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Romania is a small country in Eastern Europe, on the edge of the Balkans. It is just over 92,000 square miles (238,000 sq. km) in size, just slightly smaller than the United Kingdom. The vast majority of the population is composed of ethnic Romanians, although smaller numbers of Roma and Hungarians also make up sizable blocs.
The region has been inhabited by humans or their ancestors for at least around 35,000 years. Starting at approximately 500 BCE the area now known as Romania was settled by a tribe known as the Dacians. Over time they grew to be a sizable regional power, even threatening the Roman interests in the region around 50 BCE. Throughout the Dark Ages the area was ruled by a number of different empires, including the Avars, the Huns, the Goths, and the First Bulgarian Empire.
Later, the area that is now Romania included the provinces of Modavia, Transylvania, and Wallachia. While the Balkans were absorbed by the Ottoman Empire, these provinces retained most of their independence, and continued to operate semi-autonomously under both the Ottomans, the Austrian Empire, and the Hungarians. The revolutionary zeal that swept across Europe in 1848 also reached Romania, although these early revolutions were largely unsuccessful. In 1877, however, the country declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire, which after a brief ware was recognized.
Romania entered World War I on the side of the Allied powers, and at the end of the war their territory expanded somewhat. Although initially ruled quite openly, by 1938, the country had become a dictatorship, and eventually joined World War II on the side of the Axis powers — although they switched in 1944 for the final throes of the war. At the end of the war the short-lived Greater Romania was controlled by the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. In 1989 a tumultuous revolution lead to the execution of the communist head of state, a split from the Soviet Union, and the restoration of democracy to the country.
Sites of interest in the country include the Carpathian Mountains, which run down the middle of Romania; the painted churches of northern Moldavia; the majestic Danube river – and particularly the Danube delta, which is a World Heritage Site; and the region of Transylvania, with its intact Saxon villages.
The majority of Romanians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, specifically members of the Romanian Orthodox Church. As such, major Orthodox holidays, such as Easter and Christmas are celebrated with a great deal of flair throughout the country. The Romanian language is, as the name suggests, a Romance language, derived from Latin. It is thought that Romanian was the first language to split from Latin, because of the region’s isolation from Rome, and as such it is relatively uniform when compared to languages such as French, Italian, or Spanish.
Since the opening of Romania in 1990, tourism has steadily increased every year. Outdoor activities and sightseeing are by far the most popular draw. Millions of acres of excellent camping and hiking locations abound, from the land along the Black Sea to the stunning Carpathian Mountains. Skiing is also a steadily growing pastime. Historical buildings abound as well, with churches, castles, and monasteries sprinkled throughout the country. High-end resorts are also beginning to spring up, with focuses on various things ranging from active sports to health spas to traditional festivals.
Traveling to this area is easy, with many major airlines having daily flights into Bucharest. The currency is the leu (plural, lei), even though Romania has joined the European Union in early 2007. Membership with the EU and implementing the Euro normally do not occur simultaneously. It typically takes a newly joined EU nation a few years to meet certain criteria before being able to implement the Euro.