The largest region of Romania is also the one that’s been most visited on the page of most novels. The true Transylvania might be lacking in the “bloodthirsty-creatures-of-the-night” department, but makes for an excellent holiday destination for those who fancy a trip down the pathways of history.
Transylvania is a cultural hotbed; the cohabitation of groups such as Romanians, Hungarians, Saxons and Romas is the thing which defines its particular cultural flavour. This diversity extends to both its landscapes and architecture. The region is encircled by the harsh Carpathian Mountains and, as you travel close to its centre you find the landscape transform to one of rolling hills and criss-crossing rivers. The region’s architecture is a mixture of the old and the new; travellers can visit big cities with a distinct Western flavour or tour the country-side, a beautiful landscape dotted with numerous medieval fortress towns, ancient monasteries and castles which have survived throughout its history.
Journey to the Past
Transylvania is the gateway for a trip that can transport you to a time far gone where you can immerse yourself in the culture of times long past. The remnants of yesterday are the heritage of a multi-ethnic culture that can be seen (and felt, and heard) on the folk costumes, medieval architecture, traditional cuisine, music and local festivals. Tradition is very much alive in the small villages of the country-side, where you can find fine folks making a living as shepherds and weavers, while blacksmiths and carpenters make the items people use everyday.
Where to start? With some of the best preserved medieval towns throughout Europe, the answer is not often easy. Great choices include cities such as Brasov, housing old Saxon architecture and citadel ruins; Sibiu, a postcard of cobblestone streets and soft coloured houses; or Sighisoara, the perfect locale for a suspense novel with its hilltop citadel, secret passages and 14th century clock tower. If you fancy something more spectacular, however, you can check out some of Transylvania’s stunning castles; the Bran, a massive Gothic structure with an ethereal design reminiscent of a fairy-tale is often associated with the famous Prince Vlad Tepes and should be included in any itinerary.
After an eventful century which included the moving of political borders, ethnic tension, two World Wars and their own Communist totalitarian regime, Transylvania is now the most developed region in Romania. Part due to tourism and part due to having a strong capitalist tradition that underlined the culture before World War II, the region has been able to recuperate from challenging times and blossom into a true gem of Eastern Europe. An eclectic land that combines the influence of the western world without diluting its traditional heritage, Transylvania is definitely a place the modern traveller should not miss.