Cruising through Central Europe
As you may have noticed if you’ve ever looked at a map of Europe is the enormous number of rivers that crisscross its lands. One of the biggest (and most spectacular, for that matter) is the Danube.
It’s for long been dubbed the second longest river in Europe (after the Volga that only flows through the territory of the Russian Federation), running for almost 3000 km from Western to Eastern Europe and creating a source of living for peoples on its banks, as it has done for millenia. The Danube traverses 10 European countries: it’s source is in Germany, in the Black Forest mountain range, continuing its way through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before gently slipping into the Black Sea through its magnificent delta.
courtesy of travel-liguria.com
Cruises are frequently organized by tourism operators, the general starting points being Vienna or Budapest, ending in Sulina or Sf. Gheorghe, in the Danube Delta, in Romania. Conditions on these ships range from 3 stars to luxurious 5-start hotel boats, accommodating even the most pretentious type of guests.
These cruises are the most appropriate way to do a complete tour of Central Europe and the North of the Balkans. Boats generally stop for 2 days in the main cities along the way. Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade are some examples, with numerous monuments, museums and shops to visit. Moreover, the sights of Budapest with its amazing castles and bridges, or of Belgrade, with its spectacular view over the hills on which the city is built, both seen at night, are astonishing.
But besides the urban treasures, the most important objectives along the Danube are the natural ones. The Croatian Kopacki Rit, a series of marshlands that have formed on the left bank of the Danube, is an important stop if you’re looking to see unique wildlife roaming free in its natural habitat – in fact, the Rit is actually a mini-Delta of sorts.
[caption id="attachment_3388" align="aligncenter" width="225"] courtesy of cruises.about.com
Your next stop should be the Iron Gates (powerful name, isn’t it?) These are actually a series of gorges formed by the Danube when it meets the Carpathian Mountains. Located between Romania and Serbia, the Gates offer a splendid view of the river digging its way through the rocky labyrinth, but also numerous leisure possibilities: in recent years, a lot of hotels with swimming pools, jetties with speedboats and ski jets to hire, tennis courts and many others have opened in this area.
Finally, towards the end of your trip, one destination should not be missed: the Danube Delta. It’s probably the most impressive attraction along its course and one of the biggest wildlife areas in Europe. The sense of wilderness and peacefulness that it gives you (helped by, among others, the fact that there are almost no cars or roads in the Delta) is truly unique. Sulina or Sf. Gheorghe, situated at the very end of the Delta, are the places to be: they have enough tourism infrastructure to fit all tastes and they are located near the sea, so you can go to the beach.
And, to end, a few top tips: along your way, don’t try to feed any animals or pluck any plants – many of them are rare and tend to be very well protected by state authorities – so protected, that you might even go to jail; stop in as many places as possible along your way – while we’ve only talked about the main attractions, there is much more to see over the 3000 km of the Danube’s course; and do visit the lighthouse situated on a smudge of sand at the point where the Danube meets the Black Sea – the view is spectacular and you can literally see how new land is formed out of the sediments brought by the river. Enough for now: have a pleasant journey!
written by Cosmin
Bucharest Romania – Little Paris of the East
As mentioned in our previous piece on Romania, Bucharest is its capital and biggest city. Definitely the most developed urban settlement in Romania, Bucharest is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in Europe and a powerful administrative, financial and cultural center in Eastern Europe. It is also the most probable landing spot when you arrive in Romania (if you’re flying, of course) as the busiest airport in the country is located on the capital’s outskirts.
History-wise, Bucharest is not an old city, by European standards. The first mention of its existence was in the 15th century, in a letter between two local traders. Since then, it has seen astonishing changes.
Calea Victoriei – the once-fanciest area of town, where you can find magnificent buildings like: the CEC Palace, the Army’s Club, the Telephone’s Palace, the Athenaeum, the seat of the government and many more.
courtesy of http://www.bucharestdailyphoto.com[/caption%5D
Until the 19th century, it remained rather undeveloped, with an unfitting infrastructure, often struck by either diseases or floods. Bucharest was the seat of the ruler of Wallachia, in what is now called the Old Court in what is now called Old Town. Everything revolved around the administrative buildings and the town that was basically a big Turkish bazaar.
Towards the end of the 19th century, French and German influence replaced the Turkish one, and the city started to change. Classical buildings and imposing public monuments emerged. The Cantacuzino Palace, the Telephone’s Palace, the CEC Palaces, the National Bank; they all date from that era. The highlife center shifted further north, to what is today called Calea Victoriei, from the Old Court, on the banks of the Dambovita River.
After WWII, a new era began for Bucharest, a rather red one… Communists took over in Romania and Nicolae Ceausescu (Romania’s world renown dictator – you might have heard of him under the name “Genius of the Carpathians”). Nicholae transformed the city according to his personal will. He razed entire neighborhoods to make way for his dreamed “Civic Centre”, including the current ministries buildings and the humongous Palace of Parliament.
Today, of course, Bucharest is a mixture of all these styles, with very few areas that have a unitary style of architecture. Top sights include:
The Old Town – the place to go if you like partying in old style buildings, or just want to have a good cup of coffee and enjoy the sun on the patio.
courtesy of bucharest-shoppingguide.com
Herastrau Park – one of the biggest parks in Bucharest and definitely one of the most spectacular I have ever seen.
courtesy of unknownbucharest.com
Restaurant recommendations include Carul cu Bere (a restaurant that has been functioning continuously since the 18th century), La Placinte (traditional Romanian-Moldovan food), 18 Lounge by Embassy (if you like a view, you’ll really enjoy this panorama from the 17th floor of an office building in the North part of town), and many others.
As for hotels, look up those nice boutique hotels that made probably made your stay better in places like Paris, Rome or Prague; Bucharest has them too: Carol Park Hotel, Hotel Cismigiu, Hotel Berthelot – all located in the center, close to all the big monuments, with high-class services.
In the end, some tips: be careful with taxi drivers, always ask them to turn on the taximeter or else they’ll scam you, bring both sun-glasses and an umbrella – weather is unpredictable in Bucharest, even in the summer, no need for a lot of money – Bucharest is one of the cheapest tourist destinations in Europe. Distractie placuta!
Romania, land of… Castles
If you’re a history lover, then I bet you would love Romania. The place is filled with it and every little rock has its own personal story. You’ll like it even more if you’re a fan of castles. There are plenty of them… over 150, some say.
Romanian castles and citadels can generally be split into three categories, depending on how old they are: there are ancient Greek and Dacian fortresses, medieval castles and modern palaces spread all over the place.
courtesy of romaniatourism.com
So… if you’re into gods, myths and funky religions, best go and visit the old Dacian fortresses spread around the Western part of the country, high up in the mountains of Southern Transylvania. Sarmisegetuza is the old Dacian capital city (Dacia is an ancient kingdom roamed by the ancestors of Romanians, that existed on the now territory of Romania, before being conquered by the mighty Romans) and the most known of these places. You can find there examples of both Dacian and Roman architecture and houses, roads and temples. If you like a good old- fashioned treasure hunt, you should know that it’s the place where archeologists found several solid gold Dacian bracelets, worth a couple of million dollars each… Good luck with the metal detector!
courtesy of encyclopediaofukraine.com
If you don’t like obscure ancient people, take a dive into the old Greek civilization by visiting the ruins of the former Hellenic colonies near the Black Sea, Histria, Tomis and Callatis. The former is the best preserved and is worth a visit. It’s situated on the beaches of the Black Sea, a bit North of Constanta (Romania’s major sea port). Though ancient, the place still resembles the old Greek architecture and atmosphere – it’s worth a visit; guarantee it!
Moving on, medieval castles make up the large majority of this type of constructions. The most well known and spectacular examples are obviously in Transylvania. Bran Castle, near Brasov, is the place that people traditionally call the Castle of Dracula, because it was the home of Vlad the Impaler. Trap doors, magnificent scenery, interesting stories… definitely worth a visit.
courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
Other interesting examples of medieval castles are the Hunyad Citadel, in Hunedoara, with its interesting XVI-th century architecture, the Rasnov Citadel, placed on a snowy hilltop in the Carpathians, a great place to enjoy spectacular views and Sighisoara, the only still inhabited medieval citadel in Europe.
courtesy of visit-transylvania.us
Coming to the last category (in my opinion, the best), a visit to the Peles Castle, in the Prahova Valley, is strongly recommended if you come to Romania. Not far from Bucharest, it was built in the XIX-th century as the summer residence for Romania’s kings and queens and it saw important events in Romanian history (the decision to enter WWI, for e.g., was taken there). It is regarded as one of the foremost examples of the luxury that royal families in Europe enjoyed before WWII. Other examples of modern palaces worth a look are the Banffy Castle in Cluj (still in a bad state and in dire need for renovation), the Mogosoaia Palace, near Bucharest, and the Palace of Culture, in Iasi (the capital of the historical region of Moldova).
Finally, a few practical tips: though most of them are well signaled on the road and on tourist maps, best do a bit of research online before you head on your way; some of them are free for visiting, some of them sell tickets (prices usually vary between 3-5$ per person); check the visiting schedule in advance, because some of them are closed for the public for various events (or you might be lucky and take part in the event yourself), and, to end, they are very touristic places, so food, lodging and shops around these objectives might be a bit more expensive than elsewhere in the country. Nothing more to say except: Castle away!!
written by: Cosmin
How to find a date in Romania?
So, now that I’ve convinced you to visit Romania, maybe it’s time for a few tips on how to meet new people there.
First of all, you should know that people are generally friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Don’t be surprised if, travelling around the countryside, locals invite you in their homes for a freshly boiled polenta with cheese and a glass of Tuica (the local drink). Even if you’re in a hurry or you’re really not into cheese and cooked meat, it’s polite to accept these invitations and spend even a few minutes inside a person’s home – some houses, especially in Transylvania, are traditionally decorated and a splendor to watch.
Coming back to the city, as I’ve mentioned in the previous article, Bucharest is one of Eastern Europe’s nightlife “capitals” – you can find here over 200 nightclubs spread across the city and plenty more restaurants or pubs where you can spend a quiet evening, if you’re not into dancing and loud music.
And of course, if you’re up for a night on the town, you won’t want to spend it alone, would you? Meeting and dating girls in Romania, as a foreigner, is quite easy – they are beautiful, some say some of the nicest girls in Europe, so “Lucky you!”
Romania girls are elegant, proud and equally not so easy to impress. So don’t come flashing your Mercedes keys – it won’t work, that’s of course if you don’t want to end up with a hooker. They are well travelled, at least in Europe, usually speak at least two foreign languages and are always interested in meeting people from a different culture than theirs.
The common places for meeting girls are clubs and pubs (as in other places) and there are some key things that you should know if you want to land a date: dress elegantly – smart casual (no tracksuit, no shiny stuff – glasses, shoes etc.), take off your sun glasses when you go inside, always have a drink in front of you. Act casual and for GOD SAKEs, DO NOT make a fool of yourself by showing people the traditional dances in your country.
Approaching women is not that hard, as you can simply enter into clubs where 75% of the customers are women (yes, you read correctly!), usually dancing to either Latino or hip-hop in short, elegant, dresses. Just go up to them, start dancing around and things will work out naturally from then on.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning: Be careful! Although, as I said, the majority of Romania women are nice and pleasant, you can also be unlucky enough to find scammers (as it is everywhere). So, my advice for you would be: have fun! Enjoy yourself! But if she tells you she loves you after two days and asks for your bank card to help her sick mother, best run away! 🙂
written by cosmin
Why should you visit Romania?
Romania is a country in Southeast Europe, roughly situated between the Carpathian Mountains, the Danube River and the Black Sea. With its untouched wilderness, sandy beaches and rich cultural heritage, Romania is one of most offering tourist destinations in Europe. Moreover, being a more underrated destination, you’ll get the chance to experience all these beauties without the bustling and sometimes rather annoying “touristic” experience.
The cultural melange is what makes Romania unique – the multitude of German, Russian and Turkish influences left their mark on the country – and its culture – and its people. Moreover, the fact that this “cultural cocktail” is place on a “bed” of beautiful natural scenery and rich heritage makes it one of the most interesting destinations that a travel could possibly encounter.
The top three tourist places to visit in Romania are Transylvania, the birthplace of the legendary Count Dracula, Bucharest, once called “Little Paris, and the Danube Delta, one of the last truly wild places in Europe.
courtesy of: telegraph.co.uk
Transylvania is situated in the Northwestern part of the country, covering almost one third of the country. A place of astonishing beauty, travelers can find here medieval castles that were once the battleground between Christian princes and Turkish sultans, picturesque medieval cities, like Sibiu, Brasov or Sighisoara, uncharted forests filled with hiking trails and ski slopes (but also brown bears; be careful!) as well as an exquisite cuisine based on naturally grown vegetables and meat.
courtesy of fanpop.com
Bucharest is the capital and the biggest city of the country. It is a mixture of classic, XIX-th century architecture with bizarre, communist-built buildings. The Palace of Parliament, the “masterpiece” of the Ceausescu-era and one of the biggest buildings in the world, is located there, being the main tourist attraction of the city. Bucharest is also home to more than two-dozen museums, an opera house, a zoo, two waterparks, but also houses one of the biggest nightlife areas in Europe, Centrul Vechi (EN: Old Town, FR: Vieille Ville).
courtesy of wwf.panda.org
The Danube Delta is located in the Southeastern corner of the country, bordering the Black Sea. It is a UNESCO World Nature Site, a high number of animal and plant species calling it home. The Delta is the ideal place to go to if you’re a nature-lover or if you’re just fed up with the tense city life and want a break. Leisure activities, such as fishing, rowing, taking boat trips, swimming, sun bathing (surrounded by tree and water grassland, make no mistake!), are the main things you’ll receive in the Delta.
Who is it suitable for?
Not being a very established tourist destination, traveling to Romania is not your thing if you are looking for a crowded museum parking lots or overly priced souvenir shops. Generally, the country is visited by well-traveled people, groups of 30-40 elderly gentlemen and ladies that take a relaxed one-week tour by bus around the country.
Despite this, the country has been receiving more and more young people willing to discover new places on the very well known European continent. They usually spend 4 or 5 days in Bucharest and Transylvania, staying in cheap, but neat guesthouses owned by local people.
If you decide to plan your trip around the medieval land of Transylvania, then you can also decide to bring your family on this very culturally rich tour. Bucharest, a bustling metropolis, serves its visitors a lot of fascinating museums, hipsterish nightclubs and bars, but also a vibrating cultural scene.
Why should you come visit Romania?
One good reason is: “Hey!.. How many people can say they’ve been to Romania?!” Imagine the stories you could tell after a trip in this place..