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Take a Danube River Cruise to Picturesque Romania

If you’ve been looking for a way to kick back and enjoy a vacation without all the usual hustle and bustle of shopping, tourist attractions, and bouncing from hotel to hotel, then a river cruise is exactly what the doctor ordered. On a floating mini-resort, you can enjoy all the luxuries of hotel life and the delights of a cruise without ever leaving the shore far behind.
Ready for a magical river cruise? Consider floating down the legendary Danube river. No matter where you start, the beautiful river flows eternally toward the Black sea and your tour is likely to end in the Danube Delta. Here, you’ll find a combination of islands and complex aquatic ecosystems that make Romania the ideal place to end your river tour. In the shadows of the Caucus mountains, you’ll enjoy fine dining, cozy hotels, pastoral vistas, and a rich history.
No matter what you’re looking for, from ancient stories to relaxing spas, you’ll find it at the end of the Danube River in beautiful Romania.

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Danube River in Germany

The Delta is Alive and Ancient

The Danube is one of the oldest rivers in the world. Traveling down it, you are likely to encounter signs both of ancient civilizations and timeless nature. When you reach the Delta, expect to see a strange collection of landmarks. While much of it will be decorated with the familiar reeds and tall river grasses, there will also be several stretches of sand dunes, often surrounded by natural growths of beautiful white lilies. Where there are trees, keep an eye out for the thousand-year-old oaks, most of them more than 90 feet tall. Outdoor enthusiasts will love exploring the river and the surrounding areas.
Swimming in the Delta, you’ll see incredibly numerous and diverse populations of fish as fresh and salt water mix to form a complex and rich aquatic ecosystem. One of the things the delta is known for is its huge (and delicious) sturgeon population. These sturgeon provide caviar and delicious fish-based entrees to numerous local restaurants. If sampling local caviar is something you indulge in on your water-side vacations, you won’t be disappointed.

All the Castles You Can Climb

Romania is an ancient land and has been building beautiful stone architecture for a very long time. There are elegant castles and estates still in use and open for tours. Additionally, there are dozens of ruins around the countryside that have since become historical relics. If you want to explore the legendary castle of the real-life Count Dracula, or Vlad Tepes the Transylvanian war hero, be sure to check out Bran Castle. This beautiful monument of white stone and red roofs are built directly into the surrounding mountain stone. But Romania holds more stories and secrets than Bram Stoker ever dreamed of, so don’t limit yourself to this tourist hot spot.
After your Danube cruise, branch out and explore the variety of impressively fortified churches, impenetrable fortresses, and sweeping gothic castles. The wealth of Romania’s history is available to explore in the form of ruins, castles, and more. Look out for local tours and delight in the ghost stories of the region as you imagine the elegant medieval lives that must have taken place there. Whether you love palaces or ruins, Romania has a wonderful tour that will delight the historian in you.

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Romania

Walking Tours of Picturesque Cities

There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful sights and quaint charm of authentic Romania. With a low crime rate and a strong belief in local hospitality, you will find comfort walking around picturesque Romania. With brightly painted homes, flowers in the street, and plenty of local shops, you can quickly immerse yourself in the culture and positive attitude of the Romanian locals. Take a walk along the Danube or go on a walking tour.
Walking tours allow you to leave behind the pressure of finding a rental car or worrying about tourist taxi prices. Instead, pack a good pair of walking shoes and your GPS app and simply take off in a promising-looking direction. Get adventurous and stop in local cafes to try unfamiliar dishes when you get hungry. And don’t be shy about interacting with vendors on the street. You’ll find vendors selling handicrafts and tasty warm snacks, among other typical Romanian items.
Romania is safe enough savvy travel tactics and situational awareness is enough to keep you out of trouble. Even so, you should still be cautious of the usual sprinkling of pick-pockets and scam artists.

Try the Local Cuisine

Something unique about Romania is that it’s not quite like other European countries, which you can tell from the food. Romanians have a strong preference for things served with sour cream, local cheese, pickles and various forms of cabbage. But don’t let this list throw you off. The Romanians know what they’re doing and the local cuisine is absolutely delicious. Traditional dishes include Sarmale (sort of like egg rolls but with cabbage), Michi (long meatballs); and a mix of fried porks and thick bacon dishes. For dessert and sweet snacks there are Papanasi, which every restaurant does differently. Cozonac, which is a delightful form of walnut sweet bread, and “Placinta cu Branza Dulce si Sstafide” which translates to fried sweet-cheese pie with raisins. It is often served warm and sprinkled with sugar.
Taking a river cruise down the Danube is a delightful way to start a vacation and give you the opportunity to end it in beautiful, historic Romania. From tasty treats on street vendor carts to legendary castles, you can find anything you’re looking for.

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A Foodie’s Guide to Hungary

Feast Through Hungary

Hungary has a growing and bustling restaurant scene, and thanks to a few Michelin stars won by local restaurateurs, it is finally starting to get some attention. Described by the Daily News Hungry as the “perfect blend of Germanic, Italian, with a little touch of Slavic cooking traditions” Hungary is a hidden gem for any lover of food.

Food Rich in History

Situated in Central Europe between Romania and Austria, the country has a tumultuous past, with much of its history shrouded in raids and invasions. Because of the ongoing battles, the country became somewhat of a melting pot of the neighboring fare. Present day food will showcase a heavy influence of German and Italian food as well as a number of Jewish dishes.
With over 3 million residents, the Budapest metropolitan area accounts for more than a third of Hungary’s population, making it a central location for some of the country’s best food. The capital city was once two separate cities separated by the Danube river. Buda resided on the hillside, while pest was down below. The two cities have since merged, but they still retain their own unique vibes. Buda is known for being a quieter location, home to palaces and Ottoman spas, whereas in Pest, you will find a more lively scene featuring museums, art, and the Jewish District, a spot for amazing food.

Hearty Favorites

Gulyás

Hungary’s cuisine is rich with soups. It’s most well-known dish is arguably goulash, or as the locals call it, gulyás. The dish, a stew consisting of beef and vegetables is a staple in Hungary. It is given a savory, sweet taste thanks to the generous infusion of paprika. This history of gulyás goes back to the Magyars, the earliest settlers of Hungary, who would travel with dried chunks of meat and vegetables with them. They would later combine all the ingredients with water in a heavy cast iron pot and eat the stew throughout their journey.

Põrkõlt

Põrkõlt is another favorite in Hungary. The stew is made of large pieces of meat (usually beef, mutton, chicken, veal, goose, carp, or game), onions, bacon, garlic, tomatoes, and green peppers. And of course, you can’t forget the paprika. The stew is simmered down until barely a broth remains.
Although a staple, soups are not the only fare you will find in Hungary. Take a walk around Budapest, and you’ll surely stumble across somebody devouring langos. This popular street food consists of deep-fried dough topped with sour cream, topped with cheese, topped with practically anything you want. Consider it the Hungarian version of pizza. Meats, cheeses, and vegetables are popular toppings, but langos can also be topped with sweets like Nutella.

Paprika chicken

Paprika chicken (Csirke paprikás) is a bold showcase of the country’s favorite spice, you guessed it, paprika. The chicken is marinated in a creamy sauce and most often served with nokedli (dumplings). While traveling through the country, you will find paprika to be a common ingredient in the local cuisine. Paprika was introduced to Hungary during the 150-year rule of the Turks. It was initially used as an alternative to traditional pepper as the price of pepper began to rise. However, it slowly became a staple of the Hungarian kitchen and replaced pepper altogether.

Pork

Pork is the chosen meat in Hungary. The reason for this is rooted in history. During the period following the Ottoman era, the Turks took away domestic except pigs, as the Turks did not eat pigs due to their Muslim faith. You will find pork showcased in many of the local markets, where you can treat yourself to a diverse supply of local sausages and cured meats.

Sweet Tastes

While the culinary scene does not get its fair share of attention, the confections of Hungary are known worldwide. If sweets are your weakness, be sure to try a Kurtoskalaces, aptly known as a chimney cake. This treat is a towering funnel of sweet dough, topped with butter, sugar, and often cinnamon, nuts, and candies. Not sure where to find one? Like with Lángos, a walk around town is sure to introduce you to someone enjoying this dessert. The Dobos torta is another treat not to be missed. This dessert is a vanilla cake layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with caramel.
When enjoying dessert, don’t forget to try some local wine. Though Hungary is not usually a name that is tossed around in the wine realm, it’s moderate climate makes it a great place to grow a variety of wine grapes. The Tokaji aszú comes from the Tokaji region of Hungary. The wine is made from hand-picked berries that have been affected by noble rot. This type of berry lends to a very sweet wine that is a favorite in Hungary.

Can’t-Miss Local Spots

The Great Hall Market, expansive, and supported by towering wrought iron, is a foodie hub in Budapest. The traditional fare of fruits and vegetables are ever present, but this market has so much more to offer. Meats and cheeses abound, but you will also find a large supply of preserved foods, such as jams and pickles. Pickled foods are a large part of the Hungarian diet and will typically have an entire section devoted to them at the markets.
Café Ruszworm is one of oldest cafes in Budapest and one of the best places to try a Dobos torta. Another delicious choice is the Ruszworm Cream Cake, which consists of a sweet vanilla cream between two delicate layers of pastry.
Gelarto Rosa delights with picture worthy servings of ice cream. The smooth, frozen dessert is beautifully formed to resemble a rose. The shop features only the best local and organic ingredients. Alongside their traditional offerings, they also provide vegan, lactose intolerant, and diabetic friendly options.
Looking for the best pancakes? Gundel is the place to visit. Here, the pancakes are stuffed with grounds walnuts, raisins, rum, and cream. They are topped with a decadent chocolate-rum sauce and a sprinkling of orange zest.
Pest-Buda is a great place to find traditional homestyle cooking. The restaurant and hotel are located within an 18th-century building in the Buda Castle Quarter.
As with every location, be sure to keep an eye on where the natives frequent. You will often discover hidden treasures that will delight your inner foodie.

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Romanian Holiday: The Stories Behind the Great Castles of Romania

From ancient fortresses swirling with legends to more recent masterpieces well worth the trip, picking the best castle to see can be one of the most difficult parts of planning a trip to Romania. Romania is a favorite for castle-hunters and a no-brainer for any travelers setting their sights on Eastern Europe. With plenty of direct flights from Central Europe, low accommodation costs, and sites for both adventure and relaxation, glimpsing the best castles is a great way to launch a memorable trip to the intriguing lands of Romania.

Corvin Castle

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Corvin Castle

With a moat surrounding an old stone structure peaked with sky-reaching red turrets, the Goth-Renaissance styled Corvin Castle (also known as Hunyadi Caslte) looks like it was pulled directly from the storybooks. But under the picturesque exterior, the inside walls of Corvin tell of a darker tale, as it is widely believed it was one of the places Vlad III of Wallachia was imprisoned as the legends of his cruelty were swelling around Romania.
Outside of its allegedly infamous connection with Vlad the Impaler, Corvin showcases overlapping eras in Romania’s fascinating history. Constructed right on top of the ruins of a fortress from at least the 14th century, the current structure was built in the 15th century by John Hunyadi and designed to be a major symbol of Hungarian military might. Complete with Transylvanian engineering features like a double wall to go with formidable towers looking down over the rich, green countryside, Corvin projected enough strength to avoid many significant military skirmishes, though it was well-known for holding prisoners in three of its main towers.
After dominating the landscape for centuries, the castle received a major facelift in the 1600s, blending the Gothic roots with Renaissance architecture and engineering to give the castle its iconic look. It was still a significant spot of military importance at this point in its history, as two new defense towers were assembled in addition to the immense palace erected on the interior. Although it did suffer from neglect for a couple of centuries afterwards, Corvin Castle reemerged in the 19th century following a complete restoration that solidified its status as a national landmark.

Peles Castle

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Peles Castle

Anyone who makes it to Corvin also might want to take a look at Peles Castle, a magnificent 19th-century palace about two hours from Deva. Built for the Romanian royal family under King Carol I, Peles is a visually stunning collaboration of German and Italian engineering particularly well-known for the vivid autumn colors of the surrounding countryside. Like with Corvin, Peles Castle is also about a six or seven hour drive from Budapest, Hungary.

Bran Castle

You don’t have to actually believe Count Dracula once lurked from the battlements to feel a foreboding chill known to linger in the air around Bran Castle, the most famous castle in Romania and one that regularly makes top 10 lists for all of Europe. Built to replace a fortress once held by the Teutonic Knights, Bran Castle’s red roof has been a landmark near the Wallachia-Transylvania border since it was constructed in the 14th century. While Corvin also has some mythical ties to Vlad, Bran Castle is the one regularly marketed as “Dracula Castle” to tap into the dark and mysterious legends that have arisen around the fortress.

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Bran Castle

Though horror writer Bram Stoker never actually traveled to Romania, Bran Castle’s position high up on a hill above the neighboring region does seem to loosely match Stoker’s description of his classic story. Tall tales about a vampire that once lived there have also emerged over the generations, building a general sense of wonder in addition to the undeniable beauty of its construction. It was also a crucial strategic military base for the area, serving as the region’s chief defense against Ottoman-Turkish invaders as well as a semi-formal customs station.
But even if a little poetic license is required to attach the inspiration for Dracula to Bran Castle, there is still plenty of mystique that continues to intrigue visitors. While the restored red roof exterior gives the castle a timeless look, inside the walls visitors can inspect secret passageways and courtyards that showcase its renovated Gothic architecture. The fingerprints of Queen Mary of Romania are also all over the restoration, as she took over the property in the early 20th century and helped fully transform its former glory with a modern twist. Today, visitors have a little fun by combining real history and legend while perusing one of the premier castles in Eastern Europe.

Rasnov Citadel

Built on a clearing atop dramatic cliffs in the Carpathian Mountains, Rasnov Citadel was a matter of life and death for area occupants dating back to at least the 13th century, providing important shelter that made the region habitable. When the Tatars raided the region in 1335, Rasnov’s natural defense proved to be too difficult for the invaders to conquer, leaving the citadel as one of the only military strongholds in the region not to be overrun. A close-knit society developed within the fortress’ walls as it became a more permanent dwelling for the locals, with much of the interior architecture reflecting a simple peasant life much more than an upper-class lifestyle.

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View from Rasnov

Even though Rasnov was regarded as extremely difficult to successfully siege, it certainly had no shortage of challenges. The Citadel held for centuries before it finally cracked, partly because it also had a secret passageway that allowed the defenders to bring in fresh water during sieges. Eventually, it was the Ottoman army that caught on, forcing the first and only surrender of the castle in 1612. After the castle came back into local control not long after, legend has it that two Turkish prisoners were forced to dig a well over the course of nearly two decades, designed so inhabitants never had to leave the walls for water.
More recent history also contains tumultuous periods, including a nearly disastrous fire and an earthquake that both threatened to topple the medieval fortress. 800 years after it was founded by the Teutonic Knights, Rasnov Citadel has a become a major Romanian destination thanks to its stunning views of the Carpathian Mountains and the town of Rosnov, and for the cozy village hidden behind the castle walls.

Travel options

One of the reasons that Bran Castle is so popular is because it’s less than three hours by car from Bucharest, the capital and most populous city in Romania. It’s also very easy to take a train to Brasov before catching a short bus ride right to the castle, making it possible to experience Bran Castle as a day trip or an extended stay. You can also do the same with Rasnov Citadel, another place easily linked by bus through Brasov.
The more difficult castle to get to is Corvin, although it’s still easily accessible by car, train, and bus. By car, it’s about a five-hour drive northwest from Bucharest, with most visitors settling in for the night in either Hunedoara or Deva. Though the castle is technically part of Hunedoara, there are more accommodations in Deva to go with more to offer outside of the castle, which is why many consider it worth the extra 15 minutes on a bus.
Take a romanian holiday and visit one, or all, of these stunning historic castles!