Romania, a country I grew up only hearing only the worst things about whether it would be that it's the cradle of gypsies who would kill you at every turn you would make or that communism still lured in the political landscape ready to strike back. Despite the bad reputation, this country has most certainly bashed away all the presumptions I once had before. This experience are coming from living well over 1 year in this magnificent, culturally rich and beautiful country that you rarely will find elsewhere in the world.
This is my story, that I hope will give you enough insight to stop denying yourself the chance of exploring a country that surely has had a rough history, but also because of that it remained unspoiled of tourism... yet.
Romania and its rough history
For those of you History geeks out there, Romania is filled with interesting points in history that you truly can see are reflected back on the mixture of culture you will be seeing when visiting the country. To describe it best in short, Romania feels like a mixture of turkey, Russia and to some extent Germany.
There are of course clear historical markers that confirm this feeling:
Romania was once part of the Ottoman Empire, an empire that stretched over 600 years. By fighting in the Russo-Turkish War won its official independence in 1877.
You could say Romania was a longer timer part of the Ottoman Empire than being Independent. Which of course can be seen through their culture when visiting the country where a lot of influence has come from Turkey.
Another interesting marker is their recent political landscape that is still truly relevant is the communist period spanning from 1947 - 1989. In this period Romania was a communist country. You could say the country still are recovering from that period.
As you see it is only in recent modern times Romania has switched from communism to Democratic and this has had a huge impact on the country. I guess you cannot just swipe 50 years of suppression away in an instant. You will for sure in most "bigger" cities see a lot of post-communism buildings. (you know those big, grey, square buildings?) Not too beautiful to look at either, but in some way, it is an important reminder of how far Romania has come since then despite these not-so-colorful buildings.
Romania is still having a lot of corruption in their country and it is unbelievable what the people are fighting against that most western countries never would have to worry about. But that is the whole point; The people of Romania of fighters and I personally have stood with them in chilly winters protesting against the corruption of the most absurd laws the government tries to implement. I tell you what, it is truly inspiring to see the flame in these people and how much they want their country to find its balance.
The point I want to tell you is one of the main reasons to visit Romania; The people.
If a Dane would "ask" you to come in for a coffee, a Romanian would demand you to come for a meal.
While Romanians tend to be a bit harsh against each other, foreigners are treated with such warm hospitality you will almost find it too much in certain cases. As soon as you leave Bucharest(granted that's where you landed with your plane) you will quickly notice people are surprised you are an actual foreigner and usually will offer you everything from food to a place to stay. Personally, when cycling through most of Romania, I was invited to someone's house twice within a relatively short span of time and with multiple encounters of people doing their best with the few words of English, they know, trying to help you out with what you need.
Since Romanians don't meet too many foreigners(outside of the capital and certain locations), they are truly curious about who you are, what your story is, how they can help and they are most certainly not shy to show it. They are warmblooded people after all.
Transylvania is more than just vampires, in fact, it houses some of the most spectacular nature in Europe
If you love nature, there isn't really a better place to enjoy it than the Carpathian Mountains that extends over 600miles in the shape of something that looks like a fish. Filled with tracks of untouched nature is a rare thing nowadays but yet, this is very easy to come by in Romania. Of course, it also means the wildlife will be there and it is not unusual to find tracks from brown bears who roam the area. Romania is after all having the highest density of Bears compared to any other European country. While this might frighten most of you it would be a shame to let this fact scare you away. While I have come by multiple tracks of bears I have yet to see one. But it is commonly known those who do encounters the bears end up getting killed... Just kidding, the bear will most likely just run away and leave you with nothing but a fast-beating heart.
However, if you do not like venturing out on your own there are plenty of decently priced offers where tour guides will take you for a hike. https://www.romanianfriend.com/ would be my advice in this case.
Whether you choose guided touring or are taking on the wild alone, it is easy to find tracks that fulfill your needs. No matter if you are an expert survivalist or just wanna go a few kilometers to see a waterfall, there's really a place for everyone to explorer.
3 Points of interest that you should definitely check out when you come to Romania
The things you can explorer in Romania are endless. But to me, there's really some point in Romania that will take your breath away one way or another. So here are three points of interest to get you started!
I had to put this one on top of my list and probably I am a bit Biased.
Brasov is laying in the heart of Romania and you can literally walk up into the mountains from the city. The city itself is really nothing to scoff at either, the old town is absolutely stunning and really fits in with the mountains that you can see on the horizon. It really is a perfect place not only to travel but also live in if you like the outdoors. A paradise to say the least and Yes, that includes cheap beer.
Traditional Romania: Maramures
If you feel like going back to the middleages this is the place to go. In the northern part of Romania, you will truly feel like you just went back in time. Because here they dress not to please tourists or for the show, they actually dress as you see in the picture above because that is their culture and tradition. Not to mention villages and the surrounding nature itself is all coming together as you just entered a fairytale.
Where the river Danube and the black sea meets
While it is quite cool to watch the unstoppable force of Danube meeting the immoveable black sea in an eternal battle. It is actually not the reason why you should go here. It is how you get there
In order to get to this place, there's really only one option: Boats.
In order to get to the village that remains close by the Danube and the Black Sea, you need to sail the Danube river because there's No roads leading there otherwise, reason being that this part of Romania are mostly swamps. When you venture into the river on your way to this mysterious village located in the middle of all of this you will notice how many paths the river shoots out to. Each of them offering a peek into some truly amazing wildlife, especially birds. Also, it is an amazing place for fishing witch is totally legal.
It's the whole adventure of getting there that makes the whole experience so amazing as well as seeing this village that reminds you of nothing like the rest of Romania.
Romania has everything to offer and much more than what you might expect. It is more than just some overcrowded tourist attractions that the more popular touristic countries inside of Europe are having. As Romania keeps on developing this country will start shining and people will start realizing this is a gold mine of experiences. It is really not a dangerous country as the media make it sound like and if you can get over that fear you are in for an adventure. So do yourself a favor and explorer the ancient mountains in the heart of Transylvania, or be amazed how you can still see horse wagons instead of tractors roaming the countryside. Maybe you will even get lucky to get invited into someone's house where you truly can see the life of a Romanian family witch almost could be a story on its own. Whatever you decide to do, it will for sure be worth your while.
So much to explore in this huge country that even though I spend well over a year there, it feels like I still missed so much.