You know that feeling of attraction to a place without knowing its apparent reason? and then when you arrive, that feeling of falling in love at first sight? We travel to the land of Dracula, Romania, a country with which there are still many prejudices and stereotypes. It was not only love for the Balkans but also the surprise that arose from our first trip to Romania that encouraged me to write this blog!
Our first stop was Bucharest, a dynamic, vibrant and booming city, then Brasov in Transylvania, known to be in the collective land of Dracula. The country surprised us greatly, so as to push us back once again to visit the fourth Romanian city in order of size, placed in the region of Banat, Timisoara, which by its appearance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was renamed the little Vienna. Surely, we did not stop here!
In fact, we visited other areas of this fantastic country like Cluj, Maramures, the Black Sea coast, Moldova, and more! Romania, although in recent years has been the star of profound changes in economic, social and cultural life, has preserved its historical heritage and its pristine natural beauty. Its capital, Bucharest, located between the Danube and the Carpathian Mountains, is the main economic and cultural center of the country, as well as the seventh most populous city in the European Union!
Why visit Romania
Romania is a country with an ancient history, which will offer the traveler a vast artistic and cultural scene. The main Romanian cities including Bucharest, Timisoara, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov, Sibiu, Oradea, Sighisoara are true jewels of art and history, where you can stroll through the narrow streets of historic centers, getting lost in the alleys until you come out in large squares surrounded by elegant Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings.
There are many extraordinary museums scattered throughout the country such as the Museum of the Romanian Peasant and the Historical Museum in notes or the spectacular ruins sites like Hercules Baths of which today the ruins remain, but a time in its glory was the holiday resort, that was favorite of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Sissi!
Not to be missed: a visit to the ancient ruins of the Citadel of Histria the oldest cities in Romania; the wonderful castles scattered in the woods in the mountains of Transylvania as the Peles Castle or the famous Bran Castle made famous by the legend of Count Dracula. The charming painted monasteries of Bucovina, declared Unesco World Heritage, has a perfect marriage between art, architecture, and history. Transylvania is the region that more than anything else evokes medieval towns, castles, fortified churches and ancient superstitions.
Romania, fortunately, has maintained its scenic beauty, so much so that some parts of the country seem to be suspended in an ancient and remote time when modernity is still far away, just think of the idyllic, wooded landscapes of Maramures, where small village life still follows the rhythm of the seasons and people eat the fruits of their land.
Spectacular majestic mountain landscapes of Fagaras in central Romania, are part of the Carpathians and stretch for about 75 km south of the important road linking Brasov to Sibiu, here unspoiled nature will offer impressive to your eyes. Explore the peaceful and tranquil life of the villages in the Danube Delta where the rushing river pours its waters in the Black Sea, the area has been declared a World Heritage Site.
But if you dream beaches of fine golden sand and the crystal clear water on the head to the Black Sea coastline, where its 195 km of coastline offers spectacular unspoiled natural bays and interesting archaeological areas. Like every country of the Balkans, Romania also offers an excellent gastronomic scene from the genuine and Mediterranean flavors, characterized by different specialties which find their roots in the culinary traditions of the various peoples who have passed through the Balkans as Hungarians, Turks, Germans.
Mainly it's simple freshly prepared dishes tied to the land, among the specialties are the Ciorba , the Turkish tradition is a soup prepared in many ways with meat or vegetables, Smântână or sour cream, Hungarian goulash, the schnitzel and Spetzler Austro-German tradition, but they are also ubiquitous dishes of roast meat especially pork.
Do not forget to finish every meal with Rakija, of the Balkans, or Tuica, a distillation of plums produced at home, very popular in the countries of Eastern Europe! For those who prefer a modern kitchen, in the major cities, they have many common organic bistros serving vegan food!
Romania is very, very cheap! I can safely say that it is among the cheapest countries I've visited in eastern Europe, perhaps in Bulgaria, I was surprised for very low cost and which I mentioned in the article on Bulgaria & Sofia in 3 days. A meal for two people, in the most luxurious and refined Bucharest restaurant or Timisoara, will cost 30 euro for two! In general premises, restaurants and bars are really very low budget. A beer has the same price of water! It's a place suitable for those who love cheap travel!
Romania has it all from the Cozia Monastery, one of the oldest in the country's historical and art complex, to the fortified church of the Saxon village of Biertan to the Aristocratic Peles Castle, the former residence of King Charles I, to the disturbing Bran Castle, known as Dracula's Castle, to the village of Cincșor, with the typical Transylvanian houses, to the Alba Iulia, with the imposing Citadel Alba Carolina that is rich in Baroque sculptures and reliefs.
This was a trip to a country where there is still the love of a simple lifestyle and where folk traditions are still very much alive.
In conclusion, Romania is one of those travel destinations that stimulate the pleasure of discovery and the beauty of simplicity, with its unspoiled territories and its modern city but at the same time linked to history and traditions. Embark on this fantastic country to appreciate its essence, especially if you are lovers of travel on the road, and adore the spirit of the Balkans!
Romania Travel Itinerary
Obviously having a week available I opted for a classic itinerary that includes Transylvania and Bucharest. I ventured to places of great interest, such as the villages of Viscri and Biertan. From Sighisoara to Biertan, it was possible to reach by taxi with about 100 lei that is equivalent of 25 €.
Day 1 - Bucharest
Upon arrival, a microbus led us directly to Sinaia. Sinaia, whose name derives from that of Mount Sinai at the behest of King Charles I that lived for a long time is an alpine town with cold weather and completely surrounded by greenery. Sinaia also contains one of the most beautiful castles I've seen in my travels, and that is the Peles Castle. It is a castle in Augustan style with art deco interiors, including paintings by Klimt.
The building is great and it's all open, including apartments with a more powerful figure. The castle is really nice and this makes stop in Sinaia really necessary. You can jump, in my opinion to the Pelisor Castle, which is much less interesting and the Sinaia Monastery, whose peace and religion has, I think, more sense for Orthodox religious.
Here we stayed at a hotel, a real mountain cabin with luxury rooms.
Day 2 - Brasov
In the afternoon we depart for Brasov, a lovely medieval town, very similar, though much smaller to Krakow with the same atmosphere and cobbled streets, some of which has a bohemian atmosphere. I loved Brasov which was clean and cured in every detail and surrounded by greenery. At the entrance, we were greeted by a giant inscription "Brasov" in Hollywood-style, a moment that made us laugh too.
And then we enjoyed the intimate and relaxing atmosphere of the city. We visited the Black Church. Outside it enchants because topped by a bell tower with a wonderful clock, while the interior charms for the scent of wood.
Brasov offers attractions like the beautiful square and the cable car that leads directly to the Hill of Tampa, from where you can enjoy a splendid view of the medieval city.
To eat we chose a typical restaurant, where the food is pure meat. It was a little formal place, but we eat well and spend little. And then we were in a delightful bistro, where we tasted something different, namely American sandwich revisited with the Romanian tradition that was interesting and very cute.
To reach Brasov just go to the station of Sinaia by train and wait for a microbus which stops right outside the station. Buses run with a frequency of about 30 minutes and the journey takes about an hour.
I stayed in a castle, a mountain and ski resort about 25 km from Brasov which was isolated from city life and surrounded by green forest. In the darkness, I was seemed to have been catapulted into a horror movie. And no kidding. Certainly, I assure you that this was my favorite night! Sleeping in a castle was an unforgettable experience that I highly recommend to all those who undertake a trip to Transylvania.
Day 3 - Bran
From Brasov, you can reach easily Bran, which is a must visit for the famous Dracula's Castle. Many say that this is not the real castle of Vlad, but it is nice to believe that it is so dark and be fascinated by the atmosphere and the story told inside. Even someone like me skeptical to capacity was left fascinated by this myth. Of course, as can be expected, Count Dracula has never existed, Vlad is a really existed on the historical figure of the late fifteenth century.
It was the Prince of Wallachia who fought for the independence of the region. His macabre reputation is mainly due to the fact that he used to impale his enemies. Bran Castle is very impressive, but not for Dracula. It is nice because it is perched on a rock and it is a castle with lots of narrow passages that are suggestive. Shame about the crowds of tourists taking photos everywhere blocking fascinating passages with the poses for selfies!
To go from Brasov to Bran is simple. Just take a taxi to the Autogara 2 and from there in the first bus travel to Bran, but the lady in charge of our simple but perfect hotel booked a taxi that took us first to see the Rasnov fortress and then Bran. And so we did not even get tired.
Day 4 - Sighisoara
We depart for Sighisoara. As I said to reach the various places of Romania just go to Autogare (bus station) from where microbuses ply that do not require reservations. We left For Sighisoara in the morning to arrive after about two hours. Sighisoara is an old town protected by UNESCO, which is really wonderful.
Sighisoara was colorful, clean and charming. Of all the cities I've seen in Romania, no doubt Sighisoara is my favorite. The old town is medieval and transmits joy and serenity with its explosion of colors, but coming up on top of the houses give way to nature. And you find yourself in a huge cemetery covered by leaves and moss.
Sighisoara is the right compromise between the romance of the colorful streets and the myth of Dracula. Here it is preserved the birthplace of Conte Vlad, where it was set up quite a tourist restaurant, Casa Dracula, where you can see the room in which the real Count slept. You can visit the eerily set up room that hosts a coffin from which it gets all the more like an amusement park. The managers have made it a restaurant complete with a house of horrors, so before you eat for the price of 5 a mysterious vampire scares tourists.
Outside, however, was just beautiful with cobblestone alleyways, small rooms with wrought iron tables and in short was a real treat. At Sighisoara, we stayed in a beautiful value for money hotel with really nice and fragrant rooms.
Day 5 - Sibiu
We depart for Sibiu in the morning. It takes less than two hours to get to Transylvania, what is perhaps the city that I liked most, which is a very large old town between the medieval, baroque and bohemian. Sibiu was beautiful, which was enclosed by medieval walls. There were houses with shutters with hearts carved in wood, and interesting and unusual cafes. Three adjoining streets that weave result in marvelous views worthy of the most beautiful towns of France. Not only that, Sibiu is also a city with a lively cultural life. There are festivals almost always, bookstores and libraries. In the Bistrot and restaurants, it is a pleasure to spend time.
Here we also ate at a local restaurant that was not very touristic. It was a delightful place with the basement ceiling with barrels and waiters in traditional costumes. We ordered an about eight-course meal and I have to admit that the Romanian cuisine is something different, with the Ciorbă (soup) that was very good. After dinner in the square, there was a contemporary dance ballet that made us spend a very nice evening.
In Sibiu, we stayed in a very decrepit hotel, but very suggestive as to furniture and above all was very close to downtown and the station from which we left for Bucharest!
Day 6 and 7 - Bucharest
We depart to Bucharest by train from Sibiu in the morning. After a five-hour trip, we finally arrived in Bucharest. The capital of Romania is definitely a city with its own history and its own character that is very special. Surely it must not be seen as the daughter of a recent and painful past that while it has united all the countries of the former Soviet Union on the other, here has definitely left deeper scars and most obvious signs.
What was once the Paris of the East is, in fact, a collection of old and new, glitzy and degrading, placid and chaotic and as if it could not be inserted into a category itself, it ranks itself in its entirely autonomous space. Bucharest is the place that convinced me less throughout the trip in Romania. I liked it, but not as much as everything else. Maybe because I have not devoted the necessary time and in fact, I would go back to discover it better.
As soon as you arrive, we found a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful little street with the beautiful Stavropoleos Monastery. The next day we immediately head to the Parliament Building. This gigantic palace of power built by Nicolae Ceausescu was fascinating both for how big it is (after an hour and a half of our guided tour, our guide tells us that we visited only 2% of the palace).
After that, we took the convenient double-decker bus that is found in all the cities, which brings us to comfortably see all the great places. The national museum of the village is a must stop, a Skansen that encompasses all rural houses typical of the various parts of Romania. It is a dip into the rural soul of this country that is so interesting. Unfortunately, there lacked English captions and generally lacked many details that would have made life much more interesting. The visit, however, was worth it anyway. Danube Delta is the area of great interest in Romania.
Caru Cu Bere (Strada Stavropoleos 5) is a huge building dating back to 1899 and which has become a local historic and unmissable in Bucharest. A charming location and a friendly atmosphere with excellent food and super beer!
Arthur Verona was a street chock full of mural art with the stencil, graffiti, murals that give life and color to the city. If you are fans of the genre, do not miss this show in the open.
As you travel you will meet a lot of local people along the way. I am especially impressed by these moments. I think they were the most significant moments of the whole trip, the memories of which can hold me for anything in the world. Romania is still an authentic land with the great scenic beauty, rich in history and wrapped in a thousand legends.
So here it ends the adventure in Romania.
How to move around Romania?
I have moved by car because as I've written many times, I love the freedom of a road trip. The ability to stop suddenly to leap out of the car and take a picture, to change course following the instinct. And I love listening to local music on the radio, which I find is a way to get close to the locals. In short, when the destination allows love, move by car. And in Romania, I recommend it to you.
Where to stay in Romania?
I only stayed at the hotels. The prices in Romania are very low, so I treated myself to nights in great accommodation without spending a fortune. In Bucharest, I was able to get a suite at the cost of a standard room!
Romania Travel Tips
Cluj is a young and lively town, always full of people, full of locals, various stalls, and attractions. It is worth a visit.
The country continues to use its local currency, the Romanian leu, where 1 Euro corresponds to 4.5108 Romanian Leu.
Romania History Facts and Culture
The etymology of the name Romania is linked to the ancient history of its people and is derived from the Latin Romanus or Roman and in fact, the Roman Empire settled in this area of the Balkans and took control and naming the conquered areas as Latin Romania. In the medieval period, the area was dominated by different populations of passage including Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, Magyars and each of them influenced the culture, the art, and the language of the region.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the area was subject to raids and massacres by the Ottomans. Wallachia and Moldavia offered strong resistance and one of the protagonists of this story was Vlad Tepes, also known as Count Dracula, the Impaler, known to fame through Bram Stoker's novel, apparently, found in these lands a major inspiration for his vampire character. But despite the opposition, the Turks managed to conquer the Romanian territories and the local population was forced to pay heavy taxes to maintain the minimum autonomy, while the Austro-Hungarian Empire had taken control of Transylvania.
This uncomfortable situation in the eighteenth century marked the beginning of the struggle of the Romanian people for the independence of their land and the acquisition of rights, led by the revolutionary spirit that in those years burgeoned in Europe. Romania was born when Moldavia and Wallachia joined and became independent from the Ottoman Empire.
With stunning scenery, so much history and so many legends and excellent cuisine, treat yourself to a trip to Romania. Believe me, it's worth it.