General Aspects about Romania

General Aspects about Romania

Location, neighbors, size-population, cities, geography, weather

Location of Romania

Many of you might think that Romania is located in the eastern part of Europe. In fact, when asked where have you been, most of you will say that you have been in Eastern Europe. Well, this is wrong. Romania is located pretty much in the center of Europe, almost halfway between the western and eastern fringes of Europe (roughly 2600km). If Romania is an eastern European country, then what can we say about Azerbaijan, Georgia, or about the people who live in the western part of the Ural Mountains?

Though it is geographically wrong to say that Romania is located in the eastern part of Europe, politically we might say that Romania is located in this part of Europe, taking into consideration the events between 1945 and 1989 when Europe was practically split in two.

 

Neighbors of Romania

Romania is surrounded by 5 different countries plus The Black Sea. Romania is bordered by Ukraine in the north and in south-east. The Republic of Moldavia for a while forms the eastern border of Romania. In the south-east the country has access to the Black Sea for more than 200km. In the south, Bulgaria is our neighbor, while in the south-west, Serbia becomes the next one. Finally, the western border of Romania is formed by Hungary.

Size – Population – The capital and the main cities

The surface of Romania is 238 391 square kilometers, which makes it the 12th largest country in Europe and the 80th in the world. It has a similar size to the UK or Oregon, US. It is 744km (462mi) long from east (Sulina) to west (Beba Veche) and 525km (326mi) wide from the south (Zimnicea) to the north (Horodistea).

Romania has a population of 19 500 000 people (in the year 2011), being the 43rd most populous country in the world and the 9th in Europe. 55% of the population lives in the cities while 45% of it lives in rural areas, making from Romania one of the most rural countries of Europe.

The Romanians represent 89.5% of the total population, the Hungarians 6.6%, and the Romani people (Gypsies) 2.5%, the rest representing different small minorities. It is believed that unofficially the Romani population is in fact much higher, representing at least 5%, around 1 million, if not more. This would make Romania the country with the largest Romani population in the world. Be aware, the name of the country doesn’t come from the name of this minority, but from the city of Rome, Italy.

Bucharest has been the capital of Romania officially since 1862, unofficially since the end of 1859, when many foreign chancelleries moved their headquarters to Bucharest. Today is by far the largest city in Romania with a population of 2 million people. It is the third largest in this part of Europe, after Athens and Istanbul. It is the headquarters of the Romanian Parliament, Presidency, Government, Constitutional Court and many other Romanian and European public institutions.

Other major cities of Romania, although quite small when compared with Bucharest, are Timisoara, located in the south-western part of Romania; Iasi, located in the north-eastern part of Romania; Constanta, the main Romanian port; Cluj-Napoca, the main city in Transylvania; and Brasov, 180km (112mi) north of Bucharest.

The Romanian territory is divided into 41 counties (districts) plus the capital.

Geography of Romania

Romania has a diverse geography. The Carpathian Mountains represent the highest elevation in Romania, being the only real mountains in the country. The highest point belongs to the Moldoveanu Peak – 2544m (8346ft), located in the Transylvanian Alps (Muntii Fagaras).  Two-thirds of the Carpathian Mountains are located in Romania where they form a sort of arch, Transylvania being surrounded by these mountains. 31% of Romania’s area is taken up by the mountains.
The main river of Romania is the Danube. It forms the border with Serbia and Bulgaria and then goes up to the north into the Romanian territory, dividing the province of Wallachia from the one of Dobrogea. Then it turns to the right and forms the unique delta of the Danube. The other major rivers are Mures, Prut, Olt and Siret.
The most important lakes are to be found right next to the Black Sea as they are formed in the former lagoons. It is here one can see the largest lake in Romania, Razim Lake (425km²) followed by Sinoe (171km²). Other large lakes are located along the Danube River. The largest number of glacial lakes are to be found in the Retezat Mountains. It is here where you can admire the largest one – Bucura Lake, and the deepest one – Zanoaga Lake.
Around 60% of the mineral waters from Europe are to be found in Romania. In fact, the second purest water in the world, known as Perenna, originates in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains.

Also, the water bodies from Romania are very important for energy, about 33% of the total Romanian energy being produced by hydro plants. Among them, there are The Iron Gates I and II located on the Danube River.

King Decebalus, The Iron Gates, Romania

King Decebalus, The Iron Gates

 

Weather in Romania

Romania has a continental temperate climate with 4 seasons which means that the winters can be long and cold while the summers can be hot, especially in the plains but not so much in the mountains or in the northern territories. In the last few years, the springs and autumns have been short-lived. The average temperature for winter is somewhere around 1°C (34°F) and 21°C (70°F) for summers.  The coldest days of winter can reach -30°C (-22°F) in the depressions of Transylvania while the hottest days of summers can reach 38°C (100°F) in the southern areas of Romania. July records the highest level of precipitation while September is the driest.

Sunrise over the Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania

Sunrise over the Carpathian Mountains

Language

There is no doubt that the Romanian language is a Romance language. It is said that the most of the male Dacians fought against the Romans, many of them being killed in the battle. Therefore, the Roman soldiers and the Roman leaders of the new Dacia province married the local women. In this way, the locals were rapidly Romanized. In the 11th century, the language was influenced by the Slavic language which started to be used in the religious services.

Today, the locals consider their language as a Latin one. In fact, Romania is the only Latin country in this part of Europe and the only Latin Orthodox country in the world. In the same time, the Romanian language is the only official language in the country, being spoken by 91% of the population. The minorities are free to speak their own languages in the local administration, in law courts, schools, mass-media and cultural institutions.

English is the most known foreign language in Romania, followed by French and German. In the last few years, Spanish and Italian have become popular languages due to the large groups of Romanians working in Italy and Spain.

Currency

The national currency was adopted in 1867. It was linked to the Dutch currency known as Lowentaler. The silver coins had a lion on one of the sides, hence the name of the Romanian currency, “Leu” (Lei for plural). It means lion.

As a curiosity, the Romanian banknotes are made of polymer. It is a type of bill first issued by the Australian bank. It is much harder to be forged and lasts for a longer period of time. At present 8 countries have adopted this type of bills.

Officially Romania wants to adopt the Euro currency by 2016, but only if the Euro currency will be still available by then.

Credit/debit cards have become popular in the last years although in small towns it will be almost impossible to use them. Most of the time the PIN number of your card will be required, even for credit cards! Euros and dollars might be accepted by street vendors but for any other place, you’ll need the local currency.

Public holidays of Romania

1-2 January – New Year’s Day

1 May – Labor Day

1-2 May 2016 – Easter Day

19-20 June 2016 – Orthodox Pentecost

15 August – The Assumption

30 November – Saint Andrew

1 December – The National Day

25-26 December – Christmas Day

The economy and agriculture of Romania

Right after the anticommunist revolution in 1989, the communist economy collapsed. For several years the entire industry was heavily looted by the new leaders of the country, many of them former communists leaders who found in Ion Iliescu, the so-called democratic president of Romania, a protector and a savior. Originally, the new regime made “We don’t sell our country” a major motto. That’s why the first major investors appeared much later, after 1996.

The local economy improved only after 2000. Today, the main industries of the economy are represented by heavy machine manufacturing, the chemical and petrochemical sector, industrial and transport equipment, the auto industry and textiles.

Romania has an agricultural surface of 14.7 million hectares (36.3 million acres) of which only 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) are arable land. The sad part is that only 35%-40% of them are used in agriculture. Once known as the bread basket of Europe, Romania produces mainly corn, wheat, vegetable oil seeds and different vegetables. The vineyards occupy about 2.5% of the total agriculture surface. The livestock consists mainly of sheep, cows and pigs. The year of 2011 was the best agriculture year in the last two decades.

Transylvania, Romania, agriculture, grains, landscape, nature, plant

Cereals and mountains

 

Health sector in Romania

Romania is known for having a reputable medical school, producing a large number of qualified doctors. The main problem of the sector is the lack of money and investments. Many times the wages of good doctors are ridiculously small. Therefore, many doctors and nurses work now in western countries for much more. That’s why the health system in Romania suffers from a lack of trained personnel. Each time an unofficial copay (bribe) must be paid to the doctors. In the last years, many private clinics have been founded. They are well organized with a good staff but very expensive for the large majority of the population.

Communications in Romania

This is one of the few fields where Romania stays much better than many well-developed countries of the world. In fact, Romania has the best internet connection in Europe, the 4th in the world. The only problem is that the internet penetration is quite low, only 35% of the country having access to the internet. Of the total population, 60% of the Romanians have never used the internet. On the other hand, 3.6mil Romanians have a Facebook account.

The mobile competition is quite fierce in Romania, 4 major companies fighting over the market. This meant a big drop in tariffs and a better quality of services. Sometimes the tariffs don’t even exist anymore.

While in Romania, you can buy prepaid cards which start from €5 or more. Vodafone, Orange and Telekom have the best reception while Digi Mobil has the best tariffs. RCS-RDS is the best internet-TV cable company.

Driving in Romania

How do you make a Romanian sad? You ask him about roads. Of all the countries in the European Union, Romania has the shortest highways despite the fact that it has spent more money on roads then Hungary. Due to the corruption, bureaucracy, lack of money and a good law of the roads, Romania has not developed its road network. In the last years, the government paid more attention to this field and finally, 2012 marked the first improvement.

On the other hand, the situation is not so horrible as most travel books describe it. Many of my tourists agreed with this statement. Some of the national roads have been modernized or are being currently under repair. Side roads may be quite rough.

In Romania, many drivers think they are a little Schumacher. Therefore, for a long time, Romania owned a sad record of being the country with the second highest level of accidents in EU after Greece. At the present, it is ranked as the 9th country from this point of view. Many times impatient and reckless, some of the Romanian drivers will start to honk and curse with no problem. Expect a lot of pressure from the one behind you if you decide to respect the legal speed.

The policemen often have real problems with these drivers, many of them believing they can do whatever they want just because they are rich.

The police force is still corrupt but the level of corruption decreases constantly from year to year.

The legal age for driving a car/motorbike on the Romanian roads is 18. It requires a valid driving license.

Dacia, the national car in Romania

Dacia, the national car in Romania

 

Sports in Romania

The main sport in Romania, in fact, a religion, is football (soccer). There are 18 teams playing in The National League. The most known teams are Steaua Bucuresti, Dinamo Bucuresti, Rapid Bucuresti, CFR Cluj and U Cluj. Unfortunately, the corruption has reached the Romanian football, too. Several of the people involved in this sport were arrested. The national team is doing quite poorly right now.

Among other popular sports are tennis, handball, gymnastics, fencing, kayaking, rugby, basketball, etc.

Cycling in the Carpathian Mountains

Cycling in the Carpathian Mountains

 

Miscellaneous

Electricity:
220 volts, 50Hz. with 2-prong plugs. A converter and a plug adapter may be required for your electronic devices.
Tip:
A small tip for good service is appreciated. 10% is the norm. It is not included in the receipt.
Official Time:
Time zone: EET (+2 summer time, +3 winter time).

Daniel Gheorghita

Daniel Gheorghita

Managing Partner at Covinnus Travel
I love to travel, to discover new places, to meet new faces and make new friends. I like diversity and to learn new things, to understand the others, their culture, and their history. I'm passionate about photography and you can see my pictures at bydaniel.me
Daniel Gheorghita

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