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Romania – Beyond Dracula and All That Shyam Amladi

Tranquil Town en route to Transylvania

Where is it?

Bucharest, the capital and the most populated city is 4750 miles east of New York, 1,100 miles east of Frankfurt, 1,500 east of London and 5,500 miles west of Tokyo. This east European country is surrounded by Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia and Bulgaria and is part of European Union, although as of now, they maintain their own currency, Ron.


Archeological finds have discovered Romanian civilization dating back from the Bronze Age (12th-13th century BC). In Constanta, on Romania’s eastern shore, there was animal life as far back as 5.5 million years.

Recorded history of Romania begins with the founding of Dacia in 160 BC—northern Romania at the foothills of Carpathian mountains, when Romans began their rule. Ancient Romanians are formed principally from three races: Dacians , Thracians (both Greek migrants) and  Illyrians (Indo-Europeans). Romanian language derives from Latin and uses the Cyrllian script, common among countries in the Caucasian mountain range.

Over 80% of Romanians follow Orthodox Christian religion. Unique among the artifacts are the natural and wooden decorated Easter eggs.


Romania has just about everything a country would covet. It has four seasons, lush and tall mountains, abundant rainfall and snowfall, fertile land, deep cultural history, commercial port, peace and friendly citizens. And for good measure, folklore that would be the envy of Ireland. Now, occasionally they do get embroiled in political battles, but never beyond loud arguments and scandals. Its food is a delicious mix of Roman, Mediterranean, East European and Middle eastern cuisine, perfected over several centuries. Pork, corn and rice and fish are staple.

Vlad Tepes III Dracul - inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula

Almost everyone speaks English.

Things to See and Do

  • Bucharest: Capital of the country.
  • Parliament House: This almost 4 million sf behemoth is sometimes called Ceausescu’s final dream (Nicolai Ceausescu was Romania’s dictatorial leader for 24 years and on Christmas of 1974, he and his wife were executed for humanitarian crimes). It is world’s second largest building (after the Pentagon). But more importantly, it is a strikingly beautiful structure.
  • Village Museum: An open air, walk-around museum. Here you will see how Romanians lived last 300 years. These are actual houses—more like log cabins and thatched huts that have been purchased by the Museum and restored. You are actually transported back in time.
  • Cismigiu Gardens: beautiful and superbly maintained since 1850’s. Cismigiu in Turkish means fountain, and indeed, the gardens are full of dancing peacocks, caves, wild waterfalls and pathways surrounded by lush foliage.

Other green areas in Bucharest are: Vacarest Park, and Harastrau Park, which has a beautiful lake

  • Old Bucharest : Not very interesting, but if you are a history buff, there are well preserved old buildings, including Vlad Tepes (inspiration for Count Dracula) residence that dates back to 15th century.
  • Transylvania:

This region, situated in the Carpathian mountain range, is known for its history and folklore. Some key towns and sights:

  • The most famous attraction in Transylvania is Bran Castle; the sometime palace of Vlad Tepes III Dracul. The palace itself is narrow and bleak and dark, situated on a hill and fortified with 380 degree view to thwart invaders.
  • Brasov: a beautiful hill town that dates back from 12th century. Main attractions are: Black Church, an impressive example of Gothic style structure. So called because its walls were turned black due to a fire; Tampa Mountain—the gondola takes you to the top of the hill, with impressive city views and a 2-3 hour walking tour.
  • Sibiu: a town settled by Germans. It is worth visiting for its grandeur.
  • Sighisoara: is one of the well preserved medieval towns, founded by Saxons in the 14th century. Interesting structures include Shoemaker tower, Unesco Heritage building.

and the Clock tower

  • Coastal and hill towns:

The Black sea is to the east of the country and it is beautiful—specially in summer when the coastal towns sparkle sand and sun.

  • Constanta is not only a bustling commercial port, but has a long, wide beach area, like Mamaia and Corbu.
  • Mangalia dates back from Roman times. It is also a port city and has archeological sites, caves and ancient mosques and churches. There are a couple of nice beaches.
  • Other areas to explore are towns in the Apuseni Mountain range and Muldovia—Cluj, Iasi, Suceava etc.


Hiking trails in Romania (many of the trails lead up an elevation of about 6-7,000 ft.)

Hiking in the Bucegi mountain range

  • Piatra Craiului mountains
  • Bucegi mountains
  • Apuseni National Park
  • Retezat mountains
  • Fagaras mountains, part of Carpathian range (highest peaks in Romania)

Romania is charming and historical, so bon voyage!