The core of European modernism might be London, with its highly dynamic rhythm and eclectic style. Paris might evoke more love sparks than any other place on Earth and Amsterdam might never be topped when it comes to breaking limits.
When reflecting on which geographical coordinates could best host your next experience abroad, chances are you’re going to make a mental list from the most popular travel destinations. But what if next time you do something crazier than usual? What if you let yourself embrace a funky detour from your coventional travel plans?
You’ll shortly realise that „10 most popular” doesn’t necessaily mean „top 10”. These are just 5 reasons to start planning a trip to Romania.
Folklore and authenticity
Which is the genuine reason why you are considering traveling abroad in the first place? We believe that one of the greatest opportunities provided by visiting another country lies in the captivating cultural distinctiveness. If this aspect matters to you too, Romania won’t ever disappoint you. The rural lifestyle prevails in many areas of the country, still rich in customs and folklore.
You can enjoy heavily embroidered traditional costumes and the preserved songs and dances passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years. If you want, you can also attend the ceremonies which mark significant transitions in a person’s life or accompany moments of bliss or grief. All in all, you will feel like strolling within the pages belonging to mythical literature.
As a brief example, Romania is home to The Merry Cemetery of Săpânța, in Maramureș, the only happy graveyard in the world. Here, the tombstones are pure expressions of rustic creativity and life is celebrated by immortalizing the ones who have passed away through funny descriptive poems and paintings portraying them.
Furthermore, the churches and monasteries from Moldavia, the north-eastern region of Romania, carry “outstanding universal value”, as UNESCO asserts. At the same time, “their exceptional composition, the elegance of the characters, and the harmony of the colors blend perfectly with the surrounding countryside.” The well conserved mural paintings of these Byzantine inspired monuments have undergone minimal interventions over time, retaining the authenticity of a golden past.
Unique scenic countryside
Yes, we know that uniqueness lies in any place and that praising the landscapes in general terms is quite a convenient solution when you run out of actual tourist attractions. Yet, how many places on Earth are home to Prince Charles’ private nature retreat? Yes, that’s right. His Royal Highness’s relaxing haven is nestled amongst the meadows and hills of Valea Zălanului.
Also, what about the mesmerizing waterfalls hidden in the Carpathian Mountains, a longer mountain range than the Alps? Bigăr Waterfall won the title of the most spectacular waterfall of them all, awarded by the World Geography Magazine in 2013.
Scărișoara glacier? It is only the second largest underground glacier in Europe. In contrast, the Berca mud volcanoes would be the place where the Devil built its cauldrons of boiling tar, if that has ever happened on Earth. Speaking about underground fun, Turda Salt Mine is the only underground theme park on our planet. This was made possible by a huge mining process in which over three billion tons of salt were carved out, from antiquity onwards.
Nature at its best
When you mention that a country is biogeographically diverse you probably mean that it is more than an endless plain or than a series of rocky mountains. When we say this, we mean that it is the most biogeographically diverse country of the EU, according to The Convention on Biological Diversity.
Romania possesses five of the biogeographic regions officially recognized by the EU, namely the alpine, continental, panonic, pontic and the steppe. Moreover, the full range of European forest fauna is present throughout its territory.
Did you ever listen to The Blue Danube Waltz, composed by Johann Strauss II? This legendary river that flows directly through significant European cities, including four national capitals, decided to spill into the Black Sea, right onto Romanian land. The Danube Delta, a UNESCO protected site in Dobrogea, forms the largest and the best preserved of Europe’s deltas, hosting over 300 species of birds, a wide range of fish species and other natural wonders.
If you’re not really the water type, we suggest visiting the Libearty Bear Sanctuary – the warm shelter of the rescued bears. Alternatively, you can choose any of the numerous national parks and reservations with astounding wildlife. Also, if you’d like to share these visual memories with someone, on the spot, you can do it instantly. Romania’s internet connection is one of the fastest on the globe, surpassing even the one from United States.
In case you fancy taking the exploration to the next level, you might have the courage to enter one of the 10.000 caves spread across the country. Most of them are natural works of art, while some even provide free accommodation for a high variety of bat species. Topolnița cave, for instance, shelters the largest colony of the greater horseshoe bat of the entire continent.
A land of fiction
Do you believe in coincidence? Prince Charles is not the only famous royal blooded figure around here. Clues: he’s often spotted near the winged cave inhabitants and he doesn’t give a damn about how royal the blood is, as long as it’s his type. Indeed. Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula is born and raised in Transylvania, a region located in central Romania. No wonder the Romanian red wine is simply mouthwatering.
You’ve heard a lot about presumably the most notorious horror fiction character of all time, this bewitching creature of the night. How would it be to actually experience a Gothic fantasy exactly where the plot is set? This is entirely possible by visiting Bran Castle, which is considered to be the real life fortress described by Stoker in his masterpiece.
Speaking about castles and fortresses, Romania represents an ideal destination for the tourists fascinated by the Medieval Period (and history in general). With more than 1300 castles, palaces and manors, you surely are in the proximity of a one of a kind cultural landmark, no matter where.
To name a few, Peleș Castle, in Sinaia, was the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current. The luxurious former home of the Romanian Royal Family also transforms at times into a Hollywood movie set. Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are only some of the stars who’ve been here.
Moving forward, the Corvin Castle, in Hunedoara, was presented by the Huffington Post as one of the top ten most fairytale like castles in the world. Shrouded in legend, a few hours spent inside will most likely make you feel like you’re unlocking a time traveling machine. Last, but not least, in the center of Bucharest you will find the Palace of the Parliament, the world’s second largest administrative building after the Pentagon.
However, we assure you that you won’t get too impatient when it comes to reaching your next checkpoint. Not because you won’t have the sight of your life, but because despite the magnificence of such architectural marvels, you’ll surely enjoy the journey as well. No, this is not a reference to Transfăgărășan, described by Top Gear as the best road in the world, but the picturesque medieval town centers. This being said, we promise that the rich cultural heritage will kidnapp your heart until the next visit.
The beauty of Romania lies especially in its nature, its history and the authenticity of its people, facts mere words can’t capture. When planning your next escape just remember one single thing: that sometimes, finding the charm where you didn’t first expect can be the most rewarding experience of all.
Check out the wonderful AIESEC opportunities available in Romania. Looking forward to meeting you!
Written by Larisa Rus