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Romania has long been a hidden treasure in Eastern Europe. With majestic mountain ranges, glass-like lakes and villages that appear to be straight out of a fairy tale, it’s no wonder this spectacular country is emerging as a must-visit destination. Hulking castles and fortresses lend themselves to mythical legends and creatures, such as Count Dracula. However, there is so much more to Romania than vampiric folklore and shadowy tales. Come and discover the wonder and beauty of this amazing country.
Located near the southeastern border near Bulgaria is the capital city of Bucharest. Since the fall of communism, the city has been slowly emerging as a vibrant and powerful metropolitan hub. One thing consistent throughout the capital is the sheer grandiosity on display. The Palace of Parliament was commissioned by former dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu and is jaw-droppingly huge. With more than 1,100 rooms, the Romanian government only occupies roughly 30% of the building. Other highlights include the impressive Romanian Athenaeum—home to the philharmonic orchestra and the Arch of Triumph, which boasts stunning vistas of the city from the top.
Ruled by Turks, Austrians and Hungarians, Timişoara is a veritable melting pot of culture and history. The city was also the spark that lit the flame of the Romanian Revolution in 1989, leading to the government’s downfall less than a week after the protests began. Today, Timişoara is filled with college students, well-preserved architecture and stately squares. Art galleries and museums are housed in former Baroque-style mansions, while bustling cafes awaken the old town streets. Stroll through the meticulous riverfront gardens lining the Bega River as it winds its way through the city.
Transylvania and Braşov
In the beating heart of this beautiful country is Transylvania. Known for its picturesque scenery filled with jagged peaks and castles, it feels as though you’ve stepped into a Brothers Grimm or Bram Stoker story. The most famous of these castles—Bran Castle—is the legendary home of Count Dracula. Further away toward the western edges of Transylvania is Corvin Castle. This medieval fortress is actually the largest castle in Romania and is a testimony to Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
Centered in the Transylvania region is Braşov, a busy city filled with old-world charm and plenty of history. While many use it as a starting point for touring around the area, it’s definitely worth exploring. Brightly colored Baroque buildings line the streets leading to the town square. The Black Church is an impressive Gothic-style church built by the local German community. After suffering a devastating fire in the late 1600s, the church derived its name from the remaining soot and smoke on the walls.
Made famous by the adrenaline junkies of the TV show “Top Gear,” The Transfăgărăşan is a road stretching more than 150 kilometers north and south through the southern Carpathian Mountains. Initially built as a quick escape in the event of a Soviet invasion, The Transfăgărăşan has been deemed one of the most exhilarating roads in the world. The route is filled with hills, valleys, alpine glaciers, twisting hairpin turns and breathtaking views of Romania’s beauty.
Romania is home to a variety of different ecosystems. From the steep mountain ranges to more than 12,000 caves found underground to the serene wetlands and shoreline of the Black Sea, it’s easy to find the natural wonders. Approximately two hours northeast of Bucharest is Vulcanii Noroioşi Pâclele Mari, also known as Berca Mud Volcanoes. This geological phenomenon is a mix of natural gases, clay and salty mash water. As the gases release toward the surface, it causes the mud and water to erupt, creating small mud “volcanoes.”
At the opposite end of the country toward the northwest is Salina Turda—the Turda Salt Mine. At 120 meters deep, this salt mine dates back to the 11th century and operated until the early 1900s. After it shuttered, the mine was refurbished and is now considered one of the largest salt mine museums in Europe. It has an incredibly epic amusement park underground, including mini-golf, a Ferris wheel and a bowling alley.
For nature lovers and bird watchers, the Danube Delta is the second-largest yet best-preserved in Europe. The delta spans a massive 580,000 hectares and is home to more than 300 species of birds and wildlife, many of which have been on the endangered species list. While parts of the reserve are in neighboring Ukraine, much of the wetlands are found in Romania and are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fun facts about Romania
• It’s been part of the EU since 2007, and its currency is the euro.
• Romania has won international acclaim for its wine production.
• Vlad III (also known as Vlad the Impaler) and Bran Castle are said to have inspired “Dracula;” however, the tyrannical ruler never stayed at Bran Castle.
• The Palace of Parliament is the world’s heaviest building, consisting of more than 700,000 tons of bronze and steel and 4,500 tons of crystal.
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