Buteni

Ten kilometres south of Predeal, along the main road running through the Pra-hova Valley between Braçov and Sinaia, is Buçteni (885m), hovering beneath the mighty Caraiman (2384m) and Coçtila (2490m) peaks to the west and Mt Zamora (1519m) to the east. Between the Caraiman and Coçtila peaks lie the highest conglomerate cliffs in Europe.

Buçteni, coupled with Sinaia, is the main starting point for hikes into the Bucegi Mountains. Many fine trails are readily accessed from the top of the cable car. Rock climbers find their heaven here too.

While its surroundings are spectacular, the town itself is characterless and highly unpleasant, mainly due to the incessant traffic that barrels down its main street, B-dul Libertätii. Whereas truck and commercial traffic is forced to go around Sinaia, it has no choice but to charge through Bu§-teni, making the centre noisy and smelly any time of the day or night.

Orientation

The train station backs onto the main street, B-dul Libertätii, easily identifiable by the large WWI memorial in front of it. The cable car, Hotel Caraiman, post office and commercial complex are at the southern end of town (turn left from the train station). To get to the cable car, continue south dowf B-dul Libertatii 200m past Hotel Caraini h|1 then turn right onto Str Telecabinei.

MAPS & PUBLICATIONS

There is a large-scale town map on II <M| Libertatii in front of the post office « which all the hotels, the cable-car stainm and walking trails are marked. Otherwi.iJ Amco Press' Ploiefti map (€1.90) has a help ful and detailed map of Bu^teni.

The best hiking map by far is the Hint I garian Dimap's fold-out Five Mounluui' from the Carpathian s Bend (covering lie Piatra Craiului, Bucegi, Postavarul, Pialu Mare and Ciuca§ ranges, plus a Bra§ov i ill map; €2), with English text. Another help ful map with English trail descriptions is lli> free Tourist Prahova Map published by llii Association of Turism Montan. Otherwise several Romanian-language maps (the bi'sl published by Bel Alpin, €2) can also lie found in sports stores and some travel agi n cies. Older, dowdier maps are sold at the cable-car stations in Sinaia and Bujteni.

Information

In case of emergency on the mountain, Salva mont 320 048; Primarie, B-dul Libertatii 91) will come running any time of the year. Accev. the Internet at Galaxy Club (Str Libertatii 53; per In €0.50; ®24hr). There are several exchange bureaus in the centre, among them Exchange House (B-dul Libertatii 142; ® 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am 2pm Sat). The post and telephone office (©¡321 646; B-dul Libertatii 93; ® 7am-9pm Mon-Fri, 8am-2pm Sat) is 50m south of the train station.

The choice of travel agencies is better in Sinaia (pl07), but if you're stuck, try Agenti de Turism de Bufteni (@ 323 180; B-dul Libertatii 200; ® 9am-7pm Mon-Fri), who can answer some questions when they're actually in the of fice. More helpful is Asociatia de Turism Eco logica si Sociala (® 320 772; Str Caraiman 7; ® 9am-6pm Mon-Fri). The English- and French speaking staff will happily assist lost travellers and can organise bookings for the region's cabanas.

CEZAR PETRESCU MEMORIAL MUSEUM

Between the wars, Bufteni was home to Romanian novelist Cezar Petrescu (1892-1961), whose realist works attempted to reflect a 'psychology of failure' in modern Romanian life. His house at the northern

To Brafov (27km)

Predeal

Ciubotea Gorge i /~7

Cabana uu Cura Diham

k Poiana \_Co§teIel

Poiana

Baba Mare^ ^ (2292m) _ , --.Cabana Cabana 'Caraiman\ :: BabelebS

WW1 ! ^Memorial

Buçteni

Poiana Japuiui

Cabana Piatra Arsâ

Cabanay>- Cabana Mioriûai_ \ Valea Jrfij, i eu Brazi

Cabahà* -Furnica

; Lake Bolboci

Valea

Dorului gj Sinaia

D Cabana Piscul Câinelui

Sinaia

Cabana BrSdet

Hotel Alpin (Cota 1400)

Cabana Bolboci

Cabana uü Cheile Zänoagei i|t.i mI iIh (own is now a memorial museum

(p mi oho, Str Tudor Vladimirescu 2; admission €0.20; t (Mm *i|im Tue-Sun). Turn right out of the IMtH Million; Sir Tudor Vladimirescu is the ilHttili uhcvt on the left (about 500m).

IHHritUs itiHINU H SKIING

t-Min tourists are drawn here for one il^M.ii (he magnificent Bucegi Mountains, It 11 oiler numerous hiking and ski ttttlk »n i essible from the top of Bu§teni's |i |m i cable car (@320 306; adult/child one •If t HO/1.35; ® 8am-3.45pm Tue-Sun), a trip in I<(• 11 i'. major experience in and of itself. » mti11 lltisleni, it's also possible to hike 8km uili In Sinaia or 10km north to Predeal

(see pi06). Hotel Silva (see Sleeping, pi06) rents skis for €5.50 a day.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

The plateau of the Bucegi Mountains is relatively flat, making mountain biking -on level with the clouds - a real thrill. Bikes are best rented in Sinaia.

Sleeping

BUDGET

See the Sinaia section (pi 10) for other cabanas in the Bucegi Mountains.

You'll find dozens of rooms to rent up Str Caraiman and south along Str Unirii. These are quiet streets, near the cable car, with several good options to choose from.

IHK EGI MOUNTAINS

' Hi, Mil'ugl Miiiniiiiliv. .ire Romania's best-kept secret, rivalling Slovakia's Tatra Mountains ,mil t pit tin a 111 wlit'ii It comes to trekking. Getting lost is difficult, thanks to a network of markpil Hull« wliilt- most cabanas are open year-round to shelter hikers and cross-country skiers. The only il<tnt|t'r Is the weather: winter is severe and summer thunderstorms are common.

I rom Bujteni take the cable car up to Cabana Babele (2206m). From Babele a trail lead» to the giant WWI memorial cross at 2284m (one hour, marked with red crosses). From hero ,t path (red crosses) leads to the top of Caraiman Peak (2384m). On the peak the path become1, wider, turning into a trail that continues towards Omu Peak across Bucegi Plateau. It gets dosn to the Cojtila Peak (2490m) on top of which is a rocket-like TV transmitter (out of bounds to the public). Alternatively a trail (three to four hours, blue crosses) leads from the lower cable-c,n station to Cabana Caraiman (2025m), where you can pick up the trail to the WWI cross (30 In 45 minutes, red circles).

From Cabana Babele you can hike south following a yellow-stripe trail to Cabana Piatra Arsil (1950m). From here you can pick up a blue trail that descends to Sinaia via Poiana Stanii (threi' hours). An even more interesting destination is the lalomiciora Monastery, accessible by trail (116 hours, blue crosses) or via a second cable car from Babele, where you'll find a small hermit age built partially inside the lalomita cave. Visitors are welcome to spend the night there; there is also the Hotel Pejtera nearby.

A more ambitious expedition involves taking the cable car from Bu§teni to either of the two cable-car stations and hiking northwest across the mountains to Bran Castle, where there are buses to Brajov. You can do this in one strenuous day if you get an early start from Babele, but it's preferable to take two days and free camp or spend a night at Cabana Varful Omu. From the TV transmitter, there is a trail (two hours, yellow-marked) leading to Cabana Varful Omu on the summit. North of Babele the scenery becomes dramatic, with dizzying drops into valleys on either side. From Omu to Bran Castle is tough but spectacular - a 2000m drop through the tree line into thick forest, then onto a logging road leading to the castle (six hours, yellow triangles). Don't even think of climbing up from Bran to Omu.

Oti-Dor (g 321 820; Str Caraiman 20; per person €10) This is a comfortable place, with a country-home feel and welcoming hosts. It also has a dining room which seats 60.

Cabana Babele (g 315 304; beds €3-7) Peched high at 2206m, this has provided refuge to hikers since 1937. Today it offers beds in double rooms and mattresses on dorm floors; the price is according to season and level of comfort.

Other cabanas in the area include Cabana Caraiman (2025m; beds €3), which has 40 places in shared rooms, and Cabana Varful Omu (beds €3), a very simple place with 35 mattresses in dorms. It is open from May to September only.

MID-RANGE

Hotel Alexandras (g320 138; B-dul Libertatii 153; s €38-62, d €52-78, ste €192; |g) ID) This stately complex north of the train station is the most luxurious option around. The two-star (cheaper) rooms are good value. There's an on-site tennis court (€10 per hour).

Hotel Silva (g 321412; www.hotelsilva.ro io Roman ¡an; Str Telecabinel 24; d €16-25, ste €20-32) This mam moth building lords over a hill right in fronl of the cable car and as such is surrounded by swarms of hikers and skiers at nearly all hours of the day. The back-facing rooms have great mountain views, but the interiors are drab and a tad depressing; despite the impressive exterior, this a two-star affair.

Eating

You can stock up on supplies in the com mercial complex at the southern end ol B-dul Libertatii or at the cluster of shops al the foot of the cable-car station.

Restaurant Autoservice (mains €1.50; ®noon-9pm Tue-Sat, noon-5pm Sun) Adjoining the Hotel Caraiman, this is a cafeteria-style setup slopping up the cheapest eats in town.

Prama The King (g324 120; B-dul Libertatii; mains €2-4; ® 10am-mldnight) By far the best bel in town. A lightly medieval-themed pub/ restaurant, it has a relaxed ambience and decent, if standard, meals.

lilting There & Away iMfleiii has no Agentie de Voiaj CFR. Put' tickets at the train station on B-dul Ml,f| ld(ii. As with Predeal, Bu^teni is on the ■Mid llucharest-Chij-Napoca line, with all tHt.»l trains between Bra§ov and Bucharest ■taping at Bu§teni.

Pfntn Bu^teni, buses to Azuga and Sin-|Nl depart every half-hour between 6am lllil 10pm from the main bus stop on B-fttl i Ibertatii. All maxitaxis heading to and fttHl Hra§ov can be flagged down anywhere Ml llul main street.

I hiring the summer, maxitaxis marked I mill Diham' depart for Cabana Gura (tillit m. They leave on the hour, between fain and 10pm, from outside the train Alt In 11. Return buses leave Gura Diham hourly between 7.30am and 10.30pm.

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