18 Oct Tourist In My Own Country, Romania
Tudor T. passionately shares about being a tourist in his own country, Romania.
Only after living abroad for a few years I started realizing that I was taking my country ‘for granted’, without thinking too much about how diverse it is. On a surface slightly smaller than the state of Oregon, USA, you will find mountains and sea, hills and plains, a fabulous Danube Delta and medieval towns, dozens of music festivals and a vivid night life. Not to mention that it is home to a particularly famous gentleman, the legendary Count Dracula.
I could write an entire book about my favorite places. One of them is Bucharest, the Romanian capital. Being born and raised there, I have witnessed how the city transformed year after year, growing as a tourist destination in Central Europe.
If I were to organize a tour for my friends, I would start of course with the second largest building in the world (after the Pentagon) and the most controversial – The Parliament Palace. In order to fulfil his ambitious “urban development plan”, the former communist leader demolished two neighborhoods totaling more than 30,000 homes and 20 churches. You can have an excellent panoramic view of the city from one of the terraces.
After the tour, it is time for lunch, and the best places to enjoy a traditional Romanian meal would be “Hanul lui Manuc” or “Carul cu Bere” in the city’s historical center. We could then continue strolling on the small streets, filled with small cafes, restaurants, small museums and craft shops. Take a walk on Calea Victoriei and get a glimpse of the interwar period, when Bucharest was known as “Little Paris”, thanks to its mixture of architectural styles, historical buildings and intellectual interests.
Museum fans would not be disappointed. Some of my favorites are the Village Museum – an open air ethnographic museum – the National Museum of Art, the History Museum.
I wouldn’t want my friends to leave the city before getting a taste of its bustling night life. Especially during weekends, be prepared for sleepless nights as the Old Town streets, filled with pubs and clubs satisfying all music tastes, become a huge party area.
Since ‘dubbing’ is not at all popular with TV programs, all Romanians speak perfect English. They’re also pretty outgoing so keep it in mind when planning your next vacation.
A good thing is that everything is within reach from Bucharest, so within 3-4 hours you can reach any major attraction throughout the country. Six things I wouldn’t want you to miss outside of Bucharest:
1. The Transfagarasan road has constantly topped many ‘dream drive’ and ‘best roads’ in the world charts. Although Romania’s roads are generally not the best in the world quality-wise, this stretch of tarmac literally cuts several mountains and is any petrol head’s dream. A twisting, contorting road with an abundance of hairpin turns and S curves, flanked by idyllic scenery. Richard Hammond & Jeremy Clarkson chose it as their no. 1 favorite on BBC’s Top Gear.
2. Peles Castle was home to Romania’s royal family during its glory days, back when Romania was still a monarchy before the 2nd world war. Nestled in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, surrounded by age-old trees and impressive mountains, it mixes a range of architectural styles. Fact: Romania’s King Michael is a 1st degree cousin to Queen Elizabeth.
3. Thanks to Irish writer Bram Stoker, the fantasy-thriller spotlight is constantly over Romania in the region called Transylvania – home of the fictitious (or is it..?) Count Dracula. Tens of thousands of tourists visit Bran Castle every year, although it’s believed that the ruler whom Stoker based his novel on – Vlad the Impaler – only stayed there once overnight.
4. Business Insider ranks it the most spectacular underground place in the world. The Turda Salt Mine recently ranked as the 22nd most impressive tourist destination worldwide. It’s also one of the biggest and oldest salt mines in the world, but what sets it apart is the Star Wars – ish interior decoration, lighting ambient and overall structure.
5. After flowing through 10 countries, the river Danube spills into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta – which spreads over 4,150 km2 of lush nature considered to be the best preserved delta in Europe. If you don’t like fish, best to stay away since it’s the main dish. Anywhere. All the time. Most likely caught by you.
6. Balea Lake is a glacier lake situated at 2,034 m of altitude in the Fagaraș Mountains, in central Romania. There are two chalets opened all year round, literally in the heart of the mountains. A great place to start trekking from, it’s (relatively) easy to access on foot.
A few random facts:
- Romania is exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole as one of the 45th parallel north places in the world.
- The steel used to build the Eiffel Tower was produced in Resita. It actually says ‘Made in Romania’ on it.
- Globally, Romanian is the 2nd widest spoken language in Microsoft.
- Insulin and the jet engine were invented by two Romanian scientists.
- Romania is home to the largest brown bear population in the world.
- 1 RON = 0.9 AED so you’ll feel like at home; except for petrol (~6 RON/liter) things are considerably lower priced.
- Form of Government: Parliamentary
- Languages used: Romanian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Russian, Slovak, Romani, Ukrainian, and German. Interested to learn Romanian? Check out our language courses.