Romania is a charming yet overlooked Balkan country in southeastern Europe. Though not as popular as Western European destinations, Romania has a fascinating blend of vibrant city life, stunning medieval castles, and rich cultural traditions waiting to be discovered.
An Introduction to Romania – Location, Population and Economy
Romania is situated in southeastern Europe, bordering countries like Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine. With a land area of around 238,000 square kilometers, it has a population of 20 million people. The capital and largest city is Bucharest located in the southern part of the country.
The Romanian economy used to be heavily agriculture-based. However, since joining the European Union in 2007, Romania has opened up trade with other EU nations and evolved into a more diversified economy. Key industries today include agriculture, textiles, oil production, manufacturing, and technology services.
Despite being an EU member, Romania battles high unemployment rates, especially among the youth. Low wages have led to an exodus of young Romanians migrating westwards to countries like Germany and France for better jobs. The minimum monthly wage in Romania is about 400 USD after taxes.
Marvel at the Medieval Architecture in Bucharest and Transylvania
One of Romania’s biggest attractions is its well-preserved medieval architecture dotted around towns and cities. Bucharest, the capital, boasts elegant buildings and fountains harking back to its 19th-century heyday.
In the Transylvania region, you’ll find Romania’s claim to fame – the legendary Bran Castle near Braşov. With imposing towers and stone walls, this 14th-century fortress is better known as Dracula’s Castle, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s novel. Visitors can tour its chambers and secret passageways.
Other architectural gems not to miss include the gothic Black Church of Braşov, the baroque Peleş Castle, and the striking Orthodox monasteries of Bucovina with colorful exterior frescoes.
Experience the Lively Nightlife and Cafe Culture
By night, Romania comes alive with buzzing bars, cafes, and nightclubs, especially in Bucharest. Locals and tourists alike throng the Old Town neighborhoods to party the night away. The atmosphere is relaxed and alcohol flows freely. In fact, Romania ranks among the world’s top alcohol-consuming nations per capita.
Bucharest’s numerous lush parks also serve as lively social hubs during the day. People gather for picnics, boat rides, or simply to relax with friends. The city center has trendy cafes perfect for people-watching. Soak up the leisurely cafe culture as you sip coffee and enjoy some traditional Romanian snacks.
Sample the Cuisine and Meet the Friendly Locals
Romanian cuisine, influenced by Balkan and Central European flavors, is hearty and filling. Traditional dishes include mititei (grilled meatballs), mamaliga (polenta with cheese), sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls), and papanasi (sweet doughnuts). Be sure to pair your meal with local beers, wines, and the popular Țuică fruit brandy.
Despite economic struggles, Romanians are warm, friendly people who readily welcome visitors. Communicating can be tricky though since English isn’t widely spoken outside major cities. Learn a few basic Romanian phrases, and you’ll make friends easily. Romania’s youth are especially open to meeting travelers and sharing their culture.
Understand the Plight of the Marginalized Roma People
Romania is also home to Europe’s largest Roma or Gypsy population, making up over 9% of the total populace. Segregated and marginalized, most Roma live in abject poverty without basic amenities and education.
They are looked down upon by mainstream society leading to discrimination. Tourists could visit Roma villages to gain perspective but should avoid participating in any occult practices peddled there. Proceed with cultural sensitivity.
Though overshadowed by the likes of Paris and London, Romania rewards travelers who venture off the beaten path. From fairy-tale castles to energetic nightlife, Romania charms with its blend of natural beauty, deep-rooted traditions, and hidden histories.
Scratch beneath its surface to discover the real Romania beyond Dracula stereotypes. Though afflicted by socio-economic issues, it remains an affordable and safe country to navigate for an immersive Balkan experience.