Romania is a beautiful and fascinating country that’s often overshadowed by some of its Mediterranean neighbors to the south. With everything from dense forests to towering mountains and a lovely collection of old towns and ancient landmarks, it’s a place most any dedicated traveler would enjoy exploring. And these are some of the coolest things you can see there:
The People’s Palace
Perhaps it’s boring to start with a landmark in the capital city of Bucharest. But European capitals should pretty much never be missed, and the People’s Palace in Bucharest is really quite extraordinary. Also called the Palace of Parliament, it’s actually a controversial building. It’s one of the most extravagant and expensive building projects in the history of mankind, and the product of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu’s narcissism. It’s second in the world only to The Pentagon in surface area.
The Sphinx Of Bucegi
The Sphinx of Bucegi is the kind of place that invokes thoughts of myths and legends. It’s a natural rock formation at about 2,200 meters above sea level, on the Bucegi Mountains plateau. It got its name simply by resembling the famous sphinx of Giza in Egypt, and the more you look at it the more unbelievable it seems that it wasn’t crafted by man. Evidently, however, it’s very much just a natural marvel. And it’s not the only one. Also found up here are the stone mushrooms, more cool yet crazy natural granite rock formations.
Myths of Dracula cover a very wide spectrum. You can look to the original novel by Bram Stoker for the first story, or the 1930’s black-and-white film for the first cinematic interpretation. Nowadays, you might think of a failed would-be Hollywood blockbuster (Dracula Untold) or look to the world of internet gaming, where a slot arcade boasting the most famous fanged villain in history provides its own look at the legend. But if you want a taste of the Dracula legend in real life, Bran Castle is for you. While Stoker is not known to have been inspired by it specifically, Bran Castle is a striking, gorgeous castle in Transylvania, and has thus long been attached to the nickname “Dracula’s Castle.”
The interesting thing about the examples given above regarding Dracula is that none of them really speak to the history behind the character. The ‘30s film is simply a dramatized adaptation of Stoker’s work. Dracula Untold was a fairly complete re-imagining. And the slot game online merely uses vampire themes. But the reality of the character is that it’s believed to have been inspired at least in part by the terrible 15th century ruler Vlad the Impaler – who made his home at Poenari Castle. It’s not as visually impressive as Bran Castle, but in this sense it has a truer connection to the Dracula legend. Plus, as ruthless as Vlad was, it’s quite something to see his fortress if you’re the type to be fascinated by history.
Black Sea Beaches
A lot of us don’t think of beaches or seaside getaways when we think about Central or Eastern European countries, and for the most part this makes perfect sense. However, Romania does have a decent amount of coastline on the Black Sea, and there happen to be some very beautiful beaches there. Mamaia is the main resort you’ll read about if you research, but there are several areas along the coast that make for incredible warm weather vacations.
Bucovina is an area in Northeastern Romania that is known primarily for its old churches and monasteries. While you can find incredible religious structures throughout Europe, however, the ones in Bucovina stand out because of how unusually and beautifully decorated they are. Sometimes known as the painted monasteries, they’re primarily Byzantine structures whose exterior walls are adorned with 15th and 16th century frescoes that depict various religious tales.
From even a slight distance, the walls can actually look quite strange – almost as if they’ve been covered in graffiti. However, a closer look reveals incredibly intricate artwork that makes these buildings well worth visiting for anyone who appreciates such things.
At a quick glance Maramures might not look like much. But that’s almost the idea. This is an extremely isolated area, largely surrounded by woods and mountains and preserved in part by UNESCO. It’s like something out of a previous century, with wide open spaces, horse-drawn carriages, and buildings that have been standing since the medieval era. If you simply value authenticity, it’s a must-see part of the country.
We’ll wrap this up with another natural landmark, which is the Bigar Waterfall – a relatively small but extraordinary attraction. Located in the West not far from the Serbian border, it’s a remote waterfall on the Mini River in the Anina Mountains. Words can’t really do it justice, but moss-covered stone formations hanging out over the river have a way of filtering and dividing the water such that it cascades into the river in rain-like streams and droplets, as opposed to in one uniform sheet. It’s a fantasy to behold – like so much of the rest of this wonderful country.
Romania is never what people imagine it to be. But that’s probably a good thing. The mere mention of Dracula or Transylvania conjures up dark images of bats and vampires, yet in reality Transylvania is breathtaking beyond all expectations. Just look!
One trip to Romania will completely change everything that you think you know about the country and culture.