Romania's modern history is as haunting as its old Dracula legend: The brutal reign of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ended in 1989, but the country is still plagued by a past of poverty and political uncertainty. Its capital, Bucharest, has come a long way in its post-communist hangover. Some of the massive potholes have been filled, and the roaming street dogs are gone, but now it suffers from the same polluting traffic as any other major European city. And yet Romania offers an entirely different culture from what you'll find elsewhere in Europe. It has some of the most stunning mountain scenery on the continent, and many parts of the countryside seem untouched by modern history. For adventurous travelers, the eerie castles, charming medieval villages and painted monasteries hidden away in deep forests more than make up for the often-drab cities and the irritating bureaucracy that lingers from the country's communist past.

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