Discover Romania, from the Black Sea to Transylvania
By Amy Adejokun
From the green valleys of Transylvania to the Carpathian Mountains, from the numerous monasteries in Bucovine to the shores of the Black Sea, Romania has an all-encompassing personality for those who venture over its borders. Part of the European Union since 2007, this unexplored land has retained its original identity and bygone charm. Its small villages, dramatic hilltop castles and beautiful orthodox churches all create a distinctly warm atmosphere, constantly evolving the more you stray from the conventional tourist-worn routes. Endowed with a remarkably welcoming nature, Romania's population still has a wonderful nostalgia for the simpler ways of life and a particular admiration for those who make the effort to explore their captivating history.
Our Editorial team's advice
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.
+Visitors are warmly and generously welcomed.
+The quaint old-fashioned countryside, complete with traditional farms and forest hiking trails.
+The unmatched beauty of the Bucovine monasteries.
+Very competitive prices for a European destination - as much for flight fares as for your budget for food and accommodation.
+The multiple areas of interest: a beach holiday by the Black sea, a cultural tour in Bucovine, hikes in the forests of the Carpathian Mountains or by the Danube Delta.
-The devastating consequences of Ceausescu's dictatorship with cities spoilt by the extensive use of concrete tower blocks and industrial landscapes.
-A lack of environmental conscience with large swathes of countryside covered in litter and polluting cars and factories.
-The extreme poverty of a significant minority of the population.
-Car rental comes at very high prices.
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.
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.
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See the different areas
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.