September 29, 2016, Bucharest, Romania – Vocea.biz, the new face of Romanian journalism, presents a different side of Romania. Forget the stories about vampires and Transylvania, Romania is much more than that.
It’s the place Prince Charles bought two houses. It’s the country that has, according to Top Gear legend Jeremy Clarkson, “the best road in the world”. All this and much more is revealed by Vocea.biz newspaper in this list of fabulous things people probably didn’t know about Romania.
Dracula, Ceauşescu, Hagi and Nadia Comaneci were in the 90’s the first to come to mind when thinking about Romania. The first was a real magnet for tourists interested in legends and myths and still is today – some specialists argue that it could have been better used as a brand – but the list of people, places and events that shape the new image of Romania has since changed.
Prince Charles showed a different face of Romania
The Prince of Wales is one of the most distinguished figures who have contributed to promoting a different image of Romania. Photographs and videos of Prince Charles walking through the villages in Transylvania have been seen all over the world, and the fact that the next in line to the throne of the UK bought properties in Transylvania has made British people, but not only, curious.
And it was a signal for those in search of a place far away from the busy city life, or even an investment in agrotourism. Here are just two examples:
Arabella McIntyre-Brown, a writer who spent 30 years of her life in London and Liverpool, moved to Măgura, a small mountain village in Braşov County. Five years later, she says she feels at home and is planning to never move back to the UK.
And secondly there’s Duncan Ridgley, a former famous paparazzi also from the UK, who stumbled upon another small village in Transylvania called Breb, in Maramureş County. After two failed attempts in other countries, he decided to open a “hotel” here. And the tourists started flocking, even if the rooms – located in old houses – have no Wi-Fi or TV.
Romania’s countryside is yet to be revealed, but the same Prince Charles has a big say in it. In an interview with BBC, he claimed that Romania still has the kind of little farmer and smallholder that is “absolutely crucial to the maintenance of food security”.
Words with an echo: “The best road in the world”
Six years before Brexit and the rise of anti-immigrant speeches in the UK, one British asked Romania if he could stay here forever. And he was not an average guy, but Jeremy Clarkson, ex-host of BBC’s Top Gear. Fascinated by the Transfăgărăşan road in Romania he declared: “We were wrong, this is better than the Stelvio. This is the best road in the world”.
Before the final scene, Clarkson added: “Romania, thank you for having us. And can we stay? Forever…”
Coincidence or not, one year later, in 2011, Sibiu County, where the best part of Transfăgărăşan is located, saw a rise in tourist numbers, the biggest since the city won the European Capital of Culture title in 2007.
And Transfăgărăşan entered the “bucket list” of many automotive fans around the world.
Commercials – advertising for Romania
Lots of places in Romania have inspired advertisers to promote their products, international brands included. One of the most spectacular commercials shot in Romania is for Aldi, and its set in Biertan, a village also found in Transylvania. Its name was changed to Julbacken, but the Romanian language spoken by some of the actors and the saxon-style houses gave it away.
“Nothing compares to the ice cold refreshment of a Coors”, says Van Damme, on top of the Carpathians, at Bâlea Lac. The 90’s famous actor filmed lots of commercials there, and has visited Romania since, promoting one of the country`s most visited sights.
Still, one of the best commercials shot in Romania has to be the one for PayU money. A blind young man is walking, with his dog, on the streets of Sibiu, and the commercial catches one of the most beautiful places in the city.
Although the impact of these commercials on the number of tourists is hard to measure, it’s clear that Romania is fascinating to advertising industry, one of the most strict when it comes to filming locations.
Romania on the silver screen
Movies can transport you to another world, so they say. And tens of movie titles shot in Romania make movie fans want to see this world.
The Carpathians were made famous by the movie Cold Mountain, which has big Hollywood names in it: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman and Donald Sutherland just to name a few. Part of the movie was shot in Covasna County and also in Bucharest.
Another Hollywood star, Nicolas Cage, shot movies in Romania, including Ghost Rider 2 – Spirit of Vengeance (2011). Rumours have it Cage is planning to move to Romania, at least for a while.
Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton and Matt Damon are another three stars that filmed in Bucharest for the movie “The Zero Theorem”.
“There is no such thing as bad publicity”, so Romania can also thank Sacha Baron Cohen for giving it notoriety world-wide, after he filmed all of Borat here. The controversy around the movie spread across the world, and Romania’s name was always mentioned.
Festivals that reached the top
Leaving behind the people and brands that promoted Romania’s image around the globe, one of the newest attractions in the country is music. Festivals like Electric Castle, held at a medieval castle, and Untold, in the heart of Cluj, managed to reach the top of international charts from the first editions. Tens of thousands of young people from all over the world flocked to see the biggest names in the industry on stage between 2013 and now.
With a history of beer festivals with local bands, Romania managed in the last few years to make a huge step in developing the scene. And two of the biggest events are Electric Castle and Untold, both of them getting very positive reviews from the beginning, both from Romanians and foreigners.
The latter proved that Romania can be attractive not only for its myths and legends, but also for its festivals. More than 30.000 people from around the world spent four days at Untold in August 2016. During the festival, they also found out about other places worth visiting in Romania, thanks to a campaign organised by the Untold team.
The places and tourist attractions already mentioned are just a part of what Romania has to offer – from its seaside that’s always changing for the better, to the cities – big or small – to the rural areas that really seem out of this world for the average city person.
Just short of two million foreign tourists visited Romania in the first eight months of 2016, according to the last numbers by INS. They spent more than 4 billion lei during this time, a quarter of which was for museum and tourist attractions fees, proof that Romania is yet to be discovered at its full potential.
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