December 1, 2018 is a special day in the history of Romania, marking the country’s 100th birthday. Here is a little tribute to my beloved homeland. Happy Birthday, Romania! La Multi Ani, Romania dodoloata!
If you’ve never been to Romania, you should definitely put it on your list. You will enjoy its amazing natural beauty, delicious food and wine, and fun (if sarcastic) people. Here are some facts to wet your appetite:
Romania is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage sites, six cultural sites, and one natural site, the Danube Delta. Romania has the second largest delta in Europe. Delta Dunarii (Danube Delta) provides sanctuary to more than 300 species of birds and 160 types of fish. The best time to visit the area is in late spring/early summer. Bring your bug spray and take a boat ride through the natural water canals adorned with white and yellow lilies.
More than half of the Carpathian Mountains are in Romania. The mountain range is a continuation of the Alps stretching from the Czech Republic in an arc through Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Ukraine. The name of the mountains comes from the old Dacian tribes (Romanian ancestors), also called Carpi. The western part of the range known as Apuseni has a mellow feel and a certain soft glow – a photographer’s paradise, especially in the fall.
The southern mountains house the highest peak on Romania’s territory, Moldoveanu (2,544 m or 8,346 ft), and the highest road in Romania, DN 67C or better known as Transalpina (2,145 m or 7,037 ft at its highest point).
Another good mountain road to try if you dare is Transfagarasan, with its highest point at Balea Lake (2,042 m or 6,699 ft). In the winter, you can enjoy igloo accommodations and even a church. In the summer, admire the waterfall, make some new friends (but watch your backpack because these little piggies are not shy), and enjoy a drink or a traditional meal at the chalet by the lake.
There are anywhere between 40 and 120 types of traditional Romanian clothing (depending on how you classify them), each with its particular regional flavor. Usually, the clothing features natural fiber materials, with ornate and intricate hand stitching.
Sarmale or stuffed cabbage rolls are one of Romania’s most recognized and beloved food – and a must have at Christmas time. They come in different variations by region and season. In the summer, you can find the Greek-style lighter version, wrapped in grape leaves. The winter-time version can be made with pickled or regular cabbage leaves.
Love old castles? Look no further than Transylvania. You might have heard of Sighisoara, Peles, and Bran (or Dracula’s Castle), but go beyond those, and visit one of the hundreds of fortified churches and villages around.
To be truly amazed, check out the 14th-17th century monasteries in the north-eastern part of Romania (Moldova).
The Black Sea (Marea Neagra) is a great place to kick back and relax. The Black Sea’s deep dark secret is that there is no oxygen below 200 m (656 ft), thus preserving all the sunken ships perfectly, like in a museum. Although it does have a type of shark known as “the sea dog,” you are not likely to encounter the creature, as it is very shy.
There are just too many things about Romania that are worth experiencing, so I can’t list them all. I hope to have piqued your interest and you’ll continue discovering my country’s beauty on your own. And if you have already visited, I’d love to hear about your favorites.
Craving more? Take a look at Christmas in Brasov, my home town in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains and read about our cultural trip to Maramures. If you want to be inspired by more photos, check out these Romanian photographers: Adrian Petrisor, Catalin Urdoi.
Happy Birthday, Romania!