The Middle Ages

Waves of migrating peoples, including the Goths, Huns, Avars, Slavs, liulgars and Magyars (Hungarians), swept across this territory from I he 4th to the 10th centuries, each leaving their mark on local culture, language and the gene pool. Romanians survived in village communities and gradually assimilated the Slavs and other peoples who settled there. By the 10th century a fragmented feudal system ruled by a military class appeared. The Illustrated History of Romania (http domino .kappa.ro...

Around Bran

Bran's surrounding villages are enchanting in their rural attractiveness. Modern luxury villas abound but the wild landscape remains untouched. Traditional occupations such as sheep farming, wool weaving and cheese making are vital to the villagers' tlHllv survival. Agro-tourism is well developed iind linding a bed is no problem. Some 3km southeast along a dirt track limn Hran is the village of imon, from (uluie hiking trails lead into the Bucegi Mountains. Moieciu de Jos, 4km southwest of...

Bran

For many travellers, Bran, 30km soulli of Bra ov, is their first or only glimpse of rural Romania. This gives a skewed vision of reality not every village in the country shakes with the rumble of tourist buses and the rattle of Dracula key chains. Bran was the first part of Romania to be devel oped as a tourist hub in the 1960s. Many properties were never nationalised and cash was poured into the little village to make it the gold mine it is today. With its luxury villas kitted out with hot...

Iibiu

I mi might just start to believe Romanians' iliilui to an Italian heritage in this lively I'III century Saxon city. People seem to tnnle more here than in other parts of the niiinlry, in what is arguably Romania's prettiest and most pleasant city. The main lipdcstrian drag channels an almost Mediten anean flow of life at all hours, as party-jjiicrs, window shoppers and caf culturists Intersect even Bra ov seems cool and reti-i rut in comparison. Anyone who appreciates Saxon old towns will find...

Brav

After Bucharest, which most tourists visit by default, Bra ov is the most-visited city in Romania. It's already become the Prague of Romania, the Krakow of Transylvania, and attracts a bohemian crowd looking for cheap beer and cool hang-outs in a relaxed Saxon setting, hiking and sports enthusiasts wanting a comfy urban base for terrific nature excursions, and architecture and history buffs. They collide mainly in the compact old town, a blend of centuries-old Saxon houses and trendy chill-out...

Tourist Information

Incredibly, Bucharest still has no official tourist information office, so independent ventures fill the gap. Ask at the reception of big hotels, eg the Hilton, about free maps and city tours. Atlantic Tours (Map pp54-5 (Bj 212 9232 www.atlantic .ro Calea Victoriei 202 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-1pm Sat) Cultural Tourism Institute RoCultours (Map pp54-5 Ip 223 2619 www.rotravel.com cti Str Grigore Alexan-drescu 108 10am-6pm) Best of the bunch for cultural tours with personalised Itineraries. You must...

Around Brav

There are plenty of things to see and do around Bra ov. As well as the Saxon fortresses of Prejmer, Harman and Ra nov, Mill can easily visit the mountain resort ii I'olana Bra ov or the over-touted Bran Cinimer (Tartlau) is an unspoiled Saxon Iiiwii, first settled in 1240, with a picturesque IHIi century citadel (admission free Sl1am-5pm In III, 9am-3pm Sat, 11am-5pm Sun) surrounding 'In I Mh-century Gothic Evangelical church in ii- i 'litre. The fortress was the most powerful peasant fortress...

Getting There Away

International flights use Otopeni airpoi (g201 4050, 204 1423 Jos Bucure tl-Ploie ti), 17k north of Bucharest on the road to PIoie ll The airport has a lower-level floor for in ternal flight arrivals and departures. Arrivals use terminal A and departure leave from the newer terminal B. Th Otopeni airport information desk (IB)20 1000 www.otp-airport.ro) in terminal B is open 24 hours. Tarom (g 337 0220 Spl Independentei 17) has it head office at Otopeni airport (g 204 135S 201 4979). Romania's...

Predeal

It might well be Romania's highest skiing spot (1033m), but it's definitely not Ro mania's hottest. Unlike its sister resorls, Predeal, 25km south of Bra ov, has just a couple of slopes, which generally attract hordes of local kids on school camps. The resort has six runs overall, served by two chairlifts and two drag lifts. Just south ol the town is where Transylvania officially begins. There isn't much to attract the Climbers, hikers and lovers of grandiose scenery rave about Piatra Craiului...

One State

I n Transylvania the revolutionary spirit which gripped much of Europe in the years leading up to 1848 was entangled with the Hungarian revolution, which in Transylvania was led by Hungarian poet Sandor I'etofi. Hungarian revolutionaries sought an end to Habsburg domination of Hungary. Concurrently, Romanian revolutionaries demanded their political emancipation, equality and the abolition of serfdom. The Austrian authorities struck a deal with Transylvania's Romanians, promising them national...

Skiing Snwbarding

Romania is fast becoming recognised across Europe as one of the continent's best - and certainly among the most affordable - ski and snow-hoard centres. Each year sees more ski tourists arrive - and certainly not leave disappointed Thanks to the Carpathian Mountains, Romania has scenery that rivals Switzerland's and full-service resorts like Sinaia (pl07), Predeal (pl02) and Poiana Bra ov (p96), all near Bra ov. Sinaia offers the best downhill skiing, Poiana Bra ov is the best resort, and...

Transylvania

Measure the thickness of the walls of the Saxon fortified churches pi 49 near Sighijoara linusylvania - the word alone conjures up images of haunted castles, werewolves and umpires. There's Gothic galore here to keep visitors happy even if they're likely to leave without bite marks on their necks. The 14th-century castles at Ra nov and Bran, for exam- ili', lt ould be straight out of a Count Dracula movie. Yet its connection to a literary myth i I nit a small part of what makes Transylvania an...

Fortified saxon churches

The Tarnave plateau, which stretches for some 120km between Bra ov and Sighi oara, is traditionally known as Burzen Land Tara Barsei in Romanian . It was to this region that Saxons - mainly from the Franken region in western Germany - were invited by the Hungarian king Geza II in 1123. In the 15th and 16th centuries, following the increased threat of Turkish attacks on their towns, the settlements were strengthened with bulky city walls and fortified churches. Defensive towers in the churches...

Piata Revolutieimap p

The scene of Ceau escu's infamous last speech was on the balcony of the former Central Committee of the Communist Party building on 21 December 1989. Amid cries of'Down with Ceau escu', he escaped in a helicopter from the roof. Meanwhile, the crowds were riddled with bullets, and many died. On the front fa ade next to the entrance is a plaque dedicated to the 'young ar,d courageous people' who 'drove out the dictator', thus 'giving the Romanian people back their freedom and dignity'. A statue...

Szekely Land

The eastern realms of the Carpathians, known as Szekely Land Tara Secuilor in Romanian, Szekelyfold in Hungarian , are home to the Szekelys, ethnic Hungarians who live and communicate almost exclusively in their Hungarian dialect. Highly organised as a group, they publish their own local booklets and maps often with place names obstinately written in Hungarian only, making it very frustrating for foreigners to figure out where they are through all those consonants and have nourished a...

Targu mure

Targu Mure is a city with something up its sleeve. It's not much to look at, save for some splendid buildings in the centre, as ugly concrete structures scattered everywhere mar its appeal, and constant traffic gives it an unpleasant edge. However, scratch the surface and you'll find a particularly vibrant city with many funky places to hang out in for a day or two while you learn a few words of Hungarian. Traditionally a Hungarian stronghold, Targu Mure Marosvasarhely in Hungarian, Neumarkt in...

Todirescu Flower Reservation

The crowning glory of the Rarau Massif is the glorious Todirescu Flower Reservation Fanetele Montane de la Plaiul Todirescu 1933 , which sprawls for 44 hectares across Todirescu Mountain on the southern edge of the Slatioara Reservation. In July its meadows are ablaze with colour. Tulips, bluebells, daffodils, daisies, chrysanthemums and the poisonous omagul aconitum anthora are just some of the many floral delights found here. Frank Carter and David Turnock's Environmental Problems in...

Top Festivals

Every part of Romania has some kind of festival going on throughout the year, from international film festivals to country get-togethers where shepherds meet and locals sell their wares. Here are our favourites Snow Festival, April, Paltini pi 22 Juni Pageant, May, Brajov p91 Tanjaua de pe Mara Folk Festival, May, Hoteni p259 Bucharest Carnival, late May early June, Bucharest p68 Medieval Festival of the Arts, July, Sighijoara pi 25 International Folk Music and Dance Festival of Ethnic...

Sighiara

Of all the dreamy spots throughout Tran sylvania that make you feel like you're floating through another time and space, Sighi oara's citadel wins the time-travel cake by a long shot. Sighi oara Schassburg in German, Segesvar in Hungarian has an enchantingly preserved medieval citadel as its core, and is surrounded by beautiful hilly countryside. It tends to seduce visitors' hearts more than any other city in Transylvania. Nine towers remain along its intact city walls, which encircle sloping...

Buteni

Ten kilometres south of Predeal, along the main road running through the Pra-hova Valley between Bra ov and Sinaia, is Bu teni 885m , hovering beneath the mighty Caraiman 2384m and Co tila 2490m peaks to the west and Mt Zamora 1519m to the east. Between the Caraiman and Co tila peaks lie the highest conglomerate cliffs in Europe. Bu teni, coupled with Sinaia, is the main starting point for hikes into the Bucegi Mountains. Many fine trails are readily accessed from the top of the cable car. Rock...

Lalomiciora Monastery

Romania Climb Transfagara

Ifnot dubbed the Pearl of the Carpathians Itn nothing. Sinaia boasts not only Roman-hottest skiing, but also the country's iiliisl fabulous palace. Despite being Ro-lliiiilla's most popular ski resort, it has ifhilned an earthy elegance, a refusal to tin n into commercial kitsch. Yet it would lie hard to mess up such gorgeous sur-Inlindings at once floating at an altitude mI H00-930m in the narrow Prahova Valley iiul lying at the foot of the fir-clad Bucegi Mountains, Sinaia seems to have...