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What Should I Know About Romania?

Romania, a land of medieval castles and vibrant folklore, is steeped in history and natural beauty. From the legend of Dracula to the stunning Carpathian Mountains, it offers a rich cultural tapestry. Discover its hearty cuisine, diverse wildlife, and the warmth of its people. Ready to explore the heart of Eastern Europe? Let's uncover Romania's hidden gems together.
Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

Romania is a small country in Eastern Europe, on the edge of the Balkans. It is just over 92,000 square miles (238,000 sq. km) in size, just slightly smaller than the United Kingdom. The vast majority of the population is composed of ethnic Romanians, although smaller numbers of Roma and Hungarians also make up sizable blocs.

The region has been inhabited by humans or their ancestors for at least around 35,000 years. Starting at approximately 500 BCE the area now known as Romania was settled by a tribe known as the Dacians. Over time they grew to be a sizable regional power, even threatening the Roman interests in the region around 50 BCE. Throughout the Dark Ages the area was ruled by a number of different empires, including the Avars, the Huns, the Goths, and the First Bulgarian Empire.

Most Romanians are members of the Orthodox Church.
Most Romanians are members of the Orthodox Church.

Later, the area that is now Romania included the provinces of Modavia, Transylvania, and Wallachia. While the Balkans were absorbed by the Ottoman Empire, these provinces retained most of their independence, and continued to operate semi-autonomously under both the Ottomans, the Austrian Empire, and the Hungarians. The revolutionary zeal that swept across Europe in 1848 also reached Romania, although these early revolutions were largely unsuccessful. In 1877, however, the country declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire, which after a brief ware was recognized.

Romania joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers.
Romania joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers.

Romania entered World War I on the side of the Allied powers, and at the end of the war their territory expanded somewhat. Although initially ruled quite openly, by 1938, the country had become a dictatorship, and eventually joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers — although they switched in 1944 for the final throes of the war. At the end of the war the short-lived Greater Romania was controlled by the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. In 1989 a tumultuous revolution lead to the execution of the communist head of state, a split from the Soviet Union, and the restoration of democracy to the country.

Romania has yet to adopt the euro as its main currency.
Romania has yet to adopt the euro as its main currency.

Sites of interest in the country include the Carpathian Mountains, which run down the middle of Romania; the painted churches of northern Moldavia; the majestic Danube river – and particularly the Danube delta, which is a World Heritage Site; and the region of Transylvania, with its intact Saxon villages.

The majority of Romanians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, specifically members of the Romanian Orthodox Church. As such, major Orthodox holidays, such as Easter and Christmas are celebrated with a great deal of flair throughout the country. The Romanian language is, as the name suggests, a Romance language, derived from Latin. It is thought that Romanian was the first language to split from Latin, because of the region’s isolation from Rome, and as such it is relatively uniform when compared to languages such as French, Italian, or Spanish.

The capital of the Eastern European country of Romania is Bucharest.
The capital of the Eastern European country of Romania is Bucharest.

Since the opening of Romania in 1990, tourism has steadily increased every year. Outdoor activities and sightseeing are by far the most popular draw. Millions of acres of excellent camping and hiking locations abound, from the land along the Black Sea to the stunning Carpathian Mountains. Skiing is also a steadily growing pastime. Historical buildings abound as well, with churches, castles, and monasteries sprinkled throughout the country. High-end resorts are also beginning to spring up, with focuses on various things ranging from active sports to health spas to traditional festivals.

Traveling to this area is easy, with many major airlines having daily flights into Bucharest. The currency is the leu (plural, lei), even though Romania has joined the European Union in early 2007. Membership with the EU and implementing the Euro normally do not occur simultaneously. It typically takes a newly joined EU nation a few years to meet certain criteria before being able to implement the Euro.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cultural significance of Romania?

Romania is a country rich in cultural heritage, blending its Latin roots with Slavic, Ottoman, and Hungarian influences. It is the birthplace of the legend of Dracula, based on the historical figure Vlad the Impaler, and the home of unique traditions such as the vibrant folk costumes and the UNESCO-listed painted monasteries of Bucovina. Romanian culture is also celebrated through its diverse and hearty cuisine, traditional dances like the Hora, and festivals that showcase its multifaceted history and arts.

What are some must-visit places in Romania?

Travelers to Romania should not miss the picturesque region of Transylvania, known for its medieval castles, including the famous Bran Castle associated with Dracula. The capital city, Bucharest, offers a mix of historical and modern attractions, such as the Palace of the Parliament, one of the largest administrative buildings in the world. Other highlights include the Black Sea resorts, the Danube Delta, a biosphere reserve with a rich biodiversity, and the scenic Carpathian Mountains, ideal for hiking and wildlife watching.

What is the economic landscape of Romania?

Romania has a mixed economy with a high-income status, where services, industry, and agriculture play significant roles. According to the World Bank, Romania's GDP reached $287.5 billion in 2021, showing a recovery trend after the global economic downturn. The country is known for its production of automobiles, software, textiles, and electrical machinery. Additionally, Romania has been developing its IT sector, which is becoming a significant contributor to the economy.

What are some traditional Romanian foods?

Traditional Romanian cuisine is hearty and flavorful, with dishes such as "sarmale" (cabbage rolls filled with minced meats and rice), "mămăligă" (a cornmeal porridge often served as a side dish), and "mititei" (grilled minced meat rolls). Desserts like "papanasi" (fried doughnuts with sour cream and jam) and "cozonac" (sweet bread with nuts or poppy seeds) are also popular. Romanian meals are often accompanied by "țuică," a strong plum brandy, or local wines, which have been cultivated since Roman times.

What are some Romanian customs and traditions?

Romanian customs and traditions are deeply rooted in the country's history and rural life. One of the most famous is "Mărțișor," where people give each other red and white trinkets on March 1st to welcome spring. Easter is celebrated with painted eggs and special pastries. Christmas traditions include caroling and the "Sorcova" on New Year's Day, where children wish adults health and happiness. Folk dances and music, often performed in traditional costumes, are integral to Romanian celebrations and social events.

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    • Most Romanians are members of the Orthodox Church.
      By: Hellen Sergeyeva
      Most Romanians are members of the Orthodox Church.
    • Romania joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers.
      By: Sergey Kamshylin
      Romania joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers.
    • Romania has yet to adopt the euro as its main currency.
      By: Kaarsten
      Romania has yet to adopt the euro as its main currency.
    • The capital of the Eastern European country of Romania is Bucharest.
      By: Alex Yeung
      The capital of the Eastern European country of Romania is Bucharest.