Romania is my country
I come from a small town in central Transylvania, one of the three main regions of Romania (together with Moldova – no, not the country – and the South). I have to admit that I am a little biased towards my region, considering it the most beautiful, but also the one with the most hospitable people. It is also objectively the safest and the most prosperous region of my country.
First, let me bust some myths or confirm some legends about the famous Transylvania. First of all, Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, didn’t have much to do with this region in reality. He was the ruler of the South of the country, the former Wallachia. His father on the other hand was indeed born in Transylvania – in the wonderful medieval town of Sighisoara to be more specific. It’s funny (and good for tourism) that there’s a plaque on the house in which he was born that reads: “Here Vlad the Draco (the name of Dracula’s father) was born” in Romanian and “Here Dracula was born” in English. Also, Vlad the Impaler was not a vampire, but, as his nickname suggests, he did impale people, more specifically robbers and murderers. As you can imagine, there were almost no crimes in his time in Wallachia… We often say it wouldn’t be bad if a new Vlad the Impaler came to power now, to help decrease the high crime levels related mainly to corruption…
About the landscapes of Transylvania – yes, it is true that there are hills and mountains, but don’t imagine that there are howling wolves at every corner. Though we probably have the largest population of grizzly bears in Europe. Sometimes they even come to cities to eat from the trash. When my brother lived in a city close to the mountains (Brasov), he could sometimes see them from his window!
I’d like to tell you about what sites to visit in Romania, if you ever decide to visit this country. (It’s worth it, I promise.) I’ll start with the ones closest to my heart, more specifically with my hometown Turda and with the biggest city next to it, Cluj-Napoca, or simply Cluj. Turda has some fantastic salt mines from Roman times. They have a cool echo chamber where, if you scream, you can hear your echo 16 (!) times. The same compartment has an amazing effect: if you throw salt or sand in a certain direction, it will be struck by light and fall twinkling… exactly like falling stars. Cluj doesn’t necessarily have any specific place to visit, but it’s a city with a great atmosphere and with really nice people. A quarter of its population are students from all around the country or from other countries and continents. It’s the second biggest university city after Bucharest. You can imagine then how you would feel in it, surrounded by students, libraries, pubs, … Then there’s Sighisoara, the town that I mentioned earlier. It’s one of the major touristic destinations, which is understandable because it’s really beautiful, with its medieval buildings and Jewish cemetery. Sibiu, the city in which our new president was mayor for 14 years, is also worth visiting. So are Timisoara, Brasov, Alba-Iulia, Arad…
The Retezat Mountains are also fabulous if you’re into hiking and mountaineering. Probably the most authentic region of Transylvania is the North part: Maramures. There people still wear their national costumes when they go to church on Sundays or for weddings. It feels as if you’re traveling through time and you got to the 19th century. If you go out of Transylvania, it would be interesting to see the Western part of the region called Moldova, a sub-region called Bucovina. It’s a very rural area as well, and it includes a great circuit of Orthodox Monasteries. One of these religious places, Voronet, even gave the name of a color: Voronet blue (from its walls that are painted in this color). Other than that, there’s a pretty unique place at the seaside (Black Sea) called Vama Veche.
It’s a small village two kilometers away from the border of Bulgaria where you can camp on the beach and live life in the most bohemian way possible. You might have noticed that I didn’t say anything about visiting Bucharest yet. It’s a nice city as well, but if you come to visit Romania, you can very well skip it; other cities, towns, and villages are much more interesting.
Although it wasn’t my initial intention, I hope I’ve awaken your curiosity about my country and region so that maybe you’ll visit it one day. I can guarantee you that you will be pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of the people and the beautiful landscapes – characteristics that our two countries share!
Diana Raluca Oprinca