If you are looking for an experience in Europe that is interesting, less crowded than most of Europe, significantly less expensive and feels like a cultural experience then Romania might be the place to head to. Romania is part of the EU but as of 2016 it has yet to catch up to much of Western Europe in terms of some of what I think of as the worst parts of Europe – specifically costs and crowds.
My visit to Romania was only 10 days and I really spent the whole time in the Transylvania region. Yes, this is the birthplace of the inspiration for Braham Stokes Dracula and yes, visiting Dracula’s castle was in my opinion worth the time I spent doing that but it was – as you might guess – the most crowded visit on my trip.
For me, Romania was very much a trip into the world of the medieval – probably more than any other place that I have been in Europe.
As I’ve said in other places in the blog, I love castles for whatever reason and for someone who loves authentic castles I think that in terms of accessible castle visits, some in ruins, some very well restored I haven’t been to a better country than Romania. I mentioned it earlier that the crowds in Romania are much smaller than other European countries with so much historical significance. In fact, I visited Prague immediately after Romania and it was a horrible pairing because in Romania I got to see so much cool, beautiful and well restored history at times entirely on my own and even on days with a crowd it was entirely manageable. I never felt like I was at Disney. I always had moments to enjoy the experience and sit back and imagine what life had actually been in the past. Prague was the absolute opposite – it felt as if everyone in the world had descended upon the city although it wasn’t any special holiday, it was just the summer – the entire place felt like Disney crowds and it seemed impossible that I could get a moment to sit an imagine how it would look without a million selfie-sticks.
Anyhow, back to Romania. In 2016 it still has not been excessively touched. I rented a car for my ten days. Driving in Romania is not for the weak hearted. Drivers can be very aggressive and the roads in much of Transylvania are switchback curves and the Romanians will pass on blind curves. That said, rental cars are inexpensive and give the opportunity to see some amazing slices of life. For me I would highly recommend it but just suggest extra caution in driving.
I drove out into the countryside and villages where people – young and old – still came to market in traditional clothing on horse carts. The houses and barns for miles and miles were in the traditional style with really no modern structures interfering. People were still living in the houses which seemed to be hundreds of years old (although I know that many or even most of them are newer than that). It really felt like I had left 2016 and gone back centuries and not in a way that I felt like I was visiting a developing country sometimes does; there were moments when I had to snap my brain to remember that yes, it is 2016.
There was so much to enjoy in Romania from a cultural and historical perspective. I will say that at the very start I was a little concerned that it seemed like very few people spoke English but I found that as in most other countries I have been to the younger generation is learning bits and pieces so at points when needed find a kid :). I would highly recommend adding it to a European trip – not only because it’s cost effective but more importantly it’s a really enjoyable experience – especially if you like castles.
I will leave you with a bunch of photos 🙂 Until next time.