Wallachia, Romania

Romania's Wallachia region (Tara Romaneasca or Muntenia) has lots of interesting sites and attractions. Some of my favorites include: the scenic drives of Transfagarasan and Transalpina (don't go during winter time) and the Endless Column sculpture of Constantin Brancusi in Targu Jiu. Spending a night at Balea Lake on the Transfagarasan route is just magical.

I also enjoy driving along the Danube River from Drobeta-Turnu Severin to Moldova Noua (while in the area you can also visit the impressive Iron Gates Hydroelectric Power Station, one of the largest in Europe, and check out the tallest rock sculpture in Europe). In the same general area you'll find the beautiful Egreta Resort - wooden cottages located on the Danube river in a spectacular setting which provide an excellent location for bird watching (including lots of majestic swans) and dark skies for astrophotography.

The Mud Volcanoes near Berca are interesting, while the Peles Castle in Sinaia is spectacular and absolutely worth visiting. The Bucegi area offers cool hiking routes and the Caraiman Cross, the tallest summit cross in the world at 2,291m. One of the most scenic (but easy) hikes in Wallachia is the route between Cabana Ciucas and Ciucas Peak.

Nera Gorges National Park is another beautiful area with picture-perfect waterfalls, lakes and cool forest hiking routes. At Baile Olanesti, near the Water Lily Lake, you can see cool little fireflies in July (I went between 7 and 14 July in four different years; you need be there at dusk, between 9:00 and 10:00 PM). Another beautiful area is the Doftana Valley where you can spend a few nights relaxing at the Atra Doftana guesthouse, emjoying its striking architecture and the peaceful surroundings. Casa Timis is also very nice, has delightful bungalows and some excellent desserts. Sunrise Glamping Retreat is located in a scenic hilly location and offers a relaxing glamping experience.

In the city of Targoviste you can visit the execution site of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania's former Communist dictator, and his wife (located at a former military base where you can also visit the site of Ceausescu's trial and prison cell). Details here.

In the Oltenia region you can visit tradition fortified houses called kule in Maldaresti and stay at the beautiful Conacul lui Maldar.

There are some nice sights in the capital city of Bucharest as well. A good place to go is the lively (but touristy and usually crowded) Old City with its pubs and restaurants; other notable sights include Herastrau Park, Revolution Square, the Triumphal Arch and the Romanian Athenaeum. Don't miss the beautiful fountains and light show at Piata Unirii (schedule to be found here).

The most notorious sight in Bucharest is probably the Communist-style Palace of Parliament building (colloquially known as the People's House), the world's second largest administrative building after the US Pentagon and slighlty larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza by volume. This Communist-era oddity can be toured - details here.

Another fascinating Communist point of interest that can be visited is the former residence of dictator Ceausescu and his wife, the Spring Palace. With 80 rooms, the opulent palace includes a spa, underground bunker, in-door greenhouse, swimming pool, a population of peacocks (descending from the orginal ones received by Ceausescu as a gift from Japan), cinema room, tanning and hairstyling rooms, numerous gifts received from world leaders and more. Don't miss it. Details here (be sure to get the so-called private tour).

At the run down Military Museum you can see the Soyuz capsule used for reentry by Romania's only cosmonaut, Dumitru Prunariu (who took part in a Soviet mission). At the Romanian Airforce Museum you'll find an exhibition with equipment produced and tested by local rocket company, Arca Space (this album also includes pictures from a temporary space expo in Bucharest). Finally, don't miss the Tiriac Collection while in Bucharest, a fabulous classic car collection of former tennis player Ion Tiriac.

Additional info:
- entry on Wikipedia
- profile on Wikivoyage

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