The People and Culture of Romania: Untold Stories and Hidden Gems
Romania, a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, has a fascinating history, rich culture, and diverse landscape. Its people, traditions, and way of life are shaped by a complex mix of influences, ranging from ancient Dacian tribes and Roman conquerors to medieval rulers and modern-day global trends. Despite its tumultuous past and hardship present, Romania has managed to preserve its cultural heritage and offer visitors a unique glimpse into a world of myths, legends, and surprising contrasts.
In this travel article, we will explore the people and culture of Romania, highlighting its customs, folklore, cuisine, and landmarks. From the rolling hills of Transylvania to the lively streets of Bucharest, Romania has something to offer for every curious traveler.
Meet the Romanians: A Melting Pot of Cultures
The Romanians are a friendly, hospitable, and passionate people with a strong sense of identity and community. They are descendants of the ancient Dacians, who inhabited the region before the Roman conquest in 106 AD, and the Roman colonists who established the province called Dacia. Over the centuries, Romania has been shaped by the migrations, invasions, and influences of various peoples, including the Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Byzantines, Magyars, and Ottomans.
Today, Romania has a population of around 19 million people, of which 89% are ethnic Romanians, and the rest belong to Hungarian, Roma, German, Ukrainian, or other minorities. The official language is Romanian, but many people also speak English, French, Italian, or German, especially in the cities and tourist areas. The predominant religion is Orthodox Christianity, but there are also Catholic, Protestant, and other faiths represented.
Romanians are proud of their cultural heritage and express it through music, dance, costumes, and crafts. Some of the most famous Romanian traditions are:
– Folk music: Romania has a rich tradition of folk music, characterized by intricate melodies, vocal harmonies, and various instruments, such as the cimbalom, violin, flute, or panpipe. Some of the most famous Romanian musicians are Maria Tanase, Gica Petrescu, or Grigore Leșe.
– Folk dance: Romania has over 2,000 types of traditional dances, each with its own style, rhythm, and symbolism. Some of the most popular ones are the Hora, Sirba, Brau, and Calusarii. Many Romanian communities organize folk festivals and competitions, where dancers and musicians showcase their skills and costumes.
– Traditional costumes: Romania has a rich tradition of textile crafts, with each region having its own style, design, and symbolism. The traditional costumes are made of wool, linen, or silk, embroidered with colorful threads, ribbons, or beads. They reflect the local customs, occupations, and beliefs, and are often worn on special occasions, such as weddings, christenings, or festivals.
– Folk crafts: Romania has a variety of folk crafts, such as pottery, woodcarving, weaving, or egg-painting. The artisans use traditional techniques, tools, and materials to create unique and beautiful items, such as plates, bowls, spoons, rugs, or icons. Many of these crafts can be found in local markets or shops, where tourists can buy souvenirs.
FAQs: Most Asked Questions about Romanian Culture
– What is the food like in Romania?
Romanian cuisine is hearty, flavorful, and influenced by various cultures. Some of the most popular dishes are sarmale (stuffed cabbage rolls with mincemeat and rice), mici (grilled minced meat rolls), mamaliga (cornmeal porridge), mititei (spiced minced beef or pork), ciorba (sour soup with vegetables and meat), and papanasi (sweet cheese dumplings). Romania is also known for its wines, especially red ones, such as Feteasca Neagra, Babeasca Neagra, or Merlot.
– What is the nightlife like in Bucharest?
Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, is known for its vibrant nightlife, with a wide range of clubs, bars, and restaurants. Some of the most popular areas are Old Town, Lipscani, or Herastrau Park. The music styles vary from traditional folk and pop to techno and house, and the prices are generally lower than in Western Europe. However, it’s important to stay safe and avoid scams or overcharging.
– What are the most famous landmarks in Romania?
Romania has many famous landmarks, such as Dracula’s Castle in Bran, the painted monasteries of Bucovina, the wooden churches of Maramures, the Black Sea coast, the Danube Delta, the Apuseni Mountains, and the medieval cities of Sighisoara, Brasov, or Cluj-Napoca. Each of them has a unique history and charm, and is worth exploring.
– What is the best time to visit Romania?
Romania has a temperate-continental climate, with four distinct seasons. The best time to visit Romania largely depends on your preferences and activities. For example, if you want to ski, the winter months (December-February) are ideal, especially in the Carpathian Mountains. If you want to enjoy the beaches and the sun, the summer months (June-August) are perfect, although they can be crowded and hot. The spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November) are also good options, with mild weather, fewer tourists, and lower prices.
– How safe is Romania for tourists?
Romania is generally a safe country for tourists, with low levels of violent crimes and a friendly population. However, there are some risks to be aware of, such as pickpocketing, scams, or traffic accidents. It’s advisable to stay in well-lit and crowded areas, use common sense, and avoid flashing valuables. Also, it’s important to respect the local customs and laws, such as not drinking in public, smoking in prohibited areas, or taking photos of sensitive sites.
Top 10 Tourist Attractions Located in The People and Culture of Romania
1. Bran Castle – often called Dracula’s Castle, this is a stunning Gothic-style fortress located near the city of Brasov. It was built in the 13th century and became famous due to its association with the legendary vampire Count Dracula, inspired by the novel by Bram Stoker.
2. Merry Cemetery – located in the village of Sapanta, Maramures County, this is a unique and colorful cemetery, where the tombstones are adorned with humorous and lyrical epitaphs, describing the lives and personalities of the deceased.
3. Painted Monasteries of Bucovina – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a group of eight Orthodox monasteries, located in the northeastern part of Romania, famous for their vibrant frescoes, depicting scenes from the Bible and the Romanian history.
4. Palace of the Parliament – also known as the People’s House, this is a massive and impressive building, located in the center of Bucharest, commissioned by the former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It is the second-largest administrative building in the world, after the Pentagon, and contains over 1,000 rooms and 4,000 chandeliers.
5. Sighisoara Medieval Citadel – another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a well-preserved fortified city, located in Transylvania, famous for its narrow streets, colorful houses, and the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the character of Dracula.
6. Danube Delta – a unique and biodiverse ecosystem, located at the mouth of the Danube River, between Romania and Ukraine. It is the second-largest delta in Europe, after the Volga Delta, and is home to over 5,000 species of plants and animals, including rare birds, fish, and reptiles.
7. Peles Castle – located in the city of Sinaia, in the Carpathian Mountains, this is a stunning Neo-Renaissance palace, built in the 19th century, as a summer residence for the Romanian royal family. It has over 160 rooms, decorated with fine art, furniture, and tapestries from all over the world.
8. Romanian Athenaeum – a beautiful and iconic building, located in the heart of Bucharest, dedicated to promoting culture and music. It was built in 1888, in neoclassical style, with a domed hall, adorned with frescoes and mosaics, and hosts the home of the George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra.
9. Corvin Castle – located in the city of Hunedoara, in Transylvania, this is a majestic and imposing fortress, built in the 14th century, by John Hunyadi, a legendary ruler and military strategist, to defend against the Ottoman invasion. It has a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, and is surrounded by a deep moat and high walls.
10. Maramures Wooden Churches – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is a group of eight Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches, located in the Maramures region, famous for their unique and intricate wooden architecture, decorated with traditional motifs and symbols.
The People and Culture of Romania have a rich and diverse history and offer visitors a unique and intriguing mix of traditions, landmarks, and experiences. From the mysterious legend of Dracula to the colorful folk dances and customs, Romania has something for everyone. Its stunning landscape, delicious cuisine, and hospitable people make it a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. So pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable journey to the land of myths and legends!