Exploring Eastern Europe: Romania
With war in Ukraine, many people worry about how safe it is spending their holidays in central and eastern Europe. Yet, travel to neighboring countries is by no means off limits. This time we're going to Romania.
Romania's multi-faceted capital
In addition to extensive green spaces, such as Herastrau Park, Romania's capital captivates visitors with its impressive architecture. Highlights include the Athenaeum built in 1888 and the Palace of the Parliament, also known as the "People's House." Romania's dictator Nicolae Ceausescu demolished an entire neighborhood to build this 360,000 square meter (3,875,007 square-foot) structure.
A castle that has seen changing times
Completed in 1883, Peles Castle served as the summer residence of Romania's royal family until 1947 when Communist Party took over the country and the king was forced to abdicate. It became state property, but was returned to its previous owner after Ceausescu's fall. Located near the city of Sinaia in the Carpathian mountains, the castle now houses an art museum.
Many are familiar with the spooky castle dweller Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's novel of the same name, yet few know that the story may have been inspired by Bran Castle in Romania's Transylvania. The well-preserved building is certainly worth a visit, especially since the castle, which is perched on a rock, offers rewarding views of the surrounding countryside.
The city of Sibiu is also located in Transylvania — it was a European Capital of Culture in 2007. For centuries, it has been characterized by multicultural coexistence between Romanians, Germans, Hungarians and Roma people. In addition to many other sights, visitors should not miss the cast-iron Bridge of Lies (pictured).
Settled by Germans in the Middle Ages
Two hours' drive north of Bran Castle is the town of Sighișoara, founded by German settlers in the Middle Ages. The colorful old town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. Other attractions include the 64-meter-high (209-foot) Clock Tower (pictured) and the Biserica Manastirii Monastery.
Great views from the Carpathian Mountains
The Carpathian Mountains characterize vast areas of the country. At around 2,500 meters (8,202 feet) the Moldoveanu Peak, is the highest point in Romania. A gently ascending path through unspoiled nature leads to panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. Other mountains in the area, such as the Fagaras Mountains, also offer many opportunities for hiking.
Salina Turda salt mine
Salt has been mined in the Salina Turda, located underground in the heart of Transylvania since Roman times. In 1992, the labyrinthine tunnels opened to tourists, and these days, it is home to what is probably the world's most unconventional amusement park. It includes an underground ferris wheel, mini-golf and even two small bowling lanes.
Take it easy in the Black Sea city of Constanta
East of Bucharest lies the Black Sea city of Constanta. Its roots date back to the 7th century B.C., when Greek settlers first arrived. Visitors can explore the rich history of the area by visiting the Museum of National History and Archaeology — a top highlight for those interested in culture. Or you could just take a stroll or stop for a coffee at the city's beach promenade (pictured).
A king carved in rock: Decebalus statue
This 55-meter (180-foot) high stone statue on the banks of the Danube is located in the southeast of Romania. It depicts the Dacian king Decebalus and is Europe's tallest rock sculpture. It was carved between 1994 and 2004 and commissioned by a Romanian businessman. Twelve sculptors were involved in the project.
Romania as a place of refuge
Like many other neighboring countries, Romania has taken in thousands of Ukrainian refugees. Some hotels have been opening up to take in refugees, including the 4-star hotel Mandachi near the northern Romanian city of Suceava. Located near the Ukrainian and border, it transformed into a reception center for those fleeing the conflict.