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Country: Ukraine

Distance: 1,051 km

Travel time:  20 days

On postcard: Carpathian Mountains

The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly 1,500 km (932 mi) long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe (after the Scandinavian Mountains, 1,700 km (1,056 mi)). They provide the habitat for the largest European populations of brown bears, wolves, chamois and lynxes, with the highest concentration in Romania,[2][3][4] as well as over one third of all European plant species. The Carpathians and their piedmont also concentrate many thermal and mineral waters, with Romania home to over one-third of the European total. Romania is likewise home to the largest surface of virgin forests in Europe (except Russia), totaling 250,000 hectares (65%), most of them in the Carpathians, with the Southern Carpathians constituting Europe’s largest unfragmented forested area.

The Carpathians consist of a chain of mountain ranges that stretch in an arc from the Czech Republic (3%) in the northwest through Slovakia (17%), Poland (10%), Hungary (4%) and Ukraine (11%) to Romania (53%) in the east and on to the Iron Gates on the River Danube between Romania and Serbia (2%) in the south. The highest range within the Carpathians is the Tatras, on the border of Poland and Slovakia, where the highest peaks exceed 2,600 m (8,530 ft). The second-highest range is the Eastern Carpathians in Romania, where the highest peaks exceed 2,500 m (8,202 ft).

The Carpathians are usually divided into three major parts: the Western Carpathians (Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia), the Central Carpathians (southeastern Poland, eastern Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania), and the Eastern Carpathians (Romania, Serbia).

The most important cities in or near the Carpathians are: Bratislava and Košice in Slovakia; Kraków in Poland; Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu and Braşov in Romania; and Miskolc in Hungary.


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The word "Carpathian" is derived from Thracian Greek Καρπάτῆς όρος (Karpates oros), meaning "rocky mountain", probably via German Karpathen and Latin Carpatus. Its earlier origins are unclear.

The range is called Karpaty in Czech, Polish, Russian, Slovak and Ukrainian, Karpaten in German and Dutch, Kárpátok in Hungarian, Carpați pronounced [karˈpat͡sʲ] in Romanian, and Karpati (Карпати) in Serbian.

The name Karpates may ultimately be from the Proto Indo-European root *sker-/*ker-, from which comes the Albanian word kar (rock), and the Slavic word skála (rock, cliff), perhaps via a Dacian cognate which meant mountain, rock, or rugged (cf. Germanic root *skerp-, Old Norse harfr "harrow", Middle Low German scharf "potsherd" and Modern High German Scherbe "shard", Old English scearp and English sharp, Lithuanian kar~pas "cut, hack, notch", Latvian cìrpt "to shear, clip"). The archaic Polish word karpa meant "rugged irregularities, underwater obstacles/rocks, rugged roots or trunks". The more common word skarpa means a sharp cliff or other vertical terrain. Otherwise, the name may instead come from Indo-European *kwerp "to turn", akin to Old English hweorfan "to turn, change" (English warp) and Greek καρπός karpós "wrist", perhaps referring to the way the mountain range bends or veers in an L-shape. Also car means "king" and pati "road" so carpati is possibly the king's way.

In late Roman documents, the Eastern Carpathian Mountains were referred to as Montes Sarmatici (meanining Sarmatian Mountains]]). The Western Carpathians were called Carpates, a name that is first recorded in Ptolemy's Geographia (2nd century AD).

The name of the Carpi, a Dacian tribe, may have been derived from the name of the Carpathian Mountains. According to Zosimus, this tribe lived until 381 on the eastern Carpathian slopes. Alternatively the mountain range's name may be derived from the Dacian tribe's name.

In the Scandinavian Hervarar saga, which describes ancient Germanic legends about battles between Goths and Huns, the name Karpates appears in the predictable Germanic form as Harvaða fjöllum (see Grimm's law).

13th-15th century Hungarian documents named the mountains Thorchal, Tarczal or less frequently Montes Nivium.


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The Carpathians begin on the Góra Świętego Marcina 384 m. in Tarnów - northern edge of Pogórze Ciężkowickie. They surround Transcarpathia and Transylvania in a large semicircle, sweeping towards the southeast, and end on the Danube near Orşova in Romania. The total length of the Carpathians is over 1,500 km (932 mi) and the mountain chain's width varies between 12 and 500 km (7 and 311 mi). The highest altitudes of the Carpathians occur where they are widest. The system attains its greatest breadth in the Transylvanian plateau and in the meridian of the Tatra group – the highest range, in which Gerlachovský štít in Slovakia is the highest peak at 2,655 m (8,711 ft) above sea level. The Carpathians cover an area of 190,000 km2 (73,359 sq mi) and, after the Alps, form the next most extensive mountain system in Europe.

Although commonly referred to as a mountain chain, the Carpathians do not actually form an uninterrupted chain of mountains. Rather, they consist of several orographically and geologically distinctive groups, presenting as great a structural variety as the Alps. The Carpathians, which attain an altitude of over 2,500 m (8,202 ft) in only a few places, lack the bold peaks, extensive snowfields, large glaciers, high waterfalls, and numerous large lakes that are common in the Alps. No area of the Carpathian range is covered in snow all year round and there are no glaciers. The Carpathians at their highest altitude are only as high as the middle region of the Alps, with which they share a common appearance, climate, and flora.

The Carpathians are separated from the Alps by the Danube. The two ranges meet at only one point: the Leitha Mountains at Bratislava. The river also separates them from the Balkan Mountains at Orşova in Romania. The valley of the March and Oder separates the Carpathians from the Silesian and Moravian chains, which belong to the middle wing of the great Central Mountain System of Europe. Unlike the other wings of the system, the Carpathians, which form the watershed between the northern seas and the Black Sea, are surrounded on all sides by plains, namely the Pannonian plain to the southwest, the plain of the Lower Danube (Romania) to the south, and the Galician plain to the northeast.



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