By Daria Mot
Romania is considered to be one of the hidden gems of Europe. Whoever manages to get past the commercial image of Dracula, will discover a land full of charming sites, from fascinating medieval towns and unspoiled sceneries to one of the last truly rural places in the world, the region of Maramures. What may come as a surprise to many is that the country has an exceptional cultural heritage, with 6 attractions included by UNESCO) in the World Cultural Heritage (and 2 more in the World Natural Heritage).
In order to make the most out of Romania here are the 6 places that you must not miss if you want to experience the best of the country’s cultural side:
Historic Centre of Sighisoara
Set in the heart of Transylvania, Sighisoara is a small medieval town founded by Transylvanian Saxons in the 12th century. It charms visitors with its narrow, cobbled alleys and colorful buildings that make you feel as if you have stepped back in time. The best way to explore the town is by foot. You can stroll along tiny, hilly streets that connect squares, towers and steep stairways to form a fascinating path. The main historical attractions are the 500-years-old Church on the Hill, the imposing Clock Tower, from where a panoramic view of the citadel will take your breath away and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, with impressively-carved interior decorations. The town is also home to Vlad Tepes, ruler of the province of Walachia and inspiration for the Dracula character. The best time to visit Sighisoara is at the end of July – beginning of August, when the Sighisoara Medieval Festival takes place.
The Painted Monasteries of Bucovina
Whether you are interested in religion or not, the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina are an attraction you don’t want to miss. Unique in Europe due to their architectural style, these 8 churches impress with their intricate painted exterior walls. You can see detailed frescoes describing religious events, the lives of saints, scenes from heaven and hell, all meant to teach villagers the story of the Bible. These masterpieces were created in the 15th and 16th centuries, but are still well preserved and the composition and colors can be admired with ease. Amongst the 8 monasteries (Arbore, Humor, Moldovita, Patrauti, Probota, Suceava, Voronet and Sucevita) the most famous one is Voronet, known for its unique shade of blue.
The Medieval Fortified Churches of Transylvania
There are approximately 150 villages with fortified churches in Transylvania, amongst which 7 have been designated by UNESCO as World Cultural Heritage: Biertan, Calnic, Prejmer, Viscri, Darjiu, Saschiz and Valea Viilor. These historic sites were developed by the Saxons during the 13th-16th centuries in order to protect themselves from invaders. People built high walls made of stone around the main building of a village, the church. Apart from the massive fortifications, here you can also witness how people in the countryside live, hear their stories and take part in traditional activities. Every year during the month of August people organize the “Haferland” Transylvanian Saxons Festival to promote the cultural heritage and customs of the region.
Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains (Sarmisegetusa Regia)
The Dacians are the ancestors of the Romanian people and they inhabited the actual territory of the country before being conquered by the Romans. Sarmisegetusa Regia was the capital of the Dacian Kingdom and nowadays remains of the old fortresses, a sacred and a civilian area can be seen. The site is an exceptional example of architectural techniques from the late Iron Age.
The Wooden Churches of Maramures
Maramures, Romania’s region which best preserved its traditions, is often associated with its wooden churches. Wood being the primary resource in the region, people used it to build houses, carve wooden gates and build churches – amongst which 8 were included in the UNESCO World Heritage: Barsana, Budesti, Desesti, Ieud, Plopis, Poienile Izei, Rogoz, Surdesti. They fascinate admirers with their high roofs, narrow steeples and the fish-like shape of the shingles. The interior of the churches is often decorated with images depicting religious scenes, along with local traditions and folk costumes. At some of these churches you can not only visit them, but even spend the night and take part in religious activities.
The Monastery of Horezu
It was founded in 1690 by Prince Constantin Brancoveanu and it represents a monument of the “Brancovenesc style”, an architectural style that can be found only in Romania. It is characterized by the richness of the detail, the balance of the structures and the elegant religious interior decorations. The paintings of the monastery show an extraordinary artistic level and are well preserved, both those inside the church and on the veranda.
On the whole, seeing any of these amazing sights will provide you with a dream-like experience. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to discover some of the world’s most spectacular monuments in a trip to Romania!
Daria Mot is a travel consultant and blogger with a high knowledge of everything that is rural Romania: off-the-beaten-path places, interactions with locals and authentic experiences. For more information visit http://true-romania.tours/.
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