Hospitality has always been a cornerstone of Romanian culture. Praised since ancient times, when foreign guests were welcomed at the border with bread and salt – the most valuable gifts of the land – it is equally praised today. With the important disclaimer that hospitality is by no means confined to the countryside, here are some of the most beautiful Romanian villages to visit and experience authentic Romanian hospitality.
Reachable only by water, in this village you will never hear the honking of cars. Located in the far east of the country, in the Danube Delta, Sfântu Gheorghe offers what no other place in Romania can: truly wild beaches, the possibility to spot Europe’s last remaining wild horses, delicious local food, amazing sunsets, magic starry nights and all the peace and quiet you can possibly crave for.
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This is the place to try some of the best fish dishes in Romanian cuisine, such as storceag, as well as caviar and a soup made by fishermen with fresh water from the Danube. The locals will be happy to take you around the canals by boat and show you the delta’s incredible wildlife at leisure . Make sure not to miss the spot where the Danube merges with the Black Sea, and, if fond of movies, make sure to visit in August, when the crowds descend upon the village for Anonimul film festival!
Nestled among hills covered in vine, Tohani is a picturesque village where everything revolves around the love of wine-making. The vineyards located in this part of Romania, part of the Dealu Mare wine region, are world famous for their red wines.
The village of Tohani is also famous for a royal love story. This is where Prince Nicolae, son of Ferdinand I and Queen Marie of Romania, married the love of his life, commoner Ioana Doletti, losing thus his royal status.
A small village in the Western Carpathians, Gărâna is famous as the birthplace of one of the most enduring music festivals in Central and Eastern Europe. Gărâna Jazz Festival, the only open-air jazz festival on the continent, will hold its 20th edition this year.
Over the years, it has attracted an audience of over 70,000 who travel to the village to listen to names such as Eberhard Weber, John Abercrombie, Jan Garbarek, Mike Stern, Jean-Luc Ponty, Charles Lloyd, Stanley Jordan and more.
First mentioned in 1326, this village is located on Iza Valley, one of the most picturesque parts of Maramureş County, in the north of Romania.
This is one of the increasingly few places in the country where you can still see ordinary people wearing traditional folk attire, particularly on holidays. An area famed for its hearty local cuisine, it also attracts visitors to see the sculpted woodwork found on the magnificent gates of the village houses, as well as on the many wooden churches. Bârsana Monastery, one of the tallest wooden churches in the world, is popular with pilgrims as well as with tourists.
One of the most famous villages in Romania, Săpânta is home to the Merry Cemetery, a world-famous graveyard that celebrates life in a very original way.
Here, instead of somber tombstones, the graves receive a brightly colored cross painted by hand by a village craftsman. Usually below the portrait of the deceased, a poem will briefly tell the story of his or her life, often with plenty of wit and humor.
This is also perhaps the best place to try your hand at speaking Romanian with the locals and enjoy true Romanian hospitality. Most times you will get invited in for a snack, usually including cheese and meat, washed down with pălincă, a strong fruit brandy, similar to țuică.
Oh, and while you’re there, ask your host to show you a vâltoare, their ancient eco-friendly version of a washing machine.
The village of Roșia Montană, in Alba Iulia county, western Transylvania, is famous for its welcoming people, beautiful scenery, and the country’s largest deposit of gold. A mining village, its surroundings hide over 100 kilometers of underground mining galleries that date from Roman times. First mentioned on 6 February, 131 AD, it is the oldest mining village in Romania.
Currently, the underground gold deposits are estimated at 314 tons. A recent project aimed at mining the gold using cyanide raised concerns among many Romanians, causing the project to be halted. What was left behind is a tighter knit community and a festival that still brings together famous artists to keep the spirit of resistance alive.
Rosia Montana, Romania
Giroc, a wealthy village near Timișoara, in the region of Banat, is a special special village, not necessarily for its landscapes, but for hosting one of the most remarkable private collections of folk costumes in Romania. Started by a young local, when he was only 16, the collection features up to 1,000 pieces and is still growing.
After discovering that his grandmother and great-grandmother had been two women famous for their craft, Marius Matei gathered some of the clothes made by them and soon he had a collection. His grandfather too was a source of inspiration, as he was a self-taught peasant who had amassed a personal collection of 2,500 books. Unfortunately, he had to burn a large part of them at the request of the Communist regime, but 600 of them are still preserved intact.
Ciocanesti, Suceava County, is famous for its houses, decorated in Romanian traditional folk motifs. A walk through the village will leave you mesmerized and intrigued at the complexity of Romanian folk culture, whose motifs always hide a deeper meaning about the universe.
Also in the village you will find a museum of painted eggs, bearing the same symbols, and, if you climb mount Suhard, you can visit one of the four shepherd’s folds that welcome tourists for a hearty shepherd’s lunch.
One of the Saxon villages in Transylvania, Viscri is home to one of the most picturesque fortified churches on the list of World Heritage Sites. Due to the frequent raids by migrating tribes, the churches in the villages of this area were fortified to resemble fortresses and to also act like them.
The Viscri fortified church features seven meter tall walls, two towers and two bastions. When visiting, pay attention to the door to the sacristy, built in 1515, a winner of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, and make sure to take note of the organ, a work of Viennese master Carl Hesse. Of late, the village has become famous for its association with Prince Charles, who owns property in the village and visits it very often.
Another one of the villages with fortified churches of Transylvania, part of the UNESCO world heritage list, Biertan is a place that comes straight out of a fairytale.
The village is also important for one of the archeological discoveries that speak of the country’s past. Near the village, buried in the woods a votive bronze object was discovered which speaks of the existence in the area of a population that was christened and spoke Latin after the retreat of Roman Emperor Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (270-275) from Dacia. ‘Donariul din Biertan’ is kept at the Brukenthal Museum in Sibiu.
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