Romania doesn’t cease to amaze with its wealth in all branches of culture. One of the most abundant parts is played by the ancient myths and legends of Romania. Romanians have always had a deeply rooted relationship with folklore, expressed by myriads of legends. As most of these folk tales were transmitted orally, no one knows the creator, but there had been many collectors of such uniqueness.

The most fruitful gatherers were the renowned Ion Creanga, with “Harap Alb” and “The old woman’s daughter and the old man’s daughter”, Vasile Alecsandri with his version of the Miorita ballad, and Petre Ispirescu, who published numerous volumes of mythical tales depicting Fat-Frumos (equivalent to Prince Charming), Ileana Cosanzeana, the monsters Zmeu and Capcaun, the dragon Balaur and the evil Muma Padurii.

Miorița is a Romanian legend written in the form of a ballad by Vasile Alecsandri. Little Ewe’s legend says that three shepherds: a Transylvanian, a Moldavian and a Vrancean meet while looking after their flocks. An ewe of the Moldavian tells him that the other envious shepherds are planning to murder him and steal his flock and the Moldavian tell her his testament.

Baba Dochia has several myths built around her, but probably the most known and practiced one is Babele. The Babele myth (old hags) associates the first 9 days of March with Baba Dochia’s 9 sheepskin coats, every day stripping one off. To this day people pick a day between 1st and 9th of March and it is said that the weather of the chosen day expresses the mis/fortune of the person throughout the year.

Vasile Alecsandri put into words another beautiful ballad, that of Mesterul Manole, the architect of the existing Curtea de Arges Monastery in Wallachia. Legend says that Negru Voda ordered Manole to build the most beautiful monastery, but walls kept crumbling in the course of construction. Manole dreamed one night that for the monastery to stand, a beloved person would have to be built alive into the monastery’s walls. He agreed with his workers that whose-ever wife were to bring lunch first, should be the one. The next day, Manole;s pregnant wife, Ana, was the first to show up… And that is how the Arges Monastery is still standing to this day.

And lastly, the myth that put Transylvania on the map: the legend of Count Dracula, Bram Stoker’s fictional character inspired by the historical Romanian figure: Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), a 15th century prince of Wallachia, renowned for his method of impaling criminals and enemies. All crimes were punished by impalement: lying, stealing, killing, as Vlad Dracul was a very honest ruler. A legend says that he put a golden cup in the central square of Targoviste, which was never stolen and remained untouched during Vlad’s reign. Vlad Tepes is seen as a hero in Romania for ceasing crime and corruption and bringing commerce and culture to a thriving level. The link between Vlad Tepes and the vampire Count Dracula is based on Bram Stoker’s research of the Impaler in the UK, although he was to find a blackened reputation of Vlad, because of his hostility towards Saxons.

Unsurprisingly, all Romanians are told these legends in their childhood and no one is a stranger to them. Ask any Romanian about their mythical land and they will narrate with great ardor.

Abraham “Bram” Stoker was born on 8 November 1847 and died 20 April 1912, known worldwide as an Irish author and creator of Dracula. Through  his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theater in London, which Irving owned.

Stoker became interested in theater while he was a student. Very fast he became the theater critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, co-owned by the author of Gothic tales,  Sheridan Le Fanu. In December 1876, he gave a favorable review of Henry Irving’s Hamlet at the Theater Royal in Dublin.

Stoker also wrote several stories, and “The Crystal Cup” was published by the London Society in 1872, followed by “The Chain of Destiny” in four parts in The Shamrock. In 1876 , Stoker wrote the non-fiction book The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland that was published in 1879. Moreover, he possessed an concern in art, and was a founder of the Dublin Sketching Club in 1879.

He gain more popularity after he published his novel “Dracula”. It looks like he was inspired to write this book after he visited the English coastal town of Whitby in 1890.

He began writing novels while he was manager of Henry Irving and secretary and director of London’s Lyceum Theatre, beginning with “The Snake’s Pass” in 1890 and “Dracula” in 1897.

Before writing “Dracula”, Stoker met Armin Vambery, a Hungarian writer and travelers. Public opinion says that Dracula likely emerged from Vambery’s dark stories of the Carpathian Mountains. Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires that helped him to describe some visions about those times.

Stoker’s original research notes for the novel are kept by the Rosenbach Museum and Library from Philadelphia. A facsimile edition of the notes was created by Elizabeth Miller and Robert Eighteen-Bisang in 1998.

Also is interesting to know that Stoker was raised as a Protestant in the Church of Ireland. He was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party and took a keen interest in Irish affairs. He believed in progress and he believed in science and science-based medicine. Some Stoker novels represent early examples of science fiction, such as “The Lady of the Shroud”.

After suffering a number of strokes, Stoker died on 20 April 1912. He was cremated, and his ashes were placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium in north London. Many years after his death, he continued to live in his novels and in every heart which read and appreciated his writer work. In our days, Stoker’s stories are included in the categories of “horror fiction”, “romanticized Gothic” stories, and “melodrama”. The novels are classified close to other “works of popular fiction”, such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.

The Snagov Monastery, the resting place of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad Dracula, is one of the most important historical places in Romania, built on the Snagov island located in the north part of Snagov Lake. The building was founded by Mircea cel Batran, Vlad Dracula’s grandfather, in 1408 and rebuilt by his nephew and Mircea Ciobanu. The monastery is known by its byzantine style with Romanian traditional decorative elements that delights every eye.

One of the most remarkable rooms inside of the monastery is the prison for traitors and thieves, built by the one and only Vlad the Impaler, the underwater tunnel for retreat during the wars and the great bell which is made of massive brick.

Also, citizens say that the place where the monastery is built, is haunted by thousand souls of soldiers who died during wars led by Constantin Brancoveanu, Prince of Wallachia between 1688 and 1714, Matei Basarab, Prince of Wallachia a between 1632 and 1654, and Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia three times between 1448 and his death in 1477. The paintings were restored just once, in 1815 by Gheorghe Zugravu, and all travelers have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the original medieval Romanian culture.

At Snagov Monastery, tourists can recreate from all daily routine and taste the smell of first books printed in Romanian language, cheers to Constantin Brancoveanu. The monastery has activated as typography between 1700 and 1714 and the first book printed here is „Orânduiala slujbei Sfinților Constantin și Elena”.

The Snagov Monastery tour is ended with an interesting legend about  the tomb of the most powerful reigning of Vlad Tepes,  which was killed in a battle with the Turks, in 1476,  and his body was  buried here. If tourists want to visit the historical buildings and to feel the age of wars on Romanian territory, this tour is dedicated to them. In addition to superb views, you can discover the real vampire hunters through the time lived by Vlad Dracula and present.

Besides this, you can make a detour to visit the marvelous Snagov Lake (Snagov Lac) that opens more nature views. The town is very popular because of its calmness. Likewise in Snagov Town you can admire rare species of fauna and flora in natural reservation that is located in Ilfov, near Snagov Village.

If you asked yourself how to get to Snagov Monastery from Bucharest you should know that near Snagov Monastery you will find the beautiful capital of Romania, Bucharest that is well-known by its second name “Little Paris”, according to its elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite.

The Poenari Citadel is located in Arges County, 4 kilometers away from the Vidraru Barrage and the Transfagarasan road. It is a ruined castle built at a height of 860 meters, on a cliff of the Cetatea Mountain. The Poenari Citadel is directly connected to the renowned Vlad the Impaler, sometimes even called Vlad’s Castle, and it has been under a great deal of touristic and media attention.

The building dates back from the 13th century and it was under the possession of the Black King. The Citadel of Poenari underwent a series of name and residents changes throughout the years, only to be thereafter abandoned. However, in the 15th century, it was brought back to life, this time by Vlad the Impaler. After his death in 1476, Poenari continued to be in use, but along the 16th century it was left again in ruins.

Besides its connections to Vlad Dracul, the Poenari Citadel has another unique trait. The way tourists can reach it is by going up 1480 stairs. They were built in 1970, when Romanians decided to make the edifice more touristic and to provide an easier access to visitors.

In the present day, the fortress is missing one of its parts due to an earthquake.

Despite this, in the older days, the Poenari Citadel’s position was considered anything but random. The size and the location of this fortress would make it very hard for enemies to try and take control of the Citadel. This defence potential was obviously remarked by the Wallachian Vlad the Impaler, this being the reason he reconditioned it.

Under the reign of Dracula, the Poenari Citadel bears a few legends. One of them implies Vlad’s most known “hobby”, impaling disorderly men. Seeing as some Boyars were plotting against him, Vlad wanted to punish them by making them work for the restoration of Poenari. For this, he impaled the older men on the day of Easter, scaring the younger Boyars to death. So, the Boyars swore to obey the Impaler, who immediately ordered to begin the works on Poenari. It is believed that these Boyars even died from exhaustion, after having worked so hard on the Citadel.

The other legend is that of the Lady’s River, which says that the first wife of Dracula committed suicide here at Poenari, as she was terrified that she would be kidnapped during a Turks’ invasion. Legend says that her body crashed onto the rocks of a river. As the river became red due to her blood, it is now called the Lady’s River.

The legends that adorn the Citadel of Poenari, along with the splendor of the surrounding landscape incite the tourist to a hike and a grasp of Vlad the Impaler’s life.

Today’s fast-changing, and travelers have amazing travel opportunities. Romania is one of the most beautiful country located in Southeastern Europe, and charms millions of travelers year by year with its picturesque landscapes, unique culture and historically noteworthy landmarks. Whether you’re looking for climbing mountains, balneary resorts or Black Sea coast to relax, Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation to taste the best fish recipes,  forests and waterfalls to discover, Romania offers each person the opportunity to enjoy life.

Danube Delta

Romania’s history is very rich. Over the years, the country was part of the Sovietic Bloc, a group of communist states. In Romania, the Revolution from 1989 marked the end of the Communist regime of president Nicolae Ceausescu.

Transylvania is the most known region, together with vampire Dracula, a fictional character from this area. From myths, legends and fairy tales to folklore, these ancient tales reappear in our modern world, and travelers are looking for them. Romania is the perfect place for this kind of adventure, offering some of the most astonishing castles, fortresses and palaces built hundreds of years ago.

And because it’s not enough to figure out how to start your vacation in Romania, we will try helping you decide what to visit during your trip or holiday.

  1. Palace of the Parliament – Bucharest

The Palace of the Parliament, also known as the People’s House, is the world’s second largest administrative building, after the Pentagon from situated in Washington D.C. The Palace has around 330,000 m2 and is one of Romania’s biggest attraction. Also, according to the specialists, the building is 2% larger related to the Pyramid of Keops from Egypt and can be seen from the moon.

After the earthquake from 1977, Romania’s dictator – Nicolae Ceausescu was devastated by the effects and started to demolish the fading capital and rebuild it in his own revelation. Therefore, this building Nicolae Ceausescu’s effort to reshape Bucharest by building a series of extraordinary constructions meant to evidence to the world how rich and influential was the Socialist Republic of Romania. The construction of the building started around six years after the earthquake, and by the time of the Romanian Revolution from 1989, the edifice wasn’t yet finished. The building development involved 400 architects and, coordinated by a young woman called Anca Petrescu.

Palace of Parliament - Peoples House1

After 1989, no one had the wish to finish this enormous building, a symbol of president Ceausescu’s autocracy and of the excessive lives lead by the former communist leaders.

Travelers are able to visit the Palace daily between 10 am and 4 pm (from November to February) and 9 am to 5 pm (from March to October) and the fees depend on the tour’s type.

Nearby attractions: Sinaia (123 km), Brasov (170 km), Bran Castle (180 km),  Black Sea Coast (around 230 km), Danube Delta Biosphere Reservation (around 300 km).

  1. Turda Salt Mine

Turda Salt Mine is a real museum of salt mining in Transylvania. The growing number of visitors arriving from each corner of the world to visit the mine are a validation of interest and historical importance.

The improvement of the salt mine was made between years 2008-2010. Thus, some criteria of modern visiting, were built-in. The developers installed an elevator, boats, recreation spaces, mini golf ground, billiard and tennis tables, bowling runway and one unique amphitheater.

Turda Salt Mine is one of Romania’s treasure, and probably is one of the most irreplaceable place to see.

Tourists can visit Turda Salt Mine individually, or in organized groups, with a dedicated guide.

Nearby attractions: Cluj-Napoca (35 km), Alba-Iulia (70 km), Sighisoara (120 km), Sibiu (140 km), Maramures County (200 km), Oradea and Baile Felix Spa Resorts (200 km).

  1. Dracula’s Castle

Dracula is probably the most known character from Romania, together with dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, condemned to death by a military court on several charges against Romanian people, like genocide.

Dracula’s Castle, also known as Bran Castle is an exquisite, 13th-century palace near Brasov in Transylvania. Every year, many tourists come to Transylvania on October 31, the night of Halloween, to taste an inimitable experience at Dracula’s Castle, which inspired the myth of this blood-thirsty vampire. Dracula is a fictional character created by Bram Stocker based on a real person, known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Tepes. Vlad was a ruler of Transylvania and a dictator with an incredible hunger for cruelty. His blood-thirst acted a muse for Bram Stoker’s vampire called Dracula, in the novel engraved 450 years later.

One of his most common punishment was hanging, which was doubtless an horrible and cruel habit. In Romania, travelers can find a collection of castles known as places where “real Dracula” lived, but Bran Castle is the most famous one, with a frightening profile, suspended on a cliff-near the Bran Pass.

Don’t lose the opportunity to have fun and discover all the dark sides of Count Dracula. Tourists can visit the castle daily between 9 am/12 pm and 4 pm (from October to March) and 9 am/12 pm and 6 pm (from April to September).

Nearby attractions: Rasnov Fortress (11 km), ski resorts in Poiana Brasov (22 km) and Predeal (33 km), Brasov (30 km); Peles Castle (52 km); the medieval cities of Sighisoara (140 km) and Sibiu (170 km); Bucharest, the capital of Romania (190 km), Cluj-Napoca (315 km).

  1. Peles Castle

Peles Castle is the most royal residence from Romania, being located in Sinaia, on Peles brook valley. The former Romanian royal family, a branch of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty, lead Romania until 1947, when the last king, Michael I of Romania, was determined to abdicate. In 2007, Crown Princess Margareta, the eldest daughter of Michael I of Romania was named heir plausible to the throne, but their power is not so strong as it used to be a century ago.

Peles Castle

Built between 1873 and 1914, the edifice was made by King Carol I, under whose reign Romania gained its freedom. He fell in love with glorious Carpathian Mountains decor. As an interesting fact, we mention that Pele Castle became the world’s first castle fully powered by locally created electricity. The beautiful castle served as the summer house of the royal family until 1947. All 160 rooms are decorated with fine and deluxe samples of European art, Murano crystal chandeliers, German stained-glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls.

King Ferdinand, succeeded Carol I build Pelisor Castle, an art nouveau-style edifice. Pelisor has 70 rooms and contains a unique collection of turn-of-the-century Viennese furniture and Tiffany and Lalique glassware.

If you are interested to find more about the Romanian royal family, this is the perfect place for you.

Nearby attractions: Rasnov Fortress (40 km); Bran Castle (52 km); Brasov (50 km); the ski resorts in Predeal (23 km) and Poiana Brasov (50 km); Bucharest (130 km); the medieval cities of Sighisoara (165 km) and Sibiu (200 km).

  

  1. Wooden Churches of Maramures

The Wooden Churches of Maramures can be discovered in the Maramures region, located in the northern part of Transylvania, Romania. This churches are amazing examples of well-preserved religious style that appeared from the Orthodox traditions and Gothic grace influences. Romania is one of the most religious states from the European Union, and most citizens are Christian. According to the 2011 census, around 80% of the country’s population is Eastern Orthodox.

Barsana Monastery

Maramures region is one of the most known from Romania, and has independent traditions since Middle Ages, with beautiful churches, colorful and unique costumes, traditional dances and lifestyle.

The Wooden Churches of Maramures have a beautiful history, and they are a response to the exclusion against the creation of stone Orthodox churches by the Catholic authorities. The churches from Maramures are generally painted by local artistes, showing a high level of creative maturity and dexterity skills. Since 1999, eight out of the almost 100 ancient wooden churches are registred as UNESCO World Heritage Site: Barsana, Budesti, Desesti, Ieud, Plopis, Poienile Izei, Rogo and Surdesti. Today, Romania has seven sites recognized by UNESCO World Heritage.

Nearby attractions: Cluj-Napoca, Painted Monasteries of Bucovina.

  1. Painted Monasteries of Bucovina

The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina are well-known because of their exceptionality and creative value. The notable number of churches and monateries found in Bucovina, have been well-preserved and passed down from ancient times. All of them were painted in the exterior and each artist interpreted the biblical scenes in a different way, making them unique and inimitable.

Eight of the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina are parte of UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993:  Arbore, Humor, Moldovita, Patrauti, Probota, St. John the New Suceava, Sucevita and Voronet. Most of the monsteries were created as family funeral places of leaders and nobilities. Today, the monasteries are occupied by Orthodox nuns and/ or monks who follow the Christian traditions.

Visiting the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina is an unique experience.

Nearby attractions: Wooden Churches of Maramures.

  1. Merry Cemetery from Sapanta

The Merry Cemetery Sapanta is a unique travel destination. Located in the beautiful village of Sapanta, Maramures County, Romania, has colorful tombstones with exclusive pictures describing the people who are buried there, as well as passages from their lives, told in an ingeniously humorous manner. Presented in bright, joyful pictures and marked with rhymes are the stories of nearly everyone who has died of the village Sapanta, from Maramures County. Exemplified crosses portray militarists being executed and a towns person being hit several disease. Some of the epigraphs expose a shocking level of dirty reality with dark humor, like the following one:

“Underneath this heavy cross; Lies my poor mother-in-law; Three more days she would have live; I would lay, and she would read; You, who here are passing by; Not to wake her up please try; For if she comes home; She’ll bite my head off; But I shall behave so; As not to bring her forth; Those of you who read this; Do not do as I did; And find yourselves a good mother-in-law; To live with her in peace. Lived 82 years. Died in 1969”.

In spite of the dark comedy and humor, no one has ever criticized about the work of the artists and the Merry Cemetery is visited everyday by people from all over the world, curious to find the secrets of the locals.

Nearby attractions: Mara (45 km), Cluj-Napoca (around 200 km), Wooden Churches of Maramures, Painted Monasteries of Bucovina.

  1. Danube Delta 

The Danube Delta is comprised of a complex network of waterways and lakes separated between the three main estuary channels of the Danube: Chilia Arm, Sulina Arm, Sfantu Gheoghe Arm.

This area of floating reed islands, forests, meadows and sand dunes covers 3,000 square miles and is home to a captivating combination of cultures and individuals as well as a massive collection of wildlife. Situated at the tip of the three channels, Tulcea makes a great preliminary point for discovering the Danube Delta.

Danube Delta

This is the perfect place for fishing and bird watching. Also, if you love fish this is the perfect place to try different types, prepared different from one place to another.

Tourists need travel permits to enter the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. Permits are included in most of the tours developed by the Romanian travel agencies.

Nearby attractions: Black Sea Coast (around 130 km), Bucharest (around 300 km).