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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLiterally translating to "Little Stair", Scărişoara shelters the biggest subterranean glacier in Romania, and the second largest glacier in the world.
While the exact date of its discovery is unknown, the first mention dates back to 1847, and the genesis seems to have occurred during the superior Jurassic, when the Ice Age was dominating the surface, and the cold currents gradually froze the underground river water into a glacier. It is situated at 1,165 meters altitude, measures 750 meters in length, and 110 meters in depth. The glacier is about 4,000 years old, with an area of 5,500 square meters, 80,000 cubic meters in volume, and an ice layer of 26 to 37 meters high, varying according to season. In summer, the temperature reaches 1°C, and it's starting to melt, but in winter the few centimeters of ice are added back to the top of the glacier. The oldest ice layer is at the bottom - over 4,000 years old.
LegendLocal stories claim that Scărişoara was dwelt by an ancient dragon, known by the locals as Şolomăţ. Every New Year's Eve, a maiden was abducted by the dragon and hidden in his ice palace inside the cave.
Another folklore belief says that behind the lime formation called "La Brazi", there were two water basins with miraculous powers; whoever knelt before them and made a wish, it would come true after a sip of water, as long as the wish remained a secret.
VisitingAccess to the cave is given by a shaft which measures 60 meters in diameter and 50 in depth, and a narrow path guarded by a metal stair leads to the Big Hall through an impressive 17 meters high portal. The Big Hall is the largest area open for visit, a steep ice slope leading to the other one - the Church, which contains over 100 stalagmites.
On the right side of the entrance is the Little Reservation, which can be reached by descending a 15-meters vertical shaft set between rock and ice. On the left is the Great Reservation, towards which descends a 20-meters vertical shaft, and at the base of which the gallery continues steeply, to the Maxim Pop gallery. Both these reservations are studded with ice stalagmites, some of which have a permanent existence, while others melt during summer, only to reappear the next winter in similar shapes.
Beyond these cave formations, the scenery changes radically, the ice being replaced by stalactites, stalagmites, columns, drapes, and coralites - especially in the Coman gallery, which is a narrowed extension of the Great Reservation and descends in a slope until reaching a maximum depth of 105 meters. Beyond the end wall, at merely meters away lies Pojarul Poliţei, another jewel of the Scărişoara cave system, and which until many years ago was in fact connected with Scărişoara. The other chambers are reserved for scientific research and closed to the public.
The cave can only be visited in scheduled tours of 20 to 50 people. A guide is included in the tour, and the price of a ticket is €2 ($1.73) per person. Tours start at 9:00 AM, 10:20 AM, 11:40 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:20 PM, 3:40 PM, and 5:00 PM.
Make sure to bring some extra clothing with you as the temperatures inside the cave don't go above 1°C in the summertime, and in the winter they go as low as -7°C. A flashlight is also recommended, especially in winter, as the cave is not lighted, the only source of light being the guide's lamp.
How to Get ThereThe easiest way to get to Scărişoara is from the town of Beiuş . From there, go south towards Stei, and turn left after two kilometers. Follow the signs that point to Arieşeni and Gârda de Sus. From Gârda de Sus, a gravel walking path leads directly to the cave. The path can only be driven upon for the first 6 kilometers, after which you have to walk the next 13 kilometers. The cave is impossible to access from Scărişoara village.
What Else to VisitThough Scărişoara is part of a wider cave system, none of the caves are open to the public due to scientific research. However, in the proximity of Scărişoara you can visit the Pătrăhăiteşti Waterfall, which offers a picturesque and natural setting. Though it is possible to visit at any time of the year, the best time to do it is in spring, when the water flow is highest and the nature around it offers the best opportunity of camping in the woods. Should you venture to the waterfall, you will no doubt pass through the village with the same name. Though ordinary in appearance, this community is one of the few in Romania that still maintain some of the oldest traditions and ways of living. The peasants here are great artisans in woodcraft and weaving, and also famous for the local Afinată, a traditional blueberry spirit, which is a must-try.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Sep 09, 2014