Romania is a country located in Eastern Europe, a member of the European Union and NATO, with a population of 19 million and a land surface of 238,391 square kilometers.
Truth be told, there are not many countries in the Old Continent like Romania. Branded by a former Tourism Minister as the Land of Choice, Romania can be described more accurately as the land of contrasts.
In Romania, you can still find not so remote rural areas, pretty close to the capital Bucharest and the country’s main cities, where farmers still use horse drawn wagons. Also, covered markets where farmers come in droves to sell their produce are still dominating over the shopping malls, especially in smaller cities.
As I already told you, Romania is excelling in contrasts, as this country is playing in a league of its own.
Other Eastern European countries embraced the fertile and lucrative ground model of international restaurant chains, boutique hotels and the whole nine yards. On the other hand, Romania is still very traditional in many ways, clinging to the evergreen charm of old customs and it makes good on in 9 times out of ten.
In most cases, a traveler arriving in Romania will first see the capital, Bucharest, which back in the day, before the Communists took over the country in the aftermath of War World 2, was known as Little Paris, thanks to the capital’s architecture and sophisticated charm, and also due to the bourgeoisie’s affinity for French culture.
Today, Bucharest is a weird place, crammed with old and ugly blocks (just like the projects in the US) dating back from the Communist era, but also with grand architecture, traditional restaurants and fascinating museums. It’s pretty hard to define this place, where modernity meets traditionalism and the traffic is infernal.
Yet, after a few days spent in the best parts of Bucharest, the city grows on you. Basically, Bucharest alone deserves at least a couple of days of exploration alone, and the same goes for the resorts which spread along the Black Sea Coast, which are quite nice, offering beautiful ocean panoramas well groomed beaches.
However, ultimately speaking, Romania is still defined by its small and traditional rural communities, many of which still dependent on ancient agricultural practices. I am talking here about remote and isolated villages, some of them clinging to the Carpathian Mountains, where there’s no electricity and people are relying on horses and carriages for transportation as there are no roads either.
Yes, there are still places like this in Romania, deep down in the mountains, where you can feel like you’re traveling back in time.
A tour of Romania’s old-school back-country is nothing short of magical and unique, as you’ll be able to discover the ancient (almost medieval)ways of life still intact and a treasure chest of unique cultural gems. Think along the lines of Amish communities and you’ll get a pretty accurate picture about what I am talking about.
Transylvania is a place where you’ll stand in awe at the view of the impeccably preserved Saxon towns. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the legendary castle at Bran, also known as Dracula’s Castle, the fictional vampire from Bram Stoker’s book. Bran castle is said to have inspired that disturbed Irish writer into believing that there are such things as blood sucking vampires and things of that nature.
The Carpathian Mountains will provide the traveler with epic views and they also shelter some of EU’s last remains of unspoiled wild life, the likes of wolves, brown bears and lynxes, whilst rare muskrats and raccoon dogs are to be found around rivers.
If you’re into driving, Romania has 2 epic roads which crisscross through the mountains for hundreds of kilometers. The roads are so good, they let the BBC Top Gear journalists flabbergasted. I am talking about the Transfagaras road, in the Fagaras Mountain Range and Transalpina.
Also, while here, you must visit Moldova’s beautiful painted monasteries in Bucovina and the main city in Transylvania, Sibiu. Speaking of medieval towns, Sighisoara is another must-see place, being a perfectly preserved 15th century gem.