After we visited Bear’s Cave and a local museum the day before in Chiscau, I was the first one to wake up (after a sleepless night) and explore the surroundings. I could talk a lot about my morning walk, watching the people doing their daily chores, listening the happy birds chirping in that glorious morning, and admiring the rich greenery surrounding the village. But the plan of the day was to visit another cave from this area, and by the evening to visit Corvin Castle in Hunedoara.
One of the many caves in these mountains – Apuseni Mountains, Scarisoara Ive Cave hosts the biggest underground glacier in Romania, and second largest in South-Eastern Europe. It is located at an altitude of 1165 m, part of the Apuseni National Park, in Alba County.
Getting to Scarisoara Ice Cave was easy, following the offline map we had on our phone. After passing few villages, the last 10 km or so were the most impressive, as the winding road offered incredible views. The only few houses here, there, we passed by, as any piece of land we passed by had at least few small, special haystacks on their front terrace, beckoning graciously to be photographed.
First mentioned in the 19th century, Scarisoara Ice Cave was truly explored by the first Romanian speleologist Emil Racovita at the beginning of 20th century. The ice was formed during the glaciations, about 3,500 years ago, and the remnants can still be seen, even in the summer time. Even the pile of ice is not too impressive, we had to remember that majority of the glacier is under ground. It is estimated to have a volume of 50,000 to 75,000 cubic metres and 20 metres thickness in some places.
Climbing down the stairs was somehow impulsive, after we waited for some time at the entrance, with tickets ready in our hands. People are not allowed to get to the cave without a tour guide who takes the lead, and about 70 of us got a little impatient waiting for the guide who seemed like he wouldn’t come anymore. All excited got hurriedly through the gate, and following in a line, down, on the narrow staircase. Of course we had to watch our steps, since the actual entrance of the cave is located at the bottom of a shaft, about 50m down from the gate. There are in total about 200 steps down to the bottom, and we started slowly to follow the crowd.
No rush of course, as the enticing nature was inviting for pictures. But we also had to watch our heads at some point, as the staircase was following the shaft edge, and the tall people had to bend their heads in order to pass by the bulging rocks.
We spotted the entrance of the cave way before we reached it.
Climbing down is amazing if one is nature observant. The cooler air that welcomed us with every step was a great environment for bushes and especially the moss. The growing moss had its own amazing way of covering everything, like a fitted dress, around the trees, and rocks.
Even though it was crowded at the time we started to climb down, by the time we reach the bottom, everyone had their own space. We didn’t rush, taking our time to absorb the beauty of the nature. When we reached the entrance of the cave, majority of the crowd had been directed on a wooden pathway with metallic rail that went around the ice.
The guide was far away, and he tried his best, by stepping in the middle of the ice of the Big Hall, speaking loudly (in Romanian) to be heard by everyone. With so many people around, his voice has faltered away, however we did our “homework” before, finding the essential information online.
We could feel the coolness very soon, and I was sorry I didn’t take a thicker sweater with me. I would have liked to walk faster to get myself warmer, but I had to follow the crowd, since the wooden path was pretty narrow, not allowing people to pass. A couple actually took their way back, they didn’t stay for the whole tour. They were in shorts and T-shirts, and I understood quickly why they left.
Following the path, and the crowd, we saw some stalagmites and stalactites,
but further on, we found ourselves in front of a little village of figurines, named “The Church”. I understand the cave is better to be visited during the beginning of summer, because during the summer months, the ice is significantly melting.
Even with a light sweater, I was almost freezing inside the cave. This is the way I learned the temperature can drop to 0 degree Celsius. I was so happy when the tour was done, and we started climbing up, as the air started to be more manageable. But soon I forgot how cold it was, when the beauty of the shaft was revealed in its whole splendor.
**visited in August, 2018