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Romania – A crash course

Romania is not a big country.

However, much ink has been spilled about it.

No matter where you live, in any remote part of the world, you certainly have a colleague, a relative or someone’s friend’s friend with Romanian origins. Even if you can’t place Romania on a map, I am sure its name isn’t totally unfamiliar.


The fact that Romanians are basically everywhere means that they are so resourceful they can make a living anywhere. They adjust easily. They are smart and really friendly. Romanians love traditions. And are proud of their origins.

General things
Cooking and eating
Romanian ladies
Science Olympics and medals
Palace of Parliament/Bucharest
The Danube Delta
Famous Romanians

General things

Romanians are known to be fun people, who had to face harsh historical times (both in the past and modern history – the fall of communism only happened in 1989). As life taught them many lessons, they try to extract the best.

There is a big difference between generations. While the older people are more pessimistic due to various problems they had to cope with, young people have a bright spirit, a sharp edge, and an optimistic mindset.

There is a huge discrepancy between city life and country life. If you look for fun, vibrant city life, fancy restaurants, museums, festivals or nightlife, cities are your cup of tea. On the contrary, if you’re planning to cool down and relax, you have the opportunity to visit timeless places, see old castles, enjoy wooden or fortified churches and monasteries, spend time in splendid mother nature and charge with the infinity of the universe, the countryside or remote areas are perfect for you.


Wherever you set foot, you are safe. You may wonder about safety in a remote ex-communist country, but fortunately, Romania is one of those places where you can feel safe both as a tourist and inhabitant. Of course, pickpockets do exist, so when you visit, it is good to be cautious. As a tourist, you may be the target of cheating, to the extent such a thing is possible anywhere, so extra care could prove useful. All in all, in order to be safe, you need to apply the general common-sense rules.


Transportation in Romania can prove sometimes hard. There are trains, but some are very slow and do not provide modern conditions. In most places, you can find regular bus shuttles that connect most cities. Almost every important city has an airport.

Although the country invests massively in infrastructure, Romania doesn’t have yet a solid highway infrastructure. This flaw, on the other hand, has its other side of the coin: the country is still partly untouched. So, if you plan to visit several parts of Romania, it is best to rent a car and hit the roads and highways. There is also a ride-sharing app, called BlaBlaCar, not as cheap as the train or bus, but usually faster. For the cities you can use the taxi or Uber, both very common.


There are many stereotypes about Romanians.

At a simple brainstorming, this is what I got. In random order.

I don’t know about other nations, but a Romanian proverb says that we are inventive people because no matter the situation or the difficulties we have to come across, the Romanian has always found a way to manage. This is one of the fundaments of us as a nation.

The common belief is that we are hospitable, friendly, fun-loving people ….  Yes, mostly true. Having Latin origins makes us great party people ready to live our lives to the fullest. The same root gives us the passion and ardour in the things we undertake, either good or bad.

The Eastern European side has added to our way of being the simple and cosy spirit we share. Romanians are famous for their hospitality, and this asset has been there for centuries.

Cooking and eating

Hospitality goes hand in hand with cooking and eating. Situated between the central Europe and the Balkans, Romanian cuisine created its outstanding dishes from home resources, but also borrowed from Serbian, Hungarian, Moldavian, or Turkish recipes. To create tasty food. Food to warm your soul.

Our dishes are not for diet, but I guarantee you will not regret tasting them. We are specialists in sarmale (sour cabbage rolls with minced meat), mămăligă cu brânză și smântână (polenta with cheese and cream), mici/mititei (grilled minced meat rolls), ciorbă de burtă (beef tripe soup), iahnie cu ciolan (beans with hocks), ciorbă rădăuțeană (soup from Rădăuți), pickles or roasted eggplant salad Romanian style.

If these dishes aren’t to your liking, there are lots of places where you can eat internationally, mainly Mediterranean, Arabic or Chinese food. The trend of fast food is common in Romania as well. If you are on the run or want to eat cheap, you can choose such an eatery. If you feel like enjoying the process and indulging your taste buds, you should opt for a restaurant where you can enjoy a glass of wine together with your carefully prepared dish. All in all, you definitely find something according to your taste. Big cities have restaurants where even the pickiest eaters will find pleasure in this process due to chefs who compete to gain their clients’ hearts and …stomach.

The deeper you go in the countryside, the bigger the chances of eating fully organic with produce from the back garden.

All in all, everybody agrees that it’s finger liking good…


Good food is best accompanied by something to quench your thirst. Here, țuica, pălinca, wine and beer rule. As a traveller to Romania, it would be a pity if you left without tasting.

Țuica and pălinca are somehow related. There’s some controversy around the two hard liquors. Some say the difference consists in the strength: țuica is stronger than pălinca. Others say that the difference consists in the raw material, namely, țuica can only be made of plums, while pălinca can be made of pears, apples, or cherries.

What everybody agrees on is that though manufacturing is similar, the degrees can differ considerably from one area to the other. The inhabitants in the northwestern part brag with the strongest in the country that can reach up to 50 degrees… Brrrrrrrrrr…so strong…

If you are ill, cold, have a toothache, a problem, broke up with the love of your life, fell in love or lost your job, briefly, anything, you drink a shot of țuica/pălinca and feel instantly better. Or tipsy. Noroc!!!

The history of wine is just as old. What you need to know here is that recently, there is a competition between wine houses, and we boast with famous ones which won important prizes abroad. If you fall under this category do not miss the opportunity to go for a wine tasting (Lacerta, Basilescu, Recaș, Stirbey, Petro Vaselo, etc) or try a bottle of Oprișor, Aurelia Vișinescu, Lacerta, Avincis, Budureasca, Balla Geza, etc.

Beer is the most informal drink, produced in many places. Timișoara is the city proud to have the oldest beer factory in the country, a place where you can pay a visit, observe the process and enjoy a pint.


Romania has had a complex history. Or complicated. Which put the fingerprint on our ethnicity. Namely multiculturalism. We are mainly Romanian inhabitants, but there are several minorities.

The most numerous ethnical minority is the Hungarian one. It can be found in the northwestern part of the country. But also, in the very heart of Transylvania in the land of the Szeklers. It is totally common to hear both languages on the streets, or even more, many families speak a strange combination between the two. In the land on Transylvania, we can find another minority, more exactly the Germans. The same trend is present at the border with Serbia with many Serbians living in western Romania. The Roma are spread and can be found in all regions. Nowadays, these ethnic groups have become scarcer as many of the people left for their native countries.

What is certain is that we inherited habits and customs from all these minorities. They shaped who we are. In all walks of life.


For all of you who put Romania on the potential visiting list, I have some good news for you (especially gentlemen). Every eastern European country boasts beautiful ladies.

Common belief says that Romanian girls are among the most beautiful in the world (if not no 1 on the beauty list), and this is observable not just among TV stars, but it is likely to find gorgeous pretty girls roaming on any big city street. So, don’t miss out this opportunity!

Our schooling system undergoes many changes…and has done so for long. Despite constant adjustment to the new, our students take the world by surprise every year. In the good sense. The Romanian sciences profile just takes the world by assault.

Science Olympics and important medals

There hasn’t been a year in all bygone ones that our nationals haven’t brought home important medals. You could check chemistry, maths, physics, information technology to name just a few school subjects…

This in turn results in many people moving abroad for studies and eventually getting in key positions in famous corporations. Romania is already famous for its IT sector. And maybe it is a coincidence or not, but we have one of the world’s fastest internet!


Foreigners coming to Romania are planning to meet Dracula and see vampires. Although Romania is a land rich in legends and myths, it is noy yet very clear how the story of Dracula emerged. And no, we have no vampires…

The obvious connection is with Vlad Dracul, the best-known ruler in the 15th century Romania. He originally belonged to the Order of the Dragon, but he got the designation Dracula (dracul= devil, a feared creature, just as the dragon), meaning son of the devil. Besides his qualities as a leader, Vlad became famous for his technique of punishing the guilty; he often speared his victims through a stick. Therefore, his nickname, Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Țepeș). During his reign, Vlad quickly gained the reputation of a feared and merciless ruler, but impartial and just.

The way from Vlad Dracul to Count Dracula is pure fiction. It is said that Bram Stoker, in his book from 1897, describes minutely and precisely the land of Transylvania, although he never stepped foot there. The inspiration for the character originates from Vlad’s thirst of blood, the rest is fiction.

If you are after Dracula’s footprints, the best place to look for the legend is to visit Bran Castle (though historians agree that Vlad Dracula didn’t live there). However, it has become the emblematic place when mentioning the infamous name. Bran Castle is situated in the mountains, most often surrounded by fog that gives the castle a creepy aura.

Another suggestive place to look for Dracula is the secluded Poenari Fortress, acknowledged as Vlad the Impaler’s secondary residence. The curious traveller should also find traces of Dracula in Sighișoara, the medieval town where he was born, Bucharest, the Old Princely Court (Palatul Curtea Veche) and Snagov Monastery, his alleged burial place.


Our beautiful landscape is successfully highlighted if you have a ride (or make one!) on Transfăgărășanul, our most remarkable highway. It has a long history and goes back to Ceaușescu and his communist regime.

He explained it was necessary for military purposes to prevent a possible Russian invasion. The invasion never happened, but Romania can boast nowadays with the greatest driving road in the world, according to Jeremy Clarkson in a Top Gear show.

“That’s the most amazing road I’ve ever seen! From above it looks like every great corner from every great racetrack in the world has been knitted together to create one unbroken grey ribbon of automotive perfection”.

Building the Transfăgărășan took less than five years and was an enormous effort. It involved a lot of work, discipline and strict rules. Terrible weather conditions. Not to mention the numerous lives lost.

It connects two regions of Romania, being a path between Ardeal and Muntenia. It contains five tunnels and lots of hairpins. 6000 tonnes of dynamite were used to make it. Still, this highway is not dedicated to drivers only…it offers wild scenery over the beautiful Carpathian Mountains which it crosses at the altitude of 2045 m, Vidraru Lake, an important dam, or the splendid Bâlea Lake (where you can also accommodate). It is open from May to October, weather permitting.


Transalpina is another landmark in terms of highways and landscape. It is also situated in the Carpathians and connects the regions of Oltenia and central Romania (Transylvania). With a length of 148 km and its highest peak at 2145m, Transalpina is the first road in the country when it comes to altitude. It is open from May to October, weather permitting.

Ancient documents state this road was built during Roman times, in the 2nd century in order to conquer Sarmisegetuza (the capital of Dacia – today’s Romania). There are some disputes concerning its paving.

Some say it was paved by the Germans for military reasons, while others believe it happened around 1935-1939, during the reign of King Carol II. What is certain is that nowadays it is a spectacular winding corridor of concrete that crosses the Carpathians and offers the tourist great scenery!

Palace of Parliament/Bucharest

Another pin on your Romanian map is Bucharest, our capital, and here, the most representative building is undoubtedly the Parliament Palace (Palatul Parlamentului), most commonly known in Romania as Casa Poporului (the People’s Palace).

It is a colossus that crosses Bucharest’s skyline.

It is, in fact, the second largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon. Its name is related to Romania’s feared communist dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. He decided to erect a huge construction to accomplish his thirst for power and cult of personality. This happened at a moment when population had to stand the rationalization of food and basic services, such as water, heating or electricity.

The Parliament Palace was born out of Ceaușescu’s megalomaniac dream of creating a building large enough to shelter all the chambers and departments of the government. Works lasted from 1984 to 1997 (still unfinished to this day), and the current outcome was possible with the contribution of an army of people.

To build this Palace in the middle of the capital, Ceaușescu demolished an entire neighbourhood and relocated tens of thousands of people. There was an architect who supervised the construction and worked along with 700 architects and more than 21.000 people on the project. In three shifts to ensure continuous work. Ceaușescu used only Romanian materials in the building, as well as workforce.

The building is 86 meters tall above ground level, 270 meters long and 245 meters wide. The World Record Book considers it the world’s heaviest building. 700,000 tonnes of steel and bronze was used in the construction of the palace, 1 million m3 of marble and 3,500 tonnes of crystal glass. The Palace has 12 stories over the ground and eight underground levels, the last one being an atomic bunker.

Today, the Palace hosts the institution of the Parliament. The impressive building also houses the National Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Parliament Palace can be visited with a guide. It is best to book a tour in advance and be careful as just some of the tours are English-speaking ones.


The name of Timișoara is to many Romanian ears the cradle of freedom. This is the city that started the Revolution of December 1989 and spread rapidly to the whole country. It ended with the fall of the communist regime and the execution of the Ceaușescu couple.

The biggest city in the western part of the country, Timișoara has been a multi-ethnic city with influences from its neighbours, Serbia and Hungary, but also Germanic ones. University centre, Timișoara, is also a cultural one with several festivals throughout the year. The city will become European Capital of Culture in 2023 and is eagerly awaiting visitors.

The Danube Delta

The Danube is a very important European river. It crosses 10 countries, out of which 4 capitals: Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and Belgrade. In Romania it marks the border with Serbia to the west and Bulgaria to the south, and with Ukraine to the east before forming the Danube Delta, which flows into the Black Sea.

It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage as being the best-preserved delta in Europe. It contains an impressive number of birds and freshwater fish species. The Danube Delta has the third largest biodiversity in the world, exceeded only by the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galapagos. If you are a birdwatcher or a nature lover, the Delta is the place to be. Here you can find over 300 species of birds, some of which are typical to the Delta’s fauna mainly and are rare: pygmy cormorants, red-breasted geese and the largest number of white pelicans and Dalmatian pelicans in Europe.

The Danube Delta is home to some 15.000 inhabitants who populate the three arms of the Delta named after their ports (from north to south): Chilia, Sulina and Sfântu Gheorghe. Their main source of living is fishing and raising cattle, so most likely, you can meet them in their boats, which is in fact the most common form of transportation in the Delta.

Famous Romanians:

Relatively small in size, Romania gave the world some important names in different areas. Here are just some:


  • George Emil Palade – Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1974 (shared with Albert Claude and Christian de Duve) for the discovery concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell;
  • Nicolae Paulescu – the inventor of the working solution that treated the effects of diabetes in 1916;
  • Ana Aslan – made research in gerontology trying to defeat the ageing process; founder of the world’s first institute of geriatrics in 1952;
  • Henri Coandă – inventor and aerodynamics pioneer; discovered the Coandă effect;
  • Traian Vuia – aviation pioneer, built the first monoplane. He proved that a flying machine could rise into the air by running on wheels on an ordinary road.


  • Nadia Comăneci – the first gymnast to get a perfect 10 at the Olympics in Montreal, 1976;
  • Simona Halep – tennis player, WTA number 1 in 2017. So far, she has won 22 WTA singles titles;
  • Gheorghe Hagi – famous football player.


  • Mircea Eliade – historian of religions and famous writer. His books had a tremendous influence on his generation;
  • Herta Müller – Romanian writer of German origin, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 2009. Her works address the individual’s vulnerability;
  • Constantin Brâncuși – famous sculptor, one of the pioneers of modernism. Although he moved to Paris, Brâncuși built many monuments in his originary area, most famous being the Endless Column.

So now that I have proved that we are hospitable, funny, party-loving, smart, beautiful and modest (!!!), we have lots of beautiful places to show, in addition to having good food and drink, I can only wish you to book a stay in Romania to experience it yourselves.

Travel, taste and feel Romania!!!

You’ll just love it!

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