Because of its strategical positioning in an area recognized for its diversity and uniqueness, Marconi-X has chosen to organize its off-road adventures in the area of Campulung Muscel.
Situated in a unique geographical location composed of mountains, hills, wide plateaus, numerous springs and rivers, Campulung Muscel is the first capital of the Principality of Wallachia (founded in the early 14th century) and one of the best conserved medieval towns in Romania.
In addition to its cultural and architectural heritage, it has a lot to offer in terms of natural surroundings. A local would tell you that in Campulung “the mountains fall on you”, and he would be right to say so.
The Campulung depression is one of the best individualized ones in the country, by having the tall sub-Carpathian hills covered in pastures and fruit trees to the south, and the Iezer Mountain to the north. The connection between the Fagaras and the Iezer Mountains is made through the lower peak Oticu-Mezea. The other mountains neighboring the Campulung’s depression are: Papusa, Leaota and Piatra Craiului.
About the neighboring mountains:
The Fagaras Mountains:
Are also called the Alps of Transylvania. Through their spread, massiveness and height, they are the biggest mountains in Romania, unraveling marvelous glacier shapes. You can reach the highest peak in the country here: Moldoveanu peak – 2544m. The shortest trail to the Moldoveanu peak is through Valea Rea (the Evil Valley), and despite a few challenging uphills, the trail cannot be called difficult or dangerous. In addition to the fact that it is a one day roundtrip trail from Campulung to the highest place in the country, you also get to see one spectacular cascade and the unique landscape of the glacier trail that you are going to pass through on your way to the top.
In the Fagaras mountains, you can also discover the 11 m deep glacier lake Capra (2230m), that’s found next to the Balea Lac cabin and the Caprei cascade, all offering spectacular panoramic views.
The Piatra Craiului Mountains:
Are a limestone mountain chain of Jurassic age, a sharp and steep blade of sedimentary rocks, and are geologically and morphologically different from the mountain groups around it. The peak La Om is the highest in Piatra Craiului, measuring 2238m, and the chain has numerous peaks higher than 2000m. While in Campulung, we invite you to check out the karst regions of the Piatra Craiului Mountains: Cheile Dambovicioarei and the Dambovicioarei Cave (regions where the water has eroded soluble rocks such as limestone). Here you will discover bizarre tower shaped cliffs with underground karst gaps.
Are made up of a multitude of tall and barren peaks, sometimes exceeding the altitude of 2300-2400m, which harmoniously bend around the river Targului. The mountains are built around the two pillars, the peak of Iezerul Mare (2462m) and the Papusa peak (2391m), which together make up the Iezer Mountains. Here you will witness a real show in which the main actors are the sharp and rocky ridges, the glacial cirques (amphitheater-like valleys formed by glacial erosion), the numerous valley springs, and the glacier alpine lakes. In this mountain chain we meet the peaks of Fracea and Tambura with ideal trails for practicing different forms of hiking. This mountain also offers the highest road in Romania accessible with an off-road vehicle, and it leads all the way up to the Iezer peak.
The Iezer-Papusa ensemble preserves the features of the Southern Carpathians: a strong and short fall to the north and a slow and prolonged fall to the south, which in some way makes the transition to the hilly area, hills which in the area are called “muscles” (Hence the name of Campulung Muscel).
The Leaota Mountain,
Also called “the sleeping giant” is the place where you will contemplate the greatness of nature. You will discover the “mountain after the mountains”, and will be more likely to encounter wild animals like deers and foxes, rather than human footprints!
The earliest traces of material culture found in the town and its surroundings date back to the late bronze era (1700 – 1600 BC). Evidence of Dacian inhabitants have been found all across the area, and they date back to the 4th century BC. However the year 106 AD of the Roman conquest over the Dacian lands marks a new beginning in the history of this place.
By becoming a border province of the Roman Empire, Dacia had an important role against the barbarian attacks. The provinces and boundaries of the Roman Empire were marked by a border defense delimiting system named “Limes” (limits). One such fortification is Limes Transalutanus which followed the course of the river Targului, was 235 km long and had a total of 13 Roman fortresses (castrum). Of the 13 fortresses, the one from Jidova (Currently Campulung) is the largest and the only one built in stone and bricks. The main purpose of the rectangular-shaped fort with towers on the sides and corners was the control the trans-Carpathian passage that is nowadays known as the Bran passage.
Most sources agree that Campulung has evolved from a mere village to a town by the year 1300. By being positioned on one of the most important roads from Wallachia to Transylvania, Campulung was a big fair and a customs point for all merchants who wanted to pass through.
Many rulers of the Wallachian land have fought and died bravely over centuries in order to preserve the national culture and resources of the land. One such famous ruler was to become a worldwide phenomenon due to the creativity of one English writer (yes, we are talking about Dracula). A common misinformation is that Vlad Draculea (aka Dracula) was the prince of Transylvania, when in fact he was the 3 times ruler of Wallachia with his real castle at Poienari, (approx. 40 km W of Campulung) and not Bran (50 km N, N-E of Campulung across the mountains, in Transylvania).
The town has brought many contributions to the cultural development of the country, some of them listed below:
- the first school in Wallachia was founded here in 1552
- the first printing press in Wallachia was brought here from Kiev in 1635 and used to print the first book ever written in Romanian language in 1642
- the first paper factory in the country was built here in 1643
- the first school to teach in Romanian language was founded in Campulung in 1669 (11 years before the one built in Bucharest in 1680); after being burned to the ground in 1737 by the Turks, and functioning in the buildings of the Domneasca Monastry for the next century, in 1836 the school moved to a final building which lies in the center of the town and is known as “Oprea Iorgulescu National School”
The medieval times were marked by the struggle to keep the Romanian Christian people together against the invading Ottoman Empire, and the town always responded to the call of arms. This led to a strong military culture of the place, which has been transmitted across generations, and is inherited by the local people today. With a prestigious military school and multiple training bases, it’s not at all uncommon to see long military convoys on the streets, planes and choppers overflying the skies or to find traces of military target practice in deserted places such as the wide surrounding plateaus.
Campulung Modern History:
In Campulung and the surrounding areas, the Romanian troupes faced tough battles against the German ones in the First World War. The Mateias Mausoleum (10 km from Campulung) built in 1935 stays witness to the bravery of the soldiers that have fallen in the autumn of 1916, and the Heroes Cemetery in Leresti (6 km from Campulung) is a common burial ground where 729 Romanian, German and Austrian soldiers are buried. Both are monuments you can visit in order to discover about the human losses of the WWI and the role Campulung played in its outcome for Romania.
The nowadays Campulung is marked by the fall of the communism in the same way all small towns in Romania are. The forced industrialization from the communist era had guaranteed jobs for everyone, and Campulung grew in numbers to reach 44.000 people in 1992. Following the job loss of the 90’s, the population dropped a dramatic 30% in just 20 years to reach around 30.000 inhabitants today.
The corruption and the lack of interest of the authorities has led this historic, natural and architectural gem of Romania to fall into oblivion. There’s much to discover here, from enjoying the wonders that nature creates, to a great culinary experience, from unraveling forgotten bits of history, to discovering how the time passes differently in this small mountain town.
Campulung Muscel, sights to visit
In Campulung you will have more than 100 Historic Monuments in the fields of archeology, architecture, public and memorial. You can visit and be surprised by the Mateias Mausoleum, the Negru Voda Monastery Assembly (1215), the St. Jacob’s Catholic Church (Baratia)(built before 1300), the Roman Castro Jidava (Jidova) (built around 106 AD), the Cetateni Dacian Fortress (around 400 BC), the Poenari Fortress (built before 1450), the Ethnography and Folk Art Museum, the Campulung Art and History Museum, the Leresti Heroes’ Cemetery and many others. A simple stroll through the town will bring to your attention some on the 37 stone carved crosses (dating as far back as 1576), which mark once more the uniqueness of this provincial town.
The architectural style of the mansions built in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is eye catching and reveals the taste for culture of the wealthy families of that time.
Please visit our Photo gallery for more information about the attractions listed above and not only!
Campulung’s flora and fauna
By being an place that has been inhabited continuously for millennia, the surrounding area’s vegetation and wild animals have suffered a great deal of transformations: the forest which once covered the entire territory in question, gradually narrowed, its place being taken by crops (especially fruit trees), pastures and houses that are in continuous expansion.
However, as soon as you leave the towns boundaries, you will uncover natural beauties that have not been touched by human hand. Here you can admire the glorious primeval beech forests of the Charpathians, and as soon as you go higher in altitude you will be surrounded by coniferous forests that spread for as much as the eye can see. It’s a spectacle like no other, and you will lose and find yourself over and over again in the millions shades of green nature has to offer.
On even higher altitudes, from early spring to late autumn, where the forests fade in favor of the high mountain pastures, you can witness the great phenomenon of transhumance. With several dozens of wooden pasture chalets scattered across the surrounding mountains, it is unlikely to go for a stroll and not run across a few flocks of sheep or cows, some donkeys, horses or even pigs that shepherds raise loose close to their chalets. Sheep dogs will most likely be all round such places, but they tend to be friendly with humans, and seeing them protect their territory will take you back in time when such was the only protection a human could benefit from.
Wild animals such as foxes, lynx, bears and wolves are far too common, so a flock of sheep can have up to 10 dogs protecting it. Lynx and wolves have excellent senses, and are extremely fast, so it is unlikely to actually run across one unless you lie in wait for it. However you can definitely spot deers, chamois, wild rabbits, foxes and with little luck, you may get to get a glimpse of a bear in the wild.
The skies have a lot to offer in terms of bird seeing, and you can admire elegant storks, a multitude of crows and ravens, and if you find yourself in the right place you can ever spot some beautiful Carpathian eagles.