Romania’s rich history begins with the ancient Dacian Kingdom. Greek historian Herodotus was the first to mention the people of the region, naming them the Gatae. Eventually, the Geto-Dacians, as they were called, inhabited the land from the Northern Carpathian chain all the way to the Balkan Mountains.
Between 82 and 44 BC, the same time as the reign of Julius Caesar, King Burebista brought a time of great prosperity to the Geto-Dacian society. When he was overthrown by the aristocracy, the state weakened and lost some of its territory. It was not until 87 AD when Decebal came to the throne that the Geto-Dacian people reached their apex. However, by 106 AD, the people fell to the power of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Geto-Dacian society was no more.
As an imperial province of Rome, the state of Dacia became quite prosperous. It was during this period of Roman rule that the Romanian people surfaced. Influence of the Goths, Huns, Avars and Slavs changed the society a bit after the Roman Empire lost control, but by the late 500s, the Daco-Roman population had developed a sense of belonging, and were well on their way to developing their own culture and ethnicity.
Beginning in the 10th century, the area now known as Romania was split into three Romanian principalities: Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania. Over time, Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary, while Wallachia and Moldavia gave in to the pull of the Turks with the Ottoman Empire. When the Ottoman Empire took over most of Hungary, and Transylvania with it, all of Romania was under Turk control.
The Ottoman Empire maintained control over what is now Romania until 1848, when the three principalities announced their independence. While they were not successful in gaining independence at this time, the people of the three principalities recognized that they were actually unified in both culture and language.
In 1866, a coup brought Prince Carol I to the region as the Prince of the Principality of Romania. Eleven years later, Romania declared its independence from the Ottomans. They joined with the Russians in the Russo-Turkish War, and were recognized at the end of the war as an independent state. In 1881, Prince Carol I was named King of Romania, and the principality was raised to a kingdom. This ushered in a period of stability and growth, which lasted until the first Word War.
During World War I, Romania began with a position of neutrality. However, when the Allies promised them support for their unification with Austro-Hungarian controlled Transylvania, they entered the war on the Entente side, declaring war against Austria-Hungary. Sadly, Romania lost two-thirds of its land to the Central Powers during this time, and had to leave the war for a period of time. They were able to re-enter in 1918, and by the end of the war the weakening of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires led to a unified Romania.
Romania tried to remain neutral during World War II as well, but the Soviets threatened to invade, and the Romanians were forced to join the Axis powers. Over the course of the war, Romanian land was whittled away, and by the end of the war, only Transylvania was returned to Romania.
After World War II, the Communist party gained control of the government in Romania. This ushered in a period of Communism, but the socialist government of Romania quickly went away from the goals of the USSR. Over time, the people became discontent with the dictatorial leadership, and in 1989 they overthrew their government and set up the democracy it still enjoys today.
- Agriculture is the largest industry in Romania, and it is believed to employ about 29 percent of the population.
- Romania claims no official religion, but around 87 percent of the people claim to be Orthodox Christian. Churches are found in many communities.
- Romanian is the official language of the country, but because of the long history of Hungarian rule, Hungarian is also spoken, especially in Transylvania. French and English are taught in the schools as secondary languages.
- Because most of the people who live in Romania share a common culture, the national identity is very strong. The exception is the people of Transylvania, where the people sometimes view themselves as more Hungarian than Romanian.
- Count Dracula of Transylvania was a real and bloody knight who lived in Transylvania in the 1400s. His infamous treatment of his enemies inspired Irish writer Bram Stoker to write about the infamous man in his 1897 novel, but little about the true Dracula was reflected in the popular horror novel.
- In Romania, the mid-day meal is the largest one.
- The Danube, which serves as one of the borders of Romania, is the second biggest river on the Continent.
- The Romanian Leu gets its name from the two lions on the Austro-Hungarian currency that was once used in the country.
- Bran Castle – The legendary home of Dracula, this is one of Romania’s most popular locations. This 14th century castle did not house the real Dracula, but it is still interesting place to visit.
- Maramures – Step back in time with a visit to this village, where life seems to be stuck in the past and peasant culture thrives.
- Sighisoara – The birthplace of Vlad Tepes, or Dracula as he has been known throughout history, this medieval town is actually quite cheery with ringing church bells, cobble stone streets and brightly colored hillside houses.
- Bucharest – The city of Bucharest is like a living, breathing museum to the history of Romania. In addition, it has a thriving open-age bar scene and theater district.
- Timisoara – Visit the place where the revolution of 1989 got its start.
- Brasov – The community that houses the Bran Castle is also a great place to base a trip in the winter because of its close proximity to many excellent ski runs.
- Bucovina Monasteries – The storytelling murals in these monasteries bring thousands of guests each year, and some of the murals are actually on the outside of the structures, rather than the inside.
- Danube Delta – Europe’s largest river delta is a thriving area filled with fishing villages.
- Bicaz Gorges – This beautiful gorge is the perfect place to practice your mountain climbing skills.
- Prahova Valley – This is the place to visit if you love the outdoors. Skiing, mountain biking and hiking all offer different ways to explore the valley.
How Do You Get Cash
- Exchange bureaus or cash machines are the best resource to turn to when exchanging money. You do not want to change money on the street, which can lend itself to black market transactions. The airport charges very high rates, so avoid changing money there, too. Shop around for a fair rate if you use an exchange bureau.
- ATMs can be found in the cities to allow you to get cash. Look for these at the main banks and shopping centers, but get your cash before you head out to remote villages, as they will rarely have ATMs.
- Large hotels, stores in the cities and car rental companies will usually accept credit cards. Be sure you have a PIN when making credit card purchases, as this is typically required.
- Large banks and some hotels will cash traveler’s checks. If you travel outside of the city, however, you will not be able to use them. You would be better off carrying small bills of US dollars, because some retailers will exchange these.
- If you have an emergency or run out of money, look for a money transfer company like Western Union.
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