2,000 miles of Romania
Everything we seem to hear about Romania in the UK revolves around immigration. But there is so much to this country, rich in history and culture, stunningly beautiful landscapes and populated by warm, welcoming people. I spent a month driving 2,000 miles across the country, through towns and cities, over mountains and through villages. Here is what I encountered on my journey.
Stay south of the Carpathian mountains and you might be forgiven for thinking Romania has a bland landscape. But, cross into Transylvania and you will discover incredible rolling hills, mammoth gorges, picturesque lakes and countless enchanting ruins.
The Towns and Cities
From Bucharest's sprawling communist architecture to Sigisuara's quaint medieval lanes, Romania has something for everyone when it comes to its urban areas. The mountain town Sibiu in particular has an astonishingly preserved old town and sleepy atmosphere, while the university city of Cluj is a buzzing youthful centre in the very heart of beautiful Transilvania.
Roads are not a subject of interest in most countries, but in Romania the roads are an experience not to be missed. From the bumpy dirt tracks that lead you through villages, to the mountain passes that seem to defy logical sense, you have not seen Romania until you have driven its roads. Of particular note are the Transalpina and Transfagarasan mountain passes, they spiral up through the very highest reaches of the mountains, like race tracks on top of the world. As autumn comes, clouds sit lower than the peaks, creating beautiful otherworldly vistas in all directions, as you negotiate hairpins and sweeping curves.
Romania is a rural country, littered with villages of great variety. The people of most villages live very simple lives, growing crops, herding sheep and producing eye watering moonshine in the form of fruit Palinca (also known as Rakya). Each village has has least one bar, (sometimes doubling up as the local shop) and usually a disproportionately impressive church at it’s centre.
No other country I have visited has a population as open and friendly as those I found in Romania. Humble, genuine and interesting, Romanians are the kind of people you want to be friends with. And don’t believe the rumours about Bucharestians being snobby and rude, some of the friendliest people I've ever met were found in Bucharest.
The mountains...oh the mountains!
The Carpathian Mountains that run through the centre of Romania are something very special. Drive either of the highest mountain passes mentioned above and you will be treated to a sight beyond words. Pass through isolated villages, gypsy settlements, pine forests, dams, reservoirs and river gorges, the variety of beauty is overwhelming. They are, quite simply, the most beautiful views I have ever seen.