“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
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 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.
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.
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!