Wanna Know Some Fun Facts About Romania? Well, Read On!
I first visited Romania in 2014 on my first ever backpacking trip. I wanted to visit Transylvania purely because nobody else I knew I ever had. To be honest I was a bit apprehensive about going there as Romania still represented heading into the unknown for me. In fact, back in the UK very little is actually known about the country except for some strange talk about vampires…
I was therefore in for some very nice surprises once I arrived. I absolutely loved the county and was delighted to return earlier this year.
Some Fast and Fun Romania Facts
1. Romanian People Are Not Gypsies!
When most people in the West think of Romania they think about “Gypsies” but this not the case at all – this is just one of many unjust Romanian stereotypes.
Firstly, the Roma people (the term Gypsy is considered a slur in some quarters) make up only around 3% of the population and many of them do not directly participate in mainstream Romanian society at all living on the peripheries.
The Roma (or Porajmos) apparently came from Indian Punjab over one thousand years ago and have lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle ever since. The Romanian “mainstream” population on the other hand is made up of Latin, Saxon & descent and their culture is actually very similar to South-West European (especially Italian).
The Roma people are a very controversial topic in Romanian politics and there is ongoing tension. Many accuse them of widespread criminality and freeloading wheareas other voices maintaining their right to live a traditional way of life.
Sadly, even to this day there is very little interaction between the two cultures and the Roma continue to get a rough deal facing discrimination and often even being denied citizenship.
2. They Speak Italian… Very Badly…
I came to Romania on a long, overnight train from Hungary. In Hungary, I found myself utterly overwhelmed by the strange Slavic language of long words and impossible sounds. I was unable to even manage to properly say “Hello” in the local dialect and found street names completely unpronounceable (see image below for a great example!)
Therefore I was expecting similar things in Romania but instead found I was in for a very pleasant surprise. The Romanian language is actually derived from Latin (the Romans were here once hence the name..) and it very closely resembles Italian. I fact, it often said that Romanian is simply bad Italian! I am not sure the Romanian’s themselves would agree though.
Already having a basic grasp of French and Spanish, this meant I was able to fathom out quite a few words! “Ciao!” The Romanian people were well impressed…
3. Everybody Could Be a Supermodel
OK so “everybody” is a little over the top but what I mean is that, especially in Transylvania, Romania has some of the most striking girls I have ever seen in my life. An afternoons stroll around the precincts of Brasov felt like being in Milan for fashion week with tall, slim, dark beauties with sparkling green eyes at every turn.
And to think, back home many people actually resent Romanian’s coming to settle in the UK. I say bring them on if nothing else, they will brighten up the British Tinder scene. Yep, Romanian girls are fine alright by me!
4. They Love Psytrance
Eastern Europe seems to have embraced my favourite electronic music genre so much more than its stuffier Western cousin with amazing Trance parties and festivals taking place across the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Hungary. Romania however, seems intent on putting them all to shame and I was thrilled to learn that in the summer of 2018 there are 5 Psytrance festivals in the country which I think is a world record.
The influence of Psychedelic culture can also be felt in day to day life as there are Indian style, trippy teahouses and whimsical style beer gardens in many cities. Basically, the scene is so much more diverse, quirky and interesting than what I see back in Western Europe.
5. Everybody Makes Moonshine
The great Romanian people do love a good drink (this is the Balkans afterall) and whilst the local beer is decidedly average (but cheap), they compensate with an abundance of homemade Palenka. Traditionally, every family would brew their own schnapps either from plums or grapes and this tradition is alive and well even in 2018.
If you are invited to a Romanian party, expect to be handed a plastic Sprite bottle filled with the families own brand of firewater. Go easy on it, this stuff is lethal and will cause blackouts followed by obscene hangovers. I was given a hip-flask of the stuff at a wedding I crashed and cannot remember getting home that night.
6. It Has The Worlds Heaviest Building (and possibly the ugliest)
The Presidential palace in the Romania capital of Bucharest was erected by Communist Dictator Nicolai Cassearu at the expense of the old town which was flattened to make way for it. It is an imposing, grey, monstrous, monolithic totem of tyranny that looms large over the city and holds the records of being the worlds heaviest building, the worlds largest administrative building and quite possibly the worlds ugliest building.
Bucharest is definitely one of my least favourite capital cities and does not do Romania any justice at all. If you pass through here to catch a flight or a train then, by all means, do take a half day to see the Presidential Palace just to get a feel for the scale of the insanity for yourself!
7. Property is Cheap
Despite having been in the EU for 10 years now, Romania has retained its own currency (the Lei; issued in plastic notes and decorated with images of bearded men) and its economy is only showing incremental growth. This means that for Western Europeans, backpacking Romania is pretty cheap. You can buy beer in a shop for under $1, a good meal for two with wine for $20 and you can pick up a great Air B n B for $25.
It also means that settling here would be cheap.
I even started looking at buying property in Romania and was excited to learn that a decent housing building can be acquired for around $40k. In London, $40k might get you a rabbit hutch to sleep in. Yes, I am considering buying something out there. I just need $40k – can you lend it to me?
Considering all the controversy about Romanians settling in the UK, I’m sure it would be novel for one British guy to settle in Romania!
8. It’s Gorgeous
Above all though, what I learned about Romania is that its dammed beautiful. It has gorgeous green mountains (by mountain I mean European mountains rather than the majestic Himalayan type) pretty medieval towns and elaborate Orthodox churches. There are also loads of incredible castles in Romania you visit.
Add to this the warm, friendly Romanian people, smoking hot Romanian girls and a funky social scene, and I think we arrive at a formula for my favourite country in Europe. You really should visit Romania and I am not the only one who says so.
My picks are the mountain town of Brasov, the medieval town of Sibiu and the second city of Cluj-Napoca. The Black Sea is also a lot of fun in the summer months when you can join Romanians at play for their vacations.