The first time I laid eyes on the impressive rock formations called sfinxul and babele (Romanian for “the sphinx” and “the old women” ), I was on a visit home during a college vacation. As my father puts it, the hike from Bușteni to the top of the Bucegi mountains is more of a “promenade,” it doesn’t require extreme fitness or determination. One can hike the hills from the resort town of Bușteni through meandering paths among stunning views or simply take a cable car up to the top. This means that even the more hiking averse can, on a whim, explore these beautiful monoliths with relative ease. Our group opted for the cable car and we soon found ourselves at an altitude of just over 2,000 meters in the Southern Carpathians.
At the top, the sphinx and the old women beckon. Stunning in size and detail (particularly the sphinx), they offer visitors views beyond the expected snow-capped mountains and rolling green hills. Their story of origin varies according to source. Some believe them to have come about naturally; others interpret the similarities between The Great Sphinx in Giza, Egypt as sign that Romania’s sphinx was constructed to mirror its Middle Eastern counterpart. The first (known) photograph to be taken of the Romanian sphinx dates to 1900 and its name was formalized only as recently as 1936.
A short walk from the sphinx, the “old women” await. They resemble more closely two mushrooms than any feminine form but my father assures me that it’s their “hats” at the top of their heads that prompted locals to give them their moniker. Like proper Romanian grandmothers, they stand and greet visitors with unwavering poise. In the background, breathtaking drop-offs and impressive peaks provide the picture panorama of travel album dreams. At every turn, another spectacular view invites visitors to take in the beauty of the Carpathians. We hiked around, explored the top of the mountain and marveled at such beauty only a cable car ride from the city below.
At the end of the day, we took the cable car back down to Bușteni and drove the short distance to the city of Braà”¦à… ¸ov (a mere 40 km away). Ciorbă de burtă (tripe soup, Romania’s National Soup) and papanaș (cheese dumplings) filled our stomachs and paved the way for the cold bottles of Ursus (Romanian beer) already on order. And while the sphinx continued its watch over the world below, our group delighted in the finest of Romanian cuisine to a backdrop of old world charm in the heart of Transylvania.
Cable car information and times.