Posts Tagged ‘romania’

Romania Travel Guide, Land of Choice

February 25, 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Romania Travel Guide

February 6, 2016

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Romania is a very peculiar country, located in the South-Eastern Europe and a member of the European Union and NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

With a land surface of 238,391 square kilometers and a population of 21 million, Romania can be described as the land of choice, and/or the Carpathian Garden.

If that may sound strange to you, well, that’s how the Romanian Tourism minister chose to describe it, way back in 2011 if memory serves.

As far as European countries go, Romania plays in a league of its own in many regards from a traveler’s point of view.

For example, there are lots of places in the country where, if you’re from the US or Canada, you’ll feel like you’ve just experienced time travel.

I mean, how often do you see in your country horse-drawn carriages and wagons? Well, in Romania, farmers and peasants driving horse-powered means of transportation are a common site in rural areas.

Also, shopping malls are a relatively new thing in Romania, a place which is still dominated by old school covered markets, where producers from the country meet and greet with the city dwellers.

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There are lots of small towns and villages, especially in mountain areas where there’s no running water and even electricity. Talking about travelling back in time, even Prince Charles was absolutely seduced by the raw beauty and unspoiled scenery of Romania, as he chose to buy property in Transylvania and to live a few months of every year in a small village there.

When travelling to Romania, the first thing you’ll probably encounter will be the country’s capital Bucharest, also the main city.

Bucharest is a bustling place with a vivid night life and first-class tourist resorts, which used to be called the Little Paris in the 30’s, due to its architectural similarities with the City of Lights.

Also, here you can find lots of museums, parks, shopping malls, old-school architecture and lots of traditional or international restaurants and pubs. You can spend a few day in Bucharest and not even notice it, because you know, time flies when you’re having fun.

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And in terms of fun, Bucharest really is an interesting place, if you can get over the horrible traffic.

There are also top-notch tourist resorts at the Black Sea, which may come handy during the summer season, though the Black Sea is not my favorite “ocean panorama”, being somewhat dull when compared to the Adriatic or Mediterranean Sea.

In this writer’s opinion, what makes Romania really special is that intriguing melange of old and new, and especially the country’s small, archaic rural communities which still use and promote(and are dependent more or less upon) ancient agricultural practices.

And, in case you didn’t get it, ancient agricultural practices translate into organic farming, as in Romania food still tastes like food, at least in the country.

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The rural population is what makes this country absolutely flabbergasting, together with its stunning natural beauty.

There are hundreds of small, isolated villages, from the Saxon towns in Transylvania to those little villages, spreading all the way up to the Carpathian Mountains, revealing to the intrepid traveler a bunch of cultural gems, to say the least.

I bet you heard about Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was actually a Transylvanian prince (Vlad Dracul) with whom the British Royal family shares its genes. And I kid you not, that’s a fact: Prince Charles is the heir and loom of Dracula’s blood line, check that out folks!

The Bran Castle inspired Bram Stoker’s story, and as you can imagine, it’s a premiere tourist attraction when travelling to Transylvania.

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If you’re into dangerous adventures, i.e. an adrenaline junkie or a die-hard hiker/walker, the Fagaras Mountains offer 14 peaks over 2500 meters tall and several (and spectacular) alpine lakes. If you’re into mountaineering and trekking, in Fagaras you’ll feel like in Nirvana!

The painted monasteries in Bucovina (Moldovita, Voronet, Sucevita) are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list and they boast their painted frescoes, both on the inside and on the outside.

The medieval city of Sibiu was the European Cultural Capital in 2008 and it really shines with its red-blue-apricot-green painted houses, along with its 40 towers and city-walls, beautifully preserved from the medieval period (it was a fortress-city back in the day).

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Sighisoara is another 15’th century gem, another impeccably preserved medieval city, a small place with cobbled streets, ornate churches and burgher houses. Oh, and also the birth-place of Vlad the Impaler!

If you’re into natural beauty, the wildlife in the Danube delta and the Carpathian Mountains are among the most astonishing places in the world.

If you’re a gourmet, Romania is the place to be in, because romanians absolutely live to eat and drink, being like Hobbits in this regard. Regional foods and drinks include all sorts of soups (with meatballs for example, or meat, and/or vegetables, fish soups, giblet soups, flat meat patties heavily spiced with various garnishes, mashed cornmeal, grilled sturgeon, cheesecakes, sarmale and lots of other goodies. Regional drinks include locally brewed-strong brandies, like plum brandy (tuica or palinca), wines from Murfatlar (riesling, pinot gris, pinot noir, cabernet, chardonnay) and mulled wine, together with all sorts of international beer-brands.

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Since Romania is an EU member, you’ll only require an ID to enter, or a valid passport if you’re not from the EU. No visa is required.

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