Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nine Things You Maybe Didn't Know About Romania

My guess is that most high schoolers wouldn't know how to find it on a map, though 22 million people live there and, like us, they have a history. After World War II Romania, along with the rest of Eastern Europe, fell behind the Iron Curtain and was forgotten by the West. But all the world's eyes became aware of this country again when gymnastics star Nadia Comaneci captured gold with a perfect ten in the 1976 Summer Olympics... and two more in 1980.

It's a land with peoples who have seen much sorrow. Here are some details to get you acquainted.

1. Romania has the 9th largest territory and 7th largest population among the nations in the European Union.

2. The capital of Romania is Bucharest, which is the sixth largest city in the E.U. with approximately 2.2 million people in its metro area.

3. Dracula's Castle is in Romania.

The actual name is Bran Castle. Like many of the castles built during the Middle Ages, Bran Castle was a well fortified refuge built in 1212 by the Teutonic Knights at the entrance to a mountain valley on the border of Transylvania. Destroyed by the Mongols thirty years later, it was rebuilt and used as a defense against the Ottoman Empire. In the mid-fifteenth century it was the fortress used by Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, known as Vlad the Impaler. His Romanian surname was Dracula. Today it is a museum for tourists.

4. The official language is Romanian.

5. The name of the country comes from, you guessed it... the word Roman.

6. If you are ever in a rental car in Romania be sure to drive on the right side of the road, as in the U.S., and not the left as in Britain.

7. When the Romans left the region upon the collapse of the Roman empire in the 4th century, the territory, held by the Goths, was then taken by the Huns. Other people groups settling there in the first millennium were the Gepids, Avars, Bulgars, Pechenegs, and Cumans, as well as the Slavs.

8. Romania today is a democracy with several major political parties.

9. The country is relatively poor by most standards, though it ranks 65th in the world for per capita income (approx $12,000 a year). It is a nation emerging, but with many needs.... but like many cultures, not to be forgotten and with much to give.

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