As today, December 1st is the National day of Romania, I decided it is a good time to start sharing some stories as well about Romania. Unlike the other travel adventures I have been writing about until now in Romanian, for this one I will tell the stories in English as I would like my foreign friends as well to know more about my country.
The day of December 1st celebrates the union of the country dating from 1918, when after World War I finished the 3 historical provinces were reunited, those are Muntenia (the south, known also as Vallachia), Ardeal ( the north west, also more famously known as Transylvania) and Moldova (the north-east, which at the time included the eastern neighboring country with the same name, region which was annexed by the Soviet Union after the second world war).
Romania has been part of the eastern block of Europe trapped behind the Iron curtain until 1989 when a bloody revolution brought down the country’s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Since then, Romania has been on a slow and curling road towards democracy, capitalism and an integration with the western world. It is now part of NATO and the European Union since 2007. Being only a little older than the democracy I myself have grown with it, but I can see how much this country has developed since.
Romania has about 20 million inhabitants, and it’s largest city is the capital Bucharest, hosting over 2 million residents. The country neighbors Hungary and Serbia to the West, Ukraine and Moldova to the North East, Bulgaria to the South and the Black Sea in the east coastal region.
Map of Romania
As this is not a site about history or geography, but rather a travel blog, I won’t expand on the this kind of information for now.
There are many wonderful places that should be visited around Romania. Bucharest is usually the start place for most trips as the largest international airport in the country is here (Henri Coanda airport or Otopeni). The city has unfortunately been suffocated with communist architecture and many of its historical buildings have been demolished in the 70s. However, it has kept its essence and spirit and more recently the old town center is recovering the charm it once had, now boasting a nightlife that fills the narrow streets every day with both locals and foreigners from sunset until morning. The most well known monument is the People’s Palace, a megalomaniac monument built by Ceausescu design “to house all the people” (whatever that meant 🙂 ) which is the second largest building in the world.
The real jewels are however outside of Bucharest. The unspoiled Carpathian mountains may be the wildest mountain range in Europe with dense forests, numerous wild life, amazing scenery and several castles and fortresses built in the valleys. Alpine or volcanic lakes add to this scenery among waterfalls and tumultuous rivers.
The entire countryside is filled with charming monasteries showing Romania is one of the most religious countries in the world. All these churches are remarkable thru simplicity and amazing details of their paintings. The most famous are the painted monasteries of Bucovina, the wooden churches of Maramures in the north west and the historical monasteries of Oltenia, all of these being part of the world’s Unesco heritage.
What is unique is the Romanian village. Anywhere you wonder off from the developed cities, you can travel 200-300 hundred years in time. You can find villages where peasants will be working on the field, young shepherd will be driving their herds up the hills, hey will be carried in horse driven wagon and cattle will be crossing the streets. Among all this, any place will have it’s own traditions. Whether that will be the art of pottery, embroidering, carving wood or knitting, whether it’s local carols, poems or songs that are kept from generation to generation or simply the local traditional colorful clothes which are worn on any festive day, these traditions are well kept in any region of the country.
The seaside to the east has about a hundred kilometers of sandy beaches, starting from the high end resorts and posh clubs of Mamaia in the north to the more laid back atmosphere of Vama Veche in the south. The Danube river also is the southern border of the country, creating narrow paths between the mountains in the west only then to pass by the huge plains it creates in the south until it flows into the Black Sea. Here is the Danube Delta, Europe’s largest delta, and one of the most amazing wildlife reserves in the world.
Transylvania, while famous for housing vampires and werewolves, is a region where beautiful medieval cities and Gothic style buildings still remain a hidden jewel, not yet spoiled by the growing tourism industry. Cities like Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara or Alba Iulia have kept their old towns intact and keep the charm of past ages.
As said, I will be sharing some travel stories from around Romania so look forward to the next episodes, until then sharing some pictures from my travels around the country.
The Sphinx, natural monument on the Bucegi plateau
Caraiman Cross at 2300 m
Brasov old town
Decebal’s statue on the Danube
Barsana churches in Maramures
Sighisoara Clock Tower
Sibiu old town
At Mamaia beach
On the way to Moldoveanu peak (highest point in Romania)
Wildlife near Negoiu peak
Traditional carols at the village museum
People’s palace (parliament)