THE WHITE MOUNTAINS. There is not much to say about these mountains, little brother. I visited them twice over twenty years. They have changed. Once, they were a beautiful south Carpathian range – the first I ever laid eyes on – blazing white with cliffs and rare plants to make one’s heart glow. We arrived there by train, passengers sitting atop wagons like birds on the yardarms of ancient ships. The smell of flea powder – olden day Romania. We climbed through forests and over bluffs, ever upward to grassy prairies. There we frisked about like playful goats with only a thin blanket between us. At the foot of a cliff, an old shepherd lived with his two donkeys. On and on we climbed, stopping to milk some half-wild cows, alas to no avail. The sun sank rosy in the sky, and the scarlet rosebay bloomed bloody in its light. Limestone as far as the eye could see, rocky spires, chasms, precipices. The grasslands were bestrewn with flowers, and across a high rock, sphinx-like, skull-like, a blustery wind blew, making us giddy and wild.
Even then, the mountains were not wholly deserted, but we didn’t mind. We passed through Howling Valley and arrived at an ancient monastery that stood before a cavern’s mouth. Upon the white butterfly-like cliff, a wallcreeper flitted and climbed, feeding its young. Such a beautiful bird. I saw it again years later at Popovo Lake in the Pirin Mountains. Icons hung before the cave, along with wood paintings depicting all the horrors of hell. Monks, black and bearded, took charge of us, and we spent an anxious night in the Bucegi mountain monastery.
I returned to Bucegi years later but should have saved myself the journey. Cable cars, ski tows, roads, and power lines led up and down the mountains, a hotel and playing field stood where a pasture had once been. Cars and people wherever you looked. I never saw the old man from the cliff again.
The Bucegi are beautiful mountains abounding in rare flowers and great climbing opportunities, but if it’s solitude you yearn for, plan your trip for the spring or autumn.