Romania. You know, I see blog posts and articles about many countries in Europe (and other places of course) including Bulgaria, Turkey, Hungary Croatia and others. One place that I don’t see get much publicity and travel recommendation is Romania.
Why is this? Well, maybe it’s just not that popular. Actually, of all the countries in Europe Romania is certainly one that has really struggled to recover from the Global Financial Crisis (but then, have we properly recovered as a planet? Some would say no and that economic improvement, recovery of markets is somewhat false and that sooner or later we’re due a big nosedive, but as I often do, I digress).
I know people who live in Romania, and they don’t have a massively positive outlook on things. They would rather live somewhere else in Europe if it was possible, and this is a pity. And you know, for this piece I am not doing any ‘on the ground research’, so you know, my experiences are tempered by over a decade of time.
Still, I think it’s a pity that Romania does not seem to be high on people’s list of potential travel destinations. For starters, it really is a very pretty country. The forests and mountains are breathtakingly beautiful. There is some great medieval architecture to be seen and then you have the Black Sea on Romania’s east coast which is a bit of a magnet for parties, sun and fun. At least in the Summer it is.
So the first thing I would say if you are considering Romania – is consider the capital, Bucharest. And then consider missing it. If there’s any place that is going to suffer from economic downturn, it’s the capital as the biggest city in the country, and therefore a magnet to anyone from other places around Romania who are hoping to find work etc.
If you are going, I’d be careful. It is a very unique city, still with smatterings of Ceausescu’s dreams that ultimately led to his demise and the demise of communism in the country. That is, money spent on huge architectural feats like the Triumphal Arch, a slightly smaller replica of the Arc de Triumph, and the People’s Palace, one of the largest (area wise) buildings in the world, still not 100% complete and not exactly attractive. But a must-see if you visit Bucharest.
I would recommend coming in from the west, from the Hungarian side, and probably leaving the same way or even south to Serbia. Cluj-Napoca is honestly a great town, with the University vibe and you can base trips out into the mountains there, the Turda Gorge and see the Salt Mine which is truly amazing.
The countryside is spectacular, the prices are cheap and outside Bucharest and probably other major tourist spots, you’ll find the people friendly. Cluj was the friendliest city I visited when in Romania.
And then step it up in Transylvania, because you have Brasov and Sigisoara, two wonderful medieval towns that are a must. Both are influenced by the legend of Vlad the Impaler, a leader (who impaled his enemies heads it should be said) and whose legend somehow morphed into the legend of Dracula.
Brasov is a typical medieval tourist town, but not that far is the small village of Bran where the legendary Bran Castle sits. Whether or not Vlad spent much time in it is by the by, it’s quite a unique place in the Transylvanian forest and if you can get over the hype, you can appreciate it.
In the region is also the amazing Peles Castle. It’s up in the mountains, and at times served as residence for royalty (back when Romania had royalty). You get a great tour, and it’s very different from other castles – in fact this feels very much a palace. It’s decorations are spectacular, and you’ll even been shown hidden passaeways and the like!
Sigisoara is really a beautiful little town in Transylvania and if you can only make it to one place, well, try and make it here! It has a charming medieval old town, arches, cobblestones, a beautiful yet haunting cemetery, on a river, it’s a delight!
Then you have the Black Sea, the north which is less frequented by the visitor but I was reliably told it’s amazing. So I still have some part of the country to visit! Trains are actually pretty good in Romania and go most places. Some of the newer ones are in good nick and my preferred way of getting around the country. And you know, any country really!
I’m suggesting here that you consider Romania as a destination. But also consider if the situation is stable as well, protests and the like have been common in the last five to eight years. Consider skipping the capital if you don’t feel comfortable going there. But please do consider this very pretty, interesting, striking and different country as a destination when you head Europe way!
Thanks for reading – May the Journey Never End!