Romania might not be kicking a ball around in the Euro finals but that doesn’t mean they’re a quiet lot. Today we turn over TraveLinkSites to our favourite bit of Romanian rough, Cezar from Imperator Travel. He’s a rowdy one for sure.
Here to talk us through travel tips on all his favourite Romanian destinations, have nothing to fear as unlike his country’s most famous son, Dracula, the only insatiable thirst Cezar has is for travel. Not blood.
1. Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Romania?
Well, my name is Cezar and I am Romanian. So, I will try to be as objective as possible. I was born with a love for travel (did it first time when I was 9-months old, but I don’t remember too many details). However, since then I travelled to 88 countries (including my own country). As I like to travel and also to share information, I opened my first travel blog in Romanian – in 2009. It has been quite successful, as it was voted the best Romanian travel blog at the Roblogfest competition (this is the most important blog competition in Romania). A month ago, I started the English travel blog which I hope will be equally successful.
Although many people in Romania believe I have only traveled abroad, surprise, surprise, I’ve been to quite a lot of places in my own country. Recently, I started a pretty popular project – asking my readers to vote for the “7 Wonders of Romania”. Up to now, I selected 15 nominations for the final round out of more than 125 proposals and I realized I’d already visited 12 of them
2. As a native, how would you best describe Romania for tourists?
I would use 2 words which I think describes Romania – wild and diverse.
Why wild? I don’t mean it is a crazy country, although traffic in Bucharest might suggest this. It is one of the countries in Europe which has preserved a lot of its wildlife and virgin areas. We have the largest population of bears and wolves in Europe (you can find 60% of Europe’s bear population and 35% of Europe’s wolves population here) and it is quite common to stumble upon boars, stags or bears while you are trekking.
Why diverse? As Romania was at the crossroads amongst the biggest civilization of Europe – we’ve had a fair amount of influences. Nowhere in Europe you can find all in the same country gothic architecture, centuries-old mosques, Russian-style churches and Byzantine architecture. In Romania, you can trek virgin mountains and swim in the sea, you can raft the rivers and dance until you drop in some of the best clubs on the continent, you can ride a 100 years old train, still working, or enjoy the 2nd fastest internet connection in the world (after Singapore).
On top of all that, fortunately for the tourists and unfortunately for our state budget, we do not have the hordes of tourists that some of our neighbors receive, so Romanians are not exactly fed up with foreign tourists like the residents of Prague are, for example
3. How much money can someone travel around Romania for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
As a backpacker, you might hit 30 euros per day if you Couchsurf or stay in hostel, eat in cheaper places (with a bit of self-catering – the country is full with supermarkets and open-air markets, some really conveniently located). For a bit more luxury (like guesthouses, better restaurants and a lot of beer), 50 euros per day should be pretty reasonable. Nomadic Matt did the maths of what he spent and ended up with more or less the same numbers. We also have the 4th cheapest beer in EU (after the Czech Republic – where beer is cheaper than water – then Slovakia and Bulgaria) and one of the best as well.
In principle, food is cheaper than in other European countries (especially if you go outside Bucharest and the beach resorts), bus travel is also affordable (train prices increased dramatically in the last 5 years). You pay around 40 lei (around 9 euros for around 300 km of bus travel).
4. What is the local cuisine like? Do you find yourself enjoying other cultures/countries food more?
Well, I love Romanian food… it is meaty, greasy and fatty… Cool, isn’t it? Salads and other vegetables are also in fashion as some Romanians have started to become more health conscious. As we are at the crossroads, our cuisine is often a fusion – from Viennese schnitzel to Turkish sarma, everything is acclimatized as Romanian cuisine. Add some “mamaliga” (porridge made of yellow maize, similar to Italian polenta) which is the only Romanian dish exported to other languages – you can find it in Ukrainean as well as “mamaliha”.
Second in popularity is obviously, Italian food – pizza, pasta, lasagna, tortellini, we do it better than Italians, however, probably not as tasty as the Croats. Otherwise, in the big cities, you can easily find also Chinese, French, Greek, Middle Eastern and other ethnic restaurants. You will not be hungry any moment in Romania, you might get fatter (McDonalds is also here too, don’t worry!).
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Romania and why?
Quite a lot… starting with the most intellectual (like theater festivals and classical music concerts) to some of the biggest folk and rock festivals this side of the Berlin Wall. However, probably, the most interesting ones are the traditional events. I would quote the “Girls Fair” held annually in the Western Mountains (Apuseni) where you actually, traditionally, get hold of a girl. The communities across Apuseni mountains were pretty dispersed into the mountains, so the young lads had pretty limited choices in finding a wife. So, each year, all the eligible bachelors and bachelorettes of the mountains meet at the Girls Fair to find a wife or husband. Prince Harry was in Romania recently, but he was not spotted at the event. Another nice one is in Brasov called – Junii (“the young ones”) where young boys parade on horses through the old city center dressed in traditional dress.
However, in summer, almost each city organizes huge open-air parties usually called “the days of City…” where you can see a mix of traditional and the hip Romanian bands.
If you are interested in something more exotic, I’ve seen quite a lot of interest from visitors wishing to attent Gypsy weddings. Yep, it is possible, there are travel agencies in Romania who can arrange for you to join a gypsy wedding in the countryside.
And last, but not the least, Lady Gaga will have a concert in August on the newly opened National Arena in Bucharest.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
I think people are quite open, hospitable and talkative. As we became more and more capitalistic, we became more and more individualistic and probably we are not as hospitable as we used to be 20 years ago. However, we continue to score high on the European hospitability score. Least favourite thing are probably the roads. We have a quite extensive network of roads, but very few highways. As Romanians are obsessed with their cars, and as the inter-city roads pass through villages, you cannot drive too fast, so a 180 km drive from Bucharest to Brasov can last for up to three or four hours (sometimes more, on summer Friday afternoons).
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
I don’t have too many posts about Romania, I’m usually blogging about other parts of the world. However, when I blog, I write about Romanian city breaks. The concept of city breaks started to be popular amongst middle class Romanians, especially after the explosion of low-cost airlines. However, when you pronounce city break, everyone thinks of Rome, Prague or Paris. And you can have excellent city breaks also in Brasov, Cluj-Napoca or Iasi!
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Romania without?
A good map or GPS and a travel guide. Romania is lacking the tourist information offices that you find in almost every railway station on the continent. So, if you arrive somewhere on your own, you will be a kind of lost. Yes, there will be quite a lot of helpful Romanians to give you directions, but you might want something more. Maps on the streets are quite scarce, but the streets are pretty well sign-posted, so you will find your way around.
9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Romania? What post had the most interest?
As I said, I blog mostly about travelling abroad. The most commented posts were as diverse as you how you can travel by train from Bucharest to Delhi or if it is possible to travel the world alone. However, my last project – “The 7 wonders of Romania” had a fantastic reception, with dozens of other blogs writing about it and many people nominating the best Romanian monuments (almost 2000 Facebook likes says something!).
From the English blog, it is too early. I need to start a real community around it and this takes time.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Romania what would it be?
Man, I started travelling in Romania when I was 9-months old so that’s difficult to say! I grew up here, I know the ins and outs!
Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to write a bit more about my country isn’t so well-known abroad. Trust me when I say that it fascinates most travelers!
I don’t want to praise it because I am Romanian, just have look at what guys like Matt or Earl wrote about it already. On top of that, Prince Charles is a pretty long term resident of Romania, so there might be something magical around, not only the girls!
Thanks to Cezar for these super tips and for sharing a bit more about his native country.
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