Romania

Romania – home to one of my childhood heroes Nadia Comaneci and the famed Count Dracula. Being on the lookout for vampires and gymnasts made our time in the capital of Bucharest and the cold, still snowy mountains in the countryside fly by. We spent time in the Wallachia and Transylvania regions of Romania in March 2016 and wish we had more time to spend exploring the rest of the country.

But let’s talk about the food. Romania is a meat and potatoes type of country.  And by meat, I mostly mean pork.  The Romanians seem to delight in lots of hearty meals featuring sausages or pieces of pork wrapped in more pork.

We ended up in Romania during a chilly week, so the hot, hearty meals were perfect to keep up going and welcomed by most of our group.  Since I trend towards chicken or fish, I had to adapt and make the best of it to keep up my energy for sightseeing.

The one dish that I kept coming back to was ciorbâ- the Romanian word for sour soups.  This was my happy place.  Almost invariably, I picked a lemon soup, often with chicken, some of which reminded me of the avgolemono that I make at home.  The soup was usually a clear broth or had a thin, creamy color, as seen below, but did not contain any dairy.  It could be flavored with vegetables, chicken, fish or meat.

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The best part about the soup?  In addition to the temperature, Romanians turn up the heat by serving ciorbâ with hot peppers on the side.  Nothing wakes you up and clear our your stuffy nose like a bite into one of these hot accompaniments!

At some point, even Joe and our other travel companions got a little tired of meat and potatoes.  So we did what anyone would do – found the Italian restaurant!  Sometimes you just need a big green salad and a pizza margherita to break up the monotony of sampling the local cuisine.  Also, desert was amazing.

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What else did we do in Romania besides eat?  Well, here’s a picture of me on Strada Sforii in Brasov, a small town in the Transylvania region.  Strada Sforii – Rope Street – is arguably the narrowest street in Europe and certainly the winner of that badge in Romania.  The guidebook had me imagining a street so narrow I would have to turn sideways to squeeze through, but alas, I fit just fine.  It was only after we visited the famed road that I realized a horse and cart had to fit through here at one point too!

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We also took a tour of Peles Castle, which was by far the busiest destination we visited. Did you know that King Michael, forced to abdicate by the Communists in 1947, is still alive and lives in Switzerland?  His citizenship and family rights to Peles Castle and other properties were restored only in 1997 after the fall of the communist regime.  Despite the current political climate, the United States looks tame in our democratic ways.

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Peles Castle in Sinaia, Romania – part of the Wallachia region

And no trip to Romania is complete without a stop at medieval Bran Castle – home of Bram Stoker’s Transylvanian vampire king Dracula.  But here’s another fun fact:  Dracula is based on real-life figure Vlad the Impaler, who lived in the 1400s and was known as a ruthless ruler.  But Vlad never lived at Bran Castle, he was the ruler of the Wallachia region!  Irish writer Stoker didn’t actually go to Romania to do research for his 1897 novel, so the myth and the legend have been forever linked regardless of historical accuracy.

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Bran Castle in Bran, Romania – part of the Transylvania region

There are so many more beautiful places and fun things to do in Romania, but I will leave it to you to get on a plane and find out more for yourself!