Eastern Europe remains something of an enigma to many travelers from the west. But it is here that you’ll find some of the world’s most intriguing, beautiful, and welcoming countries. One of the hidden gems of Eastern Europe is Romania, a small country straddling the Black Sea that shares borders with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Moldova.
Several notable people have come from this mesmerizing country, including an array of prolific scientists and the very man who inspired one of the greatest literary legends of all time. Keep reading to find out 10 fascinating facts about Romania.
11 Romanian Is The Only Romance Language In Eastern Europe
Many people traveling to Romania for the first time expect Romanian to be similar to the Slavic languages, given its eastern European location. But in reality, Romanian is one of the romance languages. Originating from Latin, which was spoken in the Western Roman Empire, it shares similarities with Spanish, Italian, and French.
According to Romania Tourism, Romanian is 1,700 years old. It is currently spoken by 25 million people around the world and is one of the five languages used during religious services in Mount Athos, Greece.
10 Pastrami Originates From Romania
A lot of groups claim the beloved pastrami deli meat as their own, but there is evidence to suggest that it actually has its origins in Romania. The Romanian writer Marcus Ravage documented that when he arrived in New York City in 1900, he was pleased to see Romanian delicatessens selling “goose-pastrama.” This was brought to America by Jewish immigrants who settled in Little Romania.
Eventually, pastrama came to be made with beef instead of goose and was labeled pastrami instead. Little Romania was no more by the 1940s, but the pastrami tradition definitely lives on.
9 Romania Is Home To The World’s Best Driving Road
If you appreciate a good drive with gorgeous scenery, then Romania is probably the country you should be visiting next. The Transfagarasan Road in the country is officially known as the world’s best driving road, a title awarded by the host of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson.
The Culture Trip points out that the road passes through the Fagaras Mountains, boasting some truly spectacular vistas. Transfagarasan is more than 56 miles long and takes you up the mountains to about 7,000 feet. It’s definitely worth visiting Romania just to take a spin on the road!
8 There Are Two Holidays Dedicated To Women In Romania
Romanian women are honored with two holidays out of the year that are dedicated just to them. The first comes on March 1 and dates back to Roman times. Men and boys gift female friends, colleagues, and family members a Martisor, which is a red and white lace trinket that symbolizes love and honesty. This is to show their admiration, respect, and friendship.
Women’s Day comes just a week later on March 8. This is similar to Mother’s Day, except all adult women are celebrated rather than just mothers.
7 The Real Dracula Hailed From Romania
Okay, so maybe vampires are a myth. But the legend of Dracula is said to have been based on a real person. Vlad Draculea, sometimes known as Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler, was a real Romanian prince. He is respected in Romania for his military leadership and defending his people against the invading Ottoman Turks in the 1400s.
There are several rumors as to where the connection between the prince and the legend of Count Dracula came from. Some say Vlad had a taste for blood, often punishing people in cruel ways and then dunking his bread in the remnants.
6 It’s Home To Some World-Famous Churches
Romania is not only home to areas of wondrous natural beauty, but it is also a land full of stunning architecture and charming buildings. It is known for its old churches, some of which are famous all over the world. One of these is the tallest wooden church in Europe, located in Sapanta-Peri.
You’ll also find the Black Church of Brasov in Romania, which is the largest Gothic church standing between Vienna and Istanbul. It takes its name from its dark walls, which were smudged with smoke during a fire in the 1600s.
5 You Can Visit Underground Amusement Park In Romania
Romania isn’t typically the first country you think of when amusement parks come to mind. Few people know that the country actually has its own underground amusement park and museum located in Salina Turda, a former salt mine.
Dating back to the 17thcentury, the mine has an underground salt lake (with amazing health benefits) which visitors can explore while in the park. There’s also a Ferris wheel, a bowling alley and an amphitheater concert venue which often hosts live performances 400 feet beneath the surface of the earth.
3 One Of The Museums Contains An Entire Village
The ASTRA Museum of Folk Civilisation in Romania has to be one of the most fascinating in the world. The open-air museum is located next to Sibiu, a city in Transylvania. Here you’ll find an entire village containing more than 300 traditional houses, in addition to other buildings. You’ll really feel like you’ve landed in the past as you wander through stables and barns, windmills, watermills, and even presses.
RELATED: 10 Strangest Museums In The World
Founded in 1963, ASTRA is the second-largest open-air museum on the planet. It is a must for any history buff!
2 We Have Romania To Thank For Coffee Machines
If you’re a coffee drinker, there’s a good chance you’ve had Illy coffee before. What most people don’t know is that the beloved brand was actually established by a Romanian. Francesco Illy was born in Timisoara, leaving Romania to relocate to Italy. It was here that he eventually opened his coffee roasting company, Illy Caffe.
Illy is credited with creating the automatic steam espresso coffee machine. So if it weren’t for Illy and his homeland of Romania, who knows what kind of coffee we’d be drinking today!
1 And Several Other Inventions
We have to thank Romania for than just coffee. Several inventors, engineers, and scientists who have changed the world in some way came from Romania, and without them, our lives would probably look quite different.
Nicolae Constantin Paulescu, born in Romania, was the first to discover insulin—a crucial finding in the medical field. Other great thinkers hailing from Romania invented the Hyper CD-ROM, the first car with the wheels inside the aerodynamic line, the fountain the pen, the entire study of biospeleology, and the parachuted chair. As Travel Awaypoints out, there were also several Romanians who made advancements in aviation and aerodynamics.