Scenic Drives Romania Transfagarasan

Romania may not be as well-known as other European countries, but that doesn't mean it is an insignificant part of the world. Here are some facts of historical significance you might not have known about or associated with Romania:

History

The name "Romania" comes from the Latin word "Romanus" which means "citizen of the Roman Empire."

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Trajan's Column one of the most distinctive monumental sculptures to have survived the fall of Rome, represents a visual history of the wars between the Romans and the Dacians, with Trajan as the hero and Decebalus, the Dacian king, as his worthy opponent.
Completed in 113, the column has stood for more than 1,900 years. Trajan's war on the Dacians, a civilization in what is now Romania, was the defining event of his 19-year rule.

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During the Middle Ages Romanians were also known as Vlachs, a blanket term ultimately of Germanic origin, from the word Walha, used by ancient Germanic peoples to refer to Romance-speaking and Celtic neighbours.

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Paved Dacian Road
Paved Dacian Road

The meaning of the word "Transylvania" is the land beyond the forest.

Transylvania was first referred to in a Medieval Latin document dating from 1075 as Ultra Silvam ( Ultra meaning "beyond" or "on the far side of …" and Sylva (sylvam) meaning "wood or forest"). The ruins of Sarmizegetusa Regia – the capital of Dacia (present-day Romania) prior to the wars with the Roman Empire – are located in Hunedoara county - central Transylvania.

The Roman capital of Dacia, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, was built during the time of Roman Emperor Trajan, some 25 miles away.

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The people who inhabited the area of modern Romania were called "Getae" (Geti) by the Greeks, and Dacians (Daci) by the Romans.

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The earliest reliably dated European modern human fossils, up to now, were discovered in 2002 in southwestern Romania (at Pestera cu Oase - translated as the "Cave With Bones"). The fossil's age is estimated at 37,800 to 42,000 years old.

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The oldest cave drawings in Central and Eastern Europe were found recently in Romania's Coliboaia cave. Discovered by chance during a routine expedition in a very remote area in Apuseni National Park , the 13 drawings, which represent animals such as rhinos, buffalos, horses and cats, are approximately 32,000 years.
The drawings are very well preserved, likely because the area the where the gallery is located is not subject to flooding. Experts believe that the entrance of the cave was once used for hunting related rituals.
Attribution: Caving News

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Ancient Tomis (present-day Constanta) has been associated with the legend of Jason and the Argonauts who embarked on a long voyage from Greece to Kolchis (Georgia) on the Black Sea coast in search of the Golden Fleece.

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Tartaria TabletsThree clay tablets, dated to around 5300 BC, discovered in the village of Tartaria (central Romania), have been the subject of considerable controversy among archaeologists, some of whom claim that the symbols represent the earliest known form of writing in the world.

Geography

With an area of 92,043 square miles (238,391 square kilometer), Romania is the largest country in Southeastern Europe. It is roughly the same size as the United Kingdom and slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Oregon.

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The Carpathian Mountains are home to one of the largest undisturbed forests in Europe.
400 unique species of mammals, including the Carpathian chamois, call the Carpathian Mountains home.
60% of European brown bear population lives in the Carpathian Mountains.

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Some 1,350 floral species have been recorded in Romania's Carpathian Mountains, including the yellow poppy, Transylvanian columbine, saxifrage and edelweiss.

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The Carpathian Chamois (Capra Neagra) - indigenous to Carpathian Mountains of Romania - is the largest of the species.

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Inside the old Turda Salt Mines (Salina Turda) located in Transylvania, Romania, stands the world's largest salt mine museum.
Originally established in the 17th century, the massive mines were formed completely by hand and machine rather than by using explosives. Visitors are invited to descend as far down as almost 400 feet into the Earth in order to witness the history of the trade. More information & images >>

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Romania features the youngest continental land: (the Danube Delta) in Europe.
The mighty Danube River flows 1,788 miles from its springs in Germany's Black Forest to the Black Sea. Just before reaching the sea, it forms the Danube Delta - second largest and best preserved in Europe – 2,200 square miles of rivers, canals, marshes, tree-fringed lakes and reed islands.
The Danube Delta is a wildlife enthusiast's paradise (especially a bird watcher's). It is home to the world's largest reed bed and hosts rare species of plants and animals, including endangered sturgeon, otters, wildcats and European mink.

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The Danube Delta is a final resting place for gravel and sediment washed form the Alps. Formed over a period of more than 10,000 years, the Danube Delta continues to grow; 67 million tons of alluvia and sediments - the bulk of ten Great Pyramids - are deposited every year by the Danube River.

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The Iron Gates (or the Gate of Trajan) - a natural river channel between the Carpathian and Balkan mountains - are the Danube River's narrowest point (492 ft).The narrow is flanked by 984 feet high cliffs and the water is 296 feet deep.

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The second largest underground glacier in Europe (in terms of volume) can be found in Transylvania - Romania. The 3500-year old Scarisoara glacier, located in the Bihor Mountains – 90 miles southwest of Cluj Napoca. It has a volume of 2,649,000 cubic feet (75,000 cubic meters). The 154-foot deep entrance shaft leads to some impressive ice structures, including spectacular 20 foot high ice stalagmites. Scarisoara ice-cave is open to the public.

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The statue of Dacian king Decebal,carved in the rocky bank of the Danube river,is the tallest rock sculpture in Europe (135 feet tall).The monument celebrates obduracy, audacity and pride. It is a homage to the last king of Dacia (today's Romania), from Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Constantino Dragan.

Science / Technology

Bitdefender – one of the best antivirus / Internet security software suites - was developed by Romanian company Softwin.

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Romanian Inventor Traian Vuia was the first European to built and fly a fully self-propelled, fixed-wing 'automobile airplane' (March 18, 1906).

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The first substance proved to have a normalizing effect on blood sugar levels - pancreatine (the predecessor of insulin) was discovered by Romanian physiologist, professor of medicine: Nicolae Paulescu!

Between 1914 and 1916, Dr. Paulescu performed experiments in which he obtained an anti-diabetic pancreatic extract. In 1916 his extract, injected into diabetic dogs, reduced blood glucose levels.

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The jet engine used by modern airplanes was invented by Bucharest-born inventor Henri Coanda. Romanian inventor and aerodynamics pioneer, Henri Coanda designed and built in 1910 the world's first jet powered aircraft, known as the Coandă - 1910, which he demonstrated publicly at the second International Aeronautic Salon in Paris. Romania's main international airport, Bucharest Otopeni - Henri Coanda, is named after the great inventor.

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Romanian physician, biologist, and one of the earliest bacteriologists, Victor Babeş, discovered more than 50 germs and a cure for a disease named after him, "Babesiosis".

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Another Romanian biologist, Emil Palade, received the Nobel Prize for his contributions to cell biology.

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The birth of the Theory of Sonics can be considered the publication of the book 'A treatise on transmission of power by vibrations' in 1918 by the Romanian scientist George Constantinescu.

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Mathematician Ştefan Odobleja is regarded as the ideological father behind cybernetics – his work The Consonantist Psychology (Paris, 1938) was the main source of inspiration for N. Wiener's Cybernetics (Paris, 1948).

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In 1924, Romanian physicist Stefania Maracineanu was the first scientist who identified the phenomenon of artificial radioactivity and has demonstrated the first laboratory experiment proving the possibility to produce artificial nuclear radiation.
In her Ph.D. thesis, Ms. Maracineanu showed that led, being activated with radioactive polonium, starts emitting radiations.
This first laboratory proof was investigated for ten more years by French scientists Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie which formulated a theoretical model for artificial radioactivity. The French savants who received the Nobel prize in 1935 have acknowledged the initial discovery of Stefania Maracineanu in an article published in "Neues Wiener Journal" (June 5, 1934).

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Lazăr Edeleanu was the first chemist to synthesize amphetamine and also invented the modern method of refining crude oil.

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The first fountain pen was invented by Craiova-born Petrache Poenaru (1799-1875). Mr. Poenaru's invention was patented in May 1827.

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The Romanian city of Timisoara was the first in Europe to have electric street-lighting (in 1889).
Timisoara was also the first European city to introduce horse-drawn trams, in 1869.

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The Peles Castle was the first European castle entirely lit by electrical current.
The electricity was produced by the castle's own plant.

The castle's central heating and vacuuming systems, built in 1883, are still in use today.

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The world's first industrial oil refinery opened at Ploieşti (southern Romania) in 1857.
Oil was exploited commercially in Romania since 1857, two years before oil was discovered in Pennsylvania.

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The first natural gas compression station in Europe was built in Sărmăşel - Romania, in 1927.

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The Danube - Black Sea canal - in south-east Romania - is world's third longest man-made navigation route, after the Suez and the Panama Canals.

The first plans to build this canal were made in late 1830s but construction works only started in 1975.

13.5 billion cubic feet of soil and rock were excavated to build the Danube - Black Sea canal (883 million more than to for the Suez respectively 4.9 billion more than for the Panama).

Its banks are reinforced with 177 million cubic feet of concrete.

This 61 miles long, Y-shape canal, was opened to navigation in 1984, it makes the water distance from the Danube river to the port of Constanta 249 miles shorter and keeps trade ships away from the Danube Delta.

People

Michael Horodniceanu, Ph.D., P.E., - the President of MTA Capital Construction – was born in Bucharest, Romania.
Dr. Horodniceanu leads the largest transit infrastructure construction program in the USA, and the largest subway expansion program in over 60 years, overseeing $18 billion dollars in network expansion for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority's mega projects including East Side Access, Second Avenue Subway, the No. 7 Line Extension, Fulton Center and the MTA Capital Security program.

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Hollywood's original Tarzan was born in Freidorf - a suburb of the city of Timisoara, Romania. Considered by movie-makers "the only man in Hollywood who's natural in the flesh and can act without clothes", Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) was a box-office hit in the 1932 'Tarzan the Ape Man'. Freidorf maintains beautiful Secession style architecture and lots of green spaces.

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Soprano Alma Gluck - the first lyrical artist to sell one million records - was born in Bucharest, Romania on May 11, 1884.

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Nadia Comaneci - Romanian Gymnast, Montreal Perfect 10Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci was the first to achieve a perfect routine and get the first score of 10.00 in the history of gymnastics, during the Olympics in Montreal (1976). The scoring displays of the time lacked the technical capability to show a perfect 10.00. They could only display three-digit grades (0.00 to 9.99 but not a 10.00)

In 2000 Nadia was named as one of the athletes of the 20th century by the Laureus World Sports Academy.

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The real Dracula (Vlad Draculea) nicknamed Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) was a Romanian prince and military leader who fought bravely against the invading Turkish army in the mid 1400's. Count Dracula - the Vampire - was created by Irish writer, Bram Stoker in 1897.

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The longest career as a motor racing driver is 39 years 364 days and was achieved by Laurentiu Moldovan (Romania) who raced in rally cars and formula 1 style cars from 7 July 1968 to 6 July 2008. www.guinnessworldrecords.com

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Goalkeeper Helmuth Duckadam saved a record four consecutive penalty kicks in the 1986 European Football Champions Cup Final, securing victory for his team Steaua Bucuresti. (Steaua Bucuresti defeated FC Barcelona in Seville, Spain)

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Romanian long-distance runner Constantina Diță won the women's marathon at the 2008 Summer Olympics in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 44 seconds. At 38 years of age, she became the oldest Olympic marathon champion in history. Previously the oldest man to win an Olympic marathon was aged 37 and the oldest woman was aged 30. She now lives and trains at altitude in Boulder, Colorado.In 2004 Mrs. Dita has won the Chicago Marathon with a personal best of 2:21:30.

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Romanian student Sarmiza Bilcescu was the first woman to gain admission to Paris Law School (1884).
In 1887 Miss Bilcescu became the first woman in Europe to receive a PHD in Law and to become a lawyer.

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Romanian gymnastics trainer Octavian Bellu is perhaps the most successful sports trainer is the world. Under his guidance, Romania's national women gymnastics team has won 305 Olympic and European and World championship medals. Mr. Bellu's gymnasts have won 16 Gold Olympic medals.

Culture

The Romanian language currently spoken by over 25-milion people is 1,700 years old.

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Romania is a member of the Francophonie, an organization of governments that use French as their primary language or have a special affiliation with the French language or culture.

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Romanian is one of the five languages in which religious services are performed in the autonomous monastic state of Mount Athos (Greece).

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Most Romanians are of Christian faith.
The oldest church still standing – Densus Church (St. Nicholas')– was built in 600s, in Transylvania, on the site of a 2nd-century Roman temple. Ruins of a mid-300s Christian worship building were found in north-eastern Romania in the town of Mihalaseni (Botosani county).

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Voronet Monastery, located in northeastern Romania, is also known as the 'Sistine Chapel of the East'. The monastery – built in 1488 – is known worldwide for its abundance of interior and exterior frescoes (wall paintings) featuring an intense shade of blue commonly known as 'Voronet blue.'

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The tallest wooden church in the world, and the second-tallest wooden structure in Europe, can be found in Sapanta Peri - Maramures (northwestern Romania). A 23 feet cross that wheights 1,000 lbs tops the 257 feet tall church which is dedicated to St. Michael.

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The Unitarian Church was founded in Transylvania – Romania, where Francis David was born in 1510 .

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Pope John Paul II made a three-day visit to Romania in May 1999, the first papal visit in nearly 1,000 years to a nation of mostly Orthodox Church members.

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The Brukenthal museum in Sibiu was established three years prior to the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Founded in 1790 by Samuel Brukenthal, the governor of Transylvania, the museum opened to the public in 1817.
It is the oldest museum in Romania and one of the first museums in Europe.
The art collection includes paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Teniers, as well as works of German, Austrian and Romanian masters.

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Romania has the second-largest outdoor museum in the world.
Astra Museum in Sibiu features more than 300 buildings as well as watermills and windmills, gigantic presses for wine, fruit and oil, hydraulic forges and structures representing village architectural styles from many parts of Romania.

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Universal literature found valuable sources of inspiration in Romania's castles.
The most famous novels written are "The Castle in the Carpathians" by Jules Verne, and "Dracula" by Bram Stoker.

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The small town of Zau de Campie in Transylvania is home to the unique "Calendar" castle.
The structure has four towers (one for each season of the year), seven terraces (one for each day of the week), 12 hallways, 52 rooms (the number of weeks in a year) and 365 windows (the number of days in a year).

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The modernist "Dada" movement (Dadaism) of the 1920s was co-founded by Romanian artists Tristan Tzara and Marcel Iancu.

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Martisor

On March 1 Romanians celebrate the beginning of spring in their own, unique way. To show their friendship, respect or admiration, men and boys offer to their (female) family members, friends and colleagues a "Martisor" (small trinket attached to a red/ white lace - red for love and white for honesty). The tradition is said to have originated in Roman times.

Just seven days after the 'Martisor' Day, on March 8, Romanians celebrate the Women's Day - a tradition similar to Mother's Day celebrated in the USA, but extended to all adult women. More about Martisor

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The Merry Cemetery (or the Happy Graveyard) in the village of Săpânța - Maramureş is one of the world's most unique resting places and a popular tourist attraction! It is famous for its over 800 colorful gravestones, carved in oak, are decorated with colorful paintings and funny epitaphs about the deceased.

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A Romanian newspaper has set the record for the most expensive newspaper copy in the world. Stamp and media collector - Mr. Joseph Hackmey - recently paid $1,115,000 for one copy of "The Bison and the Eagle" , a newspaper printed in 1858, in Iasi - eastern Romania. The newspaper - shipped in 1858 to a subscriber in the city of Galati - bears eight Bison Head (Cap de Bour) stamps, some of the most rare in the world.

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A 150+ years-old linden tree in Copou Park (Iasi - Romania), also called "The Lovers' Tree", has become a favorite destination for true romantic lovers from around the world. It is believed that the tree brings good luck in love.

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Romania's national poet - Mihai Eminescu - used to relax and reflect under this linden three. Eminescu's creation "The Evening Star" (Luceafarul) is considered to be the longest love poem ever wrote. It's a miracle how this tree survived for so long" - says Dr. Mandache Leocov, former director of Iasi botanic garden.

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Zece Prajini, in NE Romania, is the hometown of the world's fastest brass fanfare: "Fanfare Ciocarlia". The band has been clocked at 200 beats per minute.
The energy and ingenuity of this 12-virtuoso band won their band fans from Memphis to Melbourne, Tokyo to Toulouse.
The New York Times called the band's performance at Globalfest in New York, "brutally exhilarating." "Fanfare Ciocarlia, a leading Romanian brass band, pushes its tradition to extremes. Its oompah is revved up to thrash-metal speeds; bass lines from two tubas make the floor shake; its trumpets and saxophones race through melodies like bullet trains taking hairpin turns"(The New York Times).

Miscellaneous

Romania and wine started their common history 4000 years ago (2000 BC) when the Greeks arrived from the Black Sea, making it one of the world's oldest viticulture regions (in comparison the Greeks introduced wine in France around the 6th century BC and it was further developed during the Roman time).

Because too much wine was produced, and consumed, in 50 BC King Burebista had to set a limit to cultivation of wine grapes and wine production through his empire: Dacia (present-day Romania).

Today Romania is the # nine wine producer in the world!
11 "indigenous" varieties of grapes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world are still produced by some wine growers.

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The name of the Romanian currency "Leu" (lion in English) and the U.S. currency "Dollar" share the same origin: the Dutch coin "löwentaler". The Romanian Leu (plural Lei) got its name after the roaring lion (löwen) engraved on the tail of the löwentaler while the US Dollar was named after the second part of the Dutch coin 'taler' (pronounced daler and meaning silver coin).

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Smallest Banknote The 10-bani note issued by Romania's Ministry of Finance in 1917 is the smallest paper money ever printed (dimensions: 1.08 x 1.49 in). The banknote is in fact a divisionary note (100 bani = 1 leu), more like a paper coin.(Source: World Record Academy)

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According to the World Records Academy, The Palace of Parliament,
located in Bucharest, is the world's largest and most expensive civil administration building in the world. It also ranks as the biggest office building in Europe (3.9 million square feet) and second-largest in the world, after the U.S. Pentagon. More than a million tons of marble, steel, crystal and wood have been used to build this palace!

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Bucharest's mass transit network (RATB) is the fourth largest in Europe.

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The city of Brasov (Transylvania) is home to the largest gothic church east of Vienna (Austria). Brasov's famous landmark and Romania's leading gothic church, the Black Church was built between 1385 and 1477 and got its nickname after the Great Fire of 1689 blackened its the walls.

The Narrowest Street - Strada Sforii Brasov - Transylvania Romania
Strada Sforii - Brasov

The Black Church has the largest organ in Europe with 4000 tubes (built by Buchholz, Berlin's famous organ builder, in 1836) as well as the largest bell in Romania, weighting 41,000 lbs (6.3 tons).

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Brasov is home to one of the narrowest streets in Europe: "The Rope Street" (Strada Sforii). It is less than four feet wide and connects Cerbului Street with Poarta Schei Street. This street was initially used as an access-route by firefighters.

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The movie Cold Mountain was filmed on location in Romania. Hollywood celebrities Jude Law, Renee Zellweger and Nicole Kidman relaxed in Poiana Brasov after shooting the film Cold Mountain on location in nearby fields and farms.

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The Pastrami - a popular sandwich ingredient in America - has its origins in Romania. Little Romania in lower Manhattan was a neighborhood within a neighborhood, tucked into the blocks bound by East Houston Street, Allen Street, Grand Street, and the Bowery. When the Romanian-born writer Marcus Ravage arrived in New York in 1900, he found the area thriving; restaurants had opened everywhere, he recalled in a memoir, and the first Romanian delicatessens were displaying "goose-pastrama and kegs of ripe olives".

"Goose-pastrama" was the starting point for American pastrami. The Jewish immigrants who settled in Little Romania brought with them a traditional technique for preserving goose by salting, seasoning, and smoking the meat. In America, however, beef was cheaper and more widely available than goose, so pastrama was made with beef brisket instead. Later the name became pastrami - perhaps because it rhymed with "salami" and was sold in the same delicatessens. By the time Little Romania dispersed in the 1940s, New Yorkers from every ethnic background were claiming expertly sliced pastrami as their rightful heritage.
Source: New York Public Library.

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A game very similar to baseball, and called "Oina", was played in Romania long before baseball has become one of America's most favorite sports.

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US general George Pomutz ( George Pomut ) was born in Gyula - Hungary, to Romanian parents. A Civil War hero, General George Pomutz was awarded the special honour to open the Parade, on a nice white horse, marking the end of the Civil War.
On February 16, 1866, he was appointed Consul of the United States in Sainte Petersburg, Imperial Russia, serving in that capacity until September 30, 1870. During that period, he was involved in the negotiations for the Alaska Purchase. The Liberty ship SS George Pomutz was named after him. Launched August 3, 1944, the ship served till 1970. On August 14, 2004, a statue of George Pomutz was unveiled at the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral in Cleveland Ohio.

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The six hour mini-series "Hatfields & McCoys" starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton - a historical drama inspired by a famous feud between two families, in the aftermath of the American Civil War - was filmed in Romania in 2012.

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Ten U.S. cities have 'sisters' in Romania.
Here is the active list from the 2012 Membership Guide of Sister Cities International:

Baia MareHollywood, FL
Bistrita Columbus, GA
BrasovCleveland, Ohio
Bucharest Atlanta, GA
Cluj Napoca Rockford IL
Contanta Mobile, AL
Medias Mineral Wells, TX
Pitesti Springfield, OH
Sibiu Columbia, MO