May 24, 2012

Caves of the Carpathian Mountains


Carpathian Mountains stand for a breathtaking wild-beauty of landscapes, with picturesque valleys, karst areas with dolines and caverns entrances, ponors, streams and springs giving rise to gorges and waterfalls, salt  mountains and salinas (Praid, Turda or Slanic Prahova), natural bridges, arches and tunnels formed by erosion (water, frost, wind) at the surface or deep, into subterranean caves ( Romanian Magic Land being on top of my "Why I love Romania / De ce Iubesc Romania" list).

Small Dome of Women's Cave - Domul Mic Pestera Muierii, Gorj
Small Dome of Women's Cave - Domul Mic Pestera Muierii, Gorj

Over the years I've taken trips to visit some caves of the Carpathian Mountains renowned for their beauty: Bears Cave / Pestera Ursilor (electrified, more than 1000m long, just 488m for tourist visits)

Bears Cave - Pestera Ursilor , Bihor
Bears Cave - Pestera Ursilor , Bihor

 Women's Cave / Pestera Muierii (more than 3500m long, electrified, for tourist purposes just 573m)

Large Dome of Women's Cave - Domul Mare Pestera Muierii , Gorj
Large Dome of Women's Cave - Domul Mare Pestera Muierii , Gorj
 The Cave of Pahomie from Polovragi / Pestera Polovragi (electrified, 900 m long), known also as Zamolxe's Cave / Pestera Lui Zamolxe;

The Cave of Pahomie from Polovragi
The Cave of Pahomie from Polovragi, photo wikipedia

Dambovicioara Cave / Pestera Dambovicioara (250 m long);    

Gorges and Cave of Dambovicioara River / Cheile si Pestera Dambovicioarei postcard
Gorges and Cave of Dambovicioara River / Cheile si Pestera Dambovicioarei postcard 


Meziad Cave / Pestera Meziad (4750 m long), and The Cave of Ponor's Fortress/ Pestera Cetatile Ponorului.

The Cave of Ponor's Fortress / Pestera Cetatile Ponorului (entrance has 76 m high)
The Cave of Ponor's Fortress / Pestera Cetatile Ponorului (entrance has 76 m high), foto www. parcapuseni.ro


I wasn't hooked on the sport of caving, but i have expanded my knowledge of the caves through successive visits since childhood (unfortunately  my photographic journey through those amazing caves is incomplete).  It was always amazing to immerse myself  in the fascinating caves and karstic hollows of Carpatian Mountains, and I wish to have time to take another tour of those etched underground treasures, through stalactites & stalagmites or twisting straws and passages.


Bears Cave - Pestera Ursilor , Bihor
Bears Cave - Pestera Ursilor , Bihor

Climbing through miles of wilderness and passing among mountains which keep underground fossil ice formations like Scarisoara Ice Cave/ Pestera Scarisoara(75000m3 stratified ice), Bortig Ice Cave/ Pestera Bortig (25000 m3 stratified ice) or The Ice Cave of the Living Fire Glacier / Pestera Ghetarul Focul Viu (named "Living Fire" due to the sunrays which reflect onto the glacier) is anytime an amazing experience.

The Ice Cave of the Living Fire Glacier / Pestera Ghetarul Focul Viu
The Ice Cave of the Living Fire Glacier / Pestera Ghetarul Focul Viu, photo www.parcapuseni.ro 




Scarisoara Glacier / Ghetarul din Pestera Scarisoara stands for the largest Ice Cave of Romania (105 m deep and 720 m long, just 250m being for tourist visits). Older than 3500 years, the glacier has more than 26m thickness and stands for a scenic glacier with fine calcite encrustations.


The Church, Scarisoara Ice Cave
The Church, Scarisoara Ice Cave, Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Bears Cave / Pestera Ursilor remains one of the most beautiful and spectacular Cave of Romanian's Mountains. The cave was named " Bears' Cave / Pestera Ursilor" due to numerous skeletons of extinct Cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) discovered at the entrance of the Tourist part of the Cave. The Cave has been opened to visitors after 1980 and it is a must see for those visiting the Apuseni Mountains.

Bears Cave - Pestera Ursilor , Chiscau Village, Bihor County
Bears Cave - Pestera Ursilor , Chiscau Village, Bihor County

It is electrified and has secure pathways for tourists, bordered by a range of picket fences, metallic railings or small stonewalls and palisades. It has an impressive array of limestone speleothems with various shapes: stalagmites, stalactites, columns, flowstones, draperies or straws. The "MAGIC Castles / Palatele Fermecate" ;-) , "Dwarfs' House / Casuta piticilor" "The Devil's Teeth/ Coltii Diavolului",  "The drapes of Bears' Galery/Draperiile din Galeria Ursilor" are just few formations which incited my imagination during my visit there.

Candles Gallery, Bears Cave - Galeria Lumanarilor, Pestera Ursilor , Bihor
Candles Gallery, Bears Cave - Galeria Lumanarilor, Pestera Ursilor , Bihor
 The Bears Cave is structured on two levels, the superior segment being for tourist purposes, and the inferior segment being considered scientific reservation. I spent almost one hour walking throughout a succession of 3 galleries: Bears Gallery aka Fossils Gallery/ Galeria Ursilor sau Galeria Oaselor, Emil Racovita Gallery / Galeria Emil Racovita and the Candles Gallery/  Galeria Lumanarilor  where "The gathering of Old Men / Sfatul Batranilor" are still talking about global environmental issues ;-).


Bears Cave, Pestera Ursilor
Bears Cave, Pestera Ursilor.

A perfect ending for this (incomplete) summary of  Caves of the Carpathian Mountains is  Alexandru Vlahuta's description of Polovragi Cave in "Picturesque Romania/ Romania Pitoreasca":
"On the weak light that plays on the damp and dark walls of the cave we are seeing an amazing abundance of stalactites and stalagmites - large stone tassels hanging from the ceiling like icicles-ice, ready to unite with others that grow from the bottom up - wonderful creation of water droplet, creeping through stones in thousands of years of perseverance, which carves rocks, melts stone and make it what it wants / La slaba lumina ce joaca pe peretii umezi si intunecosi ai pesterii vedem o bogăţie uimitoare de stalactite si stalagmite — ciucuri mari de piatra atarnati de tavan, ca niste turturi de gheata, gata sa se impreune cu altii ce cresc de jos in sus — plazmuirea minunata a picaturii de apa care, strecurandu-se prin steiuri, in mii si mii de ani de staruinta, ciopleste stancile, topeste piatra si face din ea ce vrea.".

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