Romania – whirlpool of cultures and traditions
As we’ve seen in our previous piece on Romania, it is a country that has always been at the intersection of major cultures and societies. This has had a great influence on the Romanian culture proper. Nowadays, what we call “culture” in this Eastern European state is practically a sum of numerous “borrowed” things that have been adapted to the local setting.
One of the main pillars on which Romania’s mental setting and cultural landscape is built is its Latinity. Even the name of the country sends readers thinking of ancient Rome, and so it should be. As opposed to many of its neighbors, Romania does not have a Slavic language, but a Latin one (very close to Italian, actually); and does not use the Cyrillic alphabet, but the Latin script. Its people are brunette, olive oil-skinned, with greater resemblances with the Spanish, rather than the Russians. Because of its Latinity, Romania has always had a Western-oriented society, thinking of itself together with its Latin brothers
The third pillar is the Turkish influence – probably the worst one that Romania has come under. Romanian cuisine is a result of it, with several dishes (including sarmale – the national dish) originating from Turkey. Cooking in Romania is mainly based on meat and vegetables, and it consists of soups (locally named ciorba), steaks, vegetable lasagnas (musaca) and baked products (cozonac – a kind of Italian pannetonne and papanasi – fried dough balls dipped in sour cream and marmalade).
Food is not the only thing that Turkey brought over – the culture of corruption is another important “gift”. The tradition of paying for bypassing obstacles or legal procedures has been a trademark of the Ottoman Empire and the way it saw social relations. Unfortunately, the same style was adopted by the Romanian people, but, in recent years, great strives have been made in order to renounce it.
What has come out of this whole mélange: contemporary Romania. A country that sees itself as a part of the West, with examples of classical French and German architecture all around the country and a Western mentality to its citizens, but that, at the same time, has to live with its Orthodox and Turkish heritage. This makes Romania a prime example of a somehow broken society, fighting its way out of an intersection of cultures. Which makes it even more interesting for visitors. You’ll see what I mean when you land in Bucharest: big modern airport but filled with taxi drivers that can’t wait to scam some money off of you.