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5 Things you didn’t know about Romania

Romania is a country full of surprises and amazing places that will leave long lasting impressions on a visitor’s mind. If you get the chance of visiting Romania, you will surely want to return for longer stays, that is guaranteed. Although some of you are already visiting Romania for times in a row, we can bet there are still a lot of things you didn’t know about Romania. This country is packed with well preserved history, and has given birth to great inventors and scientists. The beautiful landscapes, culture and iconic landmarks make Romania a fantastic travel destination.

So if you’re planning to visit Romania or to move here, you might also be interested to know about interesting facts which you don’t find everywhere about this country. So, in this article I will be glad to share with you 5 interesting things you didn’t know about Romania, that will make you smile and boost your knowledge about this beautiful country. 

1. Romanian inventors have changed the world

Did you know about Romania that it gave birth to some of the most extraordinary engineers and scientists in the world? And some of them have really changed the world that we live in today? For example, the discoverer of insulin is a Romanian scientist and professor of medicine – Nicolae Constantin Paulescu.

The insulin is an important substance that is currently used in medicine for treating people around the world who are affected by diabetes. It is actually a hormone that in normal conditions is produced by our pancreas for managing the level of sugar (glucose) in our blood and body. People affected by diabetes have a deficiency in producing this hormone, so they need insulin injections for keeping healthy.

Nicolae Constantin Paulescu first discovered the insulin by developing a pancreatic extract obtained from the pancreas of bovines, which he later patented as pancreine. Under his first experiment, he injected the extract into a diabetic dog, and the results showed the substance had a normalising effect on blood sugar levels of the dog.

Another important Romanian inventor was Petrache Poenaru – he was the one who invented the world’s first fountain pen. Yes, you got that right, it is that pen which you used in school to learn writing. Petrache Poenaru was not only an inventor, but also an appreciated mathematician, physicist, agronomist, and many more, including also a politician. At the time of inventing the fountain pen Petrache Poenaru was a student in Paris, in the École Polytechnique, the prestigious French school. He was so obsessed with learning and continuously writing notes from courses, that he desperately needed a better writing tool. In the end, he succeeded to invent the fountain pen, which first used swan’s feather as an ink reservoir.

The Hyper CD-ROM is considered to be an invention that will definitely revolutionise the computer world. Eugen Pavel is a Romanian scientist and inventor of the Hyper CD-ROM, an optical storage disc for 3D data, believed to have an initial capacity of 1PB, and a theoretical capacity of 100 EB (1 million giga bytes). This means it would have a data storage capacity of 15,000 times more than the normal CD. Or, in other words, on the Hyper CD-ROM we could be able to store the entire information existing in the Royal Library of the Netherlands. Thus, the Hyper CD-ROM is considered to be the future of data storage tools.

Eugen Pavel was born in Bucharest, and graduated the University of Bucharest with a physics degree in 1976. He was awarded several important prizes, among which the gold medal at the EUREKA Contest in Brussels. He also published numerous books and articles, and he is the official holder of more than 60 patents and patent applications.

Other Romanians that changed the world:

Emil Racovita – founder of biospeleology, that means the study of organisms living in caves.

Anastase Dragomir – who invented the parachuted chair, an initial version of today’s ejection seat.

Even more than the guys described above, there are Romanian engineers who have strongly contributed to the history of flight. Names like Henri Coanda, Aurel Vlaicu and Traian Vuia have played a significant role as pioneers in aviation and aerodynamics. Henri Coanda has been credited as inventor of the modern jet engine, while Traian Vuia designed, built and tested the first tractor monoplane. Aurel Vlaicu was the inventor of the arrow shaped airplane. He constructed his own plane in 1910, with which he succeeded to fly without any modification.

Furthermore, Romania has four Nobel prize laureates: Stefan Hell in chemistry, George Emil Palade in medicine, Herta Muller in literature and Elie Wiesel for peace.

2. First European city with public street lighting

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I bet this one you didn’t know about Romanians. Yes, indeed, Romanians have built the first public street lighting in Europe!

Timișoara, a city in the West of Romania, recorded several firsts. In 1884, Timișoara recorded an important premiere, it became the first city lit by electric street lamps in continental Europe. And it was second only to New York City, if we talk about international standards.  That’s one of the most interesting things people don’t know about Romania. 

And, besides the fact that it was the first European city with public street lighting, Timisoara is also known as the first city in the country where horse-drawn trams (horsecars) circulated on the street. Yes, that was happening approximately 150 years ago (in 1869), indeed.

3. Romania has one of the happiest cemeteries in the world

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Yeah, you got that right, there’s a cemetery where happiness is the rule! That’s the Merry Cemetery (this is its name, of course), which is located in Maramureș county, in the village of Săpânţa. The Merry Cemetery is a very unique burial site, and also an open-air museum and a popular tourist attraction. It is famous because of the colourful tombstones with funny paintings designed in a poetic manner, containing scenes from the lives of people who are buried there. The cemetery was designed by Stan Ioan Pătraș in 1940, a local woodcarver. He began making the cemetery in this way because he said he loved people so he wanted to come people visit him, even after he died. For sure, he accomplished that. 

In this cemetery each tombstone shows a witty poem illustrating the person’s life and also the way she/he died. One of the most known and funny epitaphs found can be translated in this way: “Under this heavy cross/ Lies my poor mother-in-law/There more days if she lived/ I would lie and she would read.” 

The cemetery is special for its unusual feature that deviates from the prevailing common belief – the one that considers death as something solemn. Although you didn’t know this about Romania, I guarantee that you’ll never laugh like that in any other cemetery.

Accommodation near Săpânța:

If you’re curious to pay a visit to this unusual cemetery, the closest accommodation facilities you can find is in the same locality – in Săpânța. Here is a guest house I liked, where you can have a memorable stay: Plai cu Peri. It is very close to the Merry Cemetery (a 5 minute walk), and is located in a picturesque area. What I loved the most was the wooden traditional architecture of the place, which contributes to your experience of the local lifestyle. Here you can see people dressing up in folk costumes from the area, and taste a glass of authentic palinka, their local drink. They also have an on-site restaurant, where you can enjoy the local food of Maramureș. And the guys here also speak English, so no language issues!

If you’re not a local tradition lover, or simply prefer places with more facilities, like indoor pool and fancier restaurants, you will find more lodging options in Sighetu Marmației. It is the closest bigger town, 20 km from Săpânța (a 25 minute travel by car). Here, the ones we can recommend are:

Pensiune Restaurant Flamingo – it is located in a picturesque and quiet area, it offers cosy accommodation, with all necesary facilities (WI-FI, private bathroom, TV, parking, etc.). And they also have their own restaurant where you can taste all local dishes.

Camves Inn – this one also is located in a beautiful area, and they have lots of facilities, such as: out-door and in-door pools, table tennis, or bicycles.

4. Romania has the world’s second biggest administrative building

It is the Palace of the Parliament (known also as People’s House), yes, this one you may know already. The building is currently the seat of the Parliament of Romania. It was built by former Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. The construction started during the final years of his presidency, and finalised seven years after his death. According to the World’s Records Academy The Palace of the Parliament represents the heaviest, the largest and the most expensive civil building with administrative function, on the entire planet.  

The Palace is 240 metres long, 86 metres high and 270 metres wide, and its construction costs climbed up to an astonishing total amount of €3 billion. There are so much more remarkable numbers like: 100,000 people worked on the site, the palace has eight underground levels and a nuclear bunker, 1,000 rooms and an annual bill of $6m, equivalent to that of a small city. It has approximately 20 km of underground tunnels and an area of 365,000 square metres. Inside the palace you’ll find 480 chandeliers, 3,500 tonnes of crystal, 1,409 ceiling lights, and for the monumental windows and doors were used 700,000 tons of steel and bronze.

Accommodation close to the Palace of Parliament:

Very close to the Palace of Parliament there are lodging facilities that you will surely like. The fanciest hotel is JW Marriott, where you have all the facilities you ever needed, and which needs no description.

Others very close are Hotel Parliament and Ibis București Palatul Parlamentului. All the three hotels are near the Palace of Parliament, and you won’t need any transport for visiting the palace. It will be just a less than 5 minute walk.

5. Romania has the tallest rock sculpture in Europe

Interesting things you didn't know about Romania

King’s Decebal sculpture, the tallest rock sculpture in Europe, is in Orşova city and is visible from the Danube river. Decebal was the last king of Dacia and also the strongest rulers of the ancient kingdom.The sculpture has 55 meters tall and 25 meters wide and took ten years for a team of 12 sculptors to complete it. So I consider that a giant portrait of an ancient king that looms over the Danube river is an important thing to know about Romania, and an amazing place to visit.

These would be, for now, 5 interesting things to know about Romania, which I hope will help you discover and understand this country better. So now, you can surprise your friends with those unexpected things you know about Romania.

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