Romania is one of Europe's enigmas. For decades following the war it was a relatively closed country, falling under the Soviet Communist sphere of influence. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union the country was held under the sway of the dictatorial Nicolae Ceausescu, and its boundaries remained closed to all but a trickle of tourists.
Over a decade since Ceausescu's removal from power Romania is starting to recover culturally and socially. It remains one of the poorest countries in Europe but with a welcoming policy to foreign visitors. For the adventurous tourist it is ideal. The capital of Bucharest has been on the tourist map for some years, and its Communist grandeur, such as the Parliamentary Palace, are now regarded as attractions rather than eyesores.
Romania has also got Dracula. This classic Gothic villain was the literary invention of Bram Stoker. Few characters from literature have proved so enduringly popular, and "Dracula's Castle" located at Bran is one of the country's top attractions for tourist visitors. Although Bran has the advantage of notoriety, it is in fact only one of literally hundreds of fabulous castles in the country, ranging from the long ruined to the fabulous palaces of Peles and Pelisor, built for royalty at the end of the 19th century.
Added to this is the stunning beauty of the Carpathians, the mountain range that separates the plains of Wallachia and Moldavia from the Transylvanian Plateau. A steep serrated ridge, it is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges on the continent, and its heights hide spa towns, ski resorts and numerous tiny, remote villages, seemingly unchanged for centuries.