Romania's Wilderness: how to enjoy it safely

Romania is a land of great natural beauty. The terrain is more or less equally distributed between mountains, hills and plateaus and plains.

Approximately 47% of these areas are covered by natural or semi-natural ecosystems.

Romania's fauna consists of 33,792 animal species. Its flora consists of 3,700 plant species of which 23 have been declared natural monuments.

Three major vegetation zones - alpine, forest and steppe - are recognized. They contain some of Europe's major distributions of sycamore, beech, oak, willow, spruce, fir, pine, poplar and meadow.

The Carpathian Mountains - the tallest peak Mt. Moldoveanu rises to 2544 m. - cross Romania from the north to the southeast and occupy one third of Romania's land area. They contain many lakes created during the last Ice Age. In and around present-day Transylvania (the Latin name means "Beyond the Forest"), the mountains represent Europe's longest volcanic chain. St. Ana is the only remaining volcanic lake.

Another third of Romania (33%) is covered in hills and plateaus. Much of the region is under cultivation with extensive orchards and vineyards.

The last third consists of a fertile plain of dark soil where cereals, vegetables and a variety of other crops are grown. This Danube flows through this region on its way to the Black Sea. The Danube Delta forms Europe's most extensive wetland and the world's largest continuous reed-bed.

At different times of the year, this area is a haven for some of the world's largest communities of migratory birds.

Due to their extreme altitude, Romania's mountainous regions are subject to freezing temperatures and severe alpine storms throughout the year. Winter storms ravage the cities and towns and icy streets and pavements are a constant hazard. Tourists should wear shoe traction devices to avoid slipping. They should also beware of falling shards of ice.

In the warmer spring and summer months, Romania's mountainous regions are also subject to torrential rains and flash floods.

The Carpathians are Europe's longest volcanic mountain chain. The surrounding region is unstable and severe earthquakes frequently occur, particularly in the south and southwest. Minor tremors occur throughout the year. Earthquakes often cause landslides.

The last major earthquake occurred on 5th August 2009. Its epicentre was in the Black Sea and it registered 5.8 on the Richter scale!

Almost half of the forests - they constitute 13% of total land area - are managed for watershed conservation rather than production; Romania has one of the largest areas of undisturbed forest in Europe. They contain 60% of Europe's brown bears and 40% of its wolves.

Near the larger mountain forests, bears often visit city neighbourhoods in search of food. Wolves are also frequently spotted close to human habitation. Bears and wolves are at least as nervous around humans as we are around them. In general, they prefer to keep their distance. Tourists are advised not to approach them or attempt to feed them. They may become disoriented and attack.

For those who like camping outdoors, the best bet is to seek local advice before setting up your tent.

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