But drive for three hours north and you’re suddenly in the middle of mountains, hearing Hungarian spoken. Drive east instead and you’re likely to spot a mosque by the beach, catering to a Turkish contingent.
The central area has most of the mountains, which extend northwards to the region that is home to most country’s famous monasteries. The southeast, including the capital and most important city Bucharest, is low-lying. The east features Romania’s only stretch of coastline, the Black Sea coast. The northern part of the shoreline expands eastwards to form the Danube Delta, Europe’s main wetland, which is teeming with avian and aquatic life.
Romania has a great deal of picturesque countryside, from dazzling sunflower fields in the southeast to snow-capped mountains of Transylvania. Rural areas are a hotchpotch of small farms which seem to belong to a bygone age.
Two areas that are comparatively hostile to humans but particularly welcoming to nature underpin Romanian’s role as an important environment for flora and fauna. The first is the Carpathians. With little incursion from man, significant populations of large carnivores were able to survive and prosper here, even as they were extirpated from much of the rest of Europe. Carpathian deer, brown bears, wolves, hares, black chamois, lynx, boars and foxes all reside in the forest-coated mountain ranges.
The second area of note is Danube Delta, whose ever-changing make-up has provided relief for legions of bird, plant and fish species, including the pelican and caviar-producing sturgeon.