The most iconic mountain road in the world, Transfagarasan, linking the Romanian ancient regions of Transylvania and Wallachia, has celebrated its 47-th anniversary yesterday.

Nicolae Ceausescu, the former communist dictator of Romania, is the one who took the decision to build this alpine road, accross the Carpathian Mountains, for military reasons, as the road has been seen as a mean to boost and help a Romanian military resistance to a hypothetical Soviet invasion.

USSR Red Army, helped by troops from all other „socialist” countries, members of the Warsaw Pact, invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. Nicolae Ceausescu strongly condemned the attack and have ordered Romanian Army not to take part in the invasion. It was a right decision, supported by most Romanians, but not something the Kremlin leaders liked.

The Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu opened himself the road traffic, in September 1974

The work begun at the very end of 1969, from both southern and northern sides of the planned road. Several thousand workers were mobilized. During the communist era, to refuse to work where you were told it was something out of the question. Besides the regular manpower, two regiments of the Romanian Army worked on the road, performing the most difficult tasks.

All the plans and projects were entirely conceived by Romanian engineers and specialist. The equipment used to build the Transfagarasan, including trucks, dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers and so on were entirely made in Romania.

How ironic the fate can be sometimes: all factories where the machinery and vehicles (that were used to build the Transfagarasan) were produced have been closed after the communism fall in 1989. Brasov truck factory, Brasov tractors factory, ARO Campulung off-road vehicles factory and many more went bankrupt in the early years of democracy.

Steagul Rosu (Red Flag) SR 101 truck, made in Romania, working on Transfagarasan in 1974

The Transfagarasan was ready and opened to road traffic in September 20-th 1974. However, it was a gravel road at that time, but in passable condition. Work has continued six years after, until the road has been paved on its entire length.

An very interesting detail: Romanian dictator Ceausescu have had the ambition to build the Transfagarasan in such a way that it can be open for traffic all year round. To achieve that result, an high altitude tunnel, at least 8 km long, would have been needed.

Romanian soldiers performed the hardest work, in harsh conditions

The tunnel could have been built, but the construction would have taken too long and would have been too expensive, considering Romania’s budget, so Ceausescu decided to postpone the plans to keep Transfagarasan roadworthy all year round. Even now, the road is open for traffic only during summer months, usually from late June to September.

Pictures courtesy of Ilona Martonossy, Info Europa Center

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