Europe in Winter: Where to Go

Vienna, a star of Europe in winter

The Old World is a gift that keeps giving year round, from the mercurial peaks of the warmer months, to the subzero temps of December and beyond. It’s the latter, however, that tends to capture the imagination, a time when the old town architecture and cobbled streets simmer in the chill, and warming visions of hearty fare by firelight draw the budding European tourist in. Though you’ll need a ... Read Full Article

Visiting Romania’s Maramureș County

Playful suggestion of the underlying themes of Maramureș County

Many Romanians vacation in Maramureș, a county in Romania north of Transylviania and south of the Ukrainian border, for the same reasons foreigners do. They are curious to see life as it existed centuries ago. Maramureș is like Pennsylvania Dutch country in the US:  horse-drawn carriages, hand-embroidered clothing, rural crafts, and lifestyles based on agriculture. The crafts are best ... Read Full Article

Poenari Castle and the Myth of Dracula

Poenari Castle as seen from the road below

To visit the real Dracula’s real castle in Romania, you have to know which castle to visit. Shall it be Bran Castle of Transylvania, beloved by tourists and the country’s tourism board, or Poenari Castle of Wallachia, the historically valid but little-known alternative? Those who have read Bram Stoker’s novel about the world’s most famous vampire are often curious about what inspired the Irish ... Read Full Article

Alba Iulia, Romania: Six Centuries of History in one Hilltop Fortress

Alba Iulia, in Romania’s Transylvania region, has a hilltop citadel where many historical eras come to life, dominated by two massive cathedrals with over 600 tumultuous years dividing them. But far from being stuck in the past, the city is a trailblazer in terms of renovating its assets and achieving recognition on the international stage. In 2012 the municipality was named a European ... Read Full Article

Transylvania Incorporated: a Case Study in Globalization

Banca Transilvania

  Transylvania is a part of Romania that many tourists visit in search of unspoilt rural life, ancient traditions and centuries-old buildings. But if you explore it with a slightly different mindset, the region could serve as a case study in economic and cultural globalization. Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll see pseudo-western T-shirts saying things like "Dream Princess," along ... Read Full Article

Targu Secuiesc: Transylvania’s Ancient Trading Center

You don’t have to read a book to learn what an important trading center Targu Secuiesc, Romania once was. You can just read the architecture of this town of 20,000 people (largely of Hungarian ancestry) located in eastern Transylvania. All around the central square, you can see weird open gateways that carve into the buildings and open onto narrow, pedestrian-only lanes. These are the town’s ... Read Full Article

Romania’s Calata Region: Surprises Among the Traditions

The area of Romania known as Calata (in Romanian) or Kalotaszeg (in Hungarian) may be rich in traditions, but it also has some unexpected sides. In among the sleepy Transylvanian villages and farms, the well-preserved medieval churches, and the peasant handicrafts, there are a few unusual things that stand out. For one, there is the castle in the village of Stana (Sztana in Hungarian) that was ... Read Full Article

Halloween in Transylvania

It was dusk on Halloween day. I hurried along the dusty, cobbled streets of Sighisoara, Transylvania trying to find my way back to the empty hotel near the train tracks. Around every corner, I had to dodge open graves and the leers from men standing inside them holding shovels. The story raced through my mind about a 15th century prince who was captured by Vlad Tepes not far from here and forced ... Read Full Article