Romania (Capital city: Bucharest) is bordered to the north and east by Moldova and Ukraine, the southeast by the Black Sea, the south by Bulgaria, the southwest by Serbia and in the west by Hungary. The country is divided into four geographical areas. Transylvania (a belt of Alpine massifs and forests) and Moldavia compose the northern half of the country, which is divided down the middle by the north–south strip of the Carpathian Mountains. South of the east–west line of the Carpathians lies the flat Danube plain of Walachia with the capital Bucharest, its border with Bulgaria being defined by the course of the Danube. Romania’s coastline is along the Black Sea, incorporating the port of Constanta and the Danube Delta. The region between the Black Sea and the Danube (after it veers North), is also known as Dobrudja (Dobrogea).
The 500-year-old town of Bucharest, with a population of 2,100,000, was once touted as the “Small Paris”. Bucharest today, like any big capital, is a bustling modern metropolis full of life and diversity. Touting a rich and full history, Bucharest offers attractive opportunities to enjoy and explore.
Much of Bucharest’s past can be seen along Calea Victoriei and Piata Victoriei and the streets leading from them. Some of the points of interest on Calea Victoriei are The National Museum of History, The Romanian Athenaeum and The Royal Palace known also as The National Art Museum, George Enescu Palace and The Museum of Art Collections.
Among the attractions is Parliament Palace listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, under “Administrative Buildings” as the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. In point of volume of the building, the Romanian Parliament Palace ranks third in the world. Ranking first is a Cape Canaveral rocket-assembly building and ranking second is Quetzacoatl’s pyramid in Cholula, Mexico.
At the demand of Ceausescu, the president and dictator of Romania between 1967-1989, work on Parliament Palace, initially named The House of The People, began on June 25 1984 on a land that had previously held one of the oldest and loveliest of the city’s neighborhood. Though the whole structure is the result of a tremendous national effort being designed and built entirely by Romanian specialists. After December 1989, the Palace became headquarters of several working commissions of the Romanian Parliament.
Of special interest for the Romanian ethnography is Village Museum. Located on the bank of the Lake Herastrau in Bucharest, the museum is a result of Profesor Dimitrie Gusti’s research on rural regions. The Village Museum was opened in 1936 the same year as the one from Skansen (Stockholm). Both museums are the first open-air ethnographic museums in the world.
Impressive by their simplicity of forms and colors many of the churches from Bucharest are an original expression of the Romanian architectural style. Some of the most valuable and old are Church of St.Gheorghe on Magheru, Cretulescu Church on Calea Victoriei, Antim Monastery (1715) close to The Arch of Triumph, Patriachat Chruch (1665) on the Mitropoliei Hill in Unirii Square and many others.
Another point of interest is The Old Princely Court Museum, the ruins of a palace built in the 1500s by Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Count Dracula. Nearby stands the oldest church in Bucharest, Church Saint Anton, which unfortunately rebuilt many times does not keep too much of its old look.
In case the noisy and crowded streets of the center get you down, be sure to visit the Cismigiu Gardens (1860), an old and historical park located downtown or Herastrau Park, located just a couple of metro stops from the city center.
In Bucharest there is broad range of cultural events at fairly low prices. Seven Days magazine, a free magazine available on brochure stands, details Bucharest’s restaurants and entertainment, including information about cultural events going on in the capital.
Brasov is a charming town located in the geographical centre or Romania. Before the great Tartar invasion of 1241 Brasoc had already developed into a city. The earliest documentary data testify to the existence of Brasov in 1234, under the name of “Corona”. During the feudal period, the nucleus of the town – the Citadel – was the centre of the handicraft and cultural administrative activities.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the aspect of Brasov must have been very much like that of any medieval town in the centre of Europe. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the aspect of the town began to resemble the one it has today, the buildings bearing the stamp of the Baroque or of the Viennese Rococo.
Brasov has always been an important cultural centre. It is in Scheii Brasov that the first school with tuition in Romanian was founded in 1495, and it was here too that Deacon Coresi printed the first book written in Romanian (the 16th century). Contemporary Brasov, with a population of about 400,000 is a busy industrial, shopping, tourist and cultural centre. The geographic position and natural beauty, the great variety of the scenery and its contrasting aspects, the numberless historic and architectonic monuments make Brasov one of Romania’s main urban centres.
Located in the center of Romania, the medieval town of Sighisoara is best known for the fact that it is the place of birth of Vlad Tepes, aka Count Dracula. There are plans to build a huge amusement park around the idea of Dracula near the town.
The town is worth a visit for other and better reasons though. The medieval citadel is the main sights. Walking up from the city center of Sighisoara, one enters the citadel through the 60-meter-tall clock tower, which dates from the 14th century. Be sure to visit the Clock tower too. It houses a museum and the clock still works with wooden figures truning round. From the gallery at the top of the tower you have a good overview of the town.
The house of Vlad is just opposite the clock tower. It has been turned into a restaurant. Walking uphill form here, along narrow streets lined with beautiful old houses, you’ll come to a covered staircase. This leads to a 14th-century Gothic church and a German cemetery.
Sibiu is a pleasant town in Transsylvania with many monuments dating from different periods of its long history.
Sibiu was an important town in the early Middle Ages. Plundered by the Taters in 1241, it was rebuilt with great vigour. Walls, watchtowers and big gates were built so that in the future the city would be capable of defending itself from such attacks. Historians from the 15-th century attest Sibiu as the most important and powerful citadel of Transylvania, surrounded by strong walls and abutments including 5 bastions and 39 towers. It worked: in 1432, 1437, 1438 and 1442 the citadel was unsuccessfully attacked by the Turks under the leadership of Murad II.
During the 18-th century Viennese baroque left a big stamp on the city. Most of todays sights date either from the late middle ages when many bastions and towers were built for the defense or from the baroque period when palaces and merchant houses sprang up in the old centre.
The main medieval sights of Sibiu include the 13-th century Stairway Tower, the 14-th century Tower of the Townhall and the Townhall itself, the 16-th century Haller Bastion and the 15-th century Evangelic Church.
The Brukenthal Palace is a good example of the Viennese baroque style. The Orthodox Cathedral, in Byzantine style, the bridge of Lies and the Astra Palace are newer constructions and good examples of 20-th century Romanian architecture.
The unofficial capital of Transylvania, the 2000 years old Cluj-Napoca (during the Roman occupation it was called Napoca) is one of the most vibrant cities in Romania. With a population of around 400000 people out of which around 70000 college students, the city is bursting with energy year round. Located in a hilly area, the city spreads itself around the Somes river towards the surrounding hills. The architecture in the downtown is reminiscent of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, while elements of modernism have now been added to give the city a modern, exciting feel.
There are lots of museums, parks and a European renowned Botanical Garden that are sure to appeal even to the most demanding visitor. Not to mention the countless cafes, restaurants, clubs and discos where one can have a great time at any time of day or night.
As a sidenote, Cluj-Napoca is one of the only cities (if not THE only) in the world that has 2 National Opera Houses in two different languages(Romanian and Hungarian). This city’s personality comes from its multiculturality and diversity.
Suceava was the capital of Transsylvania in the late Middle Ages. Today it is a pleasant city and worth a visit for its sights and museums, especially the Princely Fortress. A possible tourist route comprises the Princely Fortress of Suceava, the Sf. Ioan Monastery in Zamca as well as the medieval churches of Saint Dumitru, Holy Ressurection and Mirui. A point of interest is also the National Museum of Bucovina with its valuable historic and archaeologic exhibits.
But above all Suceava is interesting as it is an excellent starting point for tours to the mountains around. In the region around Suceava the most interesting sights are probably the painted monasteries. The Voronet Monastery dates from 1488 and is on the UNESCO list. Other monasteries are close by: Humor (1530), Moldovita (1532), Sucevita (1584), the Dragomirna Monastery ( 1609) and the Putna Monastery (1469) built by great Voivode Stefan cel Mare. Other monasteries of a great historic value are situated in the Stânisoara area: Slatina, Râsca and Pobota Monasteries.
Other interseting towns include: Câmpulung Moldovenesc, the so called Helvetian pearl of Bucovina founded by ruler Alexandru cel Bun, and the municipality of Radauti, well known for its fair.
Iasi is also better known as the cultural capital of Moldavia and one of its highlights is the splendid neo-gothic Palace of Culture. It will take you more than a day to visit the palace, not in the least because it houses four museums (its most famous two probably being the Art Museum and the Moldavian History Museum).
The city boasts the oldest public university of Bulgaria and still is a popular student town. The older part of the former capital of Moldavia is very inviting with its many museums and churches, such as the ‘Trei Ierarhi’ dating from the 17th century with its carved-stone facade.
Timisoara is the most important city in the Western part of Romania. Timisoara is the capital of the Timis County, a county bordering Yugoslavia and Hungary
Timisoara is a very pleasant city and a good place to stop for some time. The city is full of parks and gardens. Sights include the Unirii square, Liberty Square and Victory Square.
Timisoara is mainly famous for the 1989 revolutiopn when Romanians got rid of their dictator Ceaucescu. It all started in the city and you can see in the city some memorials to the victims. The city Center, especially the victory square as a lot of interseting buildings; the Metroplotain Church, the Opera.
Baia Mara is the capital of the Maramures area. The area is wuite mountainous, the Rodna Mountains and the Pietrosul Massif are the highest peaks in the Oriental Carpathians. Some of the mountains such as the Gutai and Jibles Mountains are of volcanic origin.
Maramures is an ideal area for people who like the outdoor and Baia Mare is a good starting point for exploring the region.
Maramures is located in the north-west of Romania and is only 450 km from Budapest.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons.