Some countries pay a high price for having nice stuff but being in the wrong place. Got fertile land and a temperate climate? Check. Are you in a great location that deftly bridges the gap between very divergent cultures, allowing for vibrant trading possibilities? Check. Are you going to be invaded by just about everyone? Double check.
That’s pretty much Romania’s story. A true melting pot of so many cultures (and invasions): Persians, Romans, Huns, Goths, Saxons, Magyars, the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires…and more. In the 20th century, Romania got kicked around during both World Wars, endured a lengthy dictatorship and then the vagaries of a hastily cobbled-together market economy.
Fascinating stuff, and so much to learn about that I could easily stick around for a while. That’s why I was happy to find a concise but comprehensive guide, Romania: An Illustrated History by Nicolae Klepper. A quick read, this book takes you through really interesting early history (as in Bronze and Iron Age) all the way to the end of the Cold War, and the bumpy path that most all of the ex-Iron Curtain countries have had to tread. Oh, and Dracula!