The lovely resorts lining the Black Sea, legendary castles, mountains and wilderness, monasteries and medieval art are just some of the reasons to visit Romania. However, the town of Busteni, 130 kilometress north of Bucharest,the capital of Romania may be somewhat off the beaten tourist trail for most people. The little town snuggles under the vertiginous slope of a daunting massif in the Carpathian Mountain range in a valley known as Prahova and in a popular holiday destination for Romanians. In winter the little town swells with snowskiers and snowboarders, keen to take on the challenges offered by the daunting snowy peaks. In summer the mountains green up and attract walkers, hikers, bird watchers and mountain bikers.
The pride of the town is the recently founded (around the year 2000) Mânăstirea Caraiman (Holy Cross Monastery), a very large, most handsome Christian/Orthodox monastery standing on the outskirts of Busteni. This haven of peace and spirituality is occupied by a large community of priests and is well-used by the townspeople and visited by some thousands of worshippers each year. A cross on a turret of the monastery church is illuminated each evening, beckoning pilgrims and tourists to follow the path from the town to the sanctuary of the monastery.
A cable car travels from Busteni up to a mountain peak where there is a vast and beautiful national park. A walking track leads to The Heroes' Cross, a huge steel construction over 30 metres high which was built in 1926 to honour soldiers who died during World War I. The cross is approximately a sixty minute walk from the cable car station and was erected on the initiative of King Ferdinand of Romania. The cross was designed to be seen from great distance and is illuminated each evening as is the cross on Caraiman.
The mountain is shared with a large population of brown bears (Romania has the largest population of brown bears in Europe) which are a protected species. A bear sanctuary in Brasov, 35 kms north provides a refuge for sick or injured bears and can be visited.
Only 10 kilometres south the larger town of Sinaia supports another Christian-Orthodox monastery which dates from the 17th century. Low stone buildings surround two courtyards, each of which has a Byzantine style church in the centre. ‘Biserica Veche’ (The Old Church), dates from 1695, while the more recent ‘Biserica Mare’ (The Great Church) was built in 1846.The walls of the Great Church are lined with frescoes and decorated with important artworks and icons throughout. A museum of religious art and objects is open in the summer.