Although Romania is quickly becoming a popular tourist destination many would still consider it a location off the beaten track. We have compiled ten interesting facts you might not know about the intriguing nation.
The Merry Cemetery
The Merry Cemetery was the brainchild of woodcarver Stan Ioan Patras, who is responsible for most of the graveyard's tombstones. The colors and intricately carved designs are in juxtaposition to the typical somber cemetery setting. Each tombstone features a witty poem about the person's life and a scene normally relating to the verse, with the manner in which the person died often being the subject. Patras singlehandedly carved, wrote poems for, and painted well over 800 of these folk art masterpieces over a period of 40 years! However, the cemetery and its creator remained unknown to tourists until the 1970s, since when it has become a popular destination.
The world's heaviest building
Not only is the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest the largest administration building in the world it is also the heaviest one - weighing in at around 4,098,500,000 kg! The colossal structure is known for its grand interiors which mostly lie unoccupied. In fact there is enough space in the building to house three separate museums while still remaining 70% empty! The cost of heating and electric lighting alone exceeds $6 million per year, which is as much as it would cost to light up and heat a medium-sized city! Oh, and also the sheer weight of the building means that it is sinking into the ground at a rate of 6mm each year.
The largest Brown Bear population in Europe
Romania is the habitat of Europe's largest brown bear population, with over 6000 of the beasts roaming the country's forests. In fact the bears are so numerous that some have even been spotted foraging in dustbins in towns and cities around mountain areas. There are numerous lookout huts across the country where you can go to try and spot one of these furry animals.
The tallest rock relief in Europe
If you take a boa down the Danube past the small city of Orsova in southwestern Romania you will eventually be greeted by this 55 meter high rock sculpture. The sculpture is a depiction Decebalus, the last king of Dacia who fought against the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan to preserve the independence of his country, which was stood in the place of present day Romania. The relief took ten years to complete and is the largest of its kind in Europe. It was commissioned by a wealthy Romanian businessman who thought the monument would inspire patriotism.
Vlad the Impaler
It is well known that Dracula, Bram Stoker's infamous vampire, comes from Transylvania. What perhaps is less well known is the fact that the character was inspired by a historical Romanian figure. Vlad III Prince of Wallachia, or Vlad the Impaler as he's more commonly known, is said to have killed over 40,000 European peasants by impaling them on stakes - a gruesome practice that gave him his charming nickname. Whilst it is difficult to say for certain whether or not Stoker was in fact inspired by the 15th century prince it is impossible not to make certain parallels between the two.