If you look back the last few days in my blogs, I wrote a blog about all the interesting things you could see and do in Sibiu, but Sibiu is only one city in Romania. Romania is actually a good sized European country, and there are a lot of interesting things to do in the whole country. I got to do some of them and wanted to do other things I never got to do. I will tell you about them.
Two hours from Sibiu, you can find Brasov (pronounced: Brashov). The thing that most people want to visit in Romania is in Brasov, Dracula’s castle. It is not the real Dracula’s castle. Yes, Dracula was a real man. His real name was Vlad Tepis (pronounced: Tsepish). He was a prince, and not a vampire. You can read a blog I did back in the fall if you want to know more about him. The castle in Brasov was actually originally a citadel to protect the city, but later it was used in a movie about Dracula. It has a cobble stone courtyard in the middle with a well. There are lots of secret passages which makes the castle even more interesting. They have the bed where Dracula slept during the movie and other things like that inside. Next to the castle, they have lots of souvenir shops. Probably the most interesting thing we bought there was a little doll that looked like a witch on a broom. It was of an ugly old woman, and the Romanians call the old women a buba.
Also in Brasov, you can find the black church. The building itself is black. That is why it is called black. It is down close to the walking street down town. Yes, Brasov has a walking street like Sibiu, but not as long. There are lots of neat little boutiques, coffee shops, etc. there. As far at the church building, church buildings are the things to see in Romania. There are beautiful church buildings everywhere, even in the villages. I happen to have a couple of pictures of a church building from Timnisoara for you to see, but anywhere you go to see a church building in Romania, it is not time wasted. I was told about a church building up in Moldova I always wanted to go see that had murals painted all over the outside of it. I have seen pictures of it, and it is beautiful, but I never made it that far north.
Besides Dracula’s castle and the many beautiful Othodox church buildings, you could also go to see a castle in Romania. We went to see the Palisi (pronounced: paslish) castle in Sinaia. It belonged to their king who went to France when the Communists came into Romania. It is full of beautiful things! It has a movie theater in the castle where the king used to watch movies. It has a room full of low couches, low tables, and hassocks (foot stools) like you would find in Morocco. Perhaps it was inspired by Turkish influence since Romania is right by Turkey. It just has lots of beautiful rooms full of beautiful furniture for you to tour through. I actually have seen this castle used as a movie backdrop too. I think the name of the movie that used this castle is “Christmas Prince.”
There is usually a lot of snow in Sinaia, and it makes the Palisi Castle even prettier.
A place I wanted to go in Romania that I never got to visit, but many tourists go, and many people who come for just a short time to Romania go is to the Black Sea Coast. We had tickets to go, and then got called back to America, so I never got to go. However, from what I understand, it is really worth seeing. It has breath taking white sand beaches. I don’t gamble, and I don’t recommend it, but there is a casino there too.
If you have a chance to go over to the Black sea, besides seeing the casino and going to the beach, you are very close to Turkey. It is just across the Black Sea. You can cross over and see what used to be called Constantinople. Constantinople was once as important to Christianity was the Vatican is today before the Muslims came in and took over. There is a church building in Constantinople that the Muslims took over and completely changed it into a Mosque. Years later, the building was beginning to crumble, and they found the Christian pictures under the paint and realized it used to be a church building. People tour through now to see the church building. They have restored the pictures, but still, Turkey is now a Muslim country, but from what I understand, a more progressive Muslim country, and you probably won’t have to worry about Muslim extremists there. After you see Constantinople, you can come back to Romania easily. Romania is the country that stopped the Muslims from coming into Europe.
The Danube River runs through Romania, and the delta is close to the Black Sea, and they say that it is a great place to see wildlife. You can take a boat up the Danube from the delta and see the wild birds, etc. My students at the university told me about it, and they were in awe of all the wildlife there.
If you go to Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, in the south central part of Romania, you will see an arch of triumph that is similar to the one in Paris. The Romanians like to call Bucharest “the small Paris.” I have spent a lot more time in Bucharest than in Paris because I only drove through Paris, but they say Paris and Bucharest are very similar. There are lots of nice hotels, coffee shops, cake shops, boutiques, etc. Bucharest was the first city in Romania to get McDonald’s and pizza places. We were surprised when we went to McDonald’s. It must have been the cleanest McDonald’s in the world. They were constantly washing the floors, and just mopping it once wasn’t enough. One person mopped, and another came right behind them mopping the same place. They were serious about keeping that place clean! We also used to go to a restaurant there called “Springtime.”
At Springtime, they served hamburgers, but they were rather unusual. Inside, there was nothing like a place like McDonald’s would put in them. They put sweet cold slaw in their hamburgers as well as french fries in the buns. Another interesting place to eat was their Turkish K-bob places. As I said Romania is right next door to Turkey, and the Turks come into Romania and establish businesses. They had restaurants where there was a huge pole that went around and around. On the pole, the attached a large piece of meat, and as the pole went around, the meat cooked. They slowly shaved the meat off the outside. You could get pocket bread with the shaved meat, potatoes, and carrots inside. It was delicious! Bucharest was the first place to get Coca Cola and Coca Cola light in Romania. Since it is the capital, if it has come from outside the country, you will find it in Bucharest. Bucharest has both subways and trolley cars.
Everyone in Romania keeps a vegetable garden. Even the people who live in Bucharest and other big cities have a place in the country where they grow vegetables.
If you drive through Romania, the roads are small and easy to navigate and the signs are easy to follow. The villages are something to see all in themselves. There are horses and carts. The houses look like they are out of a fairy tale. The houses are never out in the country alone for fear of the gypsies. If there is one house, there will be more and at a least a small village.
At one point, we went up to a village in the mountains. Every village has a wooden cross at the entrance and the exit of the village. They say the cross protects you as long as you are in the village, but it can’t protect you if you leave the village. In the village in the mountains, we saw a stained glass museum and also got to visit a monastery. As I said, church buildings are the places to see in Romania. Christianity is extremely important in the Romanian culture. One of the apostles actually originally brought Christianity to Romania, and Christianity is one of the things that got rid of Communism.
As you can see, Romania is a very diverse country from snowy mountain tops to beaches to rivers. The one constant thing they have all the way through Romania whether it is in a big city like Bucharest or a small village is the church buildings. It is their true cultural heritage. when the Cathedral of Notre Dame burned in France, a Romanian friend of mine said, “Why should they rebuild it? The French don’t care about Christianity any more.” I disagreed; I thought it should be rebuilt. However, his statement shows you that Romanians feel Christianity is important, and they are disappointed that other countries in Europe don’t have as many church goers as they used to. When I went there after the revolution and took American university students wiling to read the Bible in English with the Romanians, the Romanians flocked to read with them. Yes, they wanted English, but they also love Christianity in Romania.