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Sunken city in Transylvania - inspiration for a trip - gallery

Autumn time is always associated with a significant improvement in the clarity of our native lake waters. The same applies to other reservoirs located in other European countries, such as Romania. Have you ever thought about such an escapade? Gather a few people in a big car or two. Pack up the cylinders, compressor and
Published: September 15, 2016 - 13:02
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 14:04
Sunken city in Transylvania – inspiration for a trip – gallery

Autumn time is always associated with a significant improvement in the clarity of our native lake waters. The same applies to other reservoirs located in other European countries, such as Romania. Have you ever thought about such an escapade? Gather a few people in a big car or two. Pack up the cylinders, compressor and dinghy and head off into the unknown? To a country best known for Transylvania and Dracula? Maybe it is an interesting idea, judge for yourself.

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To inspire you, I went as a D24 man to the southeast of Poland. I found a low-cost carrier and after 2 hours of flight I found myself in the main city of the mentioned Transylvania, namely Cluj Napoca (Cluj Napoca).

The city of around 350,000 inhabitants, the capital of Transylvania, has already been largely renovated. The old town, the facades and the streets are surprisingly clean and fresh. The parks gather many Romanians ranging in age from toddlers to old people. They hang out in hammocks between the trees, rollerblade, walk, play games and eat local delicacies.

Google Maps

Apart from the tourist landmarks (such as the Transylvanian route to an altitude of over 2000 m), I was interested in one of the lakes located a few dozen kilometres from the city. It was created by flooding several settlements in the valley in the early 1970s, during the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu.

Belis Fantanele

This is the name of the lake. It is located in the west of the country, in the northern part of the Apuseni Mountains and at an altitude of 990 m above sea level. It was created between 1970 and 1974 and the inhabitants of Belis and surrounding settlements were forced to leave their homes. A dam was built on the Somesul Cald river, which connected the mountainous area, thus closing the artificial reservoir and separating it from the river. To get to the lake itself is quite easy. The distance from the centre of Cluj Napoca to the Fantanele dam is 60 km. The route we take is not a motorway, and on the way we can still admire the villages which were in Poland 50 years ago. The driving time is about 1.30 hours.

Belis Fantanele is situated in a very interesting location. The shoreline is varied, often forming mini bays. There are rocks within the lake, and access to the lake itself is a serious problem in most places, due to the steep banks, covered by woods.

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Diving

I wanted to dive, because that is why I came here. I searched the internet, asked Romanians and found out that yes, there is diving in the lake and that foreigners come here. There is no diving base around the lake, or at least I couldn’t find one. The only thing I could do was to put on a mask and swim. Nevertheless, it turns out that the lake is 40 metres deep, the visibility is not bad (for a freshwater body), similar to ours in the best lakes, and the current is weak. Talking to older people, who are nice and try to make up for their lack of language skills, I learned that sometimes, when the summer is very dry, the tower of a stone church sticks out of the water.

To get to the dive site you need to use a boat. The swimming time is about 10 minutes. Unfortunately, the lake is so vast that you have to find out exactly where to dive in order to penetrate the flooded town. While diving near the shore you will see rocks, trees or their remains and fish. Personally, I saw only perch, but I did not dive.

Facilities

If you come here in your own transport with a compressor, you could conduct quite interesting underwater explorations. Life in Romania is comparable to ours in Poland, taking into account prices for food or sleeping. In the provinces, you can eat a big plate of soup, or ciorba (with refill for free) for about 9 PLN. They are very popular here, and there are often large pieces of beef in their traditional broths. They love lemonade. I tried a few of them. The best are the traditional lemon and lemon-mint ones – in summer necessarily with ice. Fuel prices are about 10% higher than ours.

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Interesting facts

On the 1st class main road you will often meet ladder wagons driven by draft horses. They are completely unlit, unmarked and look very cool on the roundabout. They trade everything along the road. The fruit by the villages, bought from mini fruit and garden producers tastes delicious. They are unsprayed and picked straight from the tree/bush. You can even wash them under a tap by the side of the house if you can communicate by sign.

The towns are clean, with no petrol, gum, rubbish or graffiti, and in several I saw statues depicting the Roman she-wolf Capitoline (the symbol of the ancient Roman empire) feeding her brothers Remus and Romulus. It is unfortunately worse in the mountains, where there is already a lot of rubbish.

Dracula’s castle is much smaller than I imagined it to be and I didn’t see a vampire anywhere.

There are virtually no stationary radars on the roads, you may only come across police officers with hand-held radars.

In restaurants, bars or ordinary shops, I did not meet a single salesperson, bartender or waiter who would take an interest in me, urge me to buy something there, praise a product. And this was probably the biggest shock for me – the first country where I encountered something like that. It was as if they didn’t give a damn. Even when sitting in a pub, you had to ask for the menu, and then again for lemonade, and again for ciorba, etc.

__________________________

Lake Belis Fantanele

Length – 13 km
Surface area – 9.8 km2
Average depth – 18 m
Maximum depth – 40 m
Dives on the underwater city – from a boat
Current – light

Fantanele dam

Height – 95.5 m
Canopy length – 400 m
Width at the bottom – 264 m
Volume – 2,315 thousand m3

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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