Despite a growing tourism industry in recent years, Romania has, in the past, been victim to bad media coverage that has perhaps put certain travellers off visiting. Ranging from the negative portrayal of the gypsy population to the more recent artwork shenanigans, Romania has continuously been pushed back by one thing or another in favour of other more-positively portrayed countries.
I am here to tell you not to listen to the naysayers.
Yes, there is a large gypsy population, but they by no means define Romanian people as a whole, and yes, the artwork fiasco was widely covered in the media, but that was one isolated incident that was simply picked up on because of the steep value of the paintings stolen. But there are so many other aspects to Romania that make it a wonderful, friendly place for visitors.
After barely setting foot in Bucharest and unfolding my map to figure out my positioning, an elderly man came up to me, smiling and chattering away in Romanian. He gestured for me to give him the map, so I did, pointing at where I needed to be. For a while, he shimmied the map this way and that, before beckoning me to follow him around the corner. Once there, he confirmed where I needed to go on the map before pointing up the road, flashing me a toothless smile, turning, and walking off in the opposite direction.
This whole encounter was carried out purely with arm movements and facial expressions since neither of us could understand each other.
My first encounter with a local in Bucharest set my expectations high for the rest of the trip, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’d go so far as to say that Romanians are some of the friendliest people I have met. Ever.
The ‘Oh-my-god-this-is-beautiful’ landscape
Yes, Bucharest isn’t much to look at, though it does have character in its old peeling buildings and diverse range of architecture styles. But it’s once you get outside of the city that the scenery really takes your breath away; lush rolling hills dip and dive all around, dense forests reach up to the sky, and colourful, quirky houses dot the horizon. It’s not every day you can witness a landscape this fresh and untouched. Every train journey is a pleasure rather than a chore, simply because of the sights to behold out of the window.
The hearty food
Okay, I admit before I visited I had no idea what the food in Romania would be like. I expected it to be the usual schnitzel affair like much of the surrounding area. But boy was I (and my stomach) pleased to discover that Romanian dishes are hearty, meaty, and warming. True, they are fairly simple, but they are delicious and, better yet, fill you up enough to fuel a long day of exploring. Some dishes seem a bit bizarre and, I’ll warn you now, there is a lot of brain on the menu (which I couldn’t bring myself to try), but for the most part you’ll get a hearty fill of meat, potatoes, and veg.
Plus, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s always the prospect of bear pastrami.
The oodles of fresh air and open spaces
Outside of Bucharest, the majority of cities, towns, and villages are nestled amidst sprawling greenery which makes getting away from the hustle and bustle an easy task. Even in the capital there are numerous parks dotted throughout the city which offer a welcome dose of respite and relaxation.
The simple transport system
Getting around Romania is easy. But not only is it easy, it is pleasurable, too. In Bucharest, where you’ll most likely start your adventure, there is an idiot-proof metro system that runs like clockwork and costs pennies to use.
To get around the rest of the country, there are large, comfortable trains. If you board from a central location or a major hub, you will get a seat number which means there’s not that mad scramble to get next to your friends.
Just make sure you understand the ticket before your train pulls up, otherwise you will have a mad panic trying to figure out which platform you’re on, which carriage you need to board, and whether you’re going to piss off any passengers by sitting in their assigned seat (from experience).
The low prices
Need I mention that Romania is cheap? You can easily get a two, sometimes three, course meal for around £10. I will cover costs more in my upcoming post on Romania for the first-time visitor, though, so keep an eye out for it!
So, if you were considering visiting Romania, I hope this post sways your decision. I promise it’s a decision you will not regret. The negative aspects portrayed in the media or that have spread like Chinese whispers over the years are far, far outweighed by the beauty and welcoming nature of the country (plus, anywhere with an unhealthy amount of brain on the menu has to be worth checking out, right?).
This is part of a series of posts I will be writing on Romania, hoping to unravel the pre-conceived ideas people might have of it.