30 Interesting & Fun Facts about Romania: Things You Didn’t Know

I am here today to share with you some fun and interesting facts about Romania and I’ll make sure to dig up even more information that it’s not general knowledge and would be fun to know about the country and its people.

If you’re planning to move to Romania or simply visit the country for a short period of time, you might be interested to know some lesser known things about it, its history and whatnot. You might know some of these already, but hopefully new and interesting facts about Romania are to be learned.

[Update notice] I have published this article in 2015, but I have updated it in October 2019 in order to double the facts shared and help you find even more amazing stuff about Romania!

So let’s start checking out a few facts about Romania that will hopefully make you smile – and surely boost you knowledge about the country above what most people know!

#1. There is one city in Romania that will make most people – except for those living there – smile. This city is called Caracal and is (in)famous for a lot of funny things, as well as an endless source of jokes. Below are some of the funny things about Caracal, Romania:

– The Railway Station Clock in Caracal uses the wrong Roman numbers for number 4 (which should be IV, but is IIII). You can see the image below:

– The fire lookout tower in the city burnt down.
– The main door of the police station was stolen.
– The cemetery is on the Resurrection street.
– The prison was located on Freedom street (officially named “Iancu Jianu Street”, but referred to as “Freedom” or “Liberty” street by locals).
– They have only one school, named School nr. 2.

NOTE: Some of the things above have made their way into popular culture and are considered to be correct by many Romanians, but the truth is that they are not. Still funny, though.

#2. The words dor (to miss someone) and doina (the type of music) can’t be translated and are unique to the Romanian language.

#3. Romania is the only country in Europe where the Brown Bear still lives in the wilderness.

#4. Prince Charles is a big fan of Romania and Transylvania. He visits our country often and owns land in Transylvania and has promoted the country – and specifically his preferred area – on countless occasions.

#5. Romania is considered the gateway to the Caucaz Region, Middle East and Western Balkans – and this is the reason why many of the great empires of the past tried so hard (and sometimes failed) to conquer it.

#6. The reason for the large number of orphans in Romania in late 80s and early 90s was dictator Nicolae Ceausescu‘s measures to boost birthrates in the country, including a ban on abortions for women under 45.

Also, married women under 45 were not allowed to buy contraceptives and even if they wanted to buy them, it was basically impossible, because they had been removed from the market.

#7. Palatul Parlamentului (Palace of Parliament – read about it here) is the second biggest building in the world after the Pentagon. It lies on 365,000 square meters, which means that it’s absolutely HUGE and one of Romania’s main attractions because of this fact alone.

#8. Timisoara is the first city in the world to be illuminated with electricity.

#9. The national coin is called Leu which means Lion, which is curious because there was never a lion or anything related to a lion on the face of the coin (nor is the animal naturally living in Romania).

#10. Helmuth Robert Duckadam is a retired goalkeeper (soccer player) who helped his team Steaua Bucuresti win the 1986 European Cup Final by saving four consecutive penalty shots – he holds a World Records Academy award for being the only keeper ever to do this.

#11. Nadia Comaneci, a Romanian gymnast, was the first in the world to get a perfect score – 10 – at the Olympics. This happened in 1976, in Montreal.

#12. The fact above is well known already, but what you probably don’t know is that it’s also a Romanian gymnast who last received a perfect 10 at the Olympic games. Her name is Lavinia Milosovici, who got a perfect score of 12 during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona (and nobody received a perfect score ever since).

#13. Ivan Patzaichin is a former Romanian canoer. He competed in five Summer Olympics and received seven medals, 4 gold, 3 silver, more than any other competitor in the history of sprint canoeing. He also won 22 world championships, 9 gold, 4 silver and 9 bronze medals. He is now the head coach of the Romanian canoing national team.

#14. Ilie Nastase is a former professional tennis player and one of only five players in history to win more than 100 ATP professional titles. He is the second male player to win a Grand Slam without dropping a set and the first one to achieve this feat at the French Open, in1973.

#15: Romanian scientists also had interesting hobbies. For example, Lazăr Edeleanu was the first chemist to synthesize amphetamine… not the country’s greatest achievement, that’s for sure.

The original Tarzan.

#16: Tarzan is Romanian! Well, not really, but the actor who played the original Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller, was born in Romania. At the time, the region he was born was actually under Hungarian occupation, but since 1920 it’s part of Romania and close to Timisoara. (thanks, Michael!)

#17: Romanians love their alcohol. Rankings fluctuate a bit each year, but Romania is usually in the top 5 in terms of pure alcohol consumption per year, with some 14 liters consumed by your average Romanian each year. To put things in perspective, your average British person, which is traditionally considered a heavy drinker, only consumes around 11 liters per year.

#18: If you love coffee (and not Tarzan), you’ll be delighted to hear that Francesco Illy, famous for the Illy brand of coffee, was actually born in Timisoara. He also invented the modern, steam based espresso machine.

#19: Romania’s name actually comes from Latin. “Romanus” means “citizen of the Roman empire” and this dates back to the years 100, when the country was known back then as Dacia (before being conquered by the Romans, that is).

#20: Insulin was invented by a Romanian, Nicolae Paulescu. However, he failed to get a Nobel Prize for this massive discovery – instead, two Canadians got it for their studies of the hormone.

#21: Romania is the home of the so called “Merry Cemetery” in Sapanta, a tiny village in Northern Romania. All the tombstones there are colorful (as opposed to the somber ones that are traditional to Romanian cemeteries) and many also feature funny poems written about the deceased.

#22: In the same village of Sapanta, but not where the cemetery is located, there’s another record-holding Romanian building. We’re talking about a wooden churuch, which is claimed to be the tallest of its kind in the world, standing at 78-meter or 256-feet tall.

#23: Romania is one of the largest countries in Europe and the larges in South-Eastern Europe. It has an area of 238,391 square kilometers, which makes it almost as large as the UK.

#24: The Danube Delta is Europe’s best preserved delta, but also the second largest on the continent, after the Volga Delta.

#25: The picture-perfect Peles Castle (I wrote about it in detail here) was the first one in Europe to use electricity exclusively, thanks to its on-site electrical plant.

#26: Remember the fact about Romanians drinking a bit too much? Well, it seems that this was a fact thousands of years ago. Actually, our ancestors were drinking so much wine that in the year 50 BC, the king of the area, Burebista, ordered for the wine grape cultures to be burned down and set a limit on cultivation and wine production in the kingdom.

#27: A massive, underground glacier is found in one of Romania’s caves. It lies in the Scarisoara cave and is the second largest of its kind in Europe, with a volume of 75,000 cubic meters, and an estimated age of over 3,500 years.

#28: Romania is also the home of the tallest rock sculpture in Europe. We’re talking about King’s Decebal sculpture near Orsova city, which is visible from the Danube river. It is 55 meters tall and 25 meters wide.

#29: Did you know that Bucharest was called “The Little Paris”? Part of this was because it has its own Arc de Triomphe, aptly named the Arch of Triumph. However, at “just” 27 meters tall, it’s smaller than Paris’ (50 meters tall), maybe another reason for the city to be called Little Paris.

#30: The oldest athlete in the world to ever win a marathon is Romanian (no surprises here, right?) Her name is Constanta Dita and she was 38 when she won the Bejining Olympics marathon in 2008.

And these would be, for now, the fun facts about Romania that I had to share. I hope that you found them interesting and hopefully this helps you better understand the country… or at least be ready to surprise your friends with some unexpected trivia next time you talk to them.

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22 thoughts on “30 Interesting & Fun Facts about Romania: Things You Didn’t Know”

  1. This is so cool!!! I love the police door being stolen..and the prison on freedom road especially. I also did not know about Prince Charles, but l am not surprised somehow. He seems like he would enjoy Romania. Who wouldn’t? It looks beautiful. I think it was horrific about the birth control for 45 and under, jeez!!!! What a twat he was ! 🙂

    • Yes, a lot of jokes appeared around Caracal lately and it seems that most of them are not true. It’s like all the stupid things that happen in Romania happen in Caracal (which is not true, of course).

  2. Hey Calin: A very enlightening piece! I’ll have to check out Caracal on YouTube;-) Also the gymnast and canoe paddler.
    I’ve never been much of a fan of Prince Charles–especially the way he treated poor Diana. I think he and a lot of royals have arrested development. However, Prince William and Kate do seem to be on the beam.
    As for “Brownie the Bear”: If he doesn’t have me for lunch–I won’t have him for din-din (I don’t think I’d savor Ragu of Bear, or Bear Goulash;-]
    I know Ceausescu was no “Mr. Nice Guy,” and hearing of his contraceptive policy only reinforces my opinion, but he would NOT have let Ferentari become what it has today, I’ll wager. It would be so nice if money could be funneled in to have that whole area razed and have decent housing built. Here in the States we have a program, “Habitat for Humanity,” which funds people to help build their own houses with their own hands. It’s called “sweat equity.” The people take great pride in their new homes, knowing they had a great part in building them. They help each other. In the 21st Century, it’s sad to see such a neighborhood in a great European capital. (Sorry for the rant;-() Of course, the U.S. has a lot of blighted areas, so I guess while I live in a glass house, I shouldn’t throw stones;-)
    I bet May doesn’t come soon enough for the start of your long vacay. I’ll bet your journal will be most interesting!!! Ciao, ~Teil
    p.s. “Madge” Madonna needs to start acting like a 57 year-old–not like a Miley Virus. I used to like her back in the day, but now–yuck!!! She’s a great talent who should continue to play a role in the entertainment industry–just not dressed up and acting like some underage trollop.

    • Hello, Teil. Indeed, May seems so far away… :))

      Ceausescu was actually destroying houses to build blocks of flats and Ferentari was there, similar to how it is today, during his “reign”. And it was certainly built during his time, so I’m not too sure that things would’ve stayed differently. 🙂 But the Habitat for Humanity program… not that’s something really amazing!

  3. I still remember watching Nadia Comaneci at the Olympics as a child, and watching the movie that was made after her story. Nadia was the first person that really made an impact on me regarding having a lofty goal and doing her best to reach that goal. Great post, C – thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. Yes, I too as a teenager fell in love with Comaneci (I was 17, so give me a break!). She was cute, the pinnacle of perfection and made it look so easy. I couldn’t even part my hair in the morning without at least three tries… Much, much later, we heard she had defected to the West. She ended up marrying a fellow Oklahoman and also a famous gymnast named Bart Connor and settling down in Norman, Oklahoma, just about 25 miles from where I grew up in Oklahoma City.

  5. ( Later, that same decade.) I have only come across Your site here lately, so pardon me if You noted this already. If You are so young or deprived to have to ask “Who ?”, please feel free to discard this, too.
    Didn’t You say that You live in Timisoara ? Well, if You did or not, I recently saw that Johnny Weissmuller was born there.
    I don’t know the address.
    Tarzan Rules !

    • Happy Anniver’sary to me, too. Graduated H.S. 47 years ago today.
      Why what ? Oh, because I swallowed something and forgot to go back to school for 6 months or so.
      Wife and I plan to be in Your adopted country in a couple of months, for the first time. So I hope all Your info is accurate. ( Ha ha,wise ass. I know it is. )
      Should we bring You a T- shirt like ours’ that says “65 million of U.S. voted for someone else” ?

      Nice Web thing, thanks

    • Hello Michael,

      That is true! Tarzan was born in Romania 🙂 That is indeed a fun fact to mention – I will add it to the article right away. There are probably more that I simply missed.

      I am trying to keep the info as accurate as possible for sure. I hope that you will enjoy Romania once you get here.

      • Hungarian occupy?!? It was Hungary for 1000 years.
        “Johann Weißmüller was an ethnic German on his father’s side, the elder son of Peter Weißmüller and his wife Elisabeth (née Kersch), both Banat Swabians, an ethnic German population in the southeastern part of the Kingdom of Hungary.”

  6. Hi Calin, nice and funny facts here -well done! Just a bit of suggestion regarding “#9. The national coin is called Leu which means Lion which is curious because there was never a lion or anything related to a lion on the face of the coin” – our currency same as Bulgarian one is called “Lion” due to the Dutch merchants who were using Dutch golden “gulden” – one of the first internationally accepted coins since 16th century. Merchants use these coins in trade between Western Europe and Ottoman Empire or merchants from Silk Road, all transiting Balkans (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia) territory. Those coins were much more commercially stronger due to the fact they were made of gold.
    And of course, due to the lion on the “gulden” face it came popular as Leu = lion. Gulden is a difficult word to remember for locals, even now 🙂
    Before our local currency was called “galbeni” = “yellows” from gold.

  7. OMG! I love points 15 and 16! #15 is a horrible contribution to the world for sure and l saw so much abuse of it during my pharmacy practice years. More than l care to remember and it’s said that it continues till today. I loved Tarzan growing up, and Johnny is still my favourite one.
    I always assume Illy was Italian.. haha! We just brought back quite a few packages from Rome a few weeks ago. Love it. Fun post!

    • Happy to hear that you considered it fun. And Illy… I was 100% certain he was Italian before finding out that he was born in Romania. I guess that with today’s globalization, it will be more and more difficult to guess origins based on names alone.

  8. Hey Calin,
    Sorry, but Prince Charles is an a**. He may have some qualities, but what he did to Diana is shameful.
    Nadia Comaneci is very beautiful. She has aged very well! https://www.aceshowbiz.com/images/wennpic/nadia-comaneci-nbc-universal-golden-globes-2017-after-party-01.jpg
    As we old dawgs say: “Va-va-voom!!!
    Just three more Hollywood personalities to add to your born in Romania list:
    John Houseman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Houseman
    Bela Lugosi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv0gpJD3pjI
    Edward G. Robinson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6uYmw1EC0I

    • Thanks for sharing! I never heard about John Houseman or Edward Robinson before, to be honest, but I did know Bela Lugosi (and now his name makes even more sense, as he was born in the Romanian city of Lugoj).

  9. good to read interesting facts about romania.seems like a beautiful and interesting country.i happened to catch a news item about how Ceausecue encuoraged the people to watch the Dallas drama from the U.S.talk about a backfire. the people realized how crappy their lives were and promptly disposed of him.is that true?

    • Hello Walter! The communist regime started to broadcast the Dallas series in 1979 and the revolution took place 10 years later, so it definitely wasn’t one of the main causes of the revolution. But yes, this did help the people to see the difference and maybe for some it did matter a bit: the communist regime actually intended to show the drama as an example of how bad capitalism is, but the people liked what they saw.

      One of the starts of the show did say that it was them who brought down the regime, but that’s an exaggeration to say the least. However, the tv series definitely didn’t help the regime.

  10. I love romania and i cant wait to live there and die there. P.S. The media is killing me and if i had a passport i would be there right now. God defend romania.


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