September 10, 2023 by Lucian Mogosanu

If you happen to pass through the valley of Prahova, make sure to stop by Bușteni. There's no way you can miss it, as it lies along the river, roughly between Sinaia and Azuga.

Despite the idiomatic naming, Bușteni doesn't denote any sort of family name, in fact it's simply the plural of "buștean", which is a word of unclear etymology that refers to a log, by which I mean the wooden kind. It's also not very clear how folks chose the name Bușteni, i.e. A Bunch of Logs. Perhaps the earliest historical reference dates back to the end of the eighteenth century, when the locals mention a place called "la bușteni" somewhere around the place where the Valea Cerbului river flows into Prahova. If we were to imagine how life was during those times, Bușteni was the place where the local lumberjacks used to gather wood. This certainly seems to hold true today, and furthermore, Bușteni used to play and still plays the role of an important node along the road from Muntenia to Ardeal, as well as from the so-called "civilized world" to the wild realms of the Bucegi mountains.

Unlike Sinaia, which lies on the side of the national road going to Brașov, the whole of Bușteni is split into two quite distinct parts by the very same road, and the disconnect is amplified by an endless stream of automobiles passing by throughout the day, which makes it a hassle to cross from one part of the village1 to the other. The part sitting besides the Bucegi mountains looks more developed, that is, it hosts more restaurants, hotels and whatnot, while the part sitting next to the Baiului mountains just recently got a bunch of supermarkets and it's still under development, despite hosting one of the former homes of the Kantakouzenoi, and despite the view of the Bucegi from that side of the village being much more spectacular. To wit:

The Bucegi mountains offer plenty of gateways into the wild. The most popular among them are the gondola that goes way up into the mountains -- thank you very much Great Shoemaker -- and the aforementioned valley of the Valea Cerbului2 river, heading up to the famous Gura Diham3 cabin/tourist complex, which provides access directly into the mountain. This part of the village also tends to be choc-full of folks, including here orcs who imagine themselves Lords. Still, the paths going behind the cabin are harder to travel4, here are some illustrations of what lies there:

At the same time, the Baiului part of Bușteni hosts the train station, along with the tourist trap known as the Cantacuzino Castle, which for most people is a sort of Eastern Corvin Castle. A few years ago Netflix filmed a remake of The Addams Family there5, so now all the fangirls gang up and go visit the castle along with their more or less stupid parents6. Poor old Grigore Cantacuzino must be rolling in his grave seeing how his home was first turned into a sanitarium and then into a modern museum propped up by a TV show. If anything, it's a wonder that the building still stands in good condition and that they've not stolen the wood, the stone and the ornamental sheets of gold.

The woods behind the castle, however, are... another deal altogether. On one hand there's a whole lot of wood-industrial activity occurring there, as observable in the logs lying around on the forest roads -- themselves showing marks of heavy use by trucks carrying said wood. On the other, the path is bustling with life, from the various plants to the birds and other animals roaming about. A small river on this side flows into Prahova as well, and believe me, you'll find no info about it on any of Google's services, nor will you find the trail that leads to it unless you actually go looking. Yet again, the the sheer existence of "the outsides of civilization", which have proven themselves clearly superior to the so-called entertainment within, is predicated on the orcs' not finding out that it exists.

As for Bușteni itself, it has a few restaurants where you can eat an honest ciorbă, and it also hosts Cezar Petrescu's7 house. There's not much else to see there, so you'll find yourself venturing towards the outskirts as soon as you arrive.

  1. They call it a town, but... seriously now, it's a village that's more developed than the average Romanian settlement. 

  2. Meaning literally, "The Valley of the Stag". But don't mistake the valley itself for the river, although I suppose calling it The Valley of The Valley of the Stag sounds kinda awkward. 

  3. "Gură" means "mouth", while Diham is a local toponym of unknown origin. There's also the Diham cabin further up into the mountains, entirely distinct from Gura Diham, which nowadays is pretty much part of Bușteni itself, owing to the modern road built sometime during the last two decades.

    Anyways, gură stands here for gateway, so the whole thing could be translated as The Entrance to Diham. The cabin is especially famous for its local cuisine, which includes such delicacies as bear paws. They aren't cheap either, but they're on the menu, which only goes to show that a strong local economy -- I'm referring specifically to that of Gura Diham in particular, not Bușteni in general -- trumps the global kind any time of the year. Just make sure to pack warm clothing if you're planning to visit anytime except July to early August. And even then... 

  4. They certainly weren't "hard to travel" by Lucian in 2004, nor by any mountaineer who had a bit of respect for the mountain. Meanwhile Romanian authorities have been, in their own words, "lowering the bar intelligently", which provided access to Gura Diham to everyone and their dog, although some of the mountain paths remain unsullied primarily through their lack of popularity.

    Let us hope that they remain unpopular. 

  5. I haven't watched it, nor am I inclined to, just as I'm not inclined to watch anything but the older piece starring Raul Julia and Anjelica Houston. You can go watch Catherine Zeta-Jones and Oscar Isaac if you'd like. 

  6. Have you ever sat to wonder why it is that we can't have nice things?

    In 2004, Lucian didn't have access to the Cantacuzino Castle, since it wasn't open to the public. In 2016, Lucian did have access to it, but he was visiting in March, so he was one among three persons to visit at the time, which gave us ample time to go into details with the guide. The administration was quite poor, but the overall experience was orders of magnitude richer than that of 2023, mainly due to the fact that the place wasn't popular.

    In 2023 the Cantacuzino Castle is very popular, so good luck breathing with a hundred souls on premises. The tickets are more expensive today than they were in 2004, but the tour is impoverished with a minority of orcs who decidedly don't abide by common sense rules such as: not making noise or not bringing toddlers who don't have the patience to sit through the whole ordeal. The guides are trying to keep it professional, but... what they can do? Clientu' nostru stăpânu' nostru, as they say along these parts.

    So then, does this answer your question? "Making things more accessible" is in itself an ideology -- no you're not being as pragmatic and as rational as you think you are, judging from the wrong priors still brings you to wrong ends. "Making things more accessible" is another way of saying "letting things fall into disrepair". This situation can't last either, since once "things fall into disrepair", you have nothing to sell there anymore, do you get me? The whole thing is a short-term cash-grab, what else could it be. Business as usual, or "capitalism", as you like to call it.

    There, that's why we can't have nice things. 

  7. Romanian writer, you don't know him. 

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4 Responses to “Bușteni”

  1. #1:
    Cel Mihanie says:

    (The Last?) Psychiatrist's log, date: the whateverth of september, 2023

    Switching the patient to an open-air treatment regime may not have been the best idea. He has now taken to referring to himself in the third person. Never a good sign.

    At least he brought back some pretty piccies. The graphics are most impressive, I must admit. They even have some raytracing effects on the water. Top notch!

  2. #2:
    spyked says:

    > He has now taken to referring to himself in the third person. Never a good sign.

    :)))) Y'know, just like they used to say in that old piece: I've always been mad, I know I've been mad, like the most of us have. What can you do...

    > The graphics are most impressive, I must admit

    The photos do no justice to the real thing. Take Maramureș for example: I've barely scratched the surface of spectacular views there, as perhaps Vișeu wasn't the best choice of location for spectacular views. But I remember working for days on these, carefully reviewing and editing photos and integrating them into the story. I've gotten much sloppier this time around, by just using whatever editing software provided in the Android store and by picking eight out of maybe twenty photos, instead of twenty-eight out of a hundred.

    I'm not that invested in the pics anymore. I am mainly interested in the subjects, since each of them already came with a story behind it.

  3. #3:
    spyked says:

    That, and carrying a DSLR on myself proved to be too much of hassle this time around. I'd rather fill the backpack with water.

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