Natural environment
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Natural Environment


                                          "By us the mountains are higher

                                            By us the fields bloom later.

                                            Early autumn winds are tearing the pines,

                                            In winter the tears freeze on our eyes”

                                                     / P. Papp Asztrik /


The eastern side of the Transylvanian Basin is crowned with a double arch by the Gurghiului and Harghita mountains, respectively by the main ridge of the Eastern-Carpathians. Between the two parallel mountain ranges, in the valley of the rivers Olt and Mureş, the complex and long-lasting geological evolution formed in the Quaternary a closed series of basins. All Intra-Carpathian basins are the result of gradual tectonic sinking.

The three longitudinal Ciuc basins, divided into two by the Olt River, are separated on the west from the Transylvanian Basin by the new volcanic chain of the Harghita, which is mostly made of andesites, while on the east the Ciucului Mountains, the Ghimeş region and the Hăşmaşu Mare Mountains form a natural frontier toward Moldova.


Mountain ranges surrounding the basin

The Upper Ciuc Basin is bordered on the west by the higher northern chain of the Harghita. The main ridge of the Harghita is formed by the Harghita Ciceu Peak (1771 m), which rises above the place of Harghita-Băi. From this extended, high mountain ridge a spectacular view opens in all directions, and the TV station's signal enhancing antenna-tower is visible from a great distance. From the top of the Bagolykő Peak (1688 m) one can admire an incredible panorama, where, on sunny days, even the high peaks of the Făgăraş Mountains are visible.

If one sets off from the locality Harghita Băi, after the Harghita Ciceu Peak follows the Harghita Siculeni Peak (1710 m). From the southern slope of these mountains rises the Csompoly volcanic cone of a rare beauty, which is the most symmetrical adventive volcanic cone of the whole Harghita chain.


As a continuation of the Harghita Siculeni it follows the Harghita Racu, or by its old name the Galuşa Peak with an altitude of 1758 m. These constitute together the northern and eastern limits of a former volcanic crater, which is now the huge catchment basin of the Vârghiş brook that flows down towards the town of Vlăhiţa.

Starting from the Harghita Racu Peak, the central ridge of the mountain chain suddenly arches toward the west, and then it heads north again, culminating into the Harghita Mădăraş (1805). Here is the Harghita the most authentic. The Mădăraşul Mare Peak, with its vast plateau and the cottage built on the northern side - where clearly marked tourist routes gather from all sides - is a real tourist centre of the Northern Harghita.

In the massive trunk of the Harghita-Mădăraş many streams have their source, which then move westwards or eastwards. Larger streams flowing westwards belong to the catchment basin of the river Târnava Mare. Out of the brooks that run eastwards those worth mentioning are: the Seche brook with its small waterfalls and the Mădăraşul Mare brook, which is the largest right tributary stream of the Olt River on this section.

After the Harghita Mădăraş Peak it follows the dull volcanic crater of the Fertő Peak (1589 m), which was opened on the west by the Ivó brook. The Tărhăuş Mountain and the Széleskút Plateau situated between these two constitute the favourite habitat of the grouse, but the majority of deer and bear watches are also placed here. To the east from the Fertő Peak there are the brooks Ráckebel and Urság. The forest road passing through the ridge of the Fertő Mountain and linking Zetea to Mădăraş can be run by car.

After the Kishavas Mountain with its elongated ridge and the Comşa peak, the last large volcanic formation is the Ostoriş crater (1385 m), which closes the Harghita chain. One long mountain foot, which is stretched out toward the north is linked to the Southern Gurghiului Mountains at the Liban Peak (1000 m). Highway No. 138, crossing the Liban Peak, is an important traffic link between the Gheorgheni region and Odorheiu Secuiesc. On the Ostoriş there is the source of the Sikaszó brook, which flows westwards, whilst the Lok creek moves eastwards and joins with the brook Madicsa near the village Cârţa.

In the western part of the Ostoriş twin crater, near the source of the Sikaszó brook, one can find the Ördög Lake (Devil's Lake), the only swamp in the Northern Harghita Mountains. It is much smaller than its relative from the Southern Harghita: the Luci swamp, but because of its capricious nature it has been in the spotlight for a long time. Its originality lies in the fact that in springtime a lake is formed over the swampy territory, which later disappears with the withdrawal of the waters.

In the northeast, one of the arms of the Ostoriş crater is connected to the Înălţimea Ciucului Peak (1154 m). This isolated volcanic cone forms the limit between the Upper Ciuc Basin and the Gheorgheni Basin. Advancing eastwards, the Înălţimea Ciucului Peak is linked to the Gréces Peak near the village Izvorul Mureşului. The Muntele Negru Peak in front of the Gréces Peak (1554 m), made of crystalline schists, separates the source area of the Olt River from the Gheorgheni Basin.

The imposing Muntele Negru Peak – from which the Mureş River springs - is situated opposite to the Hăşmaşu Mare massif, which lies eastwards from it. Between the two massifs there winds the narrowband of the Olt River, which has just come out of its swing. The Olt River springs from the Hăşmaşu Mare massif, after which it runs through the town of Bălan and reaches the Upper Ciuc Basin near the village of Sândominic. The Hăşmaşu Mare Mountains, also called "the Alps of Ciuc" constitute the most beautiful and most interesting part of the mountainous frame surrounding the Ciuc Basins. The Hăşmaşu Mare Peak, with an altitude of 1794 m is the home of large grassy highlands. It got its name from the Hungarian word for wild garlic, which grows here in large quantities. The mountain is not only famous due to its beauty, but also due to the rare plants that live here and that have attracted the attention of the researchers. This is how it became a protected area, and since 1990 it is a national park.


The most popular limestone formation from this region is the Piatra Singuratică Rock (1608 m). In its close vicinity one can see the Ecem Peak (1708 m) at the feet of which huge limestone chippings, also called devil’s mills, prevent the upward expansion of the pine forests.

In their way to the Bicaz Canyon, tourists are also willing to visit the other wonders of the Hăşmaşul Mare Mountain: Bárányhavas, Fehérmező, Vereskő and Cofránka. The most edelweiss flowers bloom in the "amphitheatre" of the Nagyáj Mountain. The Hăşmaşu Mare massif ends in the south with the Tărcău Mountain, and then it connects to the Noşcalat Peak with the Szakadat Ridge. The irregular, snaky mountain ridge ends with the Livezi Peak. In the southern side there is the source of the Rákos brook, the right tributary stream of which, the Karakó is crossed by the huge half-circle of the largest railway viaduct of Romania. Between the section of the Ghimeş railway and the Fügéstelek Pass there twines a jagged mountain ridge, the highest part of which is called Muntele Păgânilor. Its most notable neighbour is Muntele Viscolul, which is the highest peak in the Ciuc Mountains (1495 m).









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