Romania is located in southeastern Europe, and shares land borders with Bulgaria and Serbia to the south, Ukraine and Moldova to the north, and Hungary to the west. Romania’s eastern border meets the Black Sea. As a result of the country’s position on the continent, its proximity to the Black Sea, and the presence of the Carpathian Mountains, Romania’s climate is highly variable. In the south and central regions of the country the annual average temperature is 11 degrees Celsius, while in the northeast, the average is 8 degrees. However, while the average temperature is cool summer highs can peak at around 30 degrees Celsius in Bucharest, and up to 35 degrees in other low-lying regions. In the winter, few regions see temperatures higher than around 3 degrees Celsius, and sub-zero temperatures are a common occurrence.
Romania is best-known for the regions of Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains. In particular, Transylvania is the historical birthplace of some of Europe’s most bloodthirsty legends, as a result of its prominence in Emily Gerard’s 1888 book The Land Beyond the Forest, a collection of local folklore named for the English translation of Transylvania, and Bram Stoker’s 1897 vampire tale, Dracula. Stoker’s famous vampire may have been partially based on a real-life Dracula, a 15th century Romanian prince and military leader, Vlad Draculae, who was nickname was Vlad the Impaler.
Romania was first inhabited by people whom the Greeks called the Getae, and the Romans called the Dacians. In around 100 CE, the Roman Empire invaded the country, but withdrew upon finding that the region was difficult to defend effectively.
By the 13th century, Transylvania was under Hungarian rule, but later became part of the Turkish Empire; by the end of the 18th century the Turkish Empire had taken two other Romanian territories: Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1859 Moldavia and Wallachia united under a single ruler, formed a state named Romania, and declared independence from Turkey.
Romania sided with Britain during in World War I, but during World War II, the fascist regime of Prime Minister Ion Antonescue found more in common with Nazi Germany. Romania sided with the Axis powers, killing an estimated 380,000 Romanian Jewish people, and more than 11,000 Roma. In 1944 the regime was toppled, and Antonescue was executed for these crimes.
The Soviet Union occupied Romania from 1944 to 1956 and enforced a communist regime. Communist rule continued until the Communist Party was ousted 1989, prompting a transition to democracy.
Romania is somewhat unique in Europe, as almost half of the country is covered in natural landscapes, including one of the most extensive areas of undisturbed forest on the entire continent. Because of this, Romania’s forests support a large proportion of many of Europe’s iconic mammal populations, including brown bears, wolves, foxes, wild boar, red and roe deer, lynx, black chamois, and many other native species.
Romania’s large forests are highly diverse, as are its mountainous alpine regions. Native tree species include pine, spruce, and fir; beech, oak, larch and elm, and poplars and willows. In the Carpathian forests there are many endemic species, including species of dianthus and ranunculus, cornflower, bellflower, larkspur, and others.
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