Although still regarded by many as an off-the-beaten-path destination, Romania is a country full of surprises, folklore, and exciting places that leave long lasting impressions on visitors’ minds. Check out these interesting, wacky facts about my beloved country:

1. Romania has one of the happiest cemeteries on Earth

Tucked away in a tiny village of Maramures county, near the Ukrainian border, the Merry Cemetery (Cimitirul Vesel) is not only a very unique burial site, but also an open-air museum and a tourist attraction in its own right.

Designed in 1940 by the local woodcarver Stan Ioan Pătraș, Săpânța’s cheerful cemetery stands out for its colorful high wooden crosses carved in oak and painted with scenes of the deceased’s life. Each tombstone features a witty poem depicting the person’s life and the way he/she died.

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2. Romanian inventors have changed the world

Romania gave birth to some extraordinary scientists and engineers, most of whom have actually changed the world. Some of these include Nicolae Constantin Paulescu – discoverer of insulin; Eugen Pavel – inventor of Hyper CD-ROM; Aurel Persu – the first engineer and car designer to build a car with the wheels inside its aerodynamic line; Petrache Poenaru – inventor of fountain pen; Emil Racoviță – founder of biospeleology (the study of organisms living in caves); Anastase Dragomir – inventor of parachuted chair, an early version of today’s ejection seat.

Furthermore, Romanian engineers have successfully contributed to the history of flight. Henri Coanda, Traian Vuia, and Aurel Vlaicu – all of them have played an important role as pioneers in aerodynamics and aviation.

3. Romanian is the only Romance language in Eastern Europe

Most people believe that Romanian language is very similar to those spoken in Russia or other Slavic countries, but in reality, Romanian is a Romance language closely related to Italian, French, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese.

4. Romania has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List include the Churches of Moldavia; the Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains; the Historic Centre of Sighisoara; the Monastery of Horezu; the Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania; the Wooden Churches of Maramures; the Danube Delta.

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5. Romania is Europe’s richest country in gold resources

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6. Romania boasts the world’s largest administrative building

Built by former Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament – also known as the People’s House – is the largest, heaviest, and most expensive civil administration building on the planet.

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7. Romania’s national currency is Leu, which means lion (English)

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8. Romania has the best preserved Delta in Europe

Although the second largest river delta in Europe after Caspian Depression’s Volga Delta (Russia/Kazakhstan), the Danube Delta in Romania is the best preserved on the continent. It features no less than 23 natural ecosystems, boasting an amazing variety of unique flora and fauna.

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9. The largest population of brown bears in Europe lives in Romania

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10. The Statue of Decebalus in Orsova is Europe’s largest rock sculpture

Somewhere along the Danube, near the small city of Orsova, in southwestern Romania, lies a 55 m high rock sculpture depicting Decebalus, the last king of Dacia. The monument is the largest rock sculpture in Europe and can only be reached by boat.

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11. The only gold museum in Europe is found in Romania

Also known as the Mineralogical Collection of Brad, The Gold Museum in the small Romanian city of Brad is the only one of its kind in Europe. Founded some 100 years ago, the gallery contains a mind-blowing collection of over 2,000 pieces of gold gathered here from across the world.

A highlight of the museum is the native gold, which is displayed exactly as found in the mines of the Romanian mountains. The pieces are so unique and spectacular that their value does not depend on grammage anymore. For instance, a lizard-shaped item of only seven tenths of a gram of gold has been evaluated at 3 million euros.

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12. Timisoara was the first city lit by electric street lamps in continental Europe

Timisoara, one of the most beautiful and vibrant Romanian metropolises, was the first mainland European city to be lit by electric street lamps, back in 1884. As per international standards, it was second only to New York City.

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