Transylvanian Mountains

Transylvanian Mountains is the general name of the mountain system that surrounds the Transylvanian highland or plateau on all four sides, and forms the southeastern and southern continuation of the Carpathian Mountains. At the mouths of the Vişeu River and the Golden Bistriţa River, where the Eastern or Wooded Carpathians end, the range of mountains divides and sends ramifications in two directions, to the south and to the west. These chains which enclose Transylvania, giving it the general aspect of a great natural fortress, are the most eastern offshoots of the mountain system of Central Europe, and guard the approach from the east to the great Hungarian plain. They slope gently towards the interior of Transylvania, but rather abruptly towards the rest of Romania, and while the western wall possesses several large and easy passes, the eastern and southern walls are much more difficult to cros. Many people go here for tourist attractions.The eastern wall of the Transylvania quadrilateral is composed of two parallel ranges of mountains divided by the valleys of the Mureş and Olt. The outer range is composed of the following groups: the Giurgeu Mountains (including the Călimani range) with the highest peaks Căliman (6,600 ft.) and Pietrosu (6,908 ft); the Ciuc Mountains with the highest peaks Hăşmaş (5,900 ft.) and the volcanic Biids (3,300 ft.); and the Breţcu Mountains with the highest peak Lakcza (5,830 ft.). The inner range is composed of the following groups: the Gorgny Mountains with the highest peak Mezhavas (5,826 ft.); the Harghita Mountains with the highest peak Harghita (5,900 ft.); and the Baraolt Mountains with the highest peak Havad (5,120 ft.). Near the mouths of the Mureş and the Olt are situated the celebrated Giurgeu valley, one of the most beautiful in the whole of Transylvania, and the famous Borsec valley with its mineral springs.

The southern wall of the Transylvanian highland is occupied by the Transylvanian Alps. They have a length of 230 miles, and are the highest and wildest mountain range of the whole Transylvanian system, resembling the High Tatra in their bold and high peaks, their beautiful scenery, and their flora. The Transylvanian Alps rise to an altitude of 7,200 ft. above the level of the Danubian (Romanian) plain, and are divided into a considerable number of groups. From east to west these groups are: the Buzău Mountains with the highest peak Ciucas (6,424 ft.); the Bârsei Mountains with the beautiful peaks of Bucegi (8,230 ft.), Piatra Craiului (7,352 ft.) and Postavaru (5,910 ft.); the high Fǎgǎraş group, extending to the Turnu Roşu pass, and containing Negoi (8,345 ft.), the highest peak in the Transylvanian mountains, Butyan (8,230 ft.) and Surul (7,482 ft.).

West of the Turnu Roşu pass the Transylvanian Alps are also known under the name of the Haţeg Mountains, and consist of the following groups: the Cibin Mountains with the highest peak Cindrel (7,366 ft.); the Paringul Mountains with the highest peak Mandra (8,260 ft.); the Vulcan Mountains, and the Haţeg Mountains proper with the beautiful peak Retezatu (8,125 ft.). The southwestern part of the Transylvanian Alps is formed by the Cserna or Ruscă Mountains with the highest peak Vârfu Petri (8,140 ft.) whose offshoots, of a mean altitude of 3,200-4,700, known as the Banat Mountains, fill the Banat. The southern part of the Cernei Mountains extend to the Danube, and together with the Miroch Mountains, on the right side of the Danube, and belonging, therefore, to the Balkan system, form the famous gorge of the Iron Gate near Orşova.

The western and northern wall of the Transylvanian quadrilateral do not present the character of an uninterrupted chain of mountains, but possess many low and easy passes towards the Hungarian Plain. Going from south to north the principal groups are: the Transylvanian Ore Mountains with the basaltic mass of the Detunata (3,768 ft.) near Abrud; the Bihor Mountains, with romantic scenery and numerous caverns, with the highest peak the Cucurbeta (6,045 ft.); to the east of this group are the Arieş Mountains with the highest peak, the Muntele Mare (5,970 ft.), to the southwest of Cluj-Napoca; then come the Mezesului group and the Crasna Mountains. The northern wall is formed by the Lăpuş Mountains with the highest peak Ciblesiu (6,020 ft.), and the Rodna Mountains with the highest peaks Muncsel (5,835 ft.), Pietrosu (7,544 ft.) and Ineu (7,484 ft.).

Inside this mountainous quadrilateral lies the Transylvanian highland or plateau, which has a mean elevation of 1,000-1,600 ft. It is improperly called a plateau, for it does not possess anywhere extensive plains, but is formed of a network of valleys of various size, ravines and canyons, united together by numerous small mountain ranges, which usually attain a height of 500-800 ft. above the altitude of the valley.

In the Transylvanian Mountains the principal passes are: the Rodna, the Bârgaului, the Tulgheş and the Bicaz. Then come the Ghimeş, the Uz and Oituz, the Buzǎu, the Predeal pass, crossed by the railway from Braşov to Bucharest, the famous Turnu Roşu pass (1,115 ft.) through the narrow gorge of the Olt, crossed by the railway from Sibiu to Bucharest, the Vulcan, the Teregova pass, and the Iron Gate pass, both crossed by the railway from Timişoara to Craiova. All those passes lead from Transylvania into the rest of Romania. From Transylvania into Hungary are the Huedin pass, crossed by the railway from Oradea to Cluj, and the defile of the Mureş River crossed by the railway from Arad to Orăştie. In the interior of Transylvania are the Sfântul Dominic pass near Miercurea-Ciuc leading from the valley of the Olt to that of the Mureş (near their respective mouths) and the pass of Miercurea-Ciuc over the Harghita Mountains.



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