Special Christmas traditions in Romania

Children Caroling in Maramures. Photo by BasesteanuChristmas is the most important religious celebration and many centuries-old Christmas traditions in Romania are still alive, especially in the northern region of Maramures.

Attending the Christmas mass in traditional clothes in a wooden church

On Christmas day, villagers put on their colorful, hand-made traditional clothes and attend the Christmas mass.
Maramures is famous for its wooden churches and many villages have at least one that is used for this occasion. The image of people wearing traditional clothes inside a wooden church is very powerful and brings you back in time. It also tells a lot about the spirituality and deeper connection these people have with their heritage and nature.


Wooden church from Maramures. Photo by basesteanuAnother of the Christmas traditions in Romania is caroling. It is usually associated with Christmas but its origins are rather connected to the winter solstice and the passing into a new year. In Romania caroling takes place throughout December and into the first days of January.
On Christmas Eve both children and adults sing carols, visiting all the houses in the village. Some carols refer to the birth of Jesus but many of them carry messages about regeneration, abundance, fertility, warding off evil spirits.
A carol with a religious connotation is The Star (Steaua), sung on Christmas Eve. Usually, a group of 4 boys carry a star made of wood, decorated with colorful paper and a light singing about the night when The Three Wise Men following the big star arrived to the place where Jesus was born bringing presents.
The “Play of the Old Men” (Jocul Moșilor) on the other hand is a carol played by men wearing masks and dancing, having pagan roots. The one wearing the mask has the possibility to transcend and take over the Brondosii from Cavnic. Andrei C Pavelspecial powers of the mask and at the same time it allows him to have an unnatural behavior. A similar carol is called Brondosii where men wear masks and bells and go through the village trying to ward of the evil spirits.
There are many other interesting carols such as Viflaim (religious theater), the Goat, the Bear, the Plough (Plugusorul) which are still performed in Maramures.
The carolers usually receive a round pretzel (symbol of the Sun), apples (the fruit of knowledge) and nuts (associated with the World Egg).

Traditional Christmas dinner

The traditional food for Christmas in Maramures is forcemeat rolls in cabbage (sarmale), different kinds of pork sausages, sponge cakes, home-made cakes and for drinks palinca (plum or apple brandy).
Traditional food for Christmas from Maramures, Romania. Photo by BasesteanuYou can notice that pork meat is the main ingredient and there is a reason for that. Local families usually raise a pig throughout the year which they slaughter in the weeks before Christmas and then prepare  meat products from it like sausage, lard, bacon, dry-cured ham. This is a centuries-old tradition, from the times when animals where sacrificed and offered to God. The time for this sacrifice was just before the Winter Solstice, on December 20th (St Igantius Day), a date which is still considered the right time for the slaughtering. Tradition says that one should not feel sorry for the animal and preparing the food and eating it should be joyful.

The white winter feel

Maramures is a mountainous region and it is very common that during Christmas all of it is covered with snow, making it a fairy-tale looking land. Add to Winter in Maramures. Photo by Sorin Onisorthat all the wonderful traditions, the delicious food and very welcoming locals and you get a wonderful idea for a Christmas holiday in Romania.

More pictures of Christmas traditions in Romania and Maramures can be found in this Facebook album. Enjoy!

About Roma people, Gypsies and Romania

Roma familyRoma people are again in the international spotlight following the situation in Greece so it’s maybe a good time to introduce them better. Another reason to write this blog post is that almost all foreigners coming to Romania ask about their situation.
Romania is probably associated more with the Roma people because of the name similarity – which is a simple coincidence.


Origins and Population

There is no exact data on Roma population around the world but the number can be as high as 14 million people. The reason for poor data is due to the fact that most of them refuse to register in official censuses for fear of discrimination.

According to most sources, Romani’s people origins are from India from where they started migrating starting with the 7th century.
Romanian Gypsy teaching a Dutch how to play the violinIn 2011 I traveled with a couple from India and they wanted to meet some Romani coppersmiths. One of the Indians asked them to count in their language, they started and then she continued in her dialect from India, it was almost the same, even the word God was similar.
From India, they first migrated to the Middle East, then moved to Europe and in the 19th century migrated across the ocean to places like United States and Brazil.

The countries with most populous communities, according to official data, are USA (1 million), Iran (760,000), Brazil (678,000), Romania (621,000) Spain (600,000), France (500,000), Turkey (500,000), Bulgaria (370,000) but real numbers can vary considerably. They can be found even in countries like Afghanistan, Columbia, Sweden or Thailand.


Origin of the name

In the Romani language, rom is a masculine noun, meaning “man, husband”, with the plural roma. In Romania, the word is used with double “r” in order to distinguish between Rroma and Romanian people (român, români). In English are used both Roma, and Romani.
Gypsies dancing in SibiuOn the other hand, the name Romania derives from the Latin word Romanus meaning citizen of Rome. So the name similarity is pure coincidence.

Among the majority non-Roma population, the word “Gypsy” originated from the word “Egyptian” and is mostly used in English speaking countries, having a reference to the migration route of the Roma who might have reached Europe via Egypt and the Straits of Gibraltar. The word “Tsigan” comes from the world “Atsigan”, from Greek, which means untouchable. The word spread, so the Roma people are often called țigan (Romanian), cigani (Serbian), tsiganes (French), ciganos (Portuguese), ziguener (German). Romani however don’t accept either Gypsy, or tsigan, because most of the times the words are used with a pejorative meaning.


Traditions and crafts of Roma people

In popular lore, Gypsies are well-known as musicians, dancers, and fortune-tellers. However, other Gypsy with his carriage. Photo by Christian Rothtraditional occupations amongst the Gypsies include metalworking, leather, wood carving, horse trading. They make really beautiful jewelries from gold and silver, household objects (cutlery, plates), and religious objects (candelabrum).

Gypsies place great value on the extended family. Even in urban areas and among highly assimilated Gypsy families, the extended family is strong.
Traditionally, it is a patriarchal society where virginity is considered as essential for unmarried women. Men and women often marry young, and the Romani practice of child marriage has generated controversy in many countries.
It is known that Romani are a nomad people, but not all Roma are nomads. In fact, the majority of Eastern European Roma has been sedentary for centuries.
A Gypsy from Romania, Florin Cioba, the son of the head of Romanian Gypsies (known as bulibașă), self-proclaimed himself the international king of gypsies from the whole world. When he died in 2013, his 2 sons took over the title, one of them being the king of the community living in Romania and the other of those living abroad.


Contemporary issues

Discrimination is one of the major problems that Romani have to deal with even though all over the world efforts are made to stop thisStefan Banica Jr. Photo by Fire_Eyes.
Forced repatriation is another major issue. In the summer of 2010 French authorities demolished at least 51 illegal Roma camps and began the process of repatriating their residents to their countries of origin.
Lack of education, due to the fact that most of them don’t go to schools, in spite of the efforts made by the authorities and different NGOs, also represents a problem.
Another issue is the high rate of criminality – most of the scandals involving Roma people are related to robbery and different crimes. When you open a Romanian newspaper (not only), more than certainly you will find articles referring to their crimes.


Respectable and famous Roma people

Many of them Roma people are educated, having respectable jobs, and in Romania we have some very famous ones like Ştefan Bănică Jr (actor, musician, TV presenter), Johnny Răducanu (jazz musician) and Madalin Voicu (classic music and respected politicians).

This article is informative and I strongly recommend looking for other sources of information if you truly wish to understand these people and also to see the difference between the Roma people and the Romanian people.

Scarisoara village – the most picturesque place in Romania

wooden stairs leading to scarisoara villageMore than half of Romanians live in urban areas where they enjoy 21st century facilities. The same is valid for some of those living in rural areas, but some villages are really trapped in the past.

I will write about one of them, called Scarisoara village.

Some 40 people live in a hamlet at 1000m altitude where cars, tractors and even horse-drawn carriages cannot reach. You can only walk there by foot (actually hike as the ascent is quite steep). The shortest way from a main road involves climbing 4 wooden stairs, 10-15m each. In total it takes around 1-1,5 hours to reach the village from the valley. From the same main road there is another longer path, without wooden stairs, on which animals can go as well. When they need to carry heavier things they use horses or donkeys.

Once on the plateau the view is FANTASTIC! You are surrounded by mountains, forests, meadows and orchards. Until recently there was no electricity and some households still don’t have electricity. Now some of them built micro hydro-power stations and some use diesel generators, so there is some light at night.A grea place for a picnic

Luckily, vegetables and corn grow in Scarisoara village, they raise animals and locals are mostly SELF-SUFFICIENT. Their food is “organic” as city dwellers call it, for them it is just normal. Since there are no shops or bakery, each family bakes their bread or polenta. The wheat or corn are ground at a water mill. They still have 2 of those in the village, at both ends so it is convenient for all villagers.

People are very WELCOMING, very happy to see visitors and are willing to host them and share what they have. When I visited the village I met a family and spoke with them for half an hour. When I left they gave me a bag of potatoes to take home and I offered to take pictures of them and send it to them 🙂

For the very few children living in Scarisoara village there is a school and a little church. Both the teacher and priest commute and climb the wooden stairs daily or whenever needed.

The village is situated  at 15-20’ of driving from Baile HerLocal family from Scarisoaraculane. One can find the paths which climb the steep walls of the gorge.

Visiting the village is a wonderful half a day hike if you are in the region but you can even stay overnight with locals or with a tent.

We can organize a visit to this village as part of a 2 days or longer trip from Timisoara. The trip can also include visiting the Danube Gorge (boat ride), a hike in the Nera Gorge-Beusnita National Park to a turquoise lake and a waterfall, the village with most water mills in Romania and a bath in the natural hot water pools in Baile Herculane.

You can find more pictures on a Facebook post.

Learning through traveling and interacting with locals

Happily sharing a watermelonA story about learning through traveling

Yesterday and today a French family with 2 children (aged 7 & 9) stayed with a local family in Romania, that also has 2 children (aged 12 & 13).

The main occupation of the local family is shepherding. They live without electricity at a 1100 m altitude. Motivated to educate their children about the hardship of life, make them appreciate better what they have (as they like to complain), and also keep them away from the gadgets they are so dependent on from such an early age, the French parents took their children on this trip. Moreover, their grandparents also used to live such a life, but now in France this is hard to find.

Hopefully, the children learned; I think it is a great way to bring across a message to children by making them experiment things, and, even better, to get them out of their comfort zone.

The local family enjoyed a their guests. It is a big deal for them to have visitors from abroad, and it made their days livelier. Plus, they learned from the French man, who is a chiropodist, what kind of shoes they should buy for their children: simple and flat ones.

The French parents appreciated the simple, stress-free, attitude to life that the local family has and were wondering who’s happier: them who own a lot, but have significant stress levels because of their bank loans and big expenses; or the local family who was settling for less and seemed very content?

So finally, it was not only about the children learning. Adults do learn from such experiences too. By raising important questions about their lives, it got them thinking. Learning through traveling is possible for all parties involved.

Some more pictures from this wonderful experience for all are in this Facebook album. Also, a similar itinerary of the tour that the French family did can be found on our new website: Family Tour of Romania.

Festivals and cultural events in Romania

Gărâna Jazz Festival: 12th of July – 15th of July

It’s an international music festival that takes place every year in Gărâna, Caraș-Severin. Jazz artists from all over the world perform on this stage. This year you will be able to listen to Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, John Surman, Arild Andersen Magnus Ostrom, and Bugge Wesseltoft. For more information check this site: www.garana-jazz.ro/.

Peninsula: 18th of July – 21st of July

Peninsula Félsziget is Romania`s largest festival, with stages for different musical styles: rock, metal, pop, electro, world music, folk, hip-hop, blues and jazz. This year the festival takes place in Valea  Gârbăului, Cluj. For more details check the official page: www.felsziget.ro.

Sighișoara Medieval Festival: 26th of July– 28th of July

Another of the cultural events in Romania is the Sighișoara Medieval Festival. Sighișoara is one of the most visited cities of Romania, due to its medieval appearance. During the annual festival the city goes back in time and you can admire the costumes, medieval dances, knightly battles, crafts, knight orders, folk artists, medieval music, carnival of medieval masks, theater, and animation.

Festivalul Secerișului de la Ampoița (Harvesting Festival from Ampoița)

The Harvesting Festival it’s a traditional festival from Ampoița, Alba and takes place every year on the last Saturday of July. The harvest of wheat is one of the important moments of the country side life. Tourists can watch the ritual of the harvest and they can admire the traditional costumes, and listen to traditional folk music.

Padina Fest: 31st of July – 4th August

Padina Fest is a festival that takes place on the Padina Plateau, Bucegi Mountains. During the festival you can enjoy different activities like alpinism, biking, and zip line, workshops, and different sport contests. Also, every night you can see the performance of different bands and this year you will be able to watch a play. Check the event on facebook: www.facebook.com/padinafest.

Festivalul National al Păstrăvului (National Trout Festival): 15th – 19th of August

It’s the only festival of its kind in Europe and takes place in Ciocănești, Suceava. Activities like fishing contests, cooking contests, expositions, traditional costumes displays and contests with jokes about fishing will delight the visitors.

FânFest Roșia Montana: 15th of August – 18th of August

FânFest is an event that promotes the cultural and natural heritage of Roșia Montana trough debates, workshops, plays and concerts. Roșia Montana is a mining place from Apuseni Mountains in Alba. www.fanfest.ro

Pentru Mândra din Botiza (For my Sweatheart from Botiza): 17th of August – 18th of August

This festival is dedicated to the traditional folk music and traditional costumes and takes place every year in Botiza, Maramureș. It is a festival that you must include on your list of cultural events in Romania to attend if you are fascinated with Romanian traditions.

George Enescu Festival: 1st of September – 28th of September

It’s Romania’s most famous music festival known internationally organized in memoriam of George Enescu one of Romania’s most appreciated musicians. www.festivalenescu.ro

Plai Festival : 13th of September – 15th of September

Plai Festival is a music festival that takes place in Timișoara and promotes art and multiculturalism. Every year you can see on Plai’s stage artists from different parts of the world and different culture (www.plai.ro).

Coborâtul oilor de la munte: 19th of September, Poiana Sibiului, Sibiu

It’s about an old Romanian tradition when sheep are coming back from the mountains, a good time for shepherds to meet. With this occasion there is a Fair where animal and pastoral objects are put up for sell.

Întâlnirea sașilor la Sighișoara (Yearly Transylvanian German Saxons Meeting), September 21st

Every year, in late September the Transylvanian Saxons Meeting in Biertan, Sibiu takes place. This annual meeting has become a good occasion for Transylvanian Saxons form all over the world to spend some time together. The event starts with the church service, then dance troops parade in the village center and after that you can watch their performance.

Răvășitul oilor: 28th – 29th of September

In Bran, Brașov, at the end of September takes place an event that seals the end of the pastoral year. It’s the time when shepherds come back from the mountains and give back to the owners their sheep. During the event, tourists can listen to traditional folk music and try the different types of cheese. Also you can try the traditional bulz (you put cheese in polenta, make a ball and after that you put it in the stove).

The post was written by Anca Sfrejea, and we support her in her endeavor to go to India for 1 year http://shapingtwodreams.wordpress.com/


For a list of festivals and cultural events in Romania that take place in 2017 check our new blog post: Top 33 Romanian cultural events in 2017 to discover our history and traditions.

Transalpina drive from Novaci to Sebes

Flowers of the Transalpina driveI remember 6-7 years ago there some news articles about the threat of building the Transalpina road across the mountains, how damaging it will be for the environment. Well, now it is done and everyone can drive on it.

The road starts from Novaci and the view is already great from the foot of the mountain. Some 20 km later you arrive in Rânca, a ski resort built chaotically and which doesn’t impress the eye. There you can stay overnight year-round or stop for a meal at one of the many hotels.

Being a newly built road you can clearly see the effect of the works on the mountain and especially on the forest as you go up and down the mountain.

The views during the Transalpina drive are really wonderful; going by car to such altitude makes such views available to anyone, not only to those hard core mountaineers. I strongly recommend stopping the car and going off-road for a while, walking on the mountain, looking down the valleys, at the flowers, seeing sheep and meet the shepherds, going to the glacial and man-made Amazing view on Transalpina drivelakes, hiking, picking up berries … don’t just drive, take a full day for this 130km from Novaci to Sebes. On the way you will also find locals selling cheese, gems, honey and other local products, so you can picnic on that.

The road might be blocked between Rânca and Obârșia Lotrului. It is still possible to drive but at your own risk as even in May it might snow and there are no signs and side-walls on the road.

After 50 km into your drive you go down and find an intersection with a road to Petroșani and one to Voineasa. The road to Petroșani is really bumpy and shorter. If you continue towards Voineasa you will see more of the mountains and the road is better. This is also the way to Sebes.

Driving towards Voineasa you will pass by Vidra Lake and while going to Sebes you will pass by Oașa lake.

Once in Dobra you can go straight to Sebeș on the valley or turn right towards Jina to explore the Meeting sheep on Transalpina drivepictoresque shepherd villages  of Jina and Poiana Sibiului set at 1000+ meters altitude.

Of course, you can do the Transalpina drive the other way around, starting from Sibiu or Sebes towards Novaci.

Top things to do in Romania, by region

We’ve created a list of the most interesting and authentic things to do in Romania based on our previous experience with foreign travelers.

wildlife in romania bear

Here are our top things to do in Romania – Special interest activities available in many regions of the country:

  • Hike in the mountains up to 2500 meters (Bucegi, Piatra Craiului, Făgăraș, Apuseni, Gutâi, Rodna, Retezat or Rarău are all good options)
  • Ride a horse in nature
  • Ride a donkey (for children)
  • Visit a sheepfold to see how shepherds live in the 20th century and try freshly made cheese and traditional shepherd dishes
  • Get involved in traditional farming, work in the garden, feed animals, collect eggs, milk cows and make cheese, mow and pile hike in apuseni mountainshaystacks
  • See the wild brown bear in the forest
  • Learn pottery and wood carving, make your own bowl and wooden fork
  • Bike in the countryside (South Transylvania, along the Danube and Maramureș are the best options). Suggested biking tour.
  • Wine tasting – Romanian wine is very good, though less known internationally and you can try it in many regions, either home-made by peasants or in the vineyards cellars (Cotnari, Jidvei, Murfatlar or Miniș are some of the options). Sample wine tour for a group.
  • Photographers, painters and other artists can enjoy thematic trips, Romania being in many ways an exotic country for Western standards. Also people interested in Jewish, German Saxon or Gypsy heritage can have thematic trips. Click here for further details on private photo tours.

Visit South Transylvania region (4 to 10 days)
In the triangle formed by the cities of Brasov, Sibiu and Sighisoara you can find the most imposing castles and fortifications and peles castle in sinaiayou’ll feel the medieval vibe. Top things to do and visit:

  • Romania’s most beautiful castles: Peleș and Pelișor (in Sinaia), built by the royal family in the 19th century
  • Sighișoara, said to be Europe’s most beautiful medieval citadel and the only one entirely inhabited (UNESCO World Heritage site)
  • Brașov, a medieval city with a beautiful historic center set at the foot of the mountain
  • The Fortified church in Viscri
  • Sibiu, also a medieval city, former European Cultural Capital in 2007 has many interesting museums: a large open air village museum, arts, history and pharmacy museums
  • Bran castle, famous due to its association with the fictitious Dracula character, set in a valley between mountains
  • Villages with fortified churches, 7 of them UNESCO World Heritage sites: Viscri, Dârjiu, Prejmer, Câlnic, Biertan Săschiz and Valea Viilor. They were built by German Saxons, have a distinctive architecture and there village life is preserved. We suggest staying in such a village for a few days at least.village of viscri
  • Drive on the Transfăgărășan road up to over 2000 meters on a very scenic road
  • Follow the link for a suggested tour of Transylvania.

Visit Maramureș, Europe’s last truly rural region (3 to 10 days)
An isolated region between mountains where people still live from wood harvesting and wear traditional costumes on special occasions. Top things to do and visit:

  • The wooden churches from Șurdești, Plopiș, Rogoz, Bârsana, Desești, Budești, Ieud and Poienile Izei (UNESCO World Heritage sites)
  • Ride with the narrow gauge steam train (Mocănița) on the Vaser Valley
  • Săpânța Merry Cemetery where funerary crosses are colorfully decorated, telling stories of people’s liveswooden monasteries maramures
  • The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance where the most liberal politicians were jailed
  • Stay in a traditional wooden house with locals
  • Discover the many traditional crafts still alive such as weaving, making traditional clothes or coopering
  • Go to the church on a Sunday or other important religious holidays with locals still wearing their traditional clothes
  • Learn pottery and wood carving
  • Follow the links for suggested spring-summer-autumn tour of Maramures or a winter tour of Maramures

Visit Bucovina, the land of the painted monasteries (2 to 5 days)
A region set among mountains known for its painted monasteries and wonderful nature and countryside. Top things to do and visit:easter eggs

  • The painted monasteries from Voroneț, Sucevița, Moldovița, Arbore, Humor, Suceava, Pătrăuți and Probota (UNESCO World Heritage sites)
  • Discover the art of decorating Easter eggs and learn to do it yourself
  • Stay in a village where not only eggs and clothes are beautifully painted but the houses as well

Visit Apuseni mountains region (2 to 5 days)
A region rich in natural resources, Apuseni mountains is where gold was extracted here since 2000 years. It is also home to some of the longest and most beautiful caves in Europe. Top things to do and visit:

  • Explore a few out of the thousands of caves from this region
  • Visit Roșia Montană where gold was mined ever since Roman occupation and now is an environmental hotspot due to a proposed mining project
  • Turda salt mine and Turda gorge

Visit Danube Delta (3 to 7 days)
Danube Delta swansThe Danube Delta is the best preserved European delta hosting more than 300 birds species, wild animals and fish. Top things to do and see:

  • Watch over 300 bird species, among them: pelican, cormorant, heron, eagle, wild ducks, swans
  • Eat delicious fish dished cooked by local fishermen
  • Boat rowing expeditions through the endless channels labyrinth
  • Watch as the Danube flows in the Black Sea and forms new land and beaches
  • Go to the beach in Sfantu Gheorghe or Sulina, with good sand and less crowded than the Black Sea coast

Visit the Szekler Land (2 to 5 days)
The region is dominated by the Hungarian minority with its distinct cultural traits. Top things to do and see:

  • Praid salt mine, which you will have access to  by bus
  • rimetea szekler rockEat the famous goulash and kurtos kolacs
  • Bathe in the salty lakes at Sovata

Visit the Corvin castle region (2 to 5 days)
Corvin castle is an important landmark, but nearby there are also Dacian fortresses, the oldest church in Romania and Retezat mountains, a biosphere reserve. Top things to do and visit:

  • Corvin castle (or Hunyadi castle, in Hunedoara), the most imposing one in Transylvania, where it is said that Vlad Țepeș (the character who inspired the Dracula character) was imprisoned for 7 years
  • Corvin Castle in Hunedoara2 millennia old Dacian fortresses, the most interesting being Sarmizegetusa Regia (UNESCO World Heritage site)
  • Densuș church, the oldest one in Romania, veiled in mystery. It is said that at first on its site there was a pagan temple
  • Explore the Retezat mountains, a biosphere reserve, home to intact beech forests and rich wildlife

Read the rest of this entry »

Why visit Romania? … a travelers’ perspective

We went on TripAdvisor to see what previous travelers loved about Romania and now we’re sharing it wiPeles Castleth you and showing you why visit Romania.

An Indonesian visitor of Peleș castle says „It looks amazing from the outside, absolutely beautiful and better in the inside especially the second floor. I can’t imagine how it was built and it was simply beautiful and gorgeous. All the rooms are unique and richly decorated.” (full review here)

A traveler from Portland, US writes about the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania “As we approached Malancrav we drove carefully through geese who crowded the tiny roads. We were greeted by two women chopping firewood. … At Richis, we were led about by an elderly man who is apparently the last of the Saxons in the village (along with his wife). He was very enthusiastic and informative as he revealed the Pagan symbols hidden about the church. He had a genuine, “old world” warmth about him. … If you have any interest in authentic villages reminiscent of times past, nice people, farm animals and absolutely beautiful countryside then this is the place for you!” (full review here)

An Italian visiting Bucovina wrote “The frescoes from Voronet, Humor, Moldovita, Arbore or Sucevita are all governed by a unifying spirit which is expressed on the one hand by the recurrence of artistic styles, means, motifs and scenes, and, on the other hand by the absolute harmony established between man’s genius at work and the beautiful natural background against which the monasteries were set. (full review here)

villagers working the land

Someone from Houston, US said about Bran Castle: “to name Bran Castle as “Dracula’s Castle” would be equivalent to naming Neuschwanstein Castle as “Cinderella’s Castle”. Dracula is pure fiction, but Bran Castle has a very real history. This castle fortress is about as authentic as you can find.” (full review here)

These are some positive comments and we hope they answered your questions about  why visit Romania. You can also read impressions of some of the travelers coming through Via Transylvania.

If you are interested to visit Transylvania, look no further, here are some suggested itineraries for holidays in Transylvania.

Welcoming spring traditions in Romania

The transition from winter to spring is one of the greatest celebrations in Romania and rightly so, our winters are quite harsh on us. Here are some welcoming spring traditions that we have:

In late February there are traditions through which people try to banish the winter. In villages from Banat and other regions, locals go on the streets dressed up in scary costumes to scare winter’s bad spirits away.

On the first of March we have the most beautiful and meaningful tradition: Martisorul. The tradition is symbolically correlated to women and to fertility as a means of life and continuity.

In the old calendar, the 1st of March was the beginning of the New Year and represented the renewal of the life cycle. These days women receive a martisor which is a small ornament with white and red ribbon. If the person wears it she will be strong and healthy.

Ever since the Romans, the spring was an occasion to glory Mars, the Roman god of war and also the agricultural guardian. In Moldova and Bucovina, from ancient times, martisorul was made from a silver or golden coin, pinned-up with white-red cotton. The children wore it around the neck, and girls used to wear it in their hair until the flowers of the trees blossomed.

Nowadays, the ribbon is attached to different hand-made objects which represents animals, flowers, letters and other symbols with different significance. It is a joy to see women wear it.

Another custom for the beginning of March is to pick your baba, meaning a day between 1st and 9th of March to see how your year will be, depending on how the weather is on that day. If the chosen day is sunny and beautiful you will have a very good year, peaceful and with lots of accomplishments. If the weather is not so great on that day, your year doesn’t seem to be so great, but you don’t have to worry as the next year will definitely be better for you!

Normally your baba is the day of the week when you were born, but you can also change that and change your luck.

So … choose a day from 1 to 9 of March and you’ll know how the rest of the year will be 🙂

Family holidays in Romania, tailor-made

Example of a family trip to Maramures, Bucovina and Transylvania.

This is the brief version of a tailor-made holiday plan we have recently crafted for a family of 6 (grandparents, parents and children) coming to Romania in August for 17 days. donkey ride

Days 1 to 7, discovering Maramures: collecting hay and piling a haystack, milking sheep at the sheepfold and making cheese, picking berries, hikinh, celebrating Saint Mary in a traditional way, visiting wooden churches and the Merry Cemetery at Sapanta, steam train-ride. Accommodation in a traditional wooden house and for 1 night in a train.

Days 8 to 11, discovering Bucovina: meeting local craftsmen, visiting the painted monasteries and hiking on Rarau mountain

Days 12 to 14: traveling with donkeys on earth roads, children can ride the donkey and adults walk alongside them.

Days 15 to 17: bathing in salt lakes at Sovata, visiting a salt mine and even seeing the wild brown bear.

Detailed information about these activities can be found in the suggested itinerary “Family holidays in Transylvania, Maramures and Bucovina” on our website.

Via Transylvania Tours is featured in the National Geographic Travel, Bradt Travel guide and TVR International