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By Johannes Helmold
After the Scandinavian Mountains, the Carpathian Mountains is the longest mountain range in Europe. It stretches approximately 1500 kilometers through Central and Eastern Europe. More specifically, the Carpathians are present in Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, and Romania, with Romania occupying the most territory in this mountain range (The Official Travel Portal of Europe). There are three sections of the Carpathians: the Western Carpathians, the Eastern Carpathians, and the Southern Carpathians (Balkankul). There is even the Outer Carpathians, which is the northern rim of the Western and Eastern Carpathians. As you can see, this magnificent mountain range is massive, and it should be looked at closely to understand its grandiosity. Let’s take a look at the origin of its name, geography, and geology.
The name Carpathians has several origins, since it spans such a large range of countries. It is mostly associated with the Dacian tribe who were, in ancient times, called “Carpes.” They settled in a vast area, from the northeast of the Black Sea all the way to where present-day Romania and Moldova stand. Digging deeper, the word Carpates derives from the Proto Indo-European root *sker-/*ker-. This root follows a path to the Albanian word karpë, which means “rock,” and to the Slavic word for rock or cliff, skála (Room, Adrian). At any rate, the word Carpathians has a rich history that dates back to the second century.
The highest altitudes in the Carpathians are in Slovakia at 2,500 meters, and the widest part of the mountains are in the Transylvanian plateau. In terms of snow being present all year in the Carpathians, only in the Tatra Mountains region can this be seen (Landform Evolution in Mountain Areas). The Carpathians are not that high compared to many other mountain ranges. In example, at its highest parts, it is only half the height of the highest altitudes in the Alps. In fact, the Alps and the Carpathians are separated by the Danube river, and these two mountain ranges meet in the Leitha Mountains in Bratislava. Also important to mention is that the Carpathians make up the watershed between the northern seas and the Black Sea. The Carpathians are surrounded by plains, namely the Pannonian plain, the Lower Danube, and the Glacian plain.
Though the Alps are considerably close to the Carpathians, they have distinct geology. According to Britannica, “Their structure is less compact [than the Alps], and they are split up into a number of mountain blocks separated by basins. Structural elements also differ. The sandstone–shale band known as flysch, which flanks the northern margin of the Alps in a narrow strip, widens considerably in the Carpathians, forming the main component of their outer zone, whereas the limestone rocks that form a wide band in the Alps are of secondary importance in the Carpathians” (Kondracki, Jerzy A). There are more variances between these respected mountain ranges. “On the other hand, crystalline and metamorphic (heat-altered) rocks, which represent powerfully developed chains in the central part of the Alps, appear in the Carpathians as isolated blocks of smaller size surrounded by depressed areas. In addition to these features, the Carpathians contain a rugged chain of volcanic rocks” (Kondracki, Jerzy A). This gives us an understanding of the uniqueness of the Carpathians, and even each mountain range, as we can understand that even mountain systems that are close to each other can vary widely in geology.
I hope this has been a proper glimpse into the technical information about the Carpathians. Of course, with its deep history, its wonderful geographical features, and its unique geology, it is best to witness its splendor in person. So, when you are visiting one of the countries that inhabit the Carpathians, be sure to visit this mountain range to see its majesty for yourself.
“The Carpathians” European Travel Commission, in The Official Travel Portal of Europe.
Paun es Durlic (2011). Sacred Language of the Vlach Bread. Balkankult.
Gądek, Gradiecz, Bogdan, Mariusz. “Glacial Ice and Permafrost Distribution in the Medena Kotlina (Slovak Tatras): Mapped with Application of GPR and GST Measurements” (PDF). Landform Evolution in Mountain Areas. Studia Geomorphologica Carpatho-Balcanica.
Kondracki, Jerzy A. “Carpathian Mountains.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 May 2014, www.britannica.com/place/Carpathian-Mountains.
Room, Adrian. Placenames of the World. London: MacFarland and Co., Inc., 1997.
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