The foreigner in Romania is immediately struck by the country’s hybrid culture. This is obvious from the first words one learns to garble: piața (very close pronunciation to Italian’s piazza), mersi (from the French merci, though the “r” is a little more rolled), da (yes…), or even bacşiş (baksheesh). We then have a mysterious mélange of Western and Eastern Europe, the Romanian roots are decidedly mixed.
Like in any country, the stages of Romanian history form layers which are always visible, as with sedimentary rocks accumulated by water. But perhaps this is more visible in Romania, for reasons which will become apparent.
These layers are often very beautiful. Around the Danube delta, in the east of the country, we find ruins of settlements built by the Greeks, Romans, and later the Genovese (who, seeking Black Sea trade, ended up remarkably far from their native Italy).
In the north, there is the blue monastery of Voroneț, built during the Middle Ages by Stephen the Great, Prince of Moldova, whose wall paintings show and glorify the saints’ innumerable heroic martyrdoms. Stephen was declared Athleta Christi (“champion of Christ”) by the Pope in recognition of his military resistance to the Turks.