I won’t tell you what to expect when you travel to Maramures from my imagination. Last week I have actually done that for you and other guests who are planning to come for a trip in summer and fall.
We already wrote about Maramures, what is there to see and why you should go. But that was a while ago. I wanted to see how the region changed, what’s new. To be very honest, I also wanted to try out the traditional guesthouses I know had opened in Botiza, one of the villages where you can have an authentic experience of the region.
So what did we find? In a few words: beautiful landscapes, wonderful accommodation, and extremely welcoming and warm people.
We stopped for a night nearby Alba Iulia, the city known for Romania’s unification in 1918. We strolled around the Alba Carolina citadel before heading towards the mountain villages nearby.
The morning after we woke up to an amazing view of this oddly shaped mountain.
Speaking of views, the week continued with beautiful, picture perfect images that I can only wish to wake up to more often. Here are some from Viseu and Botiza.
But while driving we also came across bee keepers, visited Mr Barsan and stopped by to visit some of the wooden churches that make Maramures famous and that are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The places of accommodation we found? I’ll tell you this: you will get more than what you’ll expect when looking from the outside. Centuries old traditional wooden houses have been tastefully restored to allow guests to enjoy their stay in authentic locations while having excellent levels of comfort. Whether in Breb or Botiza, you can actually choose from the various guesthouses depending on what you expect your experience to be.
We ended our trip with the loveliest of drives coming down from Maramures into Transylvania on a narrow mountain road, crossing very few cars and enjoying the views. Our last night before returning home was in Cluj, the NW gateway into Transylvania, home to more than 80.000 students, bubbling with life, and very inviting to stay for longer.
As the week starts and so many memories from this trip are still very fresh on my mind, I can only plan to travel to Maramures again later this year. I’d recommend you do the same 😉
Many of my friends ask me what I do exactly, how I create or manage a trip for our guests. Do I stay at the office, do I accompany them on tours, do I check the places personally? The answer to the first two questions depends on many things, but the last one is always yes.
So I start giving them examples. As I’m about to give you.
I’ve just returned from Bukovina, and my memories are still fresh, so this should be easy. It was the second time I’ve been there in the last 6 months, so this was no regular research trip. It was about setting all the details for an out-of-the-ordinary tour we’ll have in May, with requests so special we have to discuss everything in person with our partners in the region, and then do it again in a couple of months. You wonder what could be so special? Well, everything that involves the airport arrival procedures, ground transportation, lunches, monastery visits… It all needs to go smoothly, like a Swiss clock. So, after my colleague Raluca already met everyone, I went there to meet them as well, from the airport manager to the restaurant chef. And we’ll go again just before the tour starts.
As you may know, our main office is in Timisoara, the Western part of Romania, so from here to Bukovina there’s quite a drive, almost 10 hours. So I flew to Bucharest, made a stop at my favourite restaurant, took the company car and drove the rest of the way to Suceava, for about 6 hours. But you just can’t do this job if driving is not your thing, and I must confess – I love it! I could drive for days, I just need my map and my music.
A post shared by Beyond Dracula Travel (@beyonddracula) on
Of course it wasn’t all work and no fun, as it never is. What I enjoyed most was the food and the people (as it’s always the case), even if now, after I got back home, I need to go on a diet to fit in my skinny jeans again. And the people? The people in Bukovina are so hospitable and accommodating, I would have liked to get adopted by the restaurant owner and ask the bus driver to be my next best friend.
I’m not going to tell you about the famous painted monasteries there, all on the UNESCO World Heritage list (I wrote a more thorough report here, last summer). I visited some of them again, just because I wanted to see how the sky above them looks in winter, how it changes the colours of the frescoes. And it was worth it, my Instagram photos were a success.
A post shared by Beyond Dracula Travel (@beyonddracula) on
Joke aside, Bukovina is a place that always manages to surprise me, and I would go back there over and over, be it summer or winter or spring. For you, I would recommend summer, though…
This is just a glimpse into my work life, although it’s not so much work when you love what you do. If you’d like to know more, hit the Comment button at the bottom of the page, I’d be more than happy to share.
The winter holidays are drawing near with each passing day. If you have thought about visiting Romania to spend the winter holidays here, and want to experience true Romanian authenticity, then we have just the perfect places for you to immerse in the beauty that surrounds these magical days. Let’s take them one by one.
Often called the land of fairy-tale like landscapes, Bucovina is well-known for its firmness in still keeping alive the traditions and the rituals that come along with them, after so much time has passed, and so many things that have happened with the changing times. Especially when Christmas comes. So if you want to feel the purely authentic taste of Romanian holidays, you definitely need to visit Bucovina and witness firsthand the genuineness of the place and the people that live there and contribute to the feeling.
Another equally beautiful and authentic place to spend your holidays in Romania is the Maramures region. Here, centuries-old traditions inherited from the elders have remained untouched by the hand of civilization or any other ideology or current. Spending your holidays in Maramures means going back in time, to the spirituality of older days, where you’ll meet unique customs and traditions.
3. Poiana Stampei
Another location we think you should visit if you want to have a wonderful winter holiday is Poiana Stampei, in Moldova. Located at the pass between Transylvania and Bucovina, Poiana Stampei will conquer your heart with its picturesque-like landscapes, that together with the locals that have kept the traditions alive, make it another place perfect for living a truly authentic Romanian holiday experience.
Hundreds of years old unchanged traditions – that is how you can describe the Bran-Moeciu region. Close to the place that is known as Dracula’s Castle, the Bran-Moeciu area is one of Transylvania’s spiritual cradles, so if you are looking for a place where authenticity is at home and your soul can be tranquil, you’ll definitely love it here, and fully live the genuine experience that you’re looking for. It’s also well known for the delicious culinary experience it can offer.
Last but not least… Apuseni region, where the mountain ridges dress themselves in accordance to the holidays, like the locals, in order to celebrate the good times of the holidays season. That is why we also have in mind Apuseni when thinking about places you should visit if you want to live an authentic Romanian experience during the holidays. We bet you’ll be delighted when you’ll see the carolers coming at your door, as Apuseni is another region where traditions have been kept untouched.
So, are you ready to have the ultimate Romanian experience during the holidays? Ready to be shrouded in the beauty of the lands, and feel your spirit more alive than ever by partaking in some of the local traditions? If you know that deep down below the answer is yes, then don’t forget, we’re waiting for you!
Winter is coming! So then you might ask yourself what can you do once the cold season hits the Romanian plains, and you want to come over and have a nice vacation? Well, given that Romania is such a rich and diverse place, we compiled a list of activities you could undergo while visiting our beautiful country in the chilly season. So, let’s take them one by one…
1. A trip to the caves
Did we mention Romania is rich in diversity on all planes? Oh, yes, we did! That is why we recommend, once you hit these lands, to not miss a trip to some of the coolest caves you can find on our territory.
Pestera Muierii/Muierilor (The Woman’s/Women’s Cave) is one of the most renown around here for its rich series of formations that makes it a monument of nature: stalagmites, stalactites, karstic landforms etc. Inside it you can as well find the Stoned Falls, a Santa Claus, even a Church as well.
The cave is located in Gorj, near to Baia de Fier, being one of the most visited speological objectives.
At the other pole of the Romanian map, in Bihor, at Chiscau, you can find the Bears Cave, equally known as Women’s Cave to tourists. You can find inside the Bears Gallery, the Emil Racovita Gallery, the Candle Gallery and the Scientific Gallery, all having an unique and fascinating story.
Other caves you can visit are Scarisoara, Polovragi, Liliecilor and Dambovicioara, each possesing its own beauty you can marvel at.
2. Follow the steps of the wilderness
Passionate about wildlife? Well, Romania is just the spot for learning as much as you can about it, given its rich biodiversity. Want to see how a bear paw looks on the freshly fallen snow? Or maybe you want your little one to learn the difference between a lynx paw and a wolf one?
No matter the reasons you want to undertake such an activity, be it for fun or for education, you can definitely get both experiences in just one go, and at the same time learn even more about the Romanian plains than you’ve already known.
3. Shop at the winter holidays fairs
If you’re passionate about shopping and holidays fairs then you might as well immerse in the magic of the winter holidays fairs that take place in Romania. Depending on where around in Romania you are, or around what time, you can either go to the Bucharest Christmas Fair or Sibiu Christmas Fair.
The Sibiu Christmas Fair starts on the 18th of November and takes place until the 3rd of January next year, being open daily between 10am to 10pm, while the Bucharest Christmas Fair starts on the 1st of December, this year, despite last year starting on the 27th of November and lasting until the 27th of December. The closing date hasn’t been announced yet, but you can always check their Facebook page and find out for yourself.
4. Take on skiing and other winter sports
Yes, we might not have the Swiss Alps, but we do have our Carpathians and other mountain chains that give you the opportunity to involve yourself with skiing, or any other winter sports for that matter. 1/3 of Romania is covered in mountains so imagine the things you can do!
If you’re into skiing, do know that Romania has around 150 approved ski slopes whose length goes a little over 130 kilometers, where you can go and immerse yourself in the magic of the white season.
Some of the best destinations for that are Poiana Brasov, Straja, Transalpina Ski Resort or Predeal, as well as many others, all of them being able to give you some of the best cold season experiences you’ve lived on the Romanian lands.
5. Feel like Elsa in her Ice Castle
But how can one do that if Romania isn’t Arendelle? Well, we might not be in Arendelle, but we definitely have what it takes to be quite close to it. How can that be possible? Well, let us tell you about one of our land’s magic places: Fagaras Mountains, or to be more exact Balea Lake and its surroundings.
If you want to feel like the Ice Queen and sleep in a Ice Castle, you can always visit the Ice Hotel next to Balea Lake, the only hotel made entirely out of ice from Romania, where you’ll have a unique and strange experience that definitely needs to be tried out.
The first room is the restaurant room, after which come the rooms where one can sleep, each of them having an ice guardian in front of them and furniture sculpted in the ice itself. The beds are covered with thick blankets, furs and pillows. A true experience for everyone who visits the place.
If you want to take this icy experience to the next level, you can always visit the Ice Church as well, and if you’re lucky enough, you might even witness a ceremony being held there.
So, what do you say? Are you coming over to try out one of these experiences? Don’t forget that the diversity of the Romanian plains awaits for you and upon arrival, you’ll definitely find out many more other things you can experience here, we just compressed some for you in these 5 blocks, however from these five we assure you others can surface as well. All you need by your side is the time to actually experience them all.
Bucovina is probably the most beautiful unknown region of Romania. Unknown to me at least, until recently.
I had my excuses, for many years: it’s too far, the roads are not very good, it’s most likely overrated. Not even the 7 painted monasteries included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, nor the Pomme d’Or international prize given by The International Federation of Travel Writers and Tourism Journalists could compel me. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Bucovina has a very rich history, and it still keeps edifices dating from the first Moldavian voivodes. The most emblematic figure is Stephen the Great, who built 44 churches in the area, each one after a victory in battle. He was granted the Athleta Christi (Champion of Christ) title by Pope Sixtus IV, as a defender of Christianity.
The painted monasteries are among the most unique and picturesque places in Romania. The exterior walls are decorated with elaborated frescoes, dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The murals represent complete cycles of religious scenes, which had two purposes: to promote Orthodoxy and to educate the illiterate. Most of the painters are unknown, but the legacies they left behind are deemed masterpieces of Byzantine art.
The most famous is Voronet Monastery, considered to be “the Sistine Chapel of the East”. Besides its interior and exterior stunning wall paintings, what makes this church so special is the intense shade of blue used here. Known throughout the world as “Voronet blue”, the composition of this colour remains a mystery even now, more than five centuries after it was built, as the painters worked in isolation, guarding their trade secrets.
Bucovina rivals Transylvania when it comes to natural beauty and rich folklore. The rolling hills and the painted monasteries blend together perfectly, in an impressive scenery. One of the most spectacular road passes in Romania is Bicaz Gorges, and not far there is the Cheahlau Mountain, Romania’s Mount Olympus. It was the sacred mountain of the Dacians, the forefathers of the Romanian people, where Zamolxes, their supreme god, had his temple.
A tour in this region can’t be complete without some wine tastings. For centuries, Moldova (the region Bucovina is part of) has been renowned for its vineyards and fine wines. One third of the wine growing surface of Romania is to be found here, with a large number of native Romanian varieties. One of the most famous wineries is the Cotnari Vineyards, established in1448. They are famous for their delicious sweet white wines made of grapes rich in sugar and harvested in late autumn, following the first frost.
Visiting Bucovina is like a step back in time, coming face to face with traditions long-gone in other parts of the world, secret villages, traditional rural cuisine, welcoming people and pristine nature.
And that’s all I could gather for you in just a few days, but I’d go back to Bucovina in a heartbeat to discover more of its beauties.
Have you ever asked yourself what the capital of Romania looks like? Or even, what could you do there if you were supposed to spend a weekend?
To answer the first question, it is very likely that many of you will associate Bucharest exclusively with the soviet architecture. And you’d be almost right. Partly because there are clearly huge communist blocks of flats all over the city, but for instance many of them have a liberty/art deco influence on their façade, particularly in the centre, which is something that one would never expect. Those in the northern area of the city, instead, are smaller and have been recently painted in bright colours. These last ones are the older ones, those that survived the massive earthquake of 1977. Ceausescu, the infamous communist dictator of Romania, decided to take advantage of the earthquake to build more apartment blocks all around the city, to host the numerous workers he was planning to bring in from the countryside. But, as mentioned above, he built his ‘reception living room’ in the city centre. Humongous boulevards, big, yet ‘elegant’ blocks, fountains and trees everywhere and, of course, the People’s Palace were built as a display of power towards other nations. But also towards his people (do not forget that Romania was never part of the USSR, so he really wanted to show his power to the world, particularly during the times of the Cold War), to show them and the rest of the world the ‘Great Romania’. All these architectonical creations are still here, and only by seeing them you will get the sense of what truly happened during that period.
But the history of this city is more than just the communist one. If you are curious to know how Bucharest looked like before the communist times and the contemporary era, you just have to make a left on one of the streets adjacent to Magheru Boulevard while walking towards Roman Square. In that part of the city, in fact, many of the XIX century liberty buildings miraculously survived both Ceausescu’s demolition plan and the earthquake, and today they host embassies, private schools, libraries, language schools and private homes. The majority of them have recently been nicely and elegantly renovated. It is a nest of normal and narrow streets, big villas with small private gardens but big and nice communal gardens with veranda cafes and little kiosks during the warm season. Strolling around this area is mesmerising and makes you feel like travelling back in time, into a romantic and decadent era. It is not a coincidence that during the XIX century and the beginning of the XX, Bucharest was called the ‘Little Paris’ or the ‘Eastern Paris’. Many famous local architects and urbanists of that period studied in Paris and then came back to apply their knowledge by reshaping their capital.
But if you’ve had enough of history (and we’ll spare you Dracula’s one given our ‘nomen omen’ but also because there’s very little left to see about him in the capital) we still have a huge list of suggestions for you!
Bucharest is probably one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Eastern Europe, and you’ll find there any sort of entertainment suiting any type of personality! Do you like underground bars and music? Then Lipscani area, the pedestrian Old Centre of the city, will be perfect for you! Are you more of a fancy-kind of person? No problem! The Northern area of the city, nearby the parks, is filled with elegant restaurants and fashionable clubs where local VIP and business people hang out throughout the week.
But if you really want to experience the city as the locals do, then we’d definitively suggest you to go to Herastrau Park, particularly during a weekend.
Herastrau is the biggest park of Bucharest, located in the northern area, close to the entrance of the city. What is great about it, is that it is really part of the locals’ daily life. You’ll see mothers crossing it to take their children to school, people jogging, others enjoying their time off by sun-tanning, rowing on the lake, eating or having business meetings in the restaurants facing the lake… basically, a big chunk of the locals’ lives rotates around this place. You too can do everything you want to fully enjoy it: have a boat tour of the lake or ride a bike around it. Try the local meat dish from one of the kiosks (it is called ‘mici’), visit the peacocks, visit the Village Museum (the first museum of this kind in Europe, dating back to 1939) and many, many more.
But we want to leave you with one last tip, particularly for those among you who are foodies and bio-food lovers: go and visit Obor Market, in the Eastern part of the city. It is a huge market filled with genuine products from all over the Romanian countryside. In every season, it is filled with people and life and delicious, home-grown, seasonal food. You will just need a guide with you since it is a particularly busy area and it is not easy to reach…. But don’t worry, we will gladly help you with that!
Contact us and we’ll get back with more suggestions according to your preferences, and help you plan your perfect weekend in Bucharest!
During her time in Romania, our very own Giulia fell in love with everything around her. Read all about her experience and see why, once here, you will fall in love with Romania as well.
What has Romania to offer to tourists? Why somebody who has travelled all over the world, who’s seen so many amazing places and lived thousands of adventures, should choose Romania as his or her next travel destination?
Well, the answers could be countless, clearly according to the individual preferences.
But I would like to share with you my personal experience. Not the one of a normal world-traveller, but the one of an expat. The one of somebody who left her home and chose to live in this wonderful country for two years.
I have to admit it, at the beginning I was terrified. Very often Romania suffers from unjustified biases abroad that, sooner or later, catch the ears of all of us. Luckily, I had the chance to learn that this country is no different to any other country in the world. And that those biases have been born out of ignorance and closed mindset. Just to give you a hint of what I mean: I used to walk home alone at any hour of day or night. I’ve never been disturbed by anyone and I cannot say the same of when I’m walking home in Italy or in the UK.
Clearly, Romania has its weaknesses of course, like freezing winters or very extroverted car drivers, but it has so many strength points that everybody who visits it cannot end up but being very positively surprised.
As a matter of fact, Romania has something that many other European countries have lost. It is authentic, and you will learn what authenticity means by experiencing it there.
Authenticity is everywhere; you can find it in their flowery culture for instance. In every city you’ll go, you’ll notice the attention and the care towards the natural world. Every public street, even the tiniest ones, are filled with roses, daisies, tulips and many other flowers. The boulevards of the big cities are packed with huge trees and when May comes, every city looks like Mother Nature just came there walking and then suddenly boomed, literally. This passion for nature touches every part of the locals’ life. In every pharmacy, you will find natural products that help people having a better and healthier life: teas and infuses for every kind of flu or ache, creams made out of calendula and aloe 100% natural, lip-balms with arnica and much, much more. Interestingly enough, the majority of people who live in the biggest cities have actually family members who live in the countryside. In their gardens, they cultivate the same plants to manufacture these incredible products directly at home, together with an incredibly tasty variety of jams, syrups and marmalade. Yes, I am the foody one in the company so all these traditions actually made me very emotional. I love it when I see people taking care of their lives respecting their traditions, even if it makes me a little sad, knowing that in my country this knowledge is almost forgot.
But the authenticity is not only in the products of this country, it comes from its inhabitants. From the way they live, the way they smile at you and welcome you in their house offering tea and cake. From their honest way of talking to you and telling you their stories, in their natural and unconditional will to share and listen to you. And the value they give to time. No matter if we are talking about a day, a month or a season, they’ll always find the time to dedicate their attention to what’s important: family, friends, work, religious celebrations, man’s natural rhythm and time to rest. Everything follows the path of what is fair for the human beings and what’s around them.
How’s the best way to experience all the things I just described here?
Travel through the heart of Romania, Transylvania, Maramures, Bucovina, Banat or the Danube Delta, or even through all of them, the region doesn’t really matter. Wherever you’ll be, go horseback riding and travel through the villages you’ll come across on your road. Stop somewhere for lunch, knock at somebody’s door and then… just enjoy and live the moment.
This is what will make your memories last forever.
Ever since the beginning of times people have had the need to communicate and get close to one another. It lies in our nature to be social creatures and find ways to express our feelings and emotions. That is why from very ancient times people have created different ways of communication. That is how signs and symbols were born, some of which would later form the secret language of the Romanian traditional motifs.
For some people they are just random symbols sewed on a piece of cloth, but not for people in Romania. Every stitch is a coded message with deep meaning, telling the world the story of its creator.
What is mostly unknown about Romania is that its inhabitants are wearing their millenary history on their very clothes, symbols being carefully chosen, each of them carrying a certain meaning, message or story.
Some of these symbols come from times long forgotten, the times of the first sedentary people of Europe, the first craftsmen and builders of settlements, the first ceramic artists (Cucuteni, Gumelnita Hamangia etc.).
The symbols inherited along the millennia talk about the sun and the stars, about Mother Earth and the blooming flowers, or about each step in the very existence of each individual, or of an entire community. Most of the symbols worn on the clothes depict Hora – a Romanian dance symbolizing fraternity –, moments of life and even the passing to the other realm, or how one should relate to the Heavens and Earth. Likewise, they depict the fascinating story of a nation and its land so interconnected to one another, that it can only show their consistency despite the challenges of times.
All the garments preserve a language of signs and symbols which are specific to the mythical thinking of the elder days, as it is said to depict the story of how the very world we live in came to be, and are a way of keeping in touch with the unseen creative forces of the cosmos.
It is said that words are the most powerful source of energy, and Romanians seemed to be knowing this very well. Whenever the peasant woman was sewing, all her soul was poured into her work as her hands obeyed her heart’s desire while enchanting a prayer to God: “Inspirit my clothes, the secret of my soul”. Elements and symbols of sacred geometry are used in order to generate and direct each of the energies said symbol represents.
Ia or the Romanian Blouse – as it’s known around the world, is a piece of clothing that is built in such a way to generate and direct the energy each symbol represents, through the embroidery work on the chest and sleeves that channel the energy through the body, down to the arms and into the hands, making thus possible for the peasant woman to attach her soul to her work.
The Romanian Blouse has inspired so many people with its story’s richness that last year, on June 24 2015, Muriel Bowser, mayor of District of Colombia, USA has declared June 24 as the International Day of the Romanian Blouse.
Now every year on June 24th, Universal Ie Day is celebrated, when the whole world commemorates that which is the beauty of the Romanian Blouse.
But its story doesn’t end here. Romanian specialists from the National Institute of Ethnography and Folklore are trying to convince UNESCO to introduce ia in its patrimony. For that, they have gathered thousands of Romanian blouses from over 800 villages, some of which are older than 200 years.
Meanwhile, on the Internet also circulates a petition to introduce ia in UNESCO’s patrimony. People here consider it their identity, a heritage that must be passed down from generation to generation, a culture of its own.
While the first report on our Dobrogea trip was written by Laura, a born and bred Romanian, the one below is Giulia’s creation, the Venetian on board. See what she has to say and why she thinks Dobrogea and the Delta are a must on your travel list.
Romania is certainly one of the most panoramically diverse countries in Europe, there are things to visit and enjoy for every kind of personality out there: the high and beautiful Carpathians for mountains lovers. The sweet hills of Transylvania for those into nature and fairy country side living. Eccentric and lively cities such as Bucharest, Cluj, Iasi and Timisoara for people that can’t stay away from vibrant environments.
But that’s not all about it. Because Romania offers more. Actually much more.
Apart from the wilderness and ancient history of Bucovina and Maramures, there is also another region which started to be discovered only recently by foreigners but that’s due to become one of the most breath-taking places on earth: Dobrogea. Dobrogea is the region of the Danube Delta, where the fresh waters of the biggest river in Europe meet the winds and the tides of the Black Sea and all the elements merge.
We visited it recently enough to give you 5 great reasons why this place should be a must see on your travel list.
Landscapes: As soon as you leave Constanta behind, you’ll start to enter small traditional villages, covered in flowers and filled with the traditional houses with clay walls, straw roofs and wooden porches painted in blue. But what will take your breath away will surely be the immersion into pure nature that will hit you immediately at the exit of every village. Immense fields of golden wheat with poppies, wild orchids and huge trees on the side of the roads will accompany you throughout your trip, together with thousands of birds species, herds of sheep and cows and solitary horses. And then, suddenly, you will find yourself driving or cycling along beautiful canals or lakes, with the typical lagoon features. …What else to add? Oh, yes! If you get there by sunset you’ll probably have the ultimate fairy colourful experience.
Pace of life: Another extraordinary aspect of this region is that it makes you feel immediately relaxed and in contact with nature. Everything there follows the rhythm of nature: in the morning, sparrows and swallows will accompany your waking up with their sweet tweeting. And they’ll do the same in the evening together with a choir of cracking frogs. No cars or big cities noise. Just the peaceful sound of these magical places. And during the day? You can basically choose to do everything you want! You can just relax and enjoy the scenery or walk around the beautiful villages. But if you want be more active you can also choose to discover the canals and the lakes with a boat and do some birdwatching. You can also go cycling or paddling or just suntan by the pool of your hotel. The options to get a great vacation here are limitless!
People: What makes this place great is not only the nature, but also the local people. They are so gentle and welcoming that will make you feel immediately at home. From small things such as asking for directions on the street, to your arrival at your hotel, you will find them always smiling and willing to help… and possibly with a cordial glass of tuica (the local plum brandy) waiting for you!
Food: As everywhere in Romania, the food is great in Dobrogea, too. And it actually brings a note of diversity compared to the food in the rest of the country. The courses are traditional: starter, soup, main dish and dessert. But they differ in taste since everything is fish based. You may try a lovely “fishballs” soup with turmeric and other aromas, or some icre de peste, a lovely mousse made out of fish eggs and mayonnaise. And then of course, every version of fish that you can possibly imagine, grilled, deep fried, panéed, and many, many more all accompanied by fresh tomatoes or, if you prefer, mamaliga, the local polenta. It will be heaven for your taste buds!
Wine: Dobrogea is also one of the main regions where wine production is exponentially growing. Its sandy lands and the strong sun clearly are the competitive advantage to get to the perfect final product. But what is peculiar in this case, is that this area is focused on the production mainly of indigenous grapes, the most popular one being the Babeasca Neagra. This is a kind of grape that has been growing in this region since before the arrival of the Romans. Even more spectacular is that all the vineyards are terraced and the majority of them face directly the Delta… A wonderful view to enjoy a delicious glass of wine!
So, what are you waiting for? Dobrogea is waiting for you!
If it’s June, than it’s the best time to visit the Danube Delta; and this is what our team did (if you follow us on facebook you got daily updates from the trip). By this time, all the migratory birds have already arrived and started hatching; during the breeding season, their colors are at their most brilliant so it’s safe to say that this is a wildlife enthusiast’s heaven.
Besides the birds, there’s also a rich community of wild animals, which we were quite lucky to take a glimpse at while boating through the labyrinth of lagoons, rivers, canals and lakes. Foxes, deer, and a few wild boars are a common sight in the Delta, although we’ve even heard stories about wildcats and wolves. You just need to be quick with the camera if you want to immortalize any of these, which I have to admit – we weren’t. We were so fascinated by the beauty and novelty of it all, that simply forgot about taking pictures. But the images will be forever with us.
You may think that one week is too much to just watch birds or scenery, but to us, it was too little. Every day brought something new, and there just wasn’t enough time to do everything we’d planned. Each place has its own magic and its own particular attractions. From Chilia Veche in the North (right next to the Ukrainian border), to the Sulina channel in the middle, and then to the remote Sfantu Gheorghe in the South, there are a handful of traditional guesthouses or small resorts where you can rest and reinvigorate after a day of boating, horse-riding, cycling, safariing or even wine tasting.
All the villages in the Danube Delta show a strong Turkish influence, and you can spot Greek, Roman and Byzantine vestiges everywhere. The roads are some of the best in Romania, with scenic landscapes rolling before your eyes every step of the way.
The people here are simple and welcoming just like in other parts of Romania where we traveled so far. Since the living conditions during winters are quite harsh here, the Delta population is scattered among the port of Sulina, the city of Tulcea, and the 27 villages, with an average density of about 2 inhabitants per square kilometer. One can find here a fascinating mix of cultures, and besides the majoritarian Romanian population, there are also some Ukrainians and the distinctive and rare ethnic community of the Lipovans, who arrived in Romania in the 18th century, fleeing from religious persecution in Russia.
Once here, you can’t help but fall in love with the local cuisine, which is mainly based on fresh fish and paired with amazing wines. Speaking of wine, there are several wineries in the Delta that organize wine tastings for travelers; here you can witness the production process, listen to fascinating stories, and even get the chance to go into the vineyards and pick the indigenous grapes yourself. If you get hungry after the all that wine, why not indulge in a traditional lunch consisting of home baked bread, local cheese, ham, and freshly picked tomatoes?
After a week in the Delta, you will definitely feel like your entire body and soul have recharged, and you will want to come back here again and again. One piece of advice, though, make sure to bring your mosquito repellant!