The Looong Way to Zichy Cave

EUROPE, FEATURED ARTICLES, STAFF, TRAVEL BUMMERS — By on May 5, 2017 at 23:23

Text & photos © Estrella Azul

For this year, my plan is to go on as many road trips as possible. The first one this spring was to visit a few dripstone caves around Șuncuiuș village, about an hour’s drive from my city of Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

My boyfriend and I had never been to the Șuncuiuș area before, so we used the car navigation system to get to the village near the caves we wanted to see.

River meets rock

River meets rock

The first one, Unguru Mare Cave (to read the website in English, click on the U.S. flag in the upper right corner), was easy to find: there were signs pointing out the road to it before we reached Șuncuiuș village.

After we arrived there and parked our car, an issue came up. We couldn’t visit the cave, a guide lady explained, because tours of the cave are only open for groups of five or more people.

It was still early so we decided to go visit another cave—one where they allow people to explore on their own without a guide—and come back to this one later when more people might arrive.

Mountains and rivers complement each other so well

Mountains and rivers complement each other so well

Thinking back on this, I’m disappointed. The guide was there, we were there, but she couldn’t take us in? It would have been a gamble with our precious vacation time to wait by the cave for other people to arrive—the people who did come might arrive hours later, and they may have only been interested in camping.

We never made it back there. Partly because of the Google Maps snafu I’ll be sharing with you below, and partly because we were meeting friends later that day.

Winding paths to walk

Winding paths to walk

After this little set-back, we decided to visit Zichy Cave, otherwise known as Vadu Crișului Cave. On the car navigation system we couldn’t find it, so we drove through the village. We didn’t see any signs either.

I decided to use the Google Maps app on my phone. I searched for the cave, turned on the navigation mode, and we started driving toward where we were guided.

We drove out of the village onto seemingly abandoned dirt roads, taking hairpin turns on picture-perfect hills and through forests just starting to turn green in the warm spring weather.

The forest finally started dressing in green

The forest finally started dressing in green



We stopped a few times to take pictures of violets and other forest flowers, ran into some traffic—five cows leisurely walking ahead of us on the road for a few hundred meters until the road got wide enough for us to drive past them—and overall had a lot of fun. The roads were people and car-free: we did not see a single car or person the entire way!

What traffic looks like on a countryside road

What traffic looks like on a countryside road


Delicate forest flowers

Delicate forest flowers

We drove for a good hour or so until the Google Maps app said we had reached our destination.

Except, no, we hadn’t! Here’s why:

My editing of the incorrect Google Maps marker

My editing of the incorrect Google Maps marker

I could see the Vadu Crișului Waterfall near the river. I was zooming in to see how to get to that instead when another pin for Zichy Cave appeared correctly next to the waterfall where it is actually located.

Nice, but it was too late to notice once we were 30 km away from it.

In a Web browser, even when zoomed in, the cave did not appear next to the waterfall, hence my above-portrayed edit suggestion (which has since been corrected).

The looong way to Zichy Cave...

The looong way to Zichy Cave. . . .

Granted, the drive was the most beautiful we’ve driven in a long time, and we loved it. BUT, we drove all that way to find nothing, because the marker was placed incorrectly on the map!

Haystacks in the distance... but no caves anywhere to be seen

Haystacks in the distance but no caves anywhere to be seen

My advice learned the hard way: Whenever you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been to before, try to do your research about routes and double-check maps before you leave.

If only I had looked up the waterfall before leaving, I might have noticed that a stream runs through the cave and pours into the Crișul Repede River, becoming a waterfall a few meters from the cave entrance.

The stream that grows up to become a waterfall

The stream that grows up to become a waterfall

We drove down from that dirt road into the village of Vadu Crișului, bought some water and pastries from a local store, then headed back to where we started from (Șuncuiuș Village) to find the correct road toward Zichy Cave.

Vadu Crișului Waterfall

Vadu Crișului Waterfall

On the map a train station could also be seen, but there was no car access to it. We drove down the road that seemed like it would end up closest to the train station.

We reached the small La Contele Dracula hotel at the foot of Pădurea Craiului Mountain, parked the car and—given that I’d had enough of Google Maps—I went inside to ask for directions.

One can safely pass through this tunnel, but I would advise against it

One can safely pass through this tunnel, but I would advise against it

I asked one of the waiters there and he was nice. He said to follow him back out and my first thought was Don’t tell me you have the cave in your back yard! He pointed toward the end of their back yard, and said “Past the yard just follow the path until you reach the train tracks, then follow those and there will be a tunnel with signs pointing the way to the cave and waterfall. It’s right off the tracks, so you can’t miss it.”

Might not sound too specific, but at that point it was infinitely more useful than the navigation systems were!

Following the tracks

Following the tracks

Șuncuiuș could really do with some better (and more!) signs pointing toward that cave and waterfall from the main road, and also along the path. That said, as the waiter explained it, it was pretty easy to find once we were headed in the right direction.

Abandoned building by the cave and waterfall -  some trains still stop at this station

Abandoned building by the cave and waterfall. Some trains still stop at this station.

The path we took was definitely scenic. We walked along winding paths through the forest bypassing the tunnel, and we walked by the train tracks running along the Crișul Repede River. After a 45-minute walk, we reached the cave and the waterfall.

Funky looking tree by the river

Funky looking tree by the river

It was a lovely day to walk about 12 km total, and even though we took quite the detour, at the end of the day both the scenery and the experience was worth it.

COMING SOON: My cave story (with photos)

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Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins, Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, she currently serves as the photo editor here at Milliver’s Travels, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©. Read more of her stories on Milliver’s Travels by visiting Estrella’s story index.

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