Hondol, and the various valleys, hills, gorges, waterfalls, riverbeds, caves and townlets of the Western Romanian Carpathians

August 17, 2023 by Lucian Mogosanu

Last weekend we went to this charming little commune in Ardeal called Certeju de Sus. In case you're curious, "certej", or "certez" comes most likely from Old Slavic and it denotes here nothing more than a plot of land, in sharp contrast no doubt to the surrounding hills and undermountains. When used along with the definite article ("the certej") it becomes "certejul", and "de sus" means "upper", so in Englishized form one may call it "The Upper Certej".

Politically -- as in "polis", that is, as far as the life of the city goes, leaving aside that Certeju de Sus is a tiny community when compared to that of a city -- Certeju de Sus is a great example of a failed mining settlement -- leaving aside that it's most likely been a mining settlement since ancient times. Whichever parts of it were aimed at being an urban settlement, i.e. the sad hruschebas, are now slowly decaying under what remains of communist pressures. This decay in turn provides a ground for the rebirth of the village, that is, if it doesn't fall again to even more despotic pantsuit pressures. In turn, the beauties of rural Certej and villages such as Hondol are perhaps best left for a separate article.

We chose this particular place for two reasons: a. pollution, in particular light, is low enough in this area that it allowed us to view the Perseid shower during its peak, and oh boy, did we view the hell out of it; and b. Certeju de Sus lies at the base of the Metalliferous Mountains, which makes it a great starting point for various other massifs in the Apuseni Mountains. We saw various caves in the Bihor Mountains and a few gorges and waterfall, some of which we stopped to see on the road there -- passing through the valley of the Olt river, one can for example easily make a detour to visit the Cozia National Park and admire for example the Lotrișor Waterfall and the surrounding canyon.

These examples are but a few among the many natural beauties that one may visit in the Southern and Western Romanian Carpathians. We took some tours through the Bears' Cave, the glacier at Scărișoara, the valley of the Sighiștel river -- oh, Sighiștel, how you've given my feet a good run with your rocks placed along your tangled paths! You probably won't believe me when I tell you that our return trip along the Sighiștel, our party of adventurers tired to their bones, was guided by a couple of dancing birds who flew along all the way back to the camping grounds; or the time when we met a fat hedgehog from the spyked family on the outskirts of Hondol, while owls belonging to various species broke the nocturnal silence; or when we watched blue dragonflies dance along the river, or, or...

On our way home we stopped for a bit to (re)view Ioan de Hunedoara's Corvin Castle, meanwhile turned into a festering tourist trap filled with post-human apes. These folks waste their time on things they don't even make the effort to understand for the same reason some people use Windows, i.e. because it's the fashionable thing to do and because posting photos on their Arsebook will earn them social points, much like the faithful Jew must visit the Wailing Wall at least once, or just like Mecca etc. The difference being that while Mecca may retain some of the substance that came with Islam, pantsuitisms encourage this filthy type of "tourism" by transforming the artefacts of Western civilization into mere objects to be used as entertainment for whatever Dick or Joe may happen to cross their path. Otherwise the Corvin Castle is a marvel of Western civilization, though one can only imagine through the echoes of its chambers how life used to be back during the time of Ioan Huniade or Matei Corvin. Unfortunately there's only so much that can permeate through the centuries, but I suppose we treasure the little that we've got remaining there.

On the economic front, I'm happy to report that people in the rural side of the country are generally richer (at least materially) than the urbanites on one hand; while on the other, despite imperial efforts towards integration, most of the economy is still local, even in the smaller towns among 'em. I've eaten more than decent meals in Gârda de Sus and even in Deva, and although the latter case is plagued with the hipsterisms of Bucharest, the food is most likely still locally sourced, while even roadside venues such as those on the Olt valley serve cheap bread and cheese cream made in some local village, and in general the kind of stuff that the average Bucharestian would normally get through some friend who still has relatives living in the countryside. In general, people are nicer and more helpful in deep Romania than they are in some town aspiring to become some sort of metropolis. Provincialism has its bright sides, especially when it lacks any pretenses to cosmopolitism.

On the sleep front, we barely got any, given that the twelve-hour trips were accompanied by six-hour sky-watching sessions in the silent countryside.

All in all Romania's a great country as long as you avoid the crowded places.

Filed under: in the flesh.
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2 Responses to “Hondol, and the various valleys, hills, gorges, waterfalls, riverbeds, caves and townlets of the Western Romanian Carpathians”

  1. [...] 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 [...]

  2. [...] this point the reader probably wonders what in the world a Boga is. Boga is, like Hondol, a small village lying in the Apuseni mountains, except this time in its western part, more [...]

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