May 21, 2015
Our legs didn’t feel too bad after yesterday’s 900 meters of elevation gain, but today was to be a tourist day and not a hiking day. So after breakfast we got into the car and headed off to Lacul Roșu. We drove back down the hill through Ceahlău to the main DN15 road and followed the signs to Bicaz. This route had us going all the way around Lacul Izvorul Muntelui, a big lake with a dam at the far end.
The road twisted and turned, went up and down, through many villages. The scenery was beautiful with distant views of green mountains, although the lake itself wasn’t that pretty because the water level was quite low. Finally we reached the end of the lake and turned uphill towards Bicaz.
Bicaz was a fairly large village with a chaotic intersection (two crosswalks, broken traffic light, parking lot exit right next to it); we barely avoided disaster and headed towards the Bicaz Gorge. This narrow gorge was formed by the Bicaz River, and the limestone walls are 300 meters high in places. The gorge is hardly wider than the two-lane road and in some spots the walls overhang the road, so that trucks have to drive over the centre line. In the wider sections the road side was filled with vendor stalls selling souvenirs.
We didn’t stop, but continued up the hill to Lacul Roșu (aka Gyilkos-tó). This little lake was formed by a landslide in about 1837 which blocked the Bicaz River, and it still has dead tree trunks sticking up from it. We paid the parking attendant for three hours of parking; it was just past noon so we decided to walk around the lake first. It was a lovely walk mostly following the shoreline, which took us about an hour. There were not many birds to be found, but we did see some Mallards and a Common Sandpiper.
By driving over the county boundary we were now back in Szeklerland, the part of Romania where a lot of Hungarian speakers live. The traditional pastry of Szeklerland is called kürtőskalács (chimney cake) and it was widely available at the food area by the parking lot. So we had to try that. It’s made by rolling dough around a wooden dowel and cooking it on a rotisserie over charcoal, and then rolling it in sugar. Sitting on a stone wall overlooking the lake we enjoyed our tasty lunch—the large version is 400 grams but that didn’t stop us from eating the whole thing!
By now it was after 2 pm so we decided to head back. At this time of the afternoon the traffic was much lighter—fewer tour buses—so we could pull over to the side of the road to take photos and get a better view by walking down the gorge a bit. We also spent some time looking for Wallcreeper, a small grey bird which lives on cliffs (and has been seen here). A grey bird on a cliff sounds impossible to find, but when the bird flies it reveals bright crimson wing feathers. However we didn’t find any. As for the vendors’ stalls, we didn’t see anything worthwhile.
Our next stop was at Bicaz Ardelean to look at the old wooden church which was built in 1692. As we approached the church we could see several people gathered outside. It appeared that a funeral service had taken place today, so we didn’t want to butt in. But we looked in the cemetery and noticed that there were a number of people named Țepeș buried there. The name means “Impaler” and comes from Vlad Țepeș, who is mixed up in the Dracula legend.
We made a quick stop in Bicaz to buy some food, and then when we got back we sat at the picnic table outside Vila Maria to eat dinner. Dinner tonight was hunter salami with bread, followed by part of the other kürtőskalács which we had bought at Lacul Roșu. Great views and warm sunshine made a lovely setting for our meal—so far we’ve been lucky with the weather. Once done we went for a short walk and then returned to our room to catch up with journal-writing.