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October - November 2006
Colours of Romania
I start the article by reference to two photographs: first, of a youthful and beautiful girl whose future appears to be prosperous and second, of colourful and pretty dolls, symbolic and representing the many attractions of the country. Furthermore, two words ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ also capture the essence of Romania.
It is only since late 1989, after the people’s revolution, when Nicolae Ceausescu was deposed, that Romania slowly started to open up to foreign investment and welcome tourists. Access is being greatly improved and comfortable accommodation provided in the remote parts of the country where resorts and architectural gems exist. Its population of 23 million is getting ready to join the European Union shortly.
Romania is still largely rural and the majority of people live in the countryside, in villages and small towns. They lead and maintain ancient traditions of village and family life that are as colourful, festive and vibrant today as they have been for centuries.
The Carpathian Mountains are a continuation of the Alps, and are in the shape of a horse shoe, enclose the Transylvania plateau and divides Romania into its regions. The stunning mountains cover a third of the country’s territory. The scenic landscape consists of lush green slopes and valleys, gorges, lakes and waterfalls. They are a home for various ski and spa resorts and provide for a range of outdoor activities. The most well known resorts are Sinaia, Predeal, Bustani, Azuga, Vitra Dornei, Sovata and Poiana Brasov.
Bucharest is the capital with over two million inhabitants. It is planned on a grand scale with wide tree lined avenues. The main avenue also includes a row of impressive jet fountains in the central reservation and is flanked on both sides by tall commercial and luxurious residential buildings. The attractions of the city are many: museums, galleries, theatres and opera house.
Other main cities in Romania are: Baroque style Timisoara, city of seven hills-Iasi, business and cultural town of Cluj, and medieval towns of Sibu, Brasov, Sighisoara and Targu Mures.
The city of Brasov preserves a medieval core including the massive Black Church and a Square lined by restaurants and smart boutiques. It also has the Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas with another impressive building in its compound which was used as the first Romanian school and is now a museum.
Sighisoara, a UNESCO monument, is a magical mix of winding cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, towers and turrets. The town’s main point of attraction is the Clock Tower.
Colourful Monasteries: There are several historically, architecturally and artistically important monasteries in the province of Bucovina in the region of Moldavia. The authorities of the Orthodox Church of Romania still maintain and run a dozens of monasteries. They are famous for their ‘frescoes’ which are brilliantly painted on the external and internal wall surfaces, illustrating stories from the Bible. These are wonderful specimens of religious art. The monasteries are generally fortified, built behind high boundary walls with a large landscaped courtyard. Gardens of practicing monasteries are well looked after. The photos of various flowers are the testament of tender love and care.
Amongst numerous castles and palaces which are spread all over Romania the following two are noteworthy. King Carol I built his summer home, Peles Castle in the 19th century in the ski resort of Sinaia. It was built in extravagant style and richly decorated with superb wood sculptures, paintings, stained glass windows and chandeliers. It has sumptuous interiors, a synthesis of several styles presenting a history lesson in decorative art.
Bran Castle was built in the 13th century and is the the most well known of all the attractions of Romania. In 1918 it became home to Queen Maria, daughter of Queen Victoria. She transformed it into her romantic residence. However, it gained its fame through the Gothic novel ‘Dracula’ by the author Bram Stoker published in 1897. Dracula, a vampire count, later became the subject of hundreds of horror films.
This is only a glimpse into Romania’s vast beautiful places and attractions which remain to be explored and enjoyed.