The Blue Guide
Considered by many the most beautiful country in Eastern-Europe, Romania still claims regions that seem bastions of a medieval past long since lost elsewhere.
– Fodor’s Eastern and Central Europe
Romania offers a rich tapestry of vacation experiences and tourist attractions and vacation experiences unique in Central-Eastern Europe: medieval towns in Transylvania, the world-famous Painted Monasteries in Bucovina, traditional villages in Maramures, the magnificent architecture of Bucharest, the romantic Danube Delta, fairy-tale castles, the Black Sea resorts, the majestic Carpathian Mountains, spas and much more.
Bucharest – known for its wide, tree lined boulevards, glorious Belle Époque buildings and reputation for the high life – Romania’s capital was once known as Little Paris. In the late 19th century Bucharest was remodeled by French and French-trained architects. There is even a Triumphal Arch on the elegant Soseaua Kiseleff, a boulevard longer than Paris’ famed Champs-Elysees. Today Bucharest is experiencing renewed vigor. The city’s architecture remains one of its main attractions. Highlights include the National Museum of Art, housed in the former Royal Palace, the National History Museum, featuring the Treasury’s splendid gold collection and Herastrau Park’s open-air Village Museum, a stunning collection of village architecture and crafts from throughout Romania. Bran Castle – a Gothic fairy-tale structure also known as Dracula’s Castle, and Peles Castle – one of Europe’s most exquisite, built in 1883 for King Carol I, are within one and a half hours drive from Bucharest.
The heart and soul of Romania are its remnants of medieval life and its peasant culture. Transilvania is perhaps Romania’s best known province, immortalized in legend, literature and film as the homeland of Dracula. There are countless reasons to visit Transilvania including its dramatic landscape of rugged mountains, dense forests, dark caves and lowland valleys. The province is filled with medieval cities like Brasov, featuring old Saxon architecture and citadel ruins; Sibiu, with its cobblestone streets and pastel-colored houses, and Sighisoara – one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe, adorned with a hilltop citadel, secret passageways and 14th century clock tower.
Maramures, an ancient province northwest of Transilvania, provides a look at another side of Romania. This is a land where rural farmers invite travelers into their homes to share a sip of tuica (a potent plum liquor) and a bit of homemade bread and cheese. Here the inhabitants have preserved to an amazing extent the rural culture and crafts of their Dacian ancestors. Elaborate wooden churches with tall spires and shingled roofs distinguish Maramures villages. Woodcarvings decorate the eaves, doorways and windows of houses. People still attach benches and boxes to their gates, to hold bread and water for passing strangers.
East of Maramures, Bucovina is renowned for its painted monasteries, acclaimed as masterpieces of art and architecture. Their exteriors are covered with Byzantine-influenced frescoes of biblical scenes. Among the most notable are Voronet – built in 1448 and known as the Sistine Chapel of the East, Sucevita, Humor and Moldovita.
Spring, summer and fall abound with events and festivals. In early May Bucharest is the host of a one-week carnival. In late July Sighisoara’s streets are the stage for the annual Medieval Arts Festival. The Halloween is celebrated as nowhere else in the world, with special tours retracing the route of Dracula novel. Music lovers will especially appreciate the George Enescu Classical Music Festival as well as numerous folk-music and dance festivals that take place, all year round, all over the country.