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Romania: Why go?

 

Going back in Time RomaniaSeveral people have asked me, “Why did you go to Romania?”

 Good question.  Part was scheduling.  We had a commitment in Germany early in the month and a plan to go sailing with friends on the Dalmatian Coast the end of May and needed a destination in-between.

 Now, there are lots of places to visit in that part of the world, but for some strange reason Romania kept popping up on blogs, social media and and random web sites.  The  photos were  compelling.

Romania

Quaint Towns in Romania

The images of Transylvania and  Dracula  and preserved Saxon villages with eyebrow windows drew me in. It didn’t take long to locate a Romanian travel agent and hatch a plan.

Eye brow Windows Romania

 quaint Saxon town in Romania

I  really like the  idea of going places that have been closed to tourists.  Rampant tourism changes a place, making it more of a “vacation” than ‘travel.” Nothing wrong with that, but  I like to go to the places BEFORE  they are transformed and overrun with Starbucks.

Other travels to areas closed to tourists include  Cuba in January. (Posted four blogs on this trip).   And on the Croatian sailing trip.   I particularly enjoyed the island of Vis—long unavailable to travelers because it was a military base.

Fortified Churches Romania

 

Romania was basically closed to  tourists during the Soviet Union control.  When the Iron Curtain disintegrated, it became more open but still under a dictatorship. Now it is making its way back….getting the attention of a traveling world.

While progress is being made in Romania, I sometimes got the sense of time standing still.   The next few blog posts will be about  what we observed and experienced.

I was particularly intrigued with the Fortified Churches. In almost all cases, the church is situated in an easily defendable position, generally on a hilltop. The Transylvania region has more than 150 well preserved fortified churches out of an original 300 from the 13th to 16th centuries.

 

Fortified churches

 When our new friend at Atlantic Tours sent the first draft of an itinerary I noticed several Fortified Churches on the list, several of them World Heritage sites.

Hmmm. What’s the big deal?  What’s a Fortified Church?  Well, I learned it was significant.

Dotted all over the Romanian country side are churches with walls around them (many in process of being restored) because the church was the place where people went to be safe in case of an attack.

I found it interesting because in England, Ireland and may other countries, there are castles with walls around them (think moats) where people could retreat to be safe.

And for centuries, towns had walls around them.  In places like London and Paris, you can go look at remnants of these walls.  And in cities like Luca (Italy) or Dubrovnik (Croatia) you can walk on the city walls and imagine what life must have been like.

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 What’s interesting about Romania is that the walls surround the churches.  Tells ya something about the priorities.  The church was the center of village life. It’s where you went to be safe.

We particularly enjoyed climbing to the top of the  towers,  eating an authentic snack in a 1000 year old room in the wall of a fortified church and seeing where the villagers stored their smoked hams.  They were locked in a special upper level room during the week.  Once a week the townspeople could come and hack off a slice for their own use.

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Romania Fortified Church

Romania fortified church

Fortified church Romania

 Lest you think visiting the Fortified Churches was a big organized touristy deal,  it’s not.  In several cases, we meandered around what felt like an abandoned yard, knocked on a side door to find someone who would unlock the church.  No visible uniformed guards. No elaborate shops.  One had a small museum. It was an exception.

Fortified church in Romania

Romanian Fortified Church \ Romania

 

Going back in time

 Romanian Travel Agency

Our trip to Romania was organized by Atlantic Tours.   We were particularly pleased with Mr. Alin Belini, our online agent, at Atlantic.   He did a great job meeting our needs and interests.  We particularly enjoyed our guide: Mr. Sorin Bucsa who was extremely knowledgable, fun to be with and a good driver.

 

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

6 Comments
  1. posted by
    Joe Schmieder
    Sep 9, 2014 Reply

    Susan,
    Thanks for sharing your Romanian experience.
    In 1996 I went to Romania to deliver Hepatitis vaccine to a US family that was starting up the adoption program for Bethany Christian Services. It was quite an adventure as the country was coming out of the era of the “iron curtain” and Ceausescu dictatorship. The US family needed the vaccine serum to protect themselves as they worked in the decrepit orphanages that were rife with disease. I see from your pics that Romania still has a long way to go, but at least now they are living in a capitalist society and change is happening, albeit slowly.
    Your write-ups and pics are very interesting. Glad to receive them. Hope you, Jack and your family had a good summer. Joe

  2. posted by
    Kati Boland
    Sep 9, 2014 Reply

    Hi, Why Go? Agree with all of your reasons… great answer, and more great photos.
    Thanks. Kati

  3. posted by
    Marie Preston
    Sep 9, 2014 Reply

    Very interesting!!

  4. posted by
    Kathy
    Sep 13, 2014 Reply

    It looks like you had a wonderful trip back in time. What an amazingly historical place, riding in a horse drawn wagon and eating in a 1000 yr old room. Awesome photography!

  5. posted by
    Romania: Land of the Dracula Myth | DesignDestinations
    Nov 1, 2014 Reply

    […] To see more photos and read about Romania click on  Looking up in Romania or Bucharest: Drum Bun or Romania: Why Go? […]

  6. posted by
    Random Romania Experiences | DesignDestinations
    Dec 2, 2014 Reply

    […] have posted several blogs about Romania—Dracula, Bucharest, Looking up and Romania: Why Go?   Here’s one last go at describing my experience. The following are a few random observations […]

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