A Traveler’s Guide to Romania

Rural Romania is, perhaps, the only place in Europe where a bicycle may frequently be the quickest method of transportation, and where friendly locals provide free tots of home-grown spirits. When the Iron Curtain fell away, it revealed an unknown nation of towering peaks, alpine plateaux, vast coastal marshes and primeval woods inhabited by bears, wolves, and lynx. Add traditional villages fueled by timeless custom and brightly colored medieval cities infused with legend.

Local food and beverages

Romanian cuisine is rich in spices, distinctive stews, tongue-tingling pickles, and pick-me-up street snacks. Spiced meats (sarmale) are stuffed cabbage and grape leaves (sarmales), while garlic and vinegar give piquant soups a sour edge. World-class fish soup from the Danube Delta is available, as well as excellent wine from Dealu Mare and Dobrogea (reds) and Tarnave (white). Home-made plum brandy (tuica/palinca) is so common that you’ll frequently be given it for free!

Romanian cuisine is rich in spices, distinctive stews, tongue-tingling pickles, and pick-me-up street snacks. Spiced meats (sarmale) are stuffed cabbage and grape leaves (sarmales), while garlic and vinegar give piquant soups a sour edge. World-class fish soup from the Danube Delta is available, as well as excellent wine from Dealu Mare and Dobrogea (reds) and Tarnave (white). Home-made plum brandy (tuica/palinca) is so common that you’ll frequently be given it for free!

Winter

If you thought Bucharest was dreary in the winter, think again! Once you get outside of the city slush, Romania is a winter wonderland. With beautiful vistas created by the snowfall and plenty of opportunity for exploration with snowshoes or horse-drawn sleighs, you’ll fall in love with the country. And if that’s not enough to convince you, how about spending some time skiing down varied trails at Poiana or Lumea Pierduta? You can also take advantage of the perfect canvas that is untouched snow to track Romania’s iconic big predators. Not to mention, ice hotels provide truly cool (literally) places to rest after a long day of adventuring.

Slow living

Life in the village is slow-moving. Horsepower is still commonly used to describe equine power, as locals clop around in horse-drawn carts or winter sleighs, pleased to transport tourists who aren’t interested in walking or cycling along lonely country lanes. Hay is hand cut with carefully swooshing scythes, cloth is intelligently woven, and wood carefully carved.

Caves

Romania has over 12,000 caves (pestera). But forget about gloomy, dank caverns; they are instead marvels. Names shed light on the matter. The Cave of Bones (Pestera cu Oase) gave up Europe’s oldest known human bone (a 35,000-year-old jawbone). Bear Cave’s magnificent galleries featured cave bear skeletons. The Ice Cave shines with Europe’s biggest cave glacier. Is size significant? Then visit the 45km-long Wind Cave in Romania, which is home to the country’s largest glacial formation.

Wildlife

Romania is home to over 33,000 unique species, including Europe’s greatest concentration of big predators – wolves and rare Eurasian lynx and wildcat as well as over 5500 bears. However, don’t forget the caves with Europe’s biggest bat colonies, woodland birds like uncommon eagles and owls, and 300 aquatic bird species in the Danube Delta.

High country

The Carpathians encircle Transylvania and have many different types of ranges, such as Apuceni’s karst that has been worn down by water over time and Bucegi’s plateaux that is friendly for hikers. There are also gorges, wildflower meadows, rest cabanas (mountain huts), and local guides who know the area well–including which plants can be used for medicine or folk magic.

Colourful history

Romania’s strong suit is its evocative mythology and history, from the chilling tale of Vlad Tepes’ Dracula to mystical Dacian stone circles built long before Christ. In between, Greeks, Romans, and Saxons battled for control of a land with towering mountains and fertile plains. Colorful villages dot the map, sometimes guarded by lonely castles and fortified churches. Romania is also a rich cultural mixture that includes Saxon-German, Hungarian, and Roma elements.

Transylvania

If you’re looking to explore a spellbinding region with Romanian, Hungarian and Roma influences, look no further than Transylvania. This wonderful region offers stunning natural landscapes perfect for hiking, as well as vibrant medieval towns full of cosmopolitan charm. You won’t be disappointed if you choose to sink your teeth into all that Transylvania has to offer!

Dracula

Don’t be fooled by marketing ploys that try to entice you to go somewhere like “Dracula’s Castle.” The fact is that Count Dracula was a made-up character created by Bram Stoker in 1897. And, as for the history of the bloodsucking character? Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad Draculea or Vlad the Impaler, served as his original template.

Modernisation

After the fall of Communism, once-beautiful historic Romanian cities were marred by Brutalist architectural carbuncles in the decades following World War II. EU membership in 2007 has provoked a race for modernity that may further damage the old architectural attractions of Bucharest, Romania’s capital – a city whose tree-lined boulevards and Belle Epoque architecture have been compared to Paris.

Dogs

Romania has a lot of strays, and they should be treated with caution. Many have reverted to a wild life, living in packs that have attacked and seriously injured people. In Romania, as opposed to the UK, dog bites involve the danger of rabies. Romanians are extremely sociable; don’t think the dogs are friendly.

Tranfagarasan Road

Although Top Gear voted this the world’s best road, sometimes it is necessary to think about the less fortunate who died building it. In the 1970s, dozens of forced labourers perished trying to quickly construct what was dictator Nikolai Ceasescu’s beloved project.

A Brief History of Romania

Romania has had ties with classical Thrace, Greece and Rome for 2500 years, but its sense of self was shaped during medieval times. At that time, it became a European stronghold against Eastern invaders. This created today’s patriotic narrative of Saxon settlers battling Mongols, Tartars and Turks from castle eyries while holy types prayed for victory inside fortified monasteries. Vlad Tepes, a 15th century Romanian aristocrat who impaled his enemies in great numbers and is rumored to have served as the basis for Bram Stoker’s mythical Dracula, is regarded as a national hero by Romanians instead of a monster.

Romania is still in the process of reinventing itself decades after Communist dictatorship spanning from the end of World War II to the 1989 revolution that deposed dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. His quarter-century megalomaniac rule was characterized by unspeakable lunacy, which became a part of everyday existence. A tax was placed on employees to increase the birthrate, and their pay was docked until they had children. Owning a typewriter was punishable by death, and torture was widely used by government agents in the 1980s. 8,000 villages were destroyed during an urbanization program. So, it’s no wonder that Romania’s revolt was carried out with such intensity when the Iron Curtain crumbled- resulting in execution of the former ruler.

Romania’s entrance into the EU occurred later than anticipated due to concerns over corruption. In recent years, though, Romania has experienced many social changes and is now confidently progressing towards European integration. Visit Romania and you’ll find modern cities, beautiful untouched nature, and kind people who are excited to greet tourists from all over.

Author: admin

Kate loves to travel and write. She has been to many different places and has seen and experienced a lot of different things. This has given her a lot of material to write about, and she enjoys sharing her stories with others. She hopes to continue traveling and writing for many years to come.

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