10 Reasons to Visit Romania

    10 Reasons to Visit Romania

    There is a small country in Eastern Europe that once used to be my home – Romania. While I lived there I didn’t care too much about its natural beauty or historic sites. I was constantly dreaming of seeing far-away lands and exotic places. Now, every time I go back I’m surprised to discover how beautiful Romania actually is. 25 years later and from the other side of the world, I realized that “far-away” or “exotic” is just a matter of geographical perspective. It depends where you are coming from. For people living in America, or Australia, or Japan,  Romania is indeed a far-away and exotic place. So if you haven’t seen it yet, I could give you at least 10 reasons to visit Romania.

    It has gorgeous scenery

    Romania enjoys a very diverse scenery: from high mountain peeks reaching almost 3,000 meters (the Carpathian Mountains), to hills and plains, the Danube Delta and the Black Sea shore. The country is well-watered by many rivers, streams and lakes. There are two main highways crossing the Carpathian Mountains: Transalpina and Transfagarasan running  at very high altitudes, with twists and turns and deep ravines, equally beautiful and dangerous.

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    It has beautiful castles and fortresses

    There are many beautiful medieval fortresses and castles in Romania. Places like the elegant Peles Castle, Bran Castle, or Corvin Castle, are famous throughout Europe.

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    Peles Castle

    It’s easy to visit

    As a former communist country, Romania  isn’t usually the place that people have high up on their must-see lists. That means tourist attractions can be visited with ease, without many restrictions and limitations, usually strictly enforced in other countries.  You can walk just by yourself in a castle without having to wait for an organized tour, or take pictures in an old church without being admonished. Historic sites are not overcrowded and picture-taking is not prohibited in most places. Unfortunately though, this started to change lately as the number of tourists visiting Romania is growing every year. 

    It’s affordable

    Romania is still a budget destination where your dollar goes a long way. Hotel and food prices are very low compared to other European countries (a loaf of bread is $0.30, 1 lb. of beef tenderloin is $3.50, a bottle of domestic beer is $1.50). Restaurants and cafés can be slightly more expensive near the tourist sites, but still affordable. Admission fees for museums and other attractions are also very reasonable and so is public transportation (busses, metro, or cabs).

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    Romania’s railway system is one of the largest in the world and prices are very cheap. Many low-cost European airlines connect Romania’s cities with other European countries. 

    Romania is also great to visit if are backpacking through Europe. With so many low cost accommodations and restaurants, you’ll not have to dig deep into your pockets in this country.

    Delicious food and historic restaurants

    Tasty food has always been a part of the Romanian culture. Almost anywhere you eat the food is delicious. Romanian cuisine has some Hungarian, Germanic and Turkish influences but still maintains its identifiable character. An example would be the classic sour soup (“ciorba“) made with “borş” (a sour liquid made from wheat and cornflower) and fried mutton pastrami with polenta. So if you visit Romania, be prepared to return with a few extra pounds.

    But besides tasty food, Romania is home to some very old, traditional restaurants with beautifully detailed interiors, painted ceilings and ornate woodwork. Some of the most famous ones, like Caru’ cu Bere, Hanu’ Berarilor, Hanu’ lui Manuc, Crama Domneasca, or Casa Doina are located in the old town. There are also several great vegan restaurants in Bucharest for those interested in eating vegetarian food.

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    Carul cu Bere (the Beer Wagon) Restaurant

    Beautiful cities, Medieval towns and old authentic villages

    There are so many great cities in Romania! While they don’t hold the glam of their counterparts in Western Europe, they are equally interesting and fun to visit. There are also many beautifully preserved medieval towns, like Brasov, Sighisoara, Sibiu, Cluj, or Alba Iulia whose citadels make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. 

    Throughout Transylvania there are villages that remained almost unaffected by modern civilization, still looking like they did three centuries ago. 

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    Medieval town of Sighisoara
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    Village in Transylvania

    The Danube Delta

    The Danube Delta is formed by the river Danube flowing into the Black Sea. There are many beautiful sites in Romania that are worth visiting, but if you are a bird-watcher and pure nature lover you shouldn’t miss this one . It is largest and the best preserved delta in Europe, with over 300 species of birds living in its lakes and marshes. The Danube Delta is a protected habitat and was declared a biosphere reserve.

    The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

    Among the most picturesque treasures of Romania is a group of 8 Painted Monasteries located in the northeastern part of Romania, in Bucovina.  The churches date back to medieval times (15th to 16th century). In most cases they have been founded as burial places for the noble families in the area. These churches are extremely well preserved and absolutely unique.  There is no other place in the world where you can find such a group, with such high quality interior and exterior frescoes. The frescoes represent biblical scenes from the Old and New Testament.

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    The Last Judgement scene at Voronet Monastery (canstockphoto credit)

    The painters (most of them unknown) gave the biblical scenes their own interpretation, using colors like the famous Voronet blue, the red of Humor, the yellow of Moldovita and the green of Arbore. The wall paintings, inspired by the Byzantine art and completely covering the churches’ façades, are of inestimable artistic value. In 1993 the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina have been declared a World Heritage site.

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    Sucevita monastery – Bucovina, Romania (canstockphoto credit)

    Beautiful architecture

    You’ll find beautiful old architecture throughout the country, but in Bucharest you’ll be delighted with elegant inter-belic architecture. Unfortunately, among the city’s great art-deco and 19th century buildings you’ll also see some new modern blocks of flats.

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    Different architectural styles in downtown Bucharest

    Altogether Bucharest is a mixed bag with some clean, well maintained areas next to neglected, dirty ones. Many of the historic buildings have fallen into serious disrepair, but there are still some old well preserved ones, especially in the downtown area.

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    Old building in need of repairs

    Miraculously, a good number of historic churches in Bucharest managed to survive Communism and have been restored to their original beauty. The European Union invested serious funds into rebuilding some of the old, historic areas of Bucharest.

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    Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism
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    Dimbovita River, Downtown Bucharest

    Friendly people

    In the end, no matter how beautiful a country is, it is its people that will make the difference. Romanians are known for their friendliness and hospitality. The best part is that almost everywhere you go you’ll find someone who speaks English, especially the young generation. And even if they don’t, they will do their best to accommodate you or point you in the right direction. In fact they may even offer to accompany you to where you need to get if that’s not very far.

     

     

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