1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Transylvanian Mountains

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TRANSYLVANIAN MOUNTAINS, the general name of the mountain system which surrounds the Transylvanian highland or plateau on all four sides, and forms the south-eastern and southern continuation of the Carpathian system (q.v.). At the mouths of the Visó and the Golden Bistritza, where the Eastern or Wooded Carpathians end, the range of mountains divides and sends ramifications in two directions, to the south and to the west. These chains which enclose Transylvania, giving it the general aspect of a great natural fortress, are the most eastern offshoots of the mountain system of central Europe, and guard the approach from the east to the great Hungarian plain. They slope gently towards the interior of Transylvania, but rather abruptly towards Rumania, and while the western wall possesses several large and easy passes, the eastern and southern walls are much more difficult to cross.

The eastern wall of the Transylvania quadrilateral is composed of two parallel ranges of mountains divided by the valleys of the Maros and Aluta. The outer range is composed of the following groups: the Gyergyó Mountains (including the Kelemen range) with the highest peaks Kelemenhavas (6600 ft.) and Pietrosul (6908 ft.); the Csik Mountains with the highest peaks Nagy-Hagymas (5900 ft.) and the volcanic Büdös (3300 ft.); and the Bereczk Mountains with the highest peak Lakócza (5830 ft.). The inner range is composed of the following groups: the Görgény Mountains with the highest peak Mezöhavas (5826 ft.); the Hargitta Mountains with the highest peak Hargitta (5900 ft.); and the Barota Mountains with the highest peak Kukukhegy (5120 ft.). Near the mouths of the Maros and the Aluta are situated the celebrated Györgyö valley, one of the most beautiful in the whole Transylvania, and the famous Borszék valley with its mineral springs.

The southern wall of the Transylvanian highland is occupied by the Transylvanian Alps. They have a length of 230 m., and are the highest and wildest mountain range of the whole Transylvanian system, resembling the High Tatra in their bold and high peaks, their beautiful scenery, and their flora. The Transylvanian Alps rise to an altitude of 7200 ft. above the level of the Danubian (Rumanian) plain, and are divided into a considerable number of groups. From east to west these groups are: the Bodza Mountains with the highest peak Csukás (Ciucas, 6424 ft.); the Burzenland Mountains with the beautiful peaks of Bucsecs (8230 ft.), Königstein (7352 ft.) and Schuler (5910 ft.); the high Forgaras group, extending to the Roteturm pass, and containing Negoi (8345 ft.), the highest peak in the Transylvanian mountains, Butyan (8230 ft.) and Surul (7482 ft.). West of the Roteturm pass the Transylvanian Alps are also known under the name of the Hátszeg Mountains, and consist of the following groups: the Cibin Mountains with the highest peak Cindrel (7366 ft.); the Paringul Mountains with the highest peak Mandra (8260 ft.); the Vulkan Mountains, and the Hátszeg Mountains proper with the beautiful peak Retiezat (8125 ft.). The south-western part of the Transylvanian Alps is formed by the Cserna or Ruszka Mountains with the highest peak Verfu Petri (8140 ft.) whose offshoots, of a mean altitude of 3200–4700, known as the Banat Mountains, fill the Banat. The southern part of the Cserna Mountains, known as the Stretinye Mountains, extend to the Danube, and together with the Miroch Mountains, on the right side of the Danube, and belonging, therefore, to the Balkan system, form the famous gorge of the Iron Gate near Orsova.

The western and northern wall of the Transylvanian quadrilateral do not present the character of an uninterrupted chain of mountains, but possess many low and easy passes towards the Hungarian plain. Going from south to north the principal groups are: the Transylvanian Ore Mountains with the basaltic mass of the Detunata (3768 ft.) near Abrudbánya; the Bihar Mountains, with romantic scenery and numerous caverns, with the highest peak the Cucurbeta (6045 ft.); to the east of this group are the Aranyos Mountains with the highest peak, the Muntelui Mare (5970 ft.), to the south-west of Kolozsvár; then come the Meszes group and the Kraszna Mountains. The northern wall is formed by the Lápós Mountains with the highest peak Ciblesiu (6020 ft.), and the Rodna Mountains with the highest peaks Muncsel (5835 ft.), Pietrosu (7544 ft.) and Ineu (7484 ft.).

Inside this mountainous quadrilateral lies the Transylvanian highland or plateau, which has a mean elevation of 1000–1600 ft. It is improperly called a plateau, for it does not possess anywhere extensive plains, but is formed of a network of valleys of various sizes, ravines and cañons, united together by numerous small mountain ranges, which usually attain a height of 500–800 ft. above the altitude of the valley.

In the Transylvanian Mountains the principal passes are: the Rodna, the Borgo, the Tölgyes and the Békás. Then come the Gyimes, the Uz and Oitoz, the Bodza or Buzeu, the Tömös or Predeal pass, crossed by the railway from Brassó to Bucharest, the famous Roteturm pass (1115 ft.) through the narrow gorge of the Aluta, crossed by the railway from Nagy-Szeben to Bucharest, the Vulkan, the Teregova pass, and the Iron Gate pass, both crossed by the railway from Temesvár to Craiova. All those passes lead from Transylvania into Rumania. From Transylvania into Hungary are the Bánffy-Hunyad pass, crossed by the railway from Nagy-Várad to Kolozsvár, and the defile of the Maros crossed by the railway from Arad to Broos. In the interior of Transylvania are the Szent-Domokos pass near Csik-Szereda leading from the valley of the Aluta to that of the Maros (near their respective mouths) and the pass of Csik-Szereda over the Hargitta Mountains.