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TTF Talks: Travel, freedom, nature and fun

Janna is an unofficial ambassador of Romania, an enthusiastic traveller and explorer. Of Romania! (and not only!) … Although originary from the United States, life had plans for her. She married a Romanian guy and has come to call Cluj home.

Read the interview to see an honest and well-documented opinion of an American on Romania!

Dear Janna Damigeana, for a start, please introduce yourself and say how long you have been in Romania. What do you do here? 

I’m Janna, I go by Janna Damigeana. I have lived in Romania for 3.5 years. I am a mother, a wife, and a social media content creator. My main platform is Tiktok. 

Janna Damigeana

What did you know about Romania?

I know quite a lot about Romania because I have a Romanian husband. We have been visiting yearly since 2009 and made a permanent move here in 2018. I expect that Romania is a safe country where kids still have some freedom to be children. 

What do you like about Romania? What do you dislike?

My favorite thing about Romania is the access to nature. I love to hike and enjoy the outdoors.

Unfortunately, this also presents my least favorite thing about Romania, the presence of garbage at camping and hiking spots. Additionally, while the problem is getting better, there is still a stray dog problem in Romania, especially in the south. While normally these dogs stay away from people it is important to be cautious. 

Lovely outdoors

I can see you are travelling a lot around the country. Tell us where you’ve been in Romania so far. What were your favourite places and why?

I absolutely love traveling around Romania. I find that Romania is still a place where you can experience “tourism by accident.” Tourism by accident is what I call it when you just run into something cool, or you meet a local that shows you something that most tourists never see. There are so many treasures in Romania that the world has no idea about, places that are only frequented by sheepherders and their flock.

I’ve traveled extensively throughout Romania, too many places to list, really the entire country with the exception of the far north eastern corner, but it is on my list. I think my favorite place is the ASTRA village museum in Sibiu. It is such a treasure and I love showing it to visitors. However, a close second is the castle Peles and the surrounding area. I love Busteni and the Rocky Mountain cliffs that overlook her. Truly that area is a model for the spectacular nature that you can find in Romania. 

The inside of Peles is even more spectacular than the outside

What about the stereotype saying that Romanians are very hospitable and friendly? 

This is so true, Romanians are so kind and hospitable. They are always interested in travelers. I can’t tell you how many strangers have invited me in for food and Palinca. They are truly wonderful people.

I read many times that driving in Romania is dangerous. Can you give us an objective insight? 

Driving in Romania is very dangerous and it is important to be incredibly vigilant. There is no one reason why it is dangerous, but the combination of aggressive driving and bad roads is a perfect storm leading to trouble. That being said, I drive in Romania. Just be careful, use Waze to monitor road conditions and never drive while impaired. 

Please tell us three things you like about Romania. 

1st: There is no sense in pretending it isn’t a benefit, I love how far the USD goes in Romania. Really if you have dollars or euros, you can really have a nice vacation for not much money. However, this doesn’t mean Romania is “cheap,” compared to the local salaries in the local currency, Romania is actually quite expensive.    

2nd: I love the social atmosphere of Romania, every evening and weekend, terraces and parks are full with people socializing.    

3rd: I love the food, the soups, the meats, and the spreads. All yum. 

Autumn crops

Please tell us some things you dislike or some negative experiences you had.

1 word…piftie. This is a traditional food served at Christmas time and I really did not enjoy it (to put it lightly). 

What is your favourite Romanian food? 

I love love love ciorba de perisoare (sour meatball soup).

Would you recommend the country to your friends? 

Yes! And I have! I have had friends and family visit and they have all loved it. 

Country house and autumn foliage

What could Romania do to be more visitable? 

Better information about tourist sites and better transit between cities, whether it be trains or highways. 

Can you summarise your experience in Cluj and give some recommendations/tips? And some tips from overall travelling in the country…

I really think Cluj is a premiere city in Romania for living. However it isn’t my favorite city for visiting. (I think it is Sibiu). It doesn’t have that much “tourist stuff,” it is really more of a “college town.”  

My tip is to learn a few phrases in Romanian. Once you leave the cities, it is uncommon to find people that speak English. Romania really has something for everyone, if you do your research before you come, you will be better prepared to enjoy your trip. 

Beautiful building in Cluj

Now after spending this time in Romania, what is the general and most powerful feeling that Romania gives to you? 

Romania feels like freedom to me. I feel like I have the space to breathe here that I was lacking in the US. I am able to raise my children free from the madness and gun violence in US. 

What are some of the misconceptions you most often hear about Romania and how do you feel about them? 

The most common misconception about Romania and Romanians is that Romania is dangerous and Romanians are thieves. Truly, I have never felt safer in my life. The stereotypes make me angry. 

Stereotypical blocks and pretty tulips

What do you like about Romanian culture, history, customs? Please give us some examples. 

Oh my gosh, I feel like I have to direct people to my tiktok page for this. I have made over 1500 videos and the vast majority of those are things that I notice and love about Romania.

I think my favorite thing about Romania is that the Romanians all seem to take August off and go on vacation. It is so great to live in a society where people are taking the time to enjoy life and not just work themselves to death.   History wise, Romania has a rich and interesting history. As an outsider, I find the Hungarian and Saxon influence on Transylvania to be very interesting and enriching. I love seeing how all of the cultures of Transylvania mix together to make her who she is today. 

Autumn in Transylvania

Thank you so much Janna Damigeana for your knowledgeable insights and good luck with your videos!!!

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