Romania. The first thought that comes to mind when thinking about this European country is that of civil wars and capitalist regime. Don’t let that deter you. It is a land of legend. Romania boasts an out of this world landscape, consisting of lush meadows, dense, dark forests, wetlands, snow-tipped mountains and architecture that would make even the biggest critics weep.
At the top of the list lies Count Country, Transylvania. Synonymous with the lore of vampires, it is home to Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes, the famous Count Dracula, and his abode, Bran Castle. Nearby in the city of Sibiu is the Museum of Folk Civilisation which features local crafts and textiles. Brasov is another popular city in Transylvania which showcases gothic architecture at its finest, against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Leave the mystical behind and experience the healing powers of halotherapy found in the futuristic Turda salt mines, a sight for sore eyes, with its salt carved balconies, caves and stalactites.
Further south lies the capital, Bucharest. No longer overshadowed by capitalism, it houses the Village Museum, an open-air tribute which is home to the wooden churches of Maramuras. Stroll through parks to scenic Lake Herastrau or bask in the glory of nature at the Cismigiu Gardens. Art lovers can bask in the glory of the Romanian greats such as Brancusi or Grigorescu, famous for their medieval work, at the National Art Museum. The past is never to be forgotten at Centru Civic, and guided tours can be taken through the mammoth sized Palace Parliament. Housing 1100 rooms it is the second largest administrative building in the world and a reminder of the Ceausceau regime.
Niches for nature lovers also exist in this mystical land. Two hours from the capital lays the legendary Carpathian Mountains. During the summer months, one can enjoy pristine hiking trails, wildlife watching and even wolf and bear tracking for the not so faint at heart. During the winter, the area is transformed into a ski zone, one of the cheapest available in Europe. Take scenic pictures at the world renowned Transfagarasan, a paved road which snakes its way through the mountains, once used for quick military access.
Not to be forgotten is the grand Danube Delta. Lying on the southern border of Romania, the Danube River meets the Black Sea, creating almost 2100 sq. feet of wetlands. This UNESCO World Heritage site houses more than 100 species of plants and wildlife ideal for animal lovers.
Architectural wonders are rampant in Romania. Stavropoleos Monastery located in Bucharest is intricately decorated in an arabesque fashion, reminiscent of the 1970’s. Pales Castle, even though built by the monarchy, can still be admired for its sheer opulence. In Belgrade lies the Saint Save Cathedral, the largest Eastern Orthodox Church in the world.
A few tips to remember are to maintain caution when photographing official buildings. Always ask permission. Also, money should only be exchanged at banks and one must keep in mind the conservative culture of Romania when it comes to dress and displays of affection.
Immerse yourself in the wondrous and enchanting country that is Romania, for an experience sure to remember!