10 of the Most Scenic Roads in the World
- Highway 1, Big Sur, California
- Guoliang Tunnel Road, China
- Stelvio Pass, Central Eastern Alps, Italy
- The Atlantic Road, Norway
- Road Transfagaras, Romania
- Chapman's Peak Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
- Glacier National Park in Montana, US
- Tianmen Mountain Road, Hunan, China
- Seven Mile Bridge, Keys, Florida
- Dades Gorge, High Atlas, Morocco
The Art of the Romanian Haystack
At this time of year, the green fields of the Romanian countryside are full of new haystacks. Over the centuries, Romanians have refined the method of haystack building into an art. Because of their unique characteristics, this style of haystack exists nowhere else on earth.
During the freezing Romanian winters, the haystacks provide livestock with their much needed food supply. Without it, their animals would perish, putting the family at risk for starving as well. Great care has always been taken in the construction of these stacks, some of which tower over four meters. The skills needed to build the perfect haystack have been passed down the generations for over a thousand years.
These haystacks are deeply embedded into Romanian culture. When the country was occupied by Turkish forces, bandits and freedom fighters would hide in the haystacks. Turkish soldiers while on patrol would often stab into a stack to catch someone hidden inside.
Yet hiding in the haystacks is more associated with love than war. In the past, farmers had to watch their daughters closely, especially with the hired help around. The building of a haystack could lead to an amorous relationship, with the interior of the haystack providing the perfect place for a rendezvous. Suspicious fathers would often stab the haystacks with pitchforks as a warning to scare away would be suitors and to ensure their daughters’ good names remained intact. It is said that many young men in the past bore a scar that was referred to as a “love fork”.
When a Lake Hides a Town in Transylvania
Lake Bezid presents a scene that is alternately bleak and hauntingly beautiful. The scene is surreal with half-sunken buildings looking like tombstones in the middle of the lake. Situated in the Transylvania region of Romania sits Lake Bezid. Adding an atmosphere of mystery, the lake hides the remains of a destroyed village. The whole town was flooded after an artificial dam failed. Some of the ruins lay visible lake-side, while in the lake, part of the church and its tower are still visible. Other buildings are completely underwater and decaying. With its submerged ghost town, Lake Bezid is an other-worldly place.
The Merry Cemetery
In Săpânţa, Romania, there lies a very different kind of cemetery. Rather than the usual dark and ominous crypts and tombstones reminding us of our eventual demise, the Merry Cemetery chooses to remember the past lives of its residents with brightly painted tombstones and even more colorful stories about the people themselves.
The idea for the unusual crosses was started by 14 year old town resident Stan Ioan Pătraşe. By 1935, Pătraş began carving clever verse and ironic poems about the deceased, as well as painting the crosses with the deceased’s image, often depicting their manner of death.
Over 600 beautifully carved wooden crosses display the life stories, personal descriptions and final moments of almost everyone who has died in the town of Săpânţa. The illustrations show everything from soldiers being shot and beheaded to a poor soul being struck by a car.
The epitaphs reveal surprising truths and a fair amount of good humor. For example one cross reads, “Underneath this heavy cross. Lies my mother in law… Try not to wake her up. For if she comes back home. She’ll bite my head off.”