Thirdeyemom

The Romance of Romania

“After decades, centuries in some cases, of an unseen hand leaning on Romania’s pause button, breathtaking change and development are under way. Not too long ago, this late-adopting, former communist dictatorship was considered an idiosyncratic, challenging destination, meant only for the hardiest of ex-Eastern Bloc travel aficionados. Well, Romania’s social, political and economic moons have finally aligned and the resulting tidal shift promises to wash away the old traveller stigmas and surge the country to the forefront of top-value European tourism.”  – Leif Pettersen, author Lonely Planet Romania 2009 edition

Brasov, Romania

 

Although I was there for a little less than a week, Romania succeeded in seducing my senses and awakening my imagination. A fairytale land covered in forested mountains, castles and fortresses, sheep and shepherds and the highest population of bears in all of Europe, the romance of Romania is hard to resist and easy to fall in love.

While the famous lore of Dracula remains strong there is so much more to Romania to discover.  Located in the southeastern half of Central Europe and bordered by Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and the Black Sea, Romania’s history is long and dramatic. The Romania we know today – which includes about 20 million people and spans the size of Oregon – derives from a complicated past beginning with the Dacians in 650 BC who lived in the area known as Transylvania. This mountainous country (over a third of Romania is covered in mountains) has witnessed the waves of migration from the Middle Ages to the sometimes violent expansion of the Ottoman Empire to the first formal formation of modern Romania in 1859.  With two World Wars, the industrialization and hardship of the Communist era and the 1989 Revolution which would bring communism to its final end, Romania has certainly experienced her share of drama. Today, she remains a peaceful, relatively homogenous country roughly the size of Oregon, awash in culture, history and promise for the future. Quite frankly, Romania is one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited in Europe. There is simply no place quite like it.

Since I just arrived home after a whirlwind tour of Romania, I will leave you with a few pictures to stir your curiosity. The photos below were all taken in the beautiful medieval city of Brasov where we spent most of our time, and I also included a few of the city’s capital Bucharest and the scenic drive through the Transfagarasan which we followed for a nine-hour winding tour through the mountains of Romania on our last day.

Brasov

Brasov is located in the heart of Transylvania, about a three-hour drive south from Bucharest. Founded in the 13th century on ancient Dacian site by the Saxons, this lovely picturesque town is perhaps one of the most beautiful Medieval cities in all of Romania. Surrounded by lush, tree-covered mountains, you can see how Brasov was the perfect place to build a fortified city centuries ago. You can even still see the remaining walls of the city as well as the tower lookout gates, as you discover all the delightful things that Brasov has to offer. Brasov, Romania

Brasov, Romania

Brasov, Romania

The Black Church that was built in the 13th century and is the largest Gothic church in all of Romania. It received its name due to the effects on its appearance after a fire damaged it in 1689.

For the best views of Brasov, either hike to the top of Mount Tampa or take the Communist-era cable car up and you will have a bird’s-eye view of the entire city. It is spectacular.

Bucharest

Brasov is quite different from the expansive capital city, Bucharest, which offers an eclectic mix of part Parisian and Gothic charm save the ugly massive Communist elements.

The Transfagarasan Highway

Then there is the amazing drive along the Transfagarasan Highway that cuts and curves through the highest mountains in Romania through its hair-rising, spellbinding twists and turns. Perhaps one of the only great relics of the Communist Era in Romania. 

 

Stay tuned…much more on Romania to come once I’m over the jet lag!

60 comments

  1. Sue

    I have visited Romania, seen quite a bit of the country, but alas, never got to do the Transfagarasan, which would have been right up my street, so to speak

  2. When I see the name Transylvania, I can’t help but think of Dracula and vampires, but your photos are so beautiful, Nicole. The skies are fabulous and I love the rooftop shots. 🙂

    • Romania was a wonderful surprise. I really enjoyed it. Very beautiful, green and the price was very very good. The people were fantastic and so kind. It was touristy but nothing like Prague.

  3. I’ll have to look at a map! I know you were on a hiking trip, so I’m curious to see where the mountains are in relation to Brasov. My sister spent time in Romania in the 80s when it was still solidly Communist and remembers it as quite grim. I know much has changed there, as in other Eastern bloc nations; how wonderful to be able to see these beautiful countries coming back to life.

    • Brasov is a wonderful base for day hikes but the best hiking which we discovered is way up in the mountains doing multi-day hut to hut hikes. That is what I’d love to do. We ended up only doing one hike as my dad got a horrible cold the second day there. He hiked with it and then was miserable. We got up to one of the first of many mountain huts. The hiking options in Romania are astounding. I had no idea there were so many options but I guess the fact that 30% of the country is covered by mountains it makes sense.

      • I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. The good news is you have seen first-hand what can be done there and can add it to your (long!) hiking wish list (as I will add Romania to mine after your report)! And you certainly had a charming town to enjoy when not on the trail.

      • Yes I think the travel just got him sick. I didn’t catch the cold though and we still had a fabulous time despite his cold. Looking back now I wish I had more time there. It really is quite fascinating. So many places I want to go and see in the world. I would love to see some of Romania’s surrounding countries as well such as Bulgaria, Ukraine and Serbia.

    • Yes Romania is pretty fascinating and not really many foreign tourists except Romanian tourist. You are lucky as I get jet lag every single time I travel even in the US! My body is scheduled like a clock. Europe tends to be the worse.

    • Thanks Janet! It was a wonderful place and the price is so incredibly good right now. We had amazing meals for under $20 with a bottle of wine. The people were amazing, the landscape stunning and it was just like being in a fairytale. I loved it there.

  4. I have read about Romania through the Dracula and i quite don’t know anything other than that about Romania … Thank you for sharing …I am really impressed by the pictures and surely hope to visit it ond day.

    • Wonderful! More will be coming soon! I still have to finish writing about Prague but will be sure to mix some Romania in with it. I loved it there! 🙂

  5. Oh it looks wonderful. The opening photo, and the first with the sunset are beautiful. I would love to go there. Central/Eastern Europe has long been on our bucket list – you entice me even more!
    Alison

    • Thanks Alison! Yes I bet a Central European tour of Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and even going to Czech Republic and Bulgaria would be amazing. It is so fascinating there!

  6. Lots and lots of foreign tourists!! Lonely Planet’s top destination in the world, 2016. Quite a number of foreigners living here permanently, too – including me. A little thing – the Transfagarasan and the Transalpina are two different roads over the mountains, and both are now well wroth the drive, as you discovered.Glad you made it to Brasov – a very pleasant and livable city – nice to have an hour’s drive from my village. Thanks for the boost – hope your followers all come and see for themselves.

    • Thanks for the comment! That is interesting that you said lots of foreign tourists come as they most be from
      Neighboring countries. We did not seem to see any English speaking tourists except a small handball when we were there so we must have gotten lucky! I was just in Prague two months ago and it was overwhelmed with tourists. I never felt that way in Romania except at the Bran castle. It also seemed like we were there during a big Romanian holiday or just that there were a lot of Romanians traveling when we were. I like that about it! The hiking was wonderful too! Thanks for the tip too on the Transalpina! Corrected that so it wasn’t confusing. I loved Romania especially the warm and friendly people!

      • Delighted to hear you loved it so much! Foreign visitors come in droves from UK, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and, yes, some from Eastern Europe. But most of the foreigners come for eco-tourism so you won’t so much find them in the cities and the big sights but in the forests, up the mountains (which is where I live) and at the Danube Delta. You can lose thousands of people in the wilderness… My visitors tend to spend six days here in the mountains and a day in Bucharest at the start or end of their trip. Bran is an exception – everyone has to go to Bran… (just down the hill from me). It’s nice that Romanians love to travel in their own country. It’s partly available cash but also because they love it. If you have a moment you can see where I live: https://maguratransylvania.wordpress.com – lots of photos.

      • Thanks so much for sending me this info! We wanted to do a multi-day hike in the mountains. that was the original plan but we used frequent flyer miles and the trip ended up being way too short. We only did one hike and I was able to get a taste of it. I will definitely check out your site. Thanks so much!!!

  7. Romania has long been on my bucket list. I have always romanticized the Dracula lore. Absolutely adore that first image. Looking forward to hearing more.

    • Thank you ! I have a lot more coming soon once I edit more of my photos from Romania. It is such a beautiful country with such kind and welcoming people.

  8. No wonder you fell in love with the place, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Hope you’re recovering from the jet lag Nicole. Look forward to seeing more on Romania (which has just been added to my ever growing bucket list!) 🙂

    • Yes it was such a short whirlwind trip Miriam but really gave me a taste of what a beautiful country Romania is. So much amazing history and culture too. Plus the lush green mountains.

  9. Love your photos…especially the first two: awesome skies. I would love to return also, but yeah…it’s that time thing. They almost kicked me out of a castle because I was taking photos without their 8 euro ticket…which I didn’t know about (and they couldn’t sell me once inside the castle)…odd merchandising technique???

  10. I spent the first three years of my life there as the daughter of a Foreign Service Officer. I am overjoyed to see it through your eyes. Thank you for giving meaning to precious fragments of memory.
    Kind regards,
    SL Neeley

  11. marujia

    I simply searched for Romania on WordPress and this post was the first result. Thank you for writing in such a beautiful manner about my country. I hope you will write some more and maybe visit many other awesome places. If you want an insider to be your online tour guide, count on me. There are many hidden places which are worth seeing. Congratulations for your blog, for you wanderlust and for being an adventurous mom! Salutes from Romania!

    • Wow that is wonderful that my post came up! I loved Romania. The beauty, the culture and most of all the people were so incredibly kind and welcoming. I would love to go back! Yes many more places to explore.

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