A beautiful and mysterious nation located in the heart of Eastern Europe, Romania has much to offer the budget traveler looking for unforgettable experience on their Euro Trip. With cities that brim with sophistication and cheap food and drink, and rural settings that harken back to the days of old, it still offers the experience that many people got decades ago when trekking through Western Europe, but has been lost somewhat in the wave of modernization and price rises since that time.
Many people may think of Dracula when the name Romania is spoken, and there are half right (no such thing as vampires guys, calm down), as Vlad the Impaler once ruled Transylvania with a ruthless and barbaric approach to law and order back in the 15th century. His kingdom, along with historical sites is only a small part of the many points of interest awaiting with Romania’s borders.
Currency: Romanian Leu
What To Do
Romania’s first history of organized settlement is generally considered to begin with the reign of the Dacians, who occupying the lands where this nation sits today up until the 1st century AD, when the Romans overran this sadly overmatched territory. Visible remains of their capital, Sarmizegetusa Regia, still exist today in the southwest portion of Transylvania, where the foundations of building, stone roads, and even water piping (amazing, eh?) is visible for the contemplation of all who visit.
Fast forwarding to the medieval era, there are many spectacular castles located across the landscape, the most famous of which is Bran Castle, home of Romania’s most infamous monarch, Vlad III (aka Vlad the Impaler). A tireless defender of this region, he was and still is considered a hero to most Romanians … but this guy was not a man you wanted to have as your enemy.
Without any sense of mercy, he tortured and impaled his victims in unspeakable ways (look him up on Google, it’s very disturbing), inspiring the legend of Dracula, upon which the lore of a bloodthirsty creature that took on the deceiving appearance of a gentleman on his exterior was built.
Other castles that are well worth visiting include Peles and Corvin Castles. Peles is actually rather new, only being completed in 1914 for King Carol I, who had simply adored the scenery in this area when he had visited decades before. It was used as a royal residence until the rise of communism in 1947 forced the abdication of King Michael I. Aside from the spectacular surroundings and the architecture of the castle itself, other reasons that make this place worth visiting include the immaculately kept gardens, fine sculptures, and an amazing collection of medieval weapons and armour that numbers up to 4,000 pieces.
Corvin Castle was built on the orders of John Hunyadi, a governor in the region of Transylvania in the 15th century, in the Gothic style. This man was a rival of Vlad III, and it is said that he was held prisoner within these walls at one point in his life. Other prisoners were given false hope, coerced to build a well in exchange for their freedom. They had completed their task 15 years later, but their captors rescinded their offer. This castle is said to be haunted in the present day, perhaps by these tortured souls.
Nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Painted Monasteries should be next on your list of things to see in Romania. Located near Suceava, these religious buildings are famous for frescoes of Christian religious figures that coat their exteriors. They also have some well-tended gardens, filled with roses in-season.
A site that presently possesses UNESCO World Heritage status, the Villages with fortified churches in Transylvania historic site provides insights into the effort to reinforce civilized life in the region after the fall of the Roman Empire. Built between the 13th and 16th centuries, these community structures located in southeastern Transylvania were built around a central church, with shops, homes, and other buildings fanning out from it, all surrounded by massive walls designed to withstand sieges from the Ottoman Empire, the major conquering force in the region.
First put into production in the 11th century, and producing table salt right up to 1932, the Salina Turda salt mine is a tourist attraction in the present day. Lit up on the inside, guests learn the lengthy history of this extractor of the long valued seasoning, and there are health spas here that offer halotherapy for those that are interested in treatments along these lines.
Those seeking to lie out in the sun and relax on during the summer months will find plenty of beach resorts on the Black Sea coast with tantalizing white sand and clear water ready to be enjoyed. Mamaia is the biggest resort town, with Costinesti having more clubs better suited to younger travelers. Vama Veche is a great place for alternative minded travelers to enjoy themselves, as the place boasts nude beaches and a hippy-friendly atmosphere.
If you find yourself here during the cold months of year, then head to the mountainous interior, where snow resorts abound for those looking for a good deal on lift tickets. While the quality of the runs do not compare to what is available in the European Alps, the lower price points on tickets, food, accommodations and beer make for a potent combination for an excellent winter getaway in this part of the country.
What To Eat
While there is some disagreement in some quarters of what dish could be considered Romania’s dish, it seems that Sarmale gets talked about the most in this fashion. Sarmale is cabbage leaves that have been boiled, and then filled with seasoned, minced pork, and then cooked in an oven. It is a delectable treat that can get quite addictive after having it for the first time.
Another main course dish that is well-loved in Romania is Ciorba de Burta, a sour soup made with tripe, and is seasoned with vinegar, garlic and lemon juice. It has been renowned in this country to be a hangover cure, and given the hearty elements, we would be apt to agree with this assessment.
If you are in Romania at Easter or directly afterwards, then do your best to track down some Pasca, a cheese or chocolate pie that is the stuff of dreams. It is produced with soft cheese, raisins and a ton of sugar. Be careful though, or you might gain a few notches on your belt before leaving the country because of this delightful calorie bomb!