Last year, we went to Căciulata for a relaxing start to our traditional August road-trip, and if somebody would’ve told us that we were going to go back there this year too, our only response could have been a good laugh. But, you see, sometimes things turn out in the least expected way and here we are again this year at the beginning of July in the „elderly heaven” and for an astonishing number of 8 days!!
Unlike last year, when it was August and an official holiday on top so it was very difficult to find accommodation and we ended up to live far away in Călimăneşti, this year we managed to stay right in the center of Căciulata resort, at a renovated communist era hotel with surprisingly good conditions. We thought we’d write in this article about what seemed different to us this year, or… not so different… and what we did in addition to our previous visit.
Why did we say in the title that it’s a bit too relaxing? Because relaxing is all there is to do here. Of course, we are aware that this is the specificity of the place, which is mostly frequented by elderly people, but it would be nice to have more options for those who prefer a more active… rest. So let’s see what has changed in Căciulata since our last visit (you can read all about it here):
The Pool in the Woods
Sadly, we have to say that the positioning of this pool in the heart of nature remains the best aspect and the only good aspect of the place. Otherwise, the negligence persists. We have not seen any improvement since last year, it doesn’t seem to have been renovated since our last visit – at the showers, the water can be called lukewarm with the utmost indulgence, the changing cabins are small, shaggy and do not have at least a chair for elderly visitors, toilets are dirty and smell really bad, there is no place to safely leave your belongings when you go into the pool, rules like no jumping in the water are not respected and the administration does not take any action… it’s a shame, it could be much better with a minimum investment of funds and care. However, water temperature was not as unbearably high as last year – we could bathe without any discomfort from this point of view.
Cozia Aqua Park
Here too, we didn’t see any obvious changes over the last year, this meaning that the place is still ok. A less pleasant aspect is that a part of the Aqua Park is open only on weekends, but this is announced at the entrance so that people know that when acquiring tickets. Also, unlike in August of last year, in July 2018 only part of the showcase of the self-service restaurant was open, so visitors often stood in line over an hour to be served. But the food is good and the prices are acceptable (higher than in many places outside the aqua park, though). Here, if visitors do not follow the rules, staff members always intervene. There are also special people who supervise swimming pools and slides, including a nurse. The conditions are generally good both outdoors and indoors, there are wardrobes for visitors and the locker area is under video surveillance. The showers have warm water and soap, and the toilets look decent.
The balneary trail
Nothing new here. The same promenade alley through the forest, parallel to the main street. The place doesn’t look maintained – there were many branches lying on the alley and also earth leaped from the hill following the rains. Though these things do not make the route impracticable, they make it reflect the careless attitude of those who administer it. However, we still recommend it – it’s a good place for a relaxing walk and a good dose of clean air.
The Promenade on the Olt River Shore
The Olt river bank looks much better in Căciulata than in the neighboring town of Călimăneşti. The promenade alley is well-maintained, with the river on one side and a narrow strip of forest that separates it from the main road on the other side, with benches and fresh air. It is a great alternative to the car road if you want to get from the center of the resort to the Cozia Aqua Park or walk to the monastery.
If you read us for some time now, you already know that we like monasteries. And not so much for the religious significance of these worship places, but more for the beauty and the atmosphere you find at the monasteries – buildings with beautiful architecture and well-groomed surroundings, located in beautiful natural landscapes, with silence and peace floating in the air. And Cozia Monastery is not an exception, it is a wonderful place on the bank of Olt River, with beautiful buildings and thousands of flowers around, with hardworking people who take care that the place will delight the eyes and souls of the visitors at any time. This year when we visited, the place was cleaned after a storm – the monks picked up the fallen branches and carried them with a small tractor, and groomed the grass and flowers that were disturbed by the rain. Why is it possible here and in other places not…? The conclusion is that we recommend you to enter this beautiful place if you are in the area for a fresh breath of air and a few moments of meditation.
The public garden in the center of Căciulata is one of the few places that we can say looks very good and is constantly being cared for. The alleys are clean, the benches are cleaned, repaired and varnished regularly, there are many flowers and trees that turn the place into a beautiful area for rest, relaxation and especially socialization for the elderly visitors of the resort.
What new things did we do this time in Căciulata?
Because, as we said before, this year we spent eight days in Căciulata, we had to find something to do besides the thermal baths. So we’ve been looking for new and interesting places to visit so that this vacation does not become too… restful. Less than two kilometers from Căciulata, the Cozia National Park begins, a beautiful natural reserve that we had planned to visit since last year. However, after a short search on the internet before departure, we found out with sadness that the violent storms of this summer, the heavy rains and the floods have destroyed many trees and destabilized the tracks in the area, so we decided not to venture on a very long route, but we couldn’t help but go there anyway.
So we headed for the Cozia National Park, enthusiastically and without much expectation, determined to take anything that would please nature to offer us. The first stop we made was on the Turnu dam, an impressive construction of over 40 meters high, which also serves as a bypass of Călimăneşti.
From the top of the dam, the scenery is impressive, the vast expanse of water with a volume of several million cubic meters, the towering mountains that rise up and the magnificent nature all around – all this stunning beauty challenges you to meditate on the chance and the enormous luck that you have had to live in this fascinating world.
Arutela Roman Castrum
From the top of the dam we saw the second objective we were thinking of visiting, namely the Arutela Roman Castrum – a monument of nearly 2000 years, from the time of the Romans, seated in a place now known by the name “Bivolari Glade”, right on the Olt bank, near the dam.
The castrum was discovered about 130 years ago, but only about 40 years ago it received the recognition of a historic monument and was rebuilt based on what could be saved after a railway was built in this place. However, the official attestation of the historical monument took place only in 2004…
It has been covered for centuries by the waters of the Olt, but the place is now on the surface to offer a history lesson and immerse us in the charm of the times when it was built. When we visited, there was nobody there, just a shepherd with his dog and their cows, the buzzing insects, the waterfalls of the dam and the greatness of nature.
On the other side of the dam, a fairly good road about 2 kilometers long, with two tunnels dug in the rock and very few cars, among the cliffs and the river Olt, leads to the Turnu Monastery, in an extraordinary natural setting.
Seated in a secluded place, surrounded by forest, the place has a special charm. In the old days when the bridge was not yet built, we could have only get here by boat across the Olt River. Now, however, the bridge and the winding road at the foot of the mountains offer the opportunity for anyone to reach this oasis of greenery and tranquility.
The history of the Monastery begins somewhere in the 15th century, when some monks from Cozia Monastery retreated here and dug their cells into the rock. A small wooden church appeared here only a few decades later.
The stone church was erected in 1676 and since then has been operating here under the protection of the Cozia Monastery.
In the Monastery’s garden there is also a small lake with water lilies – a wonderful place for rest and meditation.
A visit to Râmnicu Vâlcea
One of the days, we decided to visit Râmnicu Vâlcea, the capital of Vâlcea County, just over 20 kilometers from Căciulata. We knew nothing about this city before going there and we had no big expectations, but… it surprised us so positively that we decided to dedicate an entire article to it… next time. 🙂