Romania

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Both the past and the future of Romania are evident in its contrasting rural and urban areas. Bucharest offers a peek into the country’s future as a modern European nation, but leave the capital and it instantly feels like you’ve also left the 21st century. The Romanian countryside is home to vast pre-industrial landscapes where some farmers still use a horse and plow, and babushka-clad ladies knit traditional costumes on their front porches.

Romania Cities and Regions

Bucharest

The city has long been given monikers like “The Paris of the East” and “The New Prague,” for its wide, leafy boulevards, Belle Epoque architecture, and narrow, late-medieval lanes. But this metropolis has a unique eye-catching aesthetic as well, with concert halls, government buildings, and historical churches exhibiting Greek, Roman, and Turkish influences.

Horezu

A quick two-hour drive northwest of Bucharest lands you in Horezu – a must for pottery lovers. Nearly a century ago, local nuns taught the villagers how to make and paint pottery, and ever since people have come from far and wide to get their hands on Horezu’s ceramics. While you’re here, don’t miss the 17th-century Horezu Monastery, a world heritage site noted for it’s Brancovan style (a design known for its architectural balance and purity).

Transylvania

Whether the 15th-century nobleman Vlad Tepes really is the famed bloodsucker that Bram Stoker modeled his fanged protagonist after has never been authenticated. Still, the story continues to lure travelers to this large region roughly 50 miles north of Bucharest. While Transylvania is steeped in legend, there’s more to the lush, mountainous area than the mythic Count – come to hike the Carpathians, fish the rivers, and explore the grand, historic castles.

Sibiu

This southern Transylvanian university town was the European Capital of Culture in 2007. The region gained its Teutonic flair in the 12th century, when Hungarian King Géza II invited Saxons to settle here in exchange for protection, and with its cobblestone streets and half-timber houses it still feels like a rustic German burg.

Sighisoara

Another German-accented town, Sighisoara is one of Romania’s most atmospheric cities, with its nine original guard towers, rustic cobblestone streets, burgher houses, and ornate churches. Walk along the ancient walls, ascend one of the towers, and take in the surrounding countryside.

Bucovina

Known for its “Painted Monasteries,” the area is UNESCO-protected thanks to these 15th- and 16th-century complexes whose facades and external walls are covered with colorful frescoes of Biblical scenes. Bathed in bright blue, the frescoes have miraculously survived six centuries of upheaval and exposure to the elements without looking worse for the wear.

The Danube Delta

A bird watcher’s paradise, this over 1.6 million-acre wetland known as the Delta Dunarii is home to more than 300 bird species, including pelicans, pygmy cormorants, terns, and egrets. Due to conservation efforts it’s not possible to stay in the center of the Delta, but a number of Turkish-influenced towns along the waterways offer quaint accommodations.

Maramures

Steeped in folklore, this mountainous, northernmost province consists of an impressive volcanic ridge (Gutai-Tibles) and part of the Eastern Carpathian mountains. Hamlets nestled among the foothills have developed distinct traditions, such as the Festival of Winter in December, when locals don beastlike costumes. The numerous wooden churches dotting the countryside are also not to be missed.

Sinaia

As the name suggests, this town was named after Mount Sinai, Egypt, by a nobleman returning from a pilgrimage. Known as “The Carpathian Pearl,” the area is noted for spectacular hiking (with routes that range from novice to advanced) and for beautiful Peles Castle, the final resting place of several Romanian monarchs.

Brasov

With evidence of settlement dating back to the Bronze Age, this city has seen many influences throughout its evolution – most notably Germanic and Turkish. Evidence of invasion is still seen in the preserved 16th-century bastions that were built to protect the city from Turkish invasion. Equally intriguing is the 14th-century Black church, Romania’s best-known Gothic church.

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