Transylvania & Romania

Rucar-Bran PassRomania is Central and Eastern Europe in a nutshell.


Do you associate Romania more with Italy or Russia? It’s true it is half way between Rome and Moscow but which one influenced it more? It is also true that for 50 years it was under soviet-minded communism but Romania is not a Slavic country, it is actually a Latin “island” in Central-Eastern Europe.  Two millennia ago, Romans occupied ancient Dacia, colonized it and strongly influenced the culture. Since then, being at the crossroads of the Ottoman, Hungarian, Austrian, Russian and Polish empires, each fought to own it, leaving behind a fascinating multicultural heritage.

Biertan fortified church. Photo by Sorin OnisorWhile Romans left behind the language, Ottomans greatly influenced the southern region, Hungarians reluctantly gave up Transylvania and a populous minority remained and brought German Saxons to settle.  So if you are interested in the Eastern half of Europe, this might be the best place to visit.


Romania is situated half way between the Equator and the North Pole, having a tempered, 4 seasons climate. Cities like Milano, Montreal and Ulan Bator are at similar latitudes as Romania. Romania covers an area similar with that of the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Michigan. Romania’s neighbors are Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova.


Romanian countrysideRomania is composed of 4 historical regions: Transylvania, Wallachia, Dobruja and Moldova, each of them having sub-regions such as Banat, Oltenia, Muntenia, Crisana, Bucovina, Maramures, or “countries” like Motilor, Hateg, Barsei, Zarandului. The land is equally split between plains, hills and mountains (the Carpathians, also known as the Transylvanian Alps).


The Black Sea bathes the south-eastern side of the country, and there are over 3500 inland lakes. The Danube is Europe’s second longest river and flows through Romania for 1000 km, collecting most other, smaller rivers in Romania. Before it meets the Black Sea, the Danube creates a wonderful Delta, rich in wildlife, now a biosphere reserve.


Museum of communism victims in Sighetu MarmatieiWhen it became independent in 1918 Romania was a kingdom. In 1947, as communists took power, it became a republic, led by them until the 1989 revolution.  Currently Romania is a democratic republic; it joined NATO in 2004 and is the newest European Union member, since 2007. The trauma of the communist regime is still felt in people’s attitudes, in the way cities look, and in the economy, which is still struggling to be competitive. It is a developing country, figuring on most development indicators above Latin American countries or the richest African ones.  Its GDP per capita is close to those of Brazil, Malaysia and South Africa.


About Transylvania

To visualize Transylvania, simply imagine a fortress which instead of walls is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains. A fortress is also veiled in mystery and legends, in Transylvania they are carved in landscape and people. We can hear stories about cavemen, Romans, Mongols, kings and impallers which have played an act on this stage. The shape of a fortress is also that of a nest and Transylvania is the cradle of a special culture still well preserved. Most people here live in harmony with nature and Romanians, Hungarians, Gypsies, Ukrainians, Germans and Serbs of different religious beliefs coexist for centuries.


An exciting way to understand Transylvania is by figuring out the meaning of its name. Transylvania comes from Latin and translates as “beyond the forest”. The Hungarian “Erdely” or “Ardeal” also means “beyond the forest” but according to some historians it comes from “rich in gold and silver”. The German name for it, Siebenbürgen translates as “seven fortified towns”.


Transylvania has architectural and cultural heritage from the Kingdom of Dacia, Roman Empire, Kingdom of Hungary, Ottoman Empire, Habsburg Monarchy, Austro-Hungarian Empire and neigh boring Romanian regions.


Two millennia ago, Transylvania was under Roman empire rule and was the source for many natural resources such as iron, copper, silver, gold as well as harvests of its fertile soils already proving its strategic important.  Later on, after the constant unrest in the region between neighboring empires, states an d nomadic settlements, strong Hungarian influence in combination with German-speaking Saxons prevailed from 9th till 15th centuries.


Medieval fortresses, castles and fortified churches were built by German Saxons to protect Transylvania from Mongol-Tatar horde and Ottoman Empire, many of them left intact and some are now protected as part of UNESCO World Heritage Programme.


Transylvania alongside Moldavia, Wallachia and Dobruja are historical regions that united in 1

918 to form Romania.

Romanian language, of Latin origin, is the mother tongue for 90% of the population in Romania, a fascinating fact considering that for almost 2 millennia it had Slavic and Hungarian speaking neighbors. Besides that, until 1918, it has been conquered or under the domination of Hungarian, Austrian or Ottoman Empires, all speaking different languages.


Transylvania proper encompasses the region surrounded by Carpathians but it is common to include the outer regions of Banat, Crisana and Maramures as part of Transylvania.


For your family or group we can organize a tailor-made tour of Romand or Transylvania region alone, some examples of thematic tours: medieval castles and fortifications, learning traditional occupations, photography workshops, hiking, donkey trips, wine tasting and more.

You can simply write us email with your expectations at info@viatransylvania.com.