European in character, Romania is nonetheless infused with a large twist of fairytale. Filled with legends, castles, wolves and bears, its mountainous landscapes are dominated by the spectacular peaks of the Carpathians, which carve their way across the land, encircling the rolling Transylvanian Plateau in their embrace. Rural traditions are still very much a way of life here, with shepherd’s huts and haystacks dotting a landscape where the horse and cart is obviously the vehicle of choice. So close to home, and yet another world altogether, Romania is a real feast for the senses.
Away from the rural idyll and gastronomic bounty of the countryside, Romania’s dark history is a potent blend of myths and facts. The only Eastern Bloc country to end communism by executing its leader, this was also the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the brutal Wallachian prince on whom the legend of Dracula was loosely based. The influences of Romans, Saxons, Turks, Slavs, Gypsies and Hungarians have left in their wake some truly wondrous treasures including the medieval cities of Brasov and Sighisoara, as well as the spectacular painted monasteries of Bucovina,
For a truly unique insight into Romanian history and culture, why not stay with the widow and daughter of artist, Nicolae Popa. Part museum, part workshop, their home houses a beautiful collection of art, traditional costume, sculptures and artefacts that date from the Neolithic period to the time that Mr Popa spent in a communist jail.