When traveling abroad which I do frequently I find people perplexed as to why I live in Romania. I am constantly asked: Why do you live in Romania? How do you manage to live in Romania?
Sadly, Romania is badly marketed and this is due to the lack of understanding in marketing by the authorities, for contrary to popular belief, Romania is an amazing country and for a number of reasons.
From a heritage point of view, due to the multicultural history, Romania is a wealth of diverse culture from Hungarian to German (Saxon), Rroma to Romanian. What is influenced most by this multicultural mix is the architecture, as well as village traditions, which thankfully have been passed down from generation to generation.
The traditional farming techniques still used today have preserved the farming plots, creating one of the richest soils to be found in Europe, while the rich meadows are a fascination for ecologists from places as far away as Australia.
There is nothing more charming than finding oneself in a village when the cows come home. This is a daily ritual when the cows are driven down from the hills to return to their homes in the evening. You suddenly come upon a herd of cows and buffalos known as bivol. The cows are relaxed and sort of chew their way down the main street, not the least bit bothered by cars caught up in this activity. Eventually, each cow turns and wonders into the gate of her house and down into the barn waiting to be milked. The beauty of this picture is that the cows are not guided, but simply know which gate to enter. Due to the rich content of soil and lack of pesticides, the vegetable and fruit production is superb and full of flavor, something rare in Europe today.
The diverse landscape found in Romania is a really spectacular, from the Danube Delta to the Apuseni Mountain range; there is something to be seen for all the family. The exotic range of birds to be found in the Delta is a paradise for ornithologists. For anyone interested in a walking or climbing holiday we have challenges of every level, plus spectacular unexplored regions waiting to be visited.
Wildlife flourishes in Romania: wolves or brown bear sanctuaries, some ready and waiting visitors. Deer, wild boar, eagles and hawks can be found throughout the country. In the villages, animals work alongside locals and are the norm for the working life of a village.
Another fascination is the stork population that nests annually on electric poles in each village. Every village takes great pride in their own stork family. As you drive through a village, you will come across these giant nests with little white heads bobbing up and down waiting for the adults to bring them food. Observing the flying lessons is a treat if one has the patience, as it builds up over a couple of weeks, until the chicks’ wings are strong enough for the long haul flight towards Africa for the winter.
If you go to any vegetable market in Romania, you are in for a spectacular display of vegetables, fruits, honey, smoked meats and fish. Alongside these products you will find delicious jams and pickled products specific to each region, made after traditional recipes.
The wine region has developed over the past 10 years producing some remarkable types that can be found in the UK., Germany, while some are even served on airlines today. Some of my favorites are the Stirbey series of whites and roses produced with Austrian investment. Prahova Valley or Halewood produces fine reds and received UK investment. Two other favorites of mine are VineArte and SERVE. I heartily recommend all of them.
Now we come to the Romanian people. I can only tell you that I have had the good fortune to work alongside a team of 20 plus young Hungarian and Romanians, each devoted and committed to their roles in the community. If you are one of those who have judged by negative media coverage, then you are most certainly mistaken.
Silicone Valley has over 10.000 Romanians heading up software and hardware projects. Cluj-Napoca alone has over 10.000 Romanians working for American companies in the IT field.
Some of the Romanian contributions to science and the arts read as follows:
Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957) – famous modern sculptor
Henri Coanda (1886–1972) – inventor and aerodynamics pioneer
Nicolae Iorga (1871–1940) – historian, writer, and politician
George Enescu (1881–1955) – composer and musician
Nicolae Titulescu (1882–1941) – diplomat, president of the League of Nations
Ferdinand I of Romania (1865–1927) – King of Romania during World War I
Mihai I (born 1921) – last King of Romania before communist period
Aurel Vlaicu (1882–1913) – inventor, aviation pioneer
Traian Vuia (1872–1950) – inventor, aviation pioneer
Lucian Blaga (1895–1961) – poet, playwright, and philosopher
George Emil Palade (1912–2008) – cell biologist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine (1974)
Ana Aslan (1897–1988) – biologist, physician and inventor, the author of essential research in gerontology
Gheorghe Zamfir (born 1941) – musician, pan flute player
Elisabeta Rizea (1912–2003) – anti-communist partisan, victim of the communist
Emil Racoviță (1868–1947) – biologist, speleologist and explorer of Antarctica
Victor Babeș (1854–1926) – biologist and early bacteriologist, one of the founders of microbiology
Arsenie Boca (1910–1989) – Eastern Orthodox priest and theologian, victim of the communist regime
Grigore Moisil (1906–1973) – mathematician and computing pioneer
Nicolae Steinhardt (1912–1989) – writer
Anghel Saligny (1854–1925) – engineer
Ivan Patzaichin (born 1949) – flatwater canoer who won seven Olympic medals
Maria Tănase (1913–1963) – traditional and popular music singer
Ciprian Porumbescu (1853–1883) – composer
Constantin Noica (1909–1987) – philosopher and essayist
And some of my favorite people in Romania (or born here) today are:
HRH The Prince of Wales - also in love with this country
HRH Crown Princess Margarita
HRH Prince Radu
Jessica Douglas Home
Stan and Camilla Platt
And some good readings I warmly recommend:
Michael Jacobs "Memories of Transylvania and other Writers"
Jessica Douglas Home "Once Upon a Time"
Nick Hunt "Walking the Woods and the Water"
William Blacker "Along the Enchanted Way"
Miklos Banffy trilogy "The Writing on the Wall"
Paddy Leigh Fermor "Between the Woods and the Water"
I recommend the below places not only for the amazing landscapes, but also for their owners’ commitment to preserve and cherish autochthonous values.
The Ratiu Guest House in Turda
The Ratiu Guest House functions as a sustainability project for the Ratiu Democracy Center in Turda, Transylvania. The place has a rich history and is tightly connected to the history of one of the most loved noble families in the region - the Ratius.
Copsa Mare Guesthouses
Copșa Mare Guesthouses is located in the commune of Biertan (often referred to by the Italians as the Tuscany of Transylvania); with its gentle rolling hills and terraced landscape, the commune has some of the finest historical fortified churches in Romania. The commune consist of three villages: Richis, Biertan and Copșa Mare, set in the lush landscape of forest. One may prefer to explore the villages on bike, horse back or by walking. I am particularly fond of the Copșa Mare Guesthouses, as they pay attention to detail and comfort for their western clientele, without loosing the local charm. The guest houses owned by the Bassetti family are one of the finer examples of sustainable tourism in Romania today. At only 80 kilometers from Sibiu (The International airport), 30 minutes from Sighișoara or two hours from Bucharest by car, you will be both surprised and delighted by the setting.
Read more about Copsa Mare Guesthouses here.
Golescu Villa and Garden in Câmpulung-Muscel
Golescu Villa belonged to one of the oldest families in Wallachia, whose history dates back to the 15th century. Irina and Elena Golescu, the last descendants of the family, donated the house to Pro Patrimonio Foundation with everything that was inside: period furniture, library, carpets and numerous other objects. Built in 1910 by their father in neo-Romanian style, typical for this region, the property comprises the villa and a small annex. Easy to see on the hill above the town, the buildings are surrounded by a wonderful park on several levels, where rare or exotic trees were brought and planted by the owner of the house, Vasile Golescu.
The result of the 5-year long restoration, achieved with the generous help of Lafarge Romcim, is a combination of Golescu memorial house, with most of the furniture restored, and a comfortable centrally heated guest house, consisting of entrance hall, drawing room, dining room, kitchen, 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. A centre for seminars, lectures and other cultural events is also available here.
In restoring the property, Pro Patrimonio's intentions from the very beginning have been to involve the local population, work with schools and the local media, and co-operate with the town council. A Câmpulung branch of Pro Patrimonio, which is housed on the ground floor of the annex, was established to encourage membership and devise a programme which would guide people towards a greater understanding and appreciation of their architectural heritage. The villa has regularly hosted open days and garden parties, and events for school children have included imaginative projects like “The Story of My Tree”, where each child chose a tree in the garden and observed its development over a whole year.
Read more about Golescu Villa and Garden in Câmpulung-Muscel here.
Satul Prunilor Villas
Satul Prunilor Villas were built with you in mind. They welcome family and friends and you will find that they have gone that extra mile to see that you and your children (if you have children) will have indoor and outdoor activities while you are staying with them. They respect and welcome persons who are physically challenged. It is clear that the team at Satul Prunilor want you to feel this is your home away from home.
Satul Prunilor also believes in sustainable development in the local community. As a member of the commune, they employ local people, display local products and will be supporting certified small scale, local producers by using their products in our restaurant, planned with a Slow Food theme of traditional recipes from the area.
Satul Prunilor Villas is a compound of 7 villas with a surface area each of 250 square meteres, in a setting of over 6 hectares of woodland in the commune of Pietrosita. The management of Satul Prunilor takes great pride in the standard of accommodations that they offer to their clients.
Read more about Satul Prunilor Villas here.
The Zabola Estate
The 34 hectare park, with lakes and ponds, situated at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains offers a splendid view both to the mountains and the "Háromszék" ("Three chairs") Highland. The park was first designed to have its current shape at the beginning of the 18th century, and was then adapted and modified by each following generation. Its present form was created by the renowned French garden designer Achille Duchene.
The estate owns forests, agricultural land and buildings, spread over the county and other parts of Transylvania. The estate is owned by the Mikes family, who work as a group to bring the parkland and estate back to life. The setting is truly dramatic and the buildings magnificent; I strongly recommend a visit any season.
Read more about The Zabola Estate here.
Kalnoky’s Guest Houses
Transylvania’s first authentic heritage accommodation introduces you to the marvels of living history and nature itself. The art historian and ecologist guides who take care of you during the day are offered y discreet and helpful staff at the estate.
The entire staff consists of locals; the Kálnoky's have been documented here since 1252 AD and believe it would make little sense to import expatriates into the ancient communities our very aim is to preserve it.
All accommodations have been caringly restored and furnished with authentic antiques and textiles from the region. Their philosophy of restoring is characterized by utter respect for the textures and atmospheres of ancient buildings. The way they restore derelict houses is barely noticeable, it would rather seem that the buildings have aged gently and gradually, without recent renovation.
Read more about Kalnoky’s Guest Houses here.
Old farmhouse in Viscri
Pro Patrimonio Foundation bought and restored an old farmhouse in Viscri, a typical example of Saxon rural architecture. The property consists of two buildings dating from the early nineteenth century. In the rear courtyard there is another barn, stables and a small vegetable garden. The house is built of brick and lime mortar with ornamental motifs on its frontage, ochre painted walls covered with handmade tiles, and forms, along with its neighbours, a fine group of well preserved houses in a traditional architectural style. The house has been completely restored and furnished in traditional style, and is today ready to receive guests.
Read more about Pro Patrimonio projects here.
Apafi Manor in Malancrav
The Manor was built by the Hungarian princely family, Apafi, probably in the 15th century. It is most unusual to have a manor house in a Saxon village - Mãlâncrav and only two or three other villages were governed by Hungarians. Archaeology reveals that the Manor House was built in several phases. There was first a house on the site in the 15th century. The present house was built, in its original form, by (possibly before) the 17th century. It appears to have been rebuilt in the 18th-19th centuries. Its restoration is one of the most recent projects of The Mihai Eminescu Trust, for which The Packard Humanities Institute in California provided much of the funding. The official re-opening of the Manor took place on October 1st 2007. It has 5 bedrooms (1 single and 4 double) with bathrooms en suite, a magnificent drawing room and a handsome library. It provides accommodation for up to 9 people.
Read more about the Mihai Eminescu Trust projects here.