Romania has emerged from a decade of post-revolution economic turmoil as a member of the European Union (it joined in 2007), and a contemporary nation with a rich and varied past that makes it a multifaceted tourist destination. The castles and fortresses that dot the countryside are the legacy of an oft-invaded country; Romania has been under Hapsburg, Ottoman or Wallachian rule. Here you’ll find medieval towns in Transylvania, painted monasteries, the beauty of Budapest, the healing spas of Black Sea resorts and the romance of the Danube.
Romania’s medieval heritage is dramatically represented by its castles and fortresses. There are fairytale castles such as Bran, often associated with 15th-century Walachian Prince Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Others are military strongholds, such as the 14th-century Corvinesti Castle, built on the site of a former Roman camp. Later castles were built for beauty rather than defense--Peles Castle with its 160 rooms filled with priceless European art, is an example.
Romania is a land of beautifully preserved medieval towns, particularly in Transylvania, home to Bran castle. Moldova rivals Transylvania when it comes to rich folklore, natural beauty and historic sites. Its cultural capital is Iasi, which has almost 100 Orthodox churches. But Romania is about more than architectural wonders. It has a warm climate, miles of sandy beaches and modern resorts on its Black Sea Coast. The coast has long been known for cures of arthritic, rheumatic, internal and nervous disorders. Major resort towns are Mamaia, Eforie, Neptun, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Mangalia.
Bucharest, Romania’s capital city, is famed for its tree-lined boulevards, Belle époque buildings and the nickname “Little Paris,” thanks to the high life its residents enjoyed in the early 1900s. It’s a city of neoclassical buildings, beautiful parks and Orthodox churches. Megaliths such as the 3.76-million-square-foot Parliament Palace (formerly called the People's Palace), stand as a massive monument to its post-World-War II communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's totalitarian regime. There’s plenty to do in Bucharest, which has 37 museums, 22 theaters, concert halls, an opera house, 18 art galleries, jazz clubs and hip nightclubs.
Romania has long been a crossroads and its cuisine reflects that--you’ll find Greek, Hungarian, German and Turkish influence in its foods, which tend to be rich and savory--hearty meat stews, aromatic meat rolls and other dishes. Romanian has a 6,000-year-old winemaking tradition; the French, Germans and Italians have invested in its wine industry for centuries. Be sure to sample its wines as well as a tuica, Romanian plum brandy.
Romania’s Railway Network connects major cities and towns throughout the country. While its major highways, called the Drum National (DM) are well maintained, country roads and village streets can be a trip through time. It’s not unusual to encounter horse-drawn carts and livestock. When traveling through the mountains, fill up with gas whenever possible because of the distance between gas stations.