Wednesday, May 25, 2011


A little over a month ago, I spent a few days in Romania for spring break. It was my first time visiting one of Bulgaria’s neighboring countries, and, not surprisingly, many of my Bulgarian friends wanted to know how Romania compared to Bulgaria.

As I told them, Romania is significantly larger than Bulgaria, both in terms of population and land mass, and it’s difficult to draw any conclusions or make comparisons between a place where you’ve been living for two years and a place you only visited for a few days. That said, the infrastructure within Romania seemed more developed and advanced than Bulgaria’s infrastructure, and, from a tourist standpoint, Romania seemed like a much easier country to visit independently than Bulgaria. Granted, we only visited Bucharest and some quite touristy areas, but it sure was easy. With jagged, snow-capped peaks rising above the clouds and reaching into the blue skies, it was also rather beautiful. And with Austro-Hungarian influences combining with Turkish and Russian influences, Romanian culture is incredibly diverse. All things considered, the little taste of Romania we got left me longing to return for the full course.

Our exploration of Romania was limited in large part to the area around the city of Braşov. Braşov itself is an interesting destination and a pleasant place to hunker down for a while, but I couldn't help but thinking that the best Romania has to offer is in its mountains.

Here are some shots taken from the road or train on our way to or from Braşov.

And here are some shots of and from Braşov.

Using Braşov as a base, we took day trips to some of the surrounding tourist spots. Our first stop was the Sinaia Monastery, which wasn't unlike many of the Bulgarian monasteries I've visited.

We then made our way to Peleş Castle, a $120 million testament to greed and ostentatiousness.

Next, we made the obligatory stop at the Bran Castle, marketed as "Dracula's Castle." Not surprisingly, there were no vampires and there was very little of interest period, just overpriced touristy stuff.

The views from the Râşnov Fortress made the quick stop there worthwhile.

Of all the places we visited, Sighişoara was probably my favorite. Here are some photos of and from the old town.

Among other things, Bucharest is a strange combination of massive, communist-era eyesores and little, seemingly misplaced churches. And it's not nearly as bad as most guidebooks and Romanians tell you it is.

The Palace of Parliament (the world's second largest building after the Pentagon).

Some other shots taken around Bucharest.

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