Surface area : 237500.0 km2
Population : 22600000 inhabitants
The Romanians have kept their traditional crafts alive. In villages and particularly around monasteries you will find a great number of shops where you can buy beautiful rugs, embroidered fabric (table cloths, napkins, shawls, scarves), wooden sculptures, painted eggs and framed icons. If you pass through Bucovine, their delicately decorated eggs are a pure marvel and require hours of work.
Romanian cuisine is first and foremost about country-style cooking. Mamaliga is a delicious corn polenta served with sarmales (meat and rice balls wrapped in cabbage leaves) or micis (small, grilled sausages made with minced meat and flavoured with garlic and cumin). Otherwise you'll find plenty of meaty stews, hearty soups and wonderful salads stuffed with aubergines, peppers and olives. Be sure to sample the local tipple - a plum-based brandy that goes by the name of tzuica - as well as local Romanian wines and beers which are often of a higher quality that expected.
Despite the damage caused by collectivisation and systemisation under Ceausescu's dictatorship, Romanian traditions have persisted. Blouses, skirts, bonnets and waistcoasts, richly embroidered with black and red geometric patterns are still worn at fairs and weddings. Popular songs and dances, such as doinas and haidouks, are accompanied by a symphony of violins, accordions, clarinets, harmonicas and panpipes. You might also note the existence of a large Romany community, whose assimilation is still difficult. Some groups have remained nomadic, setting up camps along the roadsides.
Opt for one of Romania's plentiful small private boarding houses or look into staying with a local when you arrive. It's never difficult to find a room once there, either online or through the many adverts posted around the cities and villages by Romanian residents. One of the most classic itineraries is to follow in Dracula's footsteps by visiting Snagov monastery, Brasov, Bran castle and Sighisoara. Lovers of culture and tradition can take some time to explore the villages in Maramures and the monasteries in Bucovine, whereas nature lovers will be enticed by stunning hikes through the forests of the Carpathian mountains and the Danube delta.