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Between the Danube and the majestic Carpathian Mountains lies the Oltenia region in the south of Romania. Sitting alongside the Muntenia region, it is synonymous with genius artist Constantin Brâncuși, not to mention wonders including the Olt river, majestic Orthodox monasteries and picturesque landscapes. Here’s everything you need to know.
Craiova boasts a unique mix of art, architecture and ethnography, being a city rich in majestic buildings, some of them erected in the only national architectural style, known as the Brâncovenesc style. In the oldest house of the city, a 17th-century building erected by Constantin Brâncoveanu, the Ethnography Museum of Oltenia displays local crafts and traditional clothes. Nearby is the Art Museum, located in a stunning neo-classical building housing some fine works of the modern sculptor Constantin Brâncuși and the painter Nicolae Grigorescu, the founder of Romanian Modern painting.
Constructed in the Brâncovenesc style, the Madona Dudu Church is renowned for its interior mural paintings, a classic example of the Byzantine style of the Orthodox Churches. Another masterpiece of Brâncovenesc architecture is the Mântuleasa Church, painted in beautiful vivid colours.
For a long walk in the city’s green oasis, check out the Nicolae Romanescu Park, Craiova’s biggest park.
Drobeta Turnu Severin
Right at the border with Serbia, on the Danube’s banks, the city of Drobeta Turnu Severin offers some wonderful views over the river. Some of its landmarks include the Medieval Citadel of Severin, sculpted in stone, a former defence point against the invasions from Bulgarians and Turks. The city is also home to the oldest remaining bridge over the Danube, Trajan’s bridge, built in 105 AD.
Lying at the foothills of the Carpathians, the city of Târgu Jiu is best known for Constantin Brâncuși’s artworks. One of the most influential modern sculptors of the 20th century, Constantin Brâncuși left three of his masterpieces in Târgiu Jiu: The Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss and The Endless Column. At the Art Museum, photographs of Brâncuși’s life are displayed, along with artworks of other Romanian modern artists.
At the Topi New Glass Design Studio, contemporary artist Mihai Topescu invites visitors in to his workshop to watch him create artistic and decorative glassware.
However, the city is not only a place of art but also a place of national heroes. Ecaterina Teodoroiu, the Romanian heroine who disguised herself as a man to fight alongside Romanian soldiers in World War I, is commemorated inside the Ecaterina Teodoroiu Memorial House.
Dotted with architectural jewels, UNESCO World Heritage sites and Natural Parks, Oltenia has an amazing heritage.
For culture lovers
In Oltenia, there is a big concentration of monuments erected in the Brâncovenesc style, a combination of Romanian traditional art, Byzantine and Venetian elements.
In Horezu village, the Horezu Monastery is full of examples of the Brâncovenesc style. A UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 17th century, the monastery is home to collections of frescoes and icons from the end of the 17th and beginning of 18th centuries, when the Hurezi School of mural and icon painting settled inside the convent.
The village itself is also renewed for the Horezu Ceramics, included on UNESCO’s intangible heritage list, being a unique craftsmanship created by talented artisans in the local workshops. Reflecting generations of knowledge and artistry, the pottery is part of the village’s identity.
Boasting a mix of Byzantine and Brâncovenesc architectural styles, the Cozia Monastery has outstanding frescoes and is surrounded by picturesque mountain landscapes, where visitors can breathe in the fresh air and enjoy a moment of peace.
For nature lovers
The region’s natural parks offer a rich fauna and flora, as well as hiking and climbing routes featuring some awe-inspiring views.
The Cozia Natural Park is crossed by the Olt Valley, creating some beautiful landscapes. Its mountain massifs, Cozia, Narățul Doabra and Calinești, are like rock-fortress carved in the mountains. Steep wooded rocks offer breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. The most popular routes take travellers to the Lotrișorului Gorges or to Cozia Peak, some 1,688 meters (5,538 feet) high.
The Buila – Vânturărița National Park is Romania’s smallest national park. Dominated by the Buila Peak at 1,849 meters (6,066 feet) and the Vânturărița Mare peak at 1,885 meters (6,184 feet), the park brims with impressive gorges, limestone slopes and curious caves. Most areas are highly protected to preserve natural habitats, virgin forests and endemic species of fauna and flora. However, the Cheia Gorges, one of the narrowest and wildest in the country or the Bistritei Gorges are suitable for hiking and climbing.
Spread across Oltenia and Banat’s territories, the Valea Cernei National Park features canyons sculpted in limestone, large beech forest, subalpine meadows and endemic rarities of flora and fauna. The park is also home to the black pine of Banat, an endemic species which develops in the rockery areas.
A corridor between Oltenia and Transylvania, the Transalpina Road is the highest road in the country. Cutting through the Parang Mountains, the roadway was built under the king Carol II, known today as ’King’s Road’. Its highest point is at 2,145 meters (7,037 feet), in the Urdele Pass. For ski lovers, the Transalpina Ski resort, situated at 1,940 m (6,265 feet), is suitable for all-level winter sports lovers. Skiing on its slopes offers some magnificent views over the Făgăraș and Parâng Mountains.
For wine lovers
If you are a wine lover, a visit to the Drăgășani Vineyard will delight you. Producing wines that are popular even outside Romania’s borders, recognised at the Bordeaux Wine Contest in 1989 and at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900, Drăgășani wines have a long tradition. Among the grape types are Sauvignon and Riesling, as well as Romanian types such as Negru de Drăgășani, Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală and Tămâioasa Românească. Wine cellars including Bauer cellar, Știrbey Cellar or Drăgași vineyard can be visited with prior reservation.
In Oltenia, traditional food is based on meat, onion and garlic. Some of the local recipes include Oltenian sausages, made from finely chopped beef and pork meat mixed with garlic, pepper and salt, stuffed into sheep guts and then smoked. The beef ragout, the lamb stew with chives or dried plums, and meat stew are also among the region’s specialities.
Due to its closeness to the Danube, fish dishes also feature in local cuisine. Try the carp stuffed with mushrooms or the fried Danube mackerel.
For dessert, there’s nothing better than the traditional sweet cheese or pumpkin pie.