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About Romania
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ABOUT ROMANIA

MAP OF ROMANIA

BLACK_SEA RIVIERA

 

Introduction

Romania has majestic castles, medieval towns, great hiking and the cheap skiing of much of the 'undiscovered' former Eastern Countries.You'll be floored at how beautiful Romania is and you'll almost certainly see signs that it's chasing the dreams of the rest of the West.

 

Area: 237,500 sq km (91,700 sq mi)

Population: 22.5 million

Capital city: Bucharest (pop 2 million)

People: Romanians (90%), Hungarians (7%), Gypsies (2%), Germans, Ukrainians

Language: Romanian, Hungarian (in Transylvania)

Religion: Romanian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant

Government: Republic

GDP: US$90 billion

GDP per head: US$4000

Annual growth: -8%

Major industries: Agriculture, manufacturing

Major trading partners: EU (esp.Germany, Italy, France), Turkey

Member of EU:no

 

Facts for the Traveler

Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours

Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Tourism: 2.83 million visitors per year

 

When to Go

May and June are the best months to visit, followed by September and early October. At these times, you can visit the medieval painted monasteries in southern Bucovina, and enjoy them minus the tourist hordes. Spring and autumn are also the best times for birdwatching in the Danube Delta. Romania has harsh winters, when tourism is centred on the ski resorts like Poiana Brasov and Sinaia. Snow lingers as late as mid-May, and the hiking season doesn't begin in earnest till June. The resorts along the Black Sea coast start filling up in late June and stay packed until mid-August.

 

Events

Romania has a juicy calendar of folklore festivals. Numerous smaller ones remain unpublicised, preserving their authenticity but making them very difficult for the traveller to attend. Regular festivals include the Whit Sunday Szekely Pilgrimage, the largest traditional Szekely folk and religious festival of the year, in Miercurea Ciuc. The Fundata Fair, a traditional folklore fair originally held for shepherds to meet their future wives, is at Fundata near Bran in June. July sees International Chamber Music Festival concerts in Brasov and Bran. In August is Medieval Days, a two week medieval arts, crafts and music festival in Sighisoara and the Hora de la Prislop, a wild dancing festival on the Prislop Pass. The Sambra oilor is a major pastoral festival to mark the coming down of the sheep from the mountains, held in and around Bran in September, and in December there's the De la Colind la Stea Christmas festival in Brasov.

 

Money & Costs

Currency: leu (plural: lei) (L)

Accommodation will be your biggest expense in Romania. Cheap accommodation is scarce in Bucharest. Expect to pay at least US$25 for a double room with shared bath in any hotel within walking distance of the centre of most Romanian cities and towns. Accommodation in private homes in the countryside starts at US$10 a night, including a home-cooked breakfast.

The cost of dining is rising - Romanians can't afford to eat out, so most restaurants are geared to 'rich foreigners'. In Bucharest it's tough to eat for less than US$5 per head, not including alcohol. Eating out is cheaper elsewhere, and a bottle of good Romanian wine can be as little as US$1.50. Seeing a film or play costs about US$1, and entrance fees to museums are about 20 cents. Public transport is dirt cheap by Western standards. US$1.70 will take you approximately 100km by bus or comfortable express train. Petrol is around 40 cents a litre.

It's easy to cash traveler's checks in Romania, but not very easy to replace stolen ones. Only American Express has an office that issues replacements in Bucharest. Cash-dispensing ATMs accepting Visa/MasterCard are becoming increasingly widespread in Romania. Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and shops. They are essential for hiring a car, unless you want to pay cash up front. Marked, torn or very used notes will often be refused at exchanges. Ensure whatever currency you bring is in good condition.

Taxi drivers drive a hard bargain, so always haggle.

 

Attractions

BUCHAREST

Romania's capital - named after its legendary founder, a shepherd called Bucur - lies on the Wallachian plains, between the Carpathian foothills and the Danube river. In the 1930s it was known as 'the Paris of the East'. Since then, earthquakes, WWII bombing and Ceausescu have combined to destroy much of its prewar beauty.

In the 1980s Ceausescu bulldozed 7000 homes and 15 churches in historic southern Bucharest to build a Civic Centre. The focal point of what locals dubbed 'Ceausima' is the enormous 12-storey House of the People, intended to be the largest building in the world - it's actually the second, after the Pentagon. Ceausescu - who was executed just as it neared completion - intended it to house the president's office, central committee and all the state ministries. The Iliescu government did not know what to do with this white elephant - many people wanted it demolished - but in 1994 decided to use it to house the Parliament and to host international conferences. There are guided tours, so you'll get a chance to gawp at the ornate 1000-room interior as well as the mesmerising exterior.For a taste of the old, head for central Bucharest, where the 16th century Old Court Church contains beautifully preserved frescoes. The George Enescu Museum displays the musician's manuscripts and personal belongings. Also here is Romania's very own Raffles, the Athenee Palace Hotel, centre of early 20th century decadence, and the meeting place of Olivia Manning's characters in The Balkan Trilogy. It has just had a US$50 million facelift and is the city's classiest and most expensive hotel. In western Bucharest you'll find Ghencea Civil Cemetery, final resting place of the Ceausescus. Nicolae's grave is quite ornate and decorated with flowers and candles, but Elena is apparently less revered by those who still mourn their overthrow. Their son Nicu (Transylvania boss, drunkard, playboy and one-time partner of the Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci) is buried close by.

Bucharest offers a wide range of accommodation options, including private rooms, university campuses, hostels and hotels. The main places are in the centre or around the main train station (Gara de Nord). Bucharest has seen a rapid influx of flashy, upmarket, expensive restaurants offering international cuisine, but it is still easy to track down traditional Romanian cooking in central Bucharest. This area is also the focal point for nightlife: you'll find plenty of entertainment here, including bars, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas.

BRASOV, a medieval Saxon town surrounded by verdant Transylvanian hills, is one of Romania's most visited places. It was in Brasov that the first public opposition to the Ceausescu regime occurred - in 1987 thousands of disgruntled workers, angered by wage cuts, long hours, and rationing, took to the streets demanding basic foodstuffs. Ceausescu's response was to call in the troops (three people were killed) and cut rations even further.Brasov is on of the most popular cities in Romania, especially among tourists, foreign and local alike.  The Teutonic Knights founded it in 1211 and mountains surround it on three sides.  In the 15th century, it was heavily fortified against Turk invasions.  Brasov is the site where the first Romanian book was printed and where the first Romanian school was established.  Other historic places are the City Hall built in 1420, the 190 ft watchtower called the "Trumpeter's Tower, and the Gothic Protestant "Black Church" built between 1385 and 1477.  It is called the "Black Church" because of the smoke-blackened walls after a fire in 1689.  Here one can listen to organ concerts and see a great Oriental rug collection.  The city gates -- "Poarta Schiei" -- with its four towers, the art museum, the history museum in a medieval setting are also worth seeing.  Just outside of Brasov is Poiana Brasov, the most modern ski resort in Romania.  It has 10 major ski slopes, swimming pool, tennis courts and Romanian style restaurants.

SIGHISOARA

Like Brasov, Sighisoara is a Saxon medieval town surrounded by hills in Transylvania. But it is more beautiful and less hyped than Brasov, and has a greater amount of perfectly preserved medieval buildings. For many, its great drawcard is the Dracula connection - within the walls of the medieval citadel you'll find the house in which Vlad Tepes was born in 1431 and reputedly lived until the age of four. It is now a bar and restaurant.Sighisoara's other main sights are also inside the citadel walls, with its nine surviving towers. The clock tower, a history museum and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, which became the Saxons' main Lutheran church in 1566, are all worth seeing. And don't miss climbing the 172 steps of the covered stairway to the Gothic Church on the Hill. Just 4km (2.48 mi) northeast of Sighisoara is the village of Albesti, home to the Petofi Sandor Museum, which commemorates the Hungarian poet who died in battle here in 1848. Sighisoara is well serviced by both local and international bus and train services.

SIBIU

The town is mentioned in documents as far back as the 12th century.  As they are a mixture of both, its inhabitants have combined German vigor with Romanian creativity.  One of the greatest attractions of Sibiu is the "Large Square, where you can see the oldest standing house in town and visit the Brukenthal Museum.  Cross the Liar's Bridge called this way for young lovers used to date here and tell each other love lies.  Another great attraction is the Evangelical Church, built during 14th and 15th century.  It has two pipe organs, one of which is the largest in the country with more than 6000 tubes.  Sibiu's surroundings host the Village Museum in open air, the Paltinis Resort -- the highest in Romania at 4370ft -- and during the summer the salted lakes from Ocna Sibiului are a must see.

ARAD, a beautiful city situated in the western Romania on the banks of the river Mures is only 30 km away from the Hungarian border. Over the years the Austrian-Hungarian occupation left a mark in our architecture and life style.Arad's City Hall is a beautiful building which has to its right and left another two old palaces dated 2 centuries back. The "Cenad Palace" is one of the buildings old enough to justify the beauty of architectural times it was built in.  The town has aprox. 200.000 inhabitants, three quarters being Romanians and the rest is represented by hungarians, germans, italians, serbs and other minorities in a smaller percentage.

The city of CLUJ-NAPOCA is the most important academic, cultural and industrial center in Transylvania. Considered to be the historic capital of Transylvania , the city is located in northwestern Romania, and is approximately 200 mi (320 km) northwest of Bucharest in the Somesul Mic River Valley.

TIMISOARA

Timisoara, in the Banat region close to the Hungarian border, is famous as the place where the 1989 revolution began. Numerous memorial slabs to those people who died in the fighting are encrusted in walls on streets around the town. Most are still honoured with fresh flowers and lavish bouquets.Other main sights include the Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, which are in the town centre on opposite sides of Piata Unirii, Timisoara's most picturesque square. The town is serviced by plenty of international and domestic trains.

The Black Sea Coast

In Spain it's Benidorm, in Australia it's the Gold Coast - and in Romania the sun-sea-sand-and-sex brigade head for the Black Sea Coast. CONSTANTA, Romania's largest port and second largest city, is the main transport hub for the Black Sea Coast, and the gateway to other resorts. International soccer fans may want to pay a visit, as this is Gheorghe Hagi's home town. The beaches are crowded, but the town itself is picturesque and has some excellent museums. Mamaia, an 8km (4.96 mi) strip of beach north of Constanta, is Romania's version of Palm Beach, with 61 hotels containing a total of 27,000 beds that fill up between mid-June and August. If you like lying on overcrowded beaches listening to blaring pop music, head 17km (10.54 mi) south of Constanta to Eforie Nord. Other beach and blaring music resorts are Neptun-Olimp and Constinesti.In summer, Constanta is accessible by charter flight from European destinations, and by ferry from Istanbul. Buses connect Constanta with other Black Sea towns. Constanta is well serviced by bus and train.

Fagaras Mountains

The Fagaras mountains, in the centre of Romania, form part of the Carpathians and stretch for some 75km (46.5 mi) south of the main Brasov-Sibiu road. The mountains are are peppered with more than 40 glacial lakes, the highest of which is Lake Mioarele at 2282m (7484 ft). The famed Trans-Fagarasan highway cuts through the Balea valley across the mountains from north to south, a mountain pass which is said to be the highest road in Europe. The Balea tunnel, cutting between Romania's highest mountains - Mount Negoiu (2535m; 8314 ft) and Mount Moldoveanu (2543m; 8341 ft) - is 845m (52.3 mi) long. The Fagaras mountains offer the most spectacular hiking in the country, with well marked trails and an abundance of wildlife. The main drawback is the difficulty in getting there. The trailheads are 8km (4.96 mi) to 15km (9.3 mi) south of most train stations along the Brasov-Sibiu line, and the region is poorly serviced by bus. The main access point to the trails is Victoria, which you reach by getting off at the train halt 7km (4.34 mi) north at Ucea. If you have a car, follow the Trans-Fagarasan Highway to Poienari Castle, just over the border in Wallachia. This was built for Vlad Tepes, and is regarded by Dracula buffs as the real McCoy. You climb 1480 steps to reach it from the side of an hydroelectric power plant below.

Danube Delta

The 5800 sq km (92262 sq mi) Danube Delta, just south of the Ukrainian border, is Europe's youngest land geologically, and a magnet for birds and birdwatchers. Amid this wetland of reed beds and waterways, lily-covered lakes and shifting sand dunes, the Danube River completes its journey from Germany's Black Forest. Just over 14,500 people live on the Delta. Traditional wooden kayaks and rowing boats are the primary means of accessing the Delta's 57 fishing villages. Ceausescu's project to reclaim 38% of the delta for fish farming, forestry and agriculture was abandoned after the revolution. Today the Danube Delta is protected, and 273,300 hectares (675,051 acres) of it are strictly protected zones, off limits to tourists and fishermen. If you want to see wildlife, your best bet is to explore smaller waterways in a kayak or rowing boat or with a local fisherman. There are no shops, so take supplies with you. And don't forget the insect repellent! The gateway to the delta is Tulcea, with good bus and train connections. From there you can hire rowing boats and kayaks, or arrange trips with fishermen. You'll need a permit to visit the Delta, which you can get at travel agencies in Tulcea.

Activities

The Carpathian mountains offer boundless opportunities for hiking, the most popular areas being the Fagaras and Brucegi ranges, respectively south and west of Brasov. Clearly marked trails traverse most of Romanian mountain ranges and lower-lying foothills. The Carpathians also offer some of the cheapest skiing in Europe, the most famous resorts being Sinaia and Poiana Brasov. Sinaia offers the most challenging skiing, while Poiana Brasov is popular with package tours and has the best developed ski school. Romania has some fabulous caves, but many are not open to the public. Those serious about the sport can arrange to go caving by contacting local caving clubs for permission to enter them. Climbing and mountain biking are also popular, along with more tranquil activities like trainspotting and self-pampering in spas around Eforie Nord and Baile Felix. Animal lovers can watch bears and wolves in the Carpathians and birds in the Danube Delta.

Culture

Romanian is closer to classical Latin than it is to other Romance languages, and the grammatical structure and basic word stock of the mother tongue are well preserved. Speakers of French, Italian and Spanish won't be able to understand much spoken Romanian but will find written Romanian more or less comprehensible. Romanian is spelt phonetically so once you learn a few simple rules you should have no trouble with pronunciation. Romania is the only country with a Romance language that does not have a Roman Catholic background. It is 86% Romanian Orthodox, 5% Roman Catholic, 3.5% Protestant, 1% Greco-Catholic, 0.3% Muslim and 0.2% Jewish.Bucovina's painted monasteries were the first in the world to be adorned with frescoes on the outside. Painted in the 16th century, these frescoes also went beyond the confines of religious art, conveying political as well as religious messages. Painting on glass and wood, a traditional peasant art, has been widespread in Romania since the 17th century and remains popular today. Romanian literature draws heavily on the country's rich folklore heritage coupled with its turbulent history as an occupied country . In the 15th century an oral epic folk literature emerged, and writings in the Romanian language took shape around 1420. Modern literature emerged in the 19th century. Romania's best known writer internationally is playwright Eugene Ionesco (1912-94), an exponent of the 'Theatre of the Absurd'. Literature became a tool of the communist party from 1947 onwards. Since 1990 many works have been published attesting to the horrors of the communist period. Folk music and dancing have long been popular in Romania. Couples dance in a circle, a semicircle or a line. Modern gypsy music has absorbed many influences and professional gypsy musicians play whatever village clients want.

         Those who live to eat will find life pretty dull in Romania. Restaurants tend to offer the same things with tedious consistency: grilled pork, pork liver, grilled chicken, tripe soup and greasy potatoes. Romania's most novel dish is mamagliga, a hard or soft cornmeal mush which is boiled, baked or fried. In many Romanian households, it's served as the main dish. The other mainstay of the Romanian diet is ciorba (soup). The sweet-toothed won't starve: typical desserts include placinta (turnovers), clarite (crepes) and saraille (almond cake soaked in syrup). Romanian wines are cheap and good. Tuica (plum brandy) and palinca (distilled three times as much as tuica) are mind-blowing liqueurs taken at the beginning of a meal. Noroc! (Cheers!) Avoid the ubiquitous Ness, an awful instant coffee made from vegetable extracts, and try cafea naturala, a 'real' coffee made the Turkish way, with a thick sludge of ground coffee beans at the bottom and a generous spoonful of sugar.

 

Environment

Oval-shaped Romania is the largest eastern European country apart from Russia and Ukraine. It lies on the Black Sea and, moving anticlockwise from the southwest, shares borders with Bulgaria, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova. The forested Carpathian mountains account for one third of the country's area; another third is covered by hills and tablelands full of orchards and vineyards; and the final third comprises a fertile plain where cereals, vegetables and herbs are grown.

You don't go to Romania for the weather. The average annual temperature is 11C in the south and on the coast, but only 2C in the mountains. Romanian winters can be extremely foggy, with lots of snow from December to April. In summer there's usually hot, sunny weather on the Black Sea coast. The majority of Romania's rain falls in the spring, with the mountains getting the most, the Danube Delta the least.

 

Getting There & Away

Romania is easily accessible, served by buses, trains and planes galore. There are plenty of scheduled flights to Romania from a dozen or so western countries, and, with a single plane change, from a great many more. Most flights arrive at Bucharest's Otopeni international airport. There are also flights to Timisoara,Cluj,Arad,Oradea and Constanta.Romania's public bus system is virtually nonexistent while fares offered by the very numerous private bus companies operating buses to the west rarely compete with the inexpensive comfort offered by trains. The exception to this rule is Istanbul. The bus (12 to 14 hours) is substantially cheaper and faster than the train (17-1/2 hours) - and they've banned smoking on it, which is just as well since most Romanians and Turks smoke like the proverbial chimney. There are plenty of trains from western Europe, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey, and Moldova, Ukraine and beyond. Between May and September a ferry plies the Black Sea between Constanta and Istanbul.  

Getting Around

Romania's national airline TAROM flies at least four times weekly between Bucharest and the other major cities. Unfortunately, the airline has a two-tier pricing system, making flights more expensive for foreigners. A single fare is usually around US$50, and returns are exactly double the single fare. Buses are dead cheap and dead slow. It costs about US$2.50 to travel 200km (9124 mi), but buses are infrequent and only one or two buses a day service most routes. Buses are generally used only for outlying villages and more rural areas.

Train has long been the most popular way of travelling around Romania. Trains provide a frequent service to most cities, towns and larger villages within the country. There are five different types of train: personale are so slow ; accelerat are faster, more expensive and less crowded; rapid and expres trains travel reasonably quickly and serve international as well as domestic routes; and inter-city trains are no faster than the others (apart from personae trains) but are twice as expensive and twice as comfortable. Seat reservations are obligatory for all trains (except personale) and this is included in the fare.

Most towns within Romania have local buses, trams and trolleybuses, and Bucharest has a Metro underground system. Taxis are available in all cities and towns, but can be more expensive for foreigners.

 

     Although we've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person resulting from information published on this site. We encourage you to verify any critical information with the relevant authorities before you travel. This includes information on visa requirements, health and safety, customs, and transportation.

 

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