powerful sensations.

”With departure from Ranca there are 4-5 mountain trails, two descend to Gilortului Valley and Galbenului Valley to Muierii Cave, from Ranca the road continues on Transalpina to Parangului ridge, to the left to Petrosani or to the right to Capatanii Mountains, a very attractive ridge, with peaks of over 2,000 meters to 2,500 meters. It is very attractive, very accessible for tourists with glacial lakes on the north side, which offers a special landscape, rather attractive for tourists, especially in recent years when the access is very easy on Transpalpina,” adds Sabin Cornoiu.

Transalpina (DN 67C), known also as the ‘King’s Road’ or ‘Devil’s Path,’ road is the highest road in Romania. Located in the Parang Mountains, Southern Carpathians, the 150 km-long road connects Oltenia (a southern region) to Transylvania (centre-west), between the towns of Novaci in Gorj County and Sebes in Alba County. The road crosses the Parang Mountains from north to south and draws a parallel with the Olt Valley and the Jiu Valley.

Photo credit: (c) Oana POPESCU / AGERPRES PHOTO

At Sibiu, the alpine road starts from Jina, from whe it descends on a distance of 7 km to Sugag . From here, the ascent begins. After a few km, the Tau dam is reached and then the Oasa dam. Transalpina continues by crossing the left side of the Oasa dam going to Obarsia Lotrului.

From Obarsia Lotrului, located in a valley with an extremely beautiful opening, there are several possibilities: one can go left to Brezoi, which lies about 60 kilometers away, passing by Lake Vidra and then through the resort of Voineasa, or right to Petrila — 28 km away. To continue to Transalpina, one have to go forward to Novaci. In fact, from now begins the most spectacular part of the Royal Road, the road through the alpine area. The winding road reaches increasingly high places: Stefanu, Carbunele, Muntinu and Urdele. Suddenly, the mountain disappears, and in front there is the plateau on Papusa peak, from where it descends into the resort of Ranca and then to Novaci, where Transalpina ends.

In the Transalpina area there are a few glacial lakes, including Lake Galcescu, the largest such lake in Gorj County. It is 230 meters long, 165 meters wide and stretches on an area of 3.2 hectares. Its maximum depth is 10 meters. It lies at an altitude of 1,950 meters and is naturally populated with fish. The area around the lake, declared a natural reserve, and glacial lake Galcescu are protected monuments of nature.

Photo credit: (c) Simion MECHNO / AGERPRES ARCHIVE

According to some sources, the first road there was built by the Roman legions during the Dacian wars (101-102 and 105-106 AD), which is why the historic maps it is entered as the strategic Roman Corridor IV. Later, the route began to be used by shepherds in Sibiu area that moved their flocks to Oltenia, being not more than a little path with precipices, suggestively called ‘Devil’s Path.’ Besides all these, there is also a local legend, which says that at the end of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, each local family participated in the construction of portions of this road, depending on their physical and financial possibilities.

In 1930, the road paving works were started and the inauguration was made in 1938, in Poiana Sibiu, in the presence of King Carol II. The road was considered, at that time, a great technical breakthrough, with an economic, strategic and military role.

”Before the Transalpina was built, it was a pastoral road, used by shepherds. Indeed, it is said that in the 1930s the king went there, it is said that 2,000 years ago the Romans came here too, so the history is great. The fact is that at some point this choice to modernize the road was taken, it was known that the two roads that pass from south to north on Valley Jiu and Olt Valley are permanently exposed to falling rocks or landslides, and for a long time a variation to cross the mountains had been sought. And all this lobbying which we did to modernize the road at least to Ranca made authorities to do it all. In Dengheru peak, the road climbs up to 2,250 meters, is the highest peak with a road in the country. It is a special landscape, with springs, and those lucky enough can meet chamois, deer or find edelweiss flowers. Those who come to Ranca go in love with this place. There are those moments when you pass through the clouds, there is that optical phenomenon that few have the chance to meet, maybe once in a life time, where you are above the clouds and your shadow is reflected on the cloud, it is a special phenomenon,” believes Sabin Cornoiu. AGERPRES

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