By Shereen Shabnam
My journey into Romania revealed a country with spectacular sights dotted with nature, medieval castles and quaint villages and the best food and culture. The visit to Prahova Valley with a stop in Sinaia, one of the most beautiful mountain tourist resorts in Romania is a must.
A hidden gem for travel aficionados, Romania was full of surprises. For instance, the Palace of Parliament is the second largest administrative building and the most expensive administrative building in the world as well as the world’s heaviest building. We found the building served as a perfect backdrop to show the amazing architecture of the city as the building was built with 100% Romanian resources and materials.
Another must visit is the PeleşCastle. Recognized as royal residence by Carol I, the king of Romania, the castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, built between 1873 and 1914 as the summer residence of the kings of Romania. The building, currently owned by the Royal Family of Romania ids filled with the most beautiful decorative art pieces.
As we ventured further to Brasov, we came across variants of gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture with continued our journey exploring the Town Hall Square and enjoyed a walk to the walled citadel and the pedestrian only boulevard for retail therapy. Surrounded by mountains, a walk around Brasov reveals quaint shops and restaurants serving authentic local cuisine.
After a brief stop in Bran at a wine cellar, we then visited Bran Castle, built in the medieval period as a strategic point of defense. Bran Castle, set on a 200 foot high rock was associated with the famous Bram Stoker’s novel and is nowadays known as the “Castle of Count Dracula”. It was one of the dark, scary and yet the most exciting attractions we went to during our trip.
Our journey to Bâlea Cascadă, Transfăgărăşan, the best road in the world according to Top Gear was particularly exciting as we visited the Paltinu Chalet, built during the communist regime and had a Romanian-style lunch on Bâlea Lake, a glacier lake at an altitude of 2034 m.
From Bâlea Lake, we headed to Sibiu, which was European Capital of Culture in 2007. We visited the Astra Museum in Sibiu, the largest outdoor ethnographic museum in Europe. The visit included a carriage ride through the museum park with a tasting of authentic Romanian products. The city was founded at the end of the 12thcentury and is one of the main tourist centers in Romania. Another must stop is Alba Iulia, a town considered Romania’s “second capital” and a place full of history.
My favourite visit was to the Salina Turda, a real Salt Mining Museum in Transylvania. Salt air is good for health, and the place is considered to have the purest air on the planet. It was a surreal experience and we thoroughly enjoyed strolling near the lakes at the bottom of the mine.
These are many reasons to visit Romania from the charming disposition of the locals, the breathtaking landscapes, vampire tourism and the wide variety of fresh wholesome food.
I flew to Romania with Turkish Airlines with a stop in Istanbul. There is enough time to experience the Turkish Airlines award winning lounge in between the flights or enjoy the retail experience at the new airport in Istanbul.