Romania is the largest of the Balkan states, sitting at the crossroads of Europe, whose nationals are proud of being 'an island of Latinos' in a 'sea of slavs'. The country has seen several empires come and go - Roman, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian, all leaving their legacy.
Romania Tourist Attractions
Romania has a rich cultural and natural diversity. Its dramatic mountain scenery includes the densely forested Carpathian Mountains, the Danube Delta (the largest wetland in Europe) and 70km (43 miles) of fine white sandy beaches on the Black Sea Coast. Ireland
In picturesque valleys and on mountain slopes are many health and winter resorts. Romania's cultural heritage can be experienced in the Saxon towns of Transylvania, also home to Bran Castle, of Dracula fame, the painted monasteries of Bucovina and the rural village idyll of Maramures.
The capital, Bucharest, earned the nickname 'Paris of the Balkans', but it is the stunning medieval city of Sibiu in Transylvania that was crowned European Capital of Culture 2007.
Since the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu's communist dictatorship in 1989, Romania has been working towards the twin goals of gaining admission to NATO, which it joined in 2004, and the European Union, which it achieved in January 2007, behind some of its neighbours.
Bucharest (Buchuresti), located midway between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea, in southeastern Romania, has not earned the nickname 'Paris of the Balkans' by accident. Its astonishing range of architecture (from Wallachian wooden and bell-towered mansions to Byzantine-style chapels, neo-classical buildings, striking 1930s modernism and even the post-Stalinist absurdities of Ceaucescu's megalomaniac regime) cannot help but leave the visitor in awe at the varieties of vision that have taken place in this city, over the centuries. But Bucharest has also been the epicentre of the country's many upheavals, with the stages of the country's history like vivid tattoos etched across the city's surface, each telling a different chapter of the story.
Strada Smardan/ Smardan Street
Strada Lpscani/Lipscani Street
Restaurantul "Carul cu bere"-Detaliu / "Carul cu bere" Restaurant - Detaliu
Centru de Afaceri Bucharest Financial Plazza-vedere stinga / Bucharest Financial Plazza -Business Center
Restaurantul "Carul cu bere" / "Carul cu bere" Restaurant
Cercul Militar National- Fintina Sarindar / National Military Circle - Sarindar Fountain
Statuia lui Ataturk in fata Teatrului Odeon / Ataturk's Statue in front of Odeon Theatre
Monument in Piata revolutiei / Monument in Revolution Square
Vechi si nou in arhitectura Bucurestiului / Old and New in the Bucharest Architecture
Banca Comerciala Romana / Romanian Commercial Bank
Biserica Sf. Nicolae / St. Nicholas Church
Arcul de Triumf / Arch of Triumph
Palatul Victoria-Sediul Guvernului/Victoria Palace-Government Building
The first mention of Bucharest is in a document from 1459, signed by Vlad Dracula, then ruler of the first Romanian state of Wallachia. Known as 'Vlad the Impaler (or Tepes)' (for leaving his enemies to die slowly on stakes) he became the inspiration for the famous vampire of literary and celluloid fame. Yet among his countrymen, he is something of a folk hero, renowned for standing up to the Ottomans, Saxons and Wallachia's noble families. The ruins of one palace attributed to him can still be seen in old Bucharest, where trendy bars and clubs also capitalise on his image, with cobwebs and dank underground dancefloors.
After the Turkish conquest, Bucharest continued as a scene of rebellion and was burnt by the Ottomans, in 1595. A century later, it was made the seat of the Wallachian government, by Sultan Mustafa II. The city was caught in the crossfire of conflicts between the Ottomans, Austria and Russia – the city was frequently occupied and destroyed until 1862, when it became the capital of a unified Romania.
After liberation, Bucharest began to forge a different identity, with French architects called in to remake it in the image of Paris, with long, tree-lined boulevards and a forging of classical and new Romanian architecture. Between the world wars, influenced by modernist trends from native artists who had lived abroad, such as Constantin Brancusi, Bucharest began to rejoice in a mixture of styles that would make it totally individual and produced some of Europe's most beautiful residences for the elite.
This 'romantic' chapter came to a close when Communism took root in 1946. Although never heavily bombed by the Allies, in World War II, Socialist Realism ushered in dreary Stalinist apartment blocks, many of which remain today. When Nicolae Ceausescu became president of Romania's Communist Party in 1965, however, he was so determined to create an imitation Champs Elysee in the 'civic centre' that he destroyed many historic buildings, including 26 churches. His plans were never completed but the strange combination of neo-Stalinist architecture nonetheless gives a nod towards the city's avant-garde tradition. Oddly, all of these architectural incongruities afford an added dimension to the city today.
Romania, together with Bulgaria, joined the EU in January 2007, and as its capital city looks forward to closer ties with the EU (as well as foreign investment), historic buildings and parks are being restored, fashionable shops, restaurants, trendy bars and Internet cafés are popping up all over and the sense of a new dynamism is evident.
At present, however, the almost total lack of tourism infrastructure or facilities can be frustrating. There is no tourist office and even basic brochures in museums can be hard to find, leaving one to fend almost entirely on one's own. Although Bucharest enjoys a temperate climate, tourists should avoid mid-summer visits, since temperatures soar, air conditioning is rare and much of the city shuts down, as students return home and locals head for the coast.