Ever since the release of the classic Gothic horror tale, Dracula, Romania has conjured up dark images of a frightening land where residents scurry to their homes at twilight to avoid the evil that lurks after dark. Written in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, the fable depicts the vampire’s home as one of the most frightening and feared residences in history, Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania.
The castle is actually called Bran Castle and has kept the same name since construction was completed in the year 1388. Had it not been for a wild imagination and the fictional writings of one man, Romania, the castle, and Transylvania would never have received the bad rap they can’t seem to lose.
Truth be told, and it’s time it was, Romania is a beautifully vibrant country where nature is abundant and historical landmarks and castles abound. The citizens are friendly and welcoming and modern amenities are as common as they are in the US and the rest of Europe. There are no vampires.
If Romania has never been on your list of travel destinations, perhaps you’ll have a change of heart after finding out what you’ve been missing.
1 Events and Celebrations
Romania perhaps celebrates more than any other country. They celebrate their heritage, the changing of the seasons, religious holidays, birthdays, deaths, and marriages with dancing in the traditional native apparel of yesteryear, using the exact same dance steps as their forefathers from centuries ago. Music is performed on ancient instruments and the songs have never changed.
To view a calendar of events would show at least one, and usually several, celebrations every single month of the year. Even Halloween is celebrated with shows and parties all related to the infamous Count Dracula. There are arts & crafts shows, winemaking celebrations, festivals for the returning of sheep herds from the mountains, a matchmaking festival for singles, a mask parade, an international piano festival, a honey festival, and the list endlessly continues.
2 Food & Wine
Because of Romania’s rich history of being under Roman rule, trading extensively with the Greeks, the Turks who at one time dominated Romania, and the Saxons who settled around Transylvania, their food is a blend of all these cultures wrapped into one, giving Romania its own distinct combination of flavors and culinary delights.
Traditional meals begin with an appetizer of various cheeses, vegetable spreads, and cold cuts. This is generally followed by a steaming bowl of vegetable or meatball soup. The main course consists of either fish which is usually grilled cod or Black Sea sturgeon, a meat stew seasoned with onions and other spices, or a vegetable stew made with over 20 varieties of vegetables cooked in oil. A tasty common dessert is a cottage cheese donut topped with sour cream and a fruit preserve. Another popular dish is goose-pastrami which is the precursor of what we now call American pastrami.
Romania ranks 10th in the world for the volume of wine they annually produce. Because of their climate and rich soil, a variety of wines are produced from dry to sparkling to rich and aromatic, many of which have been hailed as some of the best in the world, receiving international awards.
Bucharest is as modern a city as you are going to find anywhere. Looming skyscrapers, modern office buildings, a transportation system, excellent shopping, top-rated restaurants, booming nightclubs, and quaint coffee houses and taverns put the city on par with the likes of London and Paris.
If you really want to have a good time and meet some of the locals, sign up for a pub or a bar crawl. They go on all the time and it’s the perfect way to jump right into the Bucharest culture with both feet.
Don’t expect to be staying in some run down hostel while you’re there. Modern clean hotels are everywhere, including the Crown Plaza which has a rate of around $72 a night. If this is too steep, not to worry. Excellent accommodations can be found for $50 or less.
Just about every type of cuisine can be found in Bucharest from Japanese to Mexican. Surprisingly, Italian restaurants are in greater abundance than any other type with 290 of them in the city, followed by pizzerias which number 155.
4 The Coastal Area
If you really want to go to Romania but you’re also considering a beach vacation, go ahead and go, they have that also. You’ll want to head to the shores of the Black Sea. With a mild climate and miles upon miles of white sand beaches, this region is home to some world-class resorts without the world-class prices. There are seven resorts from which to choose but if staying at a resort is not to your liking there are also numerous hotels and beach cottages.
The waters of the Black Sea are said to cure arthritis, rheumatism, and nervous disorders. Mud baths with mud taken from the areas salty lakes are popular with locals and visitors.
The coastal area has modern sports and entertainment complexes as well as ancient Greek landmarks dating back to the 7th century. If you want modern and ancient at the same time, this is where you will find it. Trips from the coastal area to other parts of Romania, and even nearby Greece and Turkey are available. Once someone gets to the beach they can use it as a home base while venturing out on day trips.
If you still think Romania is a dark country full of evil monsters and vampires, do some additional research. There is an exciting adventure awaiting you in this highly misunderstood country. Don’t let an 1897 work of fiction, written by an Irishman, sway your decision to visit this marvelous country known as Romania.