We know traveling to developing countries, especially those from Eastern Europe, can be a bit frightening, but all you need in fact is to be properly informed. Like anywhere in the world, there are places to go and places to avoid, but after 25 years since these countries joined the western values, things changed significantly and there are no serious reasons to feel unsafe.
Follow this page to see what are the main concerns when visiting Eastern Europe, but basically remember this: try to avoid dimly lit areas of the city if you’re out and about at night, but overall you’re not going to have any trouble with people in these countries if you’re a tourist. I’m sure you’ll here the same if you want to visit Atlanta, or even Washington..
Dental treatment destination – Albania. There is no longer a visa charge for any foreigners entering Albania.Tirana’s “Mother Teresa” International Airport is located just 15 minutes away from the city. It is served by numerous European flag carriers such as British Airways, Alitalia, Lufthansa, Austrian, and the low cost carriers Germanwings and Belle Air. A new, larger and modern terminal was opened in 2007. A tourist information center was opened in 2012. At the airport exit, there are numerous taxis 24/7 that can take you to the city. The taxi fee to the city center is Euro15 (2000 Lek). Taxi fees to other locations are posted on a placard just outside the exit doors.
There are many things to do in Albania. Many roads are paved; however they are very windy. The coastline is always a place to go, with its clear turquoise seas, and its many islands cast upon it, like in Ksamil, Vlore and Saranda, the southern most coastal city in Albania. Note that the coastline stretching to the north from Vlore to the Montenegrin border is flat and contains sand beaches. This is the hub of mass tourism in Albania. You can visit seaside towns such as Shengjin, Durres and Vlore and enjoy the curative sands of Velipoje. To the south of Vlore, the Albanian Riviera is made up of rocky or gravel like shores with spectacular turquoise waters. The area contains mainly wooden villa complexes, bed and breakfasts, camping sites, and family owned hotels as accommodation facilities. Llogara Pass is a mountain pass located at the start of the Riviera near Llogara National Park which offers a majestic view of the riviera from above. Nearby is found Cesar’s Pass, the place where Julius Cesar is said to have passed in his pursuit of Pompey. Castles are in many cities in Albania. Their beauty reminds anyone of the ancient times of Albania, and the world. There is Petrela Castle near Tirana, Rozafa castle in Shkodra, the inhabited castle of Berat, and Skanderbeg Castle in Kruje, (named after the national hero and now a popular museum holding his belongings). Palasa is a beautiful village in Himara with great beaches and amazing nature.
This is the place where Julius Caesar rested his legion at the pursuit of Pompey. There are no touristic resorts, but you can ask for an apartment at the local caffe. The apartments usually are with two rooms and a toilette, but usually clean, safe and comfortable. In southern Albania you can see the influence of Turks and Greeks. In northern Albania you can see many ancient Illyrian ruins and very little foreign influence.
Dental treatment destination – Bulgaria. Bulgaria is a member of the Schengen Agreement but has not yet fully implemented it. For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) citizens, together with those of Switzerland, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry.
Travel to/from any other country (Schengen or not) from/to Bulgaria will (as of now) result in the normal immigration checks, but travelling to/from another EU country you will not have to pass customs. However, if Bulgaria normally requires a visa for your nationality, this may be waived if you already have a valid Schengen visa. Inquire at your travel agent or call the local consulate or embassy of Bulgaria. The visa list is already consistent with those of the Schengen countries fully implementing the agreement.
Bulgarian cuisine is a representative of the cuisine of Southeastern Europe with some Turkish and Greek influences, but it has some unique elements. The relatively warm climate and diverse geography produce excellent growth conditions for a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits, Bulgarian cuisine is particularly diverse. Famous for its rich salads required at every meal, Bulgarian cuisine is also noted for the diversity and quality of dairy products and the variety of wines and local alcoholic drinks such as rakia, mastika and menta.
Bulgarian cuisine features also a variety of hot and cold soups, an example of a cold soup being tarator. There are many different Bulgarian pastries as well such as banitsa. Certain entries, salads, soups and dishes go well with alcoholic beverages and the alcohol of choice for some is Bulgarian wine. Restaurants serving international cuisine have also made a presence in the country, offering various options such as Chinese, French, Italian, and international contemporary.
Finding an accommodation in Bulgaria is very easy, for any price. You can find everything – from hostels in Sofia and Plovdiv, very cheap boarding houses along the coast to inexpensive hotels in all cities and luxury hotels in large cities. There are many “mountain huts” or villas available for rent all around the mountains in the country. Overnight accommodations can also be acquired at about a dozen of the monasteries.
There are also plenty of guest houses and villas. Bulgaria is famous for offering quality budget accommodation for rural and ecological tourism in charming small towns in its mountains as well as at the seaside. In some of the coastal villages, elderly ladies often approach tourists disembarking from coaches and trains, offering accomodation in boarding houses. These can often be excellent value for money (from as little as $5 a night) and can offer an authentic experience, however its recommended you check these out before you agree on a stay.
Dental treatment destination – Croatia. Croatia became a member of the European Union on the 1st of July 2013, however it is not part of the Schengen Area. This means that immigration controls still take place, but travellers from another EU state are exempt from customs checks. EU, EEA, Swiss, Andorran, Monegasque, San Marinese and Vatican City citizens can enter Croatia visa-free for up to 90 days with either a passport or a national identity card. Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Croatia visa-free for up to 90 days with a passport: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan (Republic of China), Turkey, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, additionally persons holding British National (Overseas), Hong Kong SAR or Macau SAR passports.
Croatia has an impressive history, a fact that is best explained through the vast array of sites worth visiting. Most towns have a historical center with its typical architecture. There are differences between the coast and the continental part, so both areas are a must.
The most famous is Dubrovnik, a prime example of the coastal architecture, but by no means the only one worth visiting. Equally important is the capital and largest city, Zagreb, with a population of about 1 million. It is a modern city with all the modern features, yet it has a laid back feel. In the east, in the region of Slavonija with it’s regional capital Osijek and the war torn Vukovar are awe inspiring. Scattered throughout the region are vineyards and wine cellars, most of which give tours and tastings.
Croatia was the first country in Europe to start with the concept of commercial naturist resorts. According to some estimates about 15% of all tourists that visit the country are naturists or nudists (more than one million each year). There are more than 20 official naturist resorts as well as a very large number of the so-called free beaches which are unofficial naturist beaches, sometimes controlled and maintained by local tourist authorities. In fact, you are likely to find nudists on any beach outside of town centers. Naturist beaches in Croatia are marked as “FKK”. The most popular nudist destinations are Pula, Hvar and island Rab.
Increasingly Croatia is becoming a popular place for health tourism. A number of dental surgeries have experience in treating short term visitors to Croatia. Croatian dentists study for 5 years in Zagreb or Rijeka. Harmonization of training with EU standards has begun, in preparation for Croatia’s accession.
Dental treatment destination – Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty – the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Czech Republic has an excellent and sophisticated system of trail blazing, marked trails are about everywhere. Choose an area, buy a hiking map for the area and go. Marked trails can also be seen on online maps. Many places in the Czech Republic are great for swimming, and there are many designated public swimming areas.
However, be aware that in hot weather the quality of the water in some places can fall below EU standard regulations.
The Czech Republic is the country where modern beer (pivo in Czech) was invented (in PlzeÅˆ). Czechs are the heaviest beer drinkers in the world, drinking about 160 litres of it per capita per year. Going to a cosy Czech pub for dinner and a few beers is a must! The best-known export brands are Pilsner Urquel, Budweiser Budvar and Staropramen (freely translateable as “Oldspring”). Other major brands which are popular domestically include Gambrinus, Kozel (goat), Bernard (a small traditional brewery, with very high quality beer), Radegast, and Starobrno (made in Brno, the capital of Moravia). Other fantastic beer worth tasting is Svijany. Although many Czechs tend to be very selective about beer brands, tourists usually don’t find a significant difference. And remember, real Czech beer is only served on tap â€“ bottled beer is a completely different experience.
High-quality beer can almost certainly be found in a hospoda or hostinec, very basic pubs which serve only beer and light snacks. Take a seat and order your drinks when the waiter comes to you – going to the bar to order your drinks is a British custom! But beware, the handling of the beer is even more important than its brand. A bad bartender can completely ruin even excellent beer. Best bet is to ask local beer connoiseurs about a good pub or just join them.
Beers are sometimes listed by their original sugar content, which is measured in degrees Plato (P/Â°). The difference is generally apparent in the final alcohol content. Normal beer is about 10Â° (such as Gambrinus and Staropramen, which results in 4% ABV), lager 12Â° (such as Pilsner Urquell, which results in about 4.75% ABV). The latter is stronger and more expensive, so you should specify which one you want when you order. Czech lager is nothing like the fizzy lagers found in many other countries. Instead, it has a very strong, hoppy, almost bitter flavour, and goes very well with heavy dishes like duck or pork and dumplings or strong cheeses. It always has a thick head on the top when it is served, but do not be afraid to drink “through” it, it is fun and it slowly disappears anyway, nevertheless do not drink the beer too slowly as the fresh cold taste (especially in hot summers) quickly fades â€“ the “true” Czech connoisseurs do not even finish this “tepid goat,” as they call it.
Dental treatment destination – Hungary. Hungary is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty – the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Thermal waters abound in Hungary with over 1000 thermal springs in the country (more than 100 just in the Budapest area) many of which have been turned into baths and spas. The most famous being the Szechenyi baths in Budapest. It was completed in 1913 and built in Modern Renaissance style. This is the biggest thermal bath complex in Europe, its venue is the Budapest City Park. There are, however, hundreds of individual baths all around the country. The cave baths at Miskolc-Tapolca and the spa at EgerszalÃ³k are some nice examples. The first thermal baths were erected by the Romans more than 2000 years ago.
Hungarians are quite proud of their cuisine (Magyar konyha), and most of the time not without a reason. Food are usually spicy (but not hot by general standards), and it’s tasty rather than healthy â€” many dishes are prepared with lard or deep-fried. The national spice is paprika, made from ground sweet bell peppers and which actually has some flavor when fresh. The national dish is, of course, goulash, but Hungarians call the thick paprika-laden stew known as goulash and reserve the term gulyosh for a lighter paprika-flavored soup. Meat is popular- especially pork, beef (marha) and venison. Less common is lamb and mutton.
The best fish in Hungary are river fish: Carp (Ponty) and Fogas (Zander), though many restaurants will serve fish from far away. Chicken (csirke) and Turkey (pulyka) and common, and you will also find game birds excellent in smarter restaurants and country areas- Pheasant (FÃ¡cÃ¡n), Partridge(Fogoly) and duck (Kacsa). A typical meal will involve soup, often like a consommÃ© (erÅ‘leves), meat with potatoes (burgonya) and a side salad, and a dessert like pancakes (palacsinta). Less well known in the rest of the world are paprikÃ¡s csirke, chicken in paprika sauce, and halÃ¡szlÃ©, paprika fish soup often made from carp.
In Hungarian, palinka denotes strong brandy-like liquor distilled from fruit. PÃ¡linka is a very social drink: just as the English drink tea, the Hungarians, especially in rural areas, will offer pÃ¡linka to guests upon arrival. The best-known varieties are barackpÃ¡linka, made from apricots, kÃ¶rtepÃ¡linka from pears, and szilvapÃ¡linka made from plums. Factory-made pÃ¡linka is widely available, but keep an eye out for homemade hÃ¡zipÃ¡linka. PÃ¡linkas usually contain around or above 50% of alcohol, often more for the homemade ones. PÃ¡linka bottles marked mÃ©zes will be heavily swetened with honey. Unicum is a strong digestif made from a secret mix of over 40 herbs. It comes in striking black bottles emblazoned with a red and white cross, and has a very strong and unusual taste. Unicum Next has a lighter, citrusy flavor, and is rather more palatable. Definitely worth trying, the bottle itself may also be used for decoration, and keeps very well for a long time.
Dental treatment destination – Latvia. Latvia is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty – the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
When thinking of Europe, the small nation of Latvia is probably not one of the first countries to spring to your mind. Buried under the big no-go blanket of the Soviet Union, it has yet to be properly discovered by the large tourist crowds. If you manage to make it there, however, you might just find yourself most positively surprised by the charms of this Baltic country. Latvia’s dynamic capital, the historic city of Riga, is a great place to spend some time. It boasts a truly lovely old quarter, full of magnificent Jugendstil architecture, winding cobblestoned lanes and many steeples.
Yet, it is a modern, metropolitan city with a vibrant nightlife and a strong economic impulse, to the extend that the rise of modernist buildings is threatening the old town’s World Heritage listing. Riga’s vibe gets under many travellers’ skins, perhaps for the strong contrasts between old and new or maybe because of the seemingly painless blend of Latvian and Russian cultures, as almost half of the city’s inhabitants are of Russian origin. To get a sense of the city, wander through its large, manicured parks, stroll through the historic quarter and then kick back in one of the many cafÃ©s or outdoor terraces. Among Riga’s best sights are the impressive Riga Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church and the bustling Central Market.
Due to low population density, large parts of Latvia are covered by forests and wetlands and there are many national parks and nature preserves. The largest one is the densely forested Gauja National Park in the River Gauja valley. Slitere National Park has the stunning beach of Cape Kolka, where the Gulf of Riga meets the Baltic Sea.
Latvia is popular for bird watching. There are also many trekking opportunities at all difficulty levels, from short walks in old parks up to several day camping and boating trips. It is popular to go for a stroll in the autumn to watch the different shades of colour, when the trees turn red and yellow. Popular places for such activities are Sigulda and Vidzemes Augstiene. There are a lot of possibilities for winter sports – snowboarding, cross country skiing, downhill skiing etc. Major ski facilities include Ramkalni, Baili, and Zviedru Cepure. Some of the slopes are open late at night. They are not accessible via public transport.
Latvia has one of the longest sand beaches in Europe. In July and August the water is warm enough to swim comfortably. The sea has a very slow slope. As a best natural beach is listed the coast southwards from Liepaja because it is a coast of open sea (not a gulf) with cleaner water, brighter sand, and not too many people, because it’s not close to massive population. With stable air temperature 30Â°C, water temperature is about 20Â°C, which is very refreshing when you take an intensive sunbath. You practically don’t need to wash after swimming, because the salt level is pleasantly low. Latvia’s many spas are an excellent way to relax. Although widely available, the popular holiday resort town of JÅ«rmala has some of the best options, as well as a fine beach.
Dental treatment destination – Poland. Poland is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented this treaty – the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But be careful: not all EU members have signed the Schengen treaty, and not all Schengen members are part of the European Union. This means that there may be spot customs checks but no immigration checks (travelling within Schengen but to/from a non-EU country) or you may have to clear immigration but not customs (travelling within the EU but to/from a non-Schengen country).
Regular visas are issued for travellers going to Poland for tourism and business purposes. Regular visas allow for one or multiple entries into Polish territory and stay in Poland for maximum up to 90 days and are issued for the definite period of stay. When applying for a visa, please indicate the number of days you plan to spend in Poland and a date of intended arrival. Holders of regular visas are not authorized to work.
Most of the major cities boast lovely old centres and a range of splendid buildings, some of them World Heritage sites. Many old quarters were heavily damaged or even destroyed in WWII bombings, but were meticulously rebuilt after the war, using the original bricks and ornaments where possible. Although remains of the Soviet Union and even scars of the Second World War are visible in most of them, the Polish cities offer great historic sight seeing while at the same time they have become modern, lively places.
The capital, Warsaw, has one of the best old centres and its many sights include the ancient city walls, palaces, churches and squares. You can follow the Royal Route to see some of the best landmarks outside the old centre. The old city of KrakÃ³w is considered the country’s cultural capital, with another gorgeous historic centre, countless monumental buildings and a few excellent museums. Just 50 km from there is the humbling Auschwitz concentration camp which, due to the horrible events it represents, leaves an impression like no other World Heritage site does.
The ancient Wieliczka salt mine is another great daytrip from Krakow. Once a Hanseatic League-town, the port city of GdaÅ„sk boasts many impressive buildings from that time. Here too, a walk along the Royal Road gives a great overview of notable sights. WrocÅ‚aw, the former capital of Silesia, is still less well-known but can definitely compete when it comes to amazing architecture, Centennial Hall being the prime example. Its picturesque location on the river Oder and countless bridges make this huge city a lovely place. The old town of ZamoÅ›Ä‡ was planned after Italian theories of the “ideal town” and named “a unique example of a Renaissance town in Central Europe” by UNESCO. The stunning medieval city of ToruÅ„ has some great and original Gothic architecture, as it is one of the few Polish cities to have escaped devastation in WWII. Other interesting cities include PoznaÅ„ and Lublin.
With 23 national parks and a number of landscape parks spread all over the country, natural attractions are never too far away. BiaÅ‚owieÅ¼a National Park, on the Belarus border, is a World Heritage site for it comprises the last remains of the primeval forest that once covered most of Europe. It’s the only place where European Bisons still live in the wild. If you’re fit and up for adventure, take the dangerous Eagle’s Path (Orla PerÄ‡) in the Tatra Mountains, where you’ll also find Poland’s highest peak. PieniÅ„ski National Park boasts the stunning Dunajec River Gorge and Karkonoski National Park is home to some fabulous water falls.
The mountainous Bieszczady National Park has great hiking opportunities and lots of wild life. Wielkopolska National Park is, in contrast, very flat and covers a good part of the pretty PoznaÅ„ Lakeland. The Masurian Landscape Park, in the Masurian Lake District with its 2000 lakes, is at least as beautiful. Bory Tucholskie National Park has the largest woodland in the country and has a bunch of lakes too, making it great for birdwatching. The two national parks on Poland’s coast are also quite popular: Wolin National Park is located on an island in the north-west, SÅ‚owiÅ„ski National Park holds some of the largest sand dunes in Europe.
The Polish countryside is lovely and at times even gorgeous, with countless historic villages, castles, churches and other monuments. Agrotourism is therefore increasingly popular. If you have a taste for cultural heritage, the south western parts of the country offer some of the best sights, but there’s great stuff in other areas too. The impressive Gothic Wawel Castle in Krakow may be one of the finest examples when it comes to Poland’s castles, but most of the others are located in smaller countryside towns.
The large, red brick Malbork castle (in northern Poland) is perhaps the most stunning one in the country, built in 1406 and today the world’s biggest brick Gothic castle. The castle of KsiÄ…Å¼, near WaÅ‚brzych is one the best examples in historic Silesia, which also brought forward the now semi-ruined Chojnik castle, located on a hill above the town of SobieszÃ³w and within the Karkonoski National Park. After surviving battles and attacks for centuries, it was destroyed by lightning in 1675 and has been a popular tourist attraction since the 18th century.
The picturesque Czocha Castle near LubaÅ„ originates from 1329. A bit off the beaten track are the ruins of KrzyÅ¼topÃ³r castle, in a village near Opatow. The Wooden Churches of Southern Lesser Poland are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage, just like the Churches of Peace in Jawor and Swidnica. The Jasna GÃ³ra Monastery in CzÄ™stochowa and the beautiful, World Heritage listed Kalwaria Zebrzydowska park are famous pilgrimage destinations. The lovely Muskau Park in ÅÄ™knica, on the German border, has fabulous English gardens and is a UNESCO listing shared with Germany.
Dental treatment destination – Romania. Romania is situated in the north of the Balkan Peninsula on the western shores of the Black Sea. It enjoys great natural beauty and diversity and a rich cultural heritage. Romania enchants visitors with its scenic mountain landscapes and unspoiled countryside areas, and also with its historic cities and its busy capital. Over the last decade Romania had undergone a significant development and it is one of the recent members of the European Union. Tourists from western countries might still, even today, enjoy some surprising experiences in Romania.
This is a large country which can sometimes be shocking with contrasts: some cities are truly Western Europe; some villages can seem to have been brought back from the past. While it has significant cultural similarities with other Balkan states, it is regarded as unique due to its strong Latin heritage. Things for which Romania is famous include: the Carpathian mountains, Constantin Brancusi, wine, medieval fortresses, Mircea Eliade, Dacia cars, Dracula, stuffed cabbage leaves, Nadia Comaneci, the Black Sea, Gheorghe Hagi, sunflower fields, painted monasteries and the Danube Delta.
Getting to Romania is easy from nearly all parts of the world, due to its position, as well as the fact that it is served by an array of transport types and companies. Romania is a member of the Schengen Agreement but has not yet fully implemented it.
For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) citizens, together with those of Switzerland, an officially approved ID card (or a passport) is sufficient for entry. In no case will they need a visa for a stay of any length. Others will generally need a passport for entry. Travel to/from any other country (Schengen or not) from/to Romania will (as of now) result in the normal immigration checks, but travelling to/from another EU country you will not have to pass customs. However, if Romania normally requires a visa for your nationality, this may be waived if you already have a valid Schengen visa.
Getting around Romania is relatively hard and inefficient for the great distances that have to be covered in this country (this is after all, the second-largest country in Central Europe, after Poland). The transport infrastructure has been improving quite significantly recently, even though roads remain a weak point.
There are several highways under construction, but as of yet none are fully operational. Train travel, however, has improved dramatically. Several upgrade projects are under way for several railway tracks and that makes rail traffic on those lines a bit slow for the time being.
The best places to shop for food are farmers’ markets. Food sold here is brought fresh from the countryside, and, by buying it, you are both supporting local farmers and consuming something that is fresh and in the overwhelming majority of the cases natural and organic – in many cases, what you are buying today has been picked freshly yesterday from the countryside. You also get the experience of buying food produced as part of an old and living tradition that has not yet been through the forgetting-and-rediscovery process behind much “traditional” and “natural” food in other industrialized countries.
Recently, the food in the markets is sold by intermediaries, who buy cheaply from farmers and sell products, tripling the price. However, this is illegal, and, in many cases, farmers’ markets now require that farmers show a specially designated certificate in order to rent a stall. However, some tourists can’t resist Romania’s hypermarket temptation, especially in Bucharest. Hypermarkets are relatively popular (and recent) in Romania, but this ensures that nearly all of them are modern and sparkling clean, with brightly lit aisles, neat shelves and smooth-gliding carts, that you may find it hard to look away and head for the markets!
Romanian food is distinct yet familiar to most people, being a mixture of Oriental, Austrian and French flavours, but it has some unique elements. The local dishes are the delicious sarmale, mamaliga (polenta), bulz (traditional roasted polenta, filled with at least two kinds of cheeses, bacon and sour cream), friptura (steak), salata boef (finely chopped cooked veggies and meat salad, usually topped with mayo and decorated with tomatoes and parsley), zacusca (a yummy, rich salsa-like dip produced in the fall) as well as tocana (a kind of stew), tochitura (an assortment of fried meats, and traditional sausages, in a special sauce, served with polenta and fried eggs), mici (a kind of spicy sausage, but only the meat, without the casings, always cooked on a barbecue).
Other dishes include a burger bun with a slice of ham, a slice of cheese and a layer of French fries, ciorba de burta (white sour tripe soup), ciorba taraneasca (a red sour soup, akin to bors without the beet root and using instead fermented wheat bran, with lots of vegetables), Dobrogean or Bulgarian salads (a mix of onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, white sauce and ham), onion salad – diced onion served in a dish, tomato salad – diced tomato with cheese, pig skin – boiled and sometimes in stew, and drob (haggies) – a casserole made from lamb or pork liver and kidneys.
Local eclectic dishes include cow tongue, sheep brain (Easter), caviar, chicken and pork liver, pickled green tomatoes and pickled watermelon. Traditional desserts include pasca (a cheese pie produced only for Easter), saratele (salty sticks), pandispan (literally means spanish bread; cake filled with sour cherries) and cozonac (special cake bread baked for Christmas).