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Romania, dark and mysterious, never fails to spark the imagination. This is the land of Vlad the Impaler, better known as Dracula, a 16th century Wallachian prince immortalised by the author Bram Stoker. Although there is no evidence to suggest the prince sported fangs or drank human blood, he did have a grisly habit of impaling his enemies on spikes, especially Ottoman Turks.
Despite Stoker’s historical infidelities, Romania has entered collective folklore as a place populated by supernatural beings – a notion that continues to be held by many Romanians themselves. Steeped in archaic traditions and shadowy superstitions, Romania’s vivid mythological heritage includes a cavalcade of weird creatures such as vampires, werewolves, shape-shifting sorcerers and indestructible old hags, who, according to some, still roam the countryside.Read more
Most Romanians, who speak a Romance language closely related to Latin, identify with the ancient Romans, who subjugated the region in the 2nd century. But the age of Roman governance represents a relatively brief episode of cultural coherence and homogeneity and after its collapse the region was settled by waves of invading Goths, Huns, Avars, Bulgars and Slavs. As a territory, the Kingdom of Romania was not established until the late 19th century, when the region’s network of disparate and relatively isolated political enclaves were finally united as one.
Today, rural Romania is a land punctuated with brooding gothic spires and fairy tale castles. Its lost-in-time villages continue to adhere to the old ways. Epic fables, poems and songs, invariably accompanied by wildly cavorting music and dance, are the staple of traditional Romanian folk culture. Generations of artisans, like their forebears, continue to produce fine textiles, ceramics, woodwork, leather and painted eggs; symbols of rebirth and the thaw of spring, as much as the resurrection of Christ.
Romania’s natural heritage has been astonishingly well-preserved too. The Carpathian Mountains traverse the heart of the country in a formidable arc of jagged peaks, impassable ridges, vertiginous gorges and caves, whilst half of the nation’s forests have been retained as part of its watershed. Romania is now home to one of the largest areas of ancient and undisturbed forests in Europe, not to mention significant populations of bears and wolves. On the Black Sea coast, the Danube River concludes its journey by splitting into a maze of bucolic waterways and teeming marshes, home to some 300 bird species.
Places of interest in Romania
Built by industrious Saxons, who were invited from Western Europe to develop Transylvania’s towns and mines, Brasov...
Bucharest is the capital of Romania, a sprawling urban powerhouse that encapsulates the best and worst of the nation....
As the setting for Bram Stoker’s 19th century novel ‘Dracula’, Transylvania is often wrongly associated...
Activities in Romania
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