Welcome to Romania for Kids, with Karyn from CASE OF ADVENTURE.
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Romania for Kids
Romania is a country in Europe and is actually halfway between the North Pole and the equator.
The name, ‘Romania’ comes from the Latin word, ‘Romanus’, which means “citizen of Rome”. Long ago, Romans conquered and colonized the area which is modern day Romania.
There is even a city called Roman in inside Romania. So a person could live in Roman, Romania!
It is a very green and beautiful landscape with mountains, hills and plains, forests, waterfalls and rivers. There are many farms and old cities with fancy old-fashioned buildings and stunning architecture.
The capital city is called Bucharest. Nearly 2 million people live in Bucharest which is the 7th largest city in the European Union, after Vienna and Paris.
Romania is a fascinating country because it was one of the last countries in the world to move away from communism. Communism is when the government controls everything and takes away many of the people’s freedoms and possessions! There are still a few communist countries left in the world, but thankfully not many.
In the 1800s, a prince from Germany, became Romania’s first King – King Carol I. He declared Romania an independent and sovereign state.
Romania went through many changes in the early 1900s and then after the second world war, It’s 23 million citizens lived under the rule of one of the 20th century’s most controlling dictators. His name was Nicolae Ceauşescu.
Learning about Romania is very sad because there has been so much suffering there. But then that is true in so many countries. We should always be grateful to those who have gone before us to fight for freedom from oppression. Things in Romania are much better these days than they used to be and Romanians are working hard to recover from Communism, with the help of other countries in Europe.
Besides the large forests which cover a quarter of the country, there are many areas with flat plains for farming and rich soil for crops. There are stunning mountain slopes with ski resorts and in some places, Glaciers have formed beautiful lakes and caves. There are also salt mines, coal mines and iron mines.
In Romania you can explore bat-caves with torch lights, go for a swim in a volcano crater lake or drive out into the hills on a horse-drawn cart. You can follow the tracks of wild animals in the winter snow – the bear, the wolf, lynx, the boar or you can help milk cows in the village and even help the blacksmith in his forge! You may find that the blacksmith is also the dentist and doctor for that village!
Transylvania is a region the middle of Romania, with Bukovina in the north, Moldavia in the northeast, Dobrogea in the southeast near the Black Sea, Walachia along the southern border, and Banat in the southwest.
Transylvania includes the Carpathia Mountains and the Transylvanian Alps. Have you heard of the story of Dracula, which is set in Transylvania?
The Romanian language is 1,700 years old. It continues to change and as all languages do, it borrows many words from other languages, especially French. For example, the Romanians, say Mersi (for thank you, just like the French). They just spell it with a S instead of a C.
Romanians are also greatly influenced now by American English via the Internet and television.
Hello – Bună
Good afternoon – Bună ziua
Yes – Da (just like in Russian)
No – nu
Please – Vă rog (formal)
Bon appetit or Have a nice meal – Poftă bună!
THE FLAG, CURRENCY AND NATIONAL ANTHEM
You can listen to the Romanian national anthem here on this video from youtube and see the English words as you listen to it sung in Romanian.
The Romanian flag is divided into three equal vertical stripes – dark blue, yellow and red.
It is modeled after the flag of France. The colors are those of Walachia (red and yellow) and Moldavia (red and blue), which united to form Romania united in 1862.
Romanian money is called the Leu. Even though they are an EU country, they don’t use the Euro at all. The currency symbol for the leu is RON. For 1 US dollar you could buy almost 4 Romanian Leu or 4 RON.
An interesting fact is that in 2005, the leu, which is the Romanian currency, dropped four zeros. What used to be 10,000 lei (the old name) was now only 1 leu. So, before 2005, you could get 4000 Romanian Lei for 1 dollar, now it’s only 4 leu! This is because Romania’s economy was so affected by communism and international debt and poverty that their money dropped so much in value.
FROM COMMUNISM TO CAPITALISM
In the 1960’s. Romania was ruled by the USSR. Romanians did not like their lives under Soviet rule, and they wanted to be independent.
One of the leaders fighting for Romania’s own interests was a man named Nicolae Ceaușescu. When he began to rule Romania as head of the communist party, he was admired by many as a leader who they thought wanted what was best for his country.
But after a brief period of ruling fairly, Ceaușescu became increasingly brutal and started to oppress the people and take away their freedoms. He controlled what people were allowed to speak of, and publish in newspapers.
Anyone who disagreed with him was not tolerated. His secret police, the Securitate, was one of the most brutal secret police forces in the world. If anyone got in the governments way, they would be put in prison or killed.
In 1982, Ceaușescu ordered that most of the country’s farm crops as well as goods made in factories should be exported. This meant they were sold to other countries. He did this because he wanted to pay off the debt that Romania owed to other countries but the problem with doing it in this way, meant that there were extreme shortages of food for the Romanian people as well as fuel, medicine and other basic necessities.
Living standards were very low and the people were unhappy. But Ceaușescu and his wife Elena lived a lavish lifestyle. They spent lots of the countries money on themselves. This was resented by the Romanians, who did not have enough to live on and were very very poor.
Ceaușescu also destroyed many people’s homes and made them move to apartment blocks without running water, or even glass in the windows sometimes. Historic buildings and churches were bulldozed to make way for new government buildings.
Then in 1989, the uprising began. Romanians would not follow Ceausescu any longer.
The trouble started when a Reformed church pastor refused to leave his church in Timisoara. Crowds grew as more people protested with the pastor against Ceausescu and against communism in Romania. Ceausescu ordered his troops to kill the protesters, which they did. He then warned that any other protesters would be shot.
He organized a great rally, to force citizens to show their support for his leadership. But the citizens were angry, and their feelings were caught on television. All over the country, people started demonstrating. Ceausescu and his wife tried to flee from Romania, but they were caught, convicted of crimes against their country, and executed.
This was a new beginning for Romania. Today, Romania has a democratic form of government and is trying to make progress in recovering from Ceausescu’s terrible control over them.
The communist rulers did not manage Romania’s economy well, and many citizens are still very poor, even today.
The largest of Ceaușescu’s government buildings is called the People’s Palace or the Palace of Parliament. It is gigantic! Huge vaulted rooms, marble staircases big enough for giants, and chandeliers the size of small cars.
There are a lot of very sad and dark things about Romania’s past. One of the saddest was the state of the orphanages where many of the children had lived during Caucescu’s rule. These orphanages had been kept very secret and even the Romanian people were shocked to discover how awful the conditions were for the children.
When the revolution was over, the newspapers published photos of the awful conditions that the children lived in and the world was shocked. The new government ordered that these terrible places were closed. The problem was that many of the children had nowhere to go.
Many children who were once part of the awful orphanages of Romania’s past now had nowhere to live except the hot and damp smelly sewer tunnels underneath the streets of Romania. Today, you can find many people living down there.
MISSIONARIES IN ROMANIA
A man named Pastor Wurmbrand and his wife grew up in Romania and became missionaries there druing the time of the communist government. He was imprisoned for 14 years for his faith and his wife for many years as well. They underwent terrible suffering for Christ
After Pastor Wurmbrand was freed, he started an organization called Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) to support missionaries in persecuted countries.
I’m going to tell you a story which is written about his son trying to visit his parents while they were in prison.
This story is taken from Voice of the Martyrs, Kids of Courage – Bold Believers, in Romania. Voice of the Martyrs has many excellent resources to learn about believers in many countries of the world.
Thirteen-year-old Mihai boarded the train in the middle of the night. He was on his way to visit his mother at a Romanian prison.
At 6 a.m. after a long, cold, five-hour ride, he and the family members of other prisoners came to a train station. They got off the train and walked for an hour in the snow to the prison. Then they stood in the snow for a very long time. Nothing happened.
Finally they saw a long line of prisoners trudge by. A guard yelled, “Go home! No visit today! The prisoners did not obey orders well enough to have visitors.” Sadly Mihai and the others got back on the train and went home.
Another time, Mihai visited his father in prison. This time, the guards let him inside the huge wooden doors of the prison. He was taken past more doors to a room with a long table in it. Policemen sat on both sides of the table. Mihai saw a door with a small window in it about 15 feet away. A sliding door over the window could be opened or shut. Then Mihai saw his father’s face in the window!
Mihai trembled. Pastor Wurmbrand had been in prison for so long and visits were so rare. “He looks older,” thought Mihai. “Mihai has grown so much,” thought his father. Pastor Wurmbrand knew prison visits could be very short. He would have time to ask only the most important questions and say the most important things.
“How’s your mother?” Mihai’s father called out to him.
“You must not ask about family!” yelled a policeman before Mihai could answer.
“How is my court case going?” asked Pastor Wurmbrand.
“You are not allowed to talk about your case!” said a police officer.
“Remember, Mihai,” called his father quickly, “there is a God, Jesus is our Savior, and
love is the best way…”
The door over the window slammed shut. The visit was over.
Mihai’s mother Sabina was released from a Romanian prison a year later when he was 14. She had been in prison for teaching people about Jesus. Pastor Wurmbrand, Mihai’s father, was still in prison for the same reason.
After Sabina was freed, many visitors came to their small home. They came to talk and to
pray, and they came for advice. “
Sometimes spies came to visit. They wanted to find out which visitors were Christians so
they could turn the names over to secret police. At that time, Romania was still a
communist nation, and believers were often arrested.
“My mother welcomed those enemies, too,” said Mihai. “She hugged them like she
did everyone else. Sometimes she preached to them.”
Often the Christians knew which visitors were enemies. Mihai did not like the spies.
If it weren’t for them, maybe his mother and father would not have gone to prison.
One day, after Sabina greeted a spy with a hug, Mihai complained. “Don’t you know
who that is?” he asked his mother.
“Yes,” his mother answered. “Mihai, NOW is the time. Now, when hate starts in
your heart, you must love your enemy. You don’t go on a trip someday and look for
enemies to love. You can’t decide to plan a party and invite your enemy. You must
love your enemy now.”
FAMOUS PEOPLE AND CUSTOMS
Romania has had many extraordinary inventors, such as Nicolae Constantin Paulescu, who discovered insulin, and Petrache Poenaru, who invented the fountain pen in 1827. He also designed the current flag of Romania.
The only gold museum in Europe is in Romania. It has over 2,000 pieces of gold, gathered from around the world. There is a tiny lizard-shaped piece of gold which is worth 3 million euros because it’s so unique.
Strada Sforii, which means rope street is said to be the narrowest street in Europe.
In Romania, the 1st March is celebrated as the first day of spring. They call it Martisor and celebrate it with traditional gifts and dinners. It is a bustling, but very special time of the year when every city, town and village is brought to life by heaps of colorful stalls selling the so-called “Martisoare”.
Men and children scour the markets and shops in order to find the most beautiful martisoare for the ladies in their lives. The, ladies look forward to wearing these charms pinned to their fanciest clothes.
In the old days, the “martisor” was an important custom, the peasants offered loved ones lucky charms or twisted wool threads to protect them from disease and bad luck. Nowadays they are just a fun tradition.
Have you heard of Nadia Comăneci? She is a well-known gymnast who grew up and trained in Romania and when she was only 14 years old, she went to the Olympic games in Montreal and received the first perfect ten score ever. She was so good that she got seven perfect tens during her events and won gold medals for Romania.
Later she defected to the United States and now lives there with her husband and son.
‘When we went to Canada, it was like going to the moon,’ Nadia says. ‘Things you only dream about – blue, pink, white socks, sparkly hair bands and clips, leotards in different colors.
Nadia remembers every moment of that first perfect performance. ‘You have butterflies, thinking, “I want to be the best.” It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are, you can always make a mistake. I thought, “I’m going to get a 9.9.” Then I heard a big noise in the arena. When I turned round I saw 1.00.’ The scoreboard couldn’t show a ten because its maker had been told the score wasn’t possible.
‘In my mind I thought, “That’s weird.” One of my teammates said, “It’s a ten!” I don’t think I understood what it meant. I knew ten was the highest score but I didn’t know I’d made history that day. I thought, “I’ll think about it later.” I was on the beam next and had to think about that.
For Nadia, life changed very little after that Olympic games, even though she was now a star.
She continued to train eight hours a day, she was now under constant surveillance from communist guards. Romanian dictator, Nicolas Ceauşescu’s harsh government prevented any Romanians from leaving the country.
When Nadia was 18 years old, she won two more gold medals and two silver at the olympics. But any liberation she’d felt abroad was taken from her the moment she returned to Romania because her coach Bella Carolje? had defected to the United States.
Now permanently guarded, she was even followed when doing her laundry or visiting the shops in case she tried to escape from Romania.
She did eventually escape. In 1989, she decided she’d had enough, and joined a group of Romanians being smuggled into Hungary. Fleeing the country in the middle of the night, she was forced to trudge through snow for six hours and wade through an icy lake to escape the brutal regime.
WHAT ARE THE HOMES LIKE?
They have pretty wood carvings everywhere, scroll-shapes, flowers, diamonds and circles are carved along roof borders, walls and fences.
The houses are cheerfully painted with bright colors like yellow or orange or pale green or blue.
Pretty outdoor areas, gates and gardens invite you inside. Even though its people have a history of poverty, they always work hard to make their homes inviting, as hospitality is important to them. Living in a cheerful place makes all the difference.
The golden jackal is the only type of jackal that does not live in Africa, but in Europe. They are very vocal and use a wide variety of sounds to communicate. like growls, howls, and even hooting like an owl.
The white-tailed Eagle has the largest wingspan of any eagle and can fly up to of 70km per hour. Some live as long as 25 years.
There are at least two breeds of Romanian buffalo, the Carpathian buffalo, and the Danubian buffalo. River buffaloes like deep water, but swamp buffaloes prefer to wallow in mudholes.
Many cheeses are made from the milk of these buffaloes – have you ever heard of buffalo mozzarella? It’s a real thing! Male Romanian buffalo horns can reach up to 5 feet in length, that’s almost as tall as a man.
Romania has the largest population of brown bears in Europe, around 6000. These bears eat 10 kilograms of food every single day! Campers are advised to hide their food up in trees or in other places to protect it from hungry bears! These bears grow very large – the biggest brown bear ever was found in Romania and weighed 480 kg – that’s as much as a small car.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?
In Romania, summers are hot, and Winters are very cold. Temperatures can get as low as -20°C which is -4F.
MUSIC AND INSTRUMENTS
In Romania, the music is intense and emotional and tells about life’s ups and downs, about Romanian habits or about nature. Each region of Romania has its own unique music.
You can hear traditional music at music festivals, weddings or in the countryside. Of course, traditional Romanian musicians use instruments like drums, guitars and violins. Then there are the more unusual ones.
I’m sure you’ve heard of wind instruments? Those are instruments that you blow air into and sound comes out the other end. These kind of instruments are often used in traditional Romanian Music.
The taragot is one of them. Picture a long tube with holes in it which is wider at the bottom than at the top.
The “ţilinca” is a wind instrument shaped like a really long narrow tube with holes only at the top and bottom. This instrument sounds similar to the flute.
Another popular wind instrument is the panpipe. The pan pipes were used in the story of the Pied Piper.
Did you know that the bagpipe is played in Romania?
The Cimpoi (pronounced shimpoy) is the Romanian bagpipe! It’s different to the Scottish bagpipe in that it has a single drone instead of three. It is used mainly in dance music. There are about ten traditional melodies, each paired with a different rhythm.
When I read about Romanian food, I notice how so many of the traditional foods seem to have come from the time when there was not much to eat. They focus on dishes made from every part of the animal and often in soup form to stretch the food and make it feed as many people as possible.
Romania holds the record for the worlds’ longest sausage. It was 39 miles (which is 62km) long.
Romania is also the 9th largest producer of wine in the world.
Romanian speciality dishes include grilled meatballs, meat wrapped in cabbage leaves, pork stew with garlic and onions and doughnuts made with cream and cheese.
Above all, home-cooked peasant food is the norm.
Sour soup usually acts as the starter, mămăligă (like polenta) with sarmale (cabbage rolls) is a typical main course. Romanians love smoked bacon, known as slănina afumată.
Iorba de Burta (tripe soup) is one of the most popular soups in Romania. That is made with the stomach of a cow, lots of garlic, sour cream and vinegar and is served with hot chilli peppers. Sounds spicy – I’m sure it helps to keep you warm in those cold winters!
You will sometimes come across chicken, beef and fish in Romanian food, normally it will be Pork. The Romanians love to eat pork. Don’t be surprised to see all parts of the pig on the menu – the tongue, the liver, feet, ears, stomach and brain.
Papanasi is a cottage cheese dessert where the cheese is rolled into a donut-like shape, filled with sweet cream and topped with jam or berries.
Romanians also love to barbecue at their celebrations!
Pizza is also very common in Romania – in some towns your only restaurant choices will be Romanian and a pizza joint.
Romania has mastered the art of lemonade. Every restaurant offers it freshly squeezed with very interesting flavors from basic mint to mixed berries.
The city of Caracal has a few amusing things that have happened to it.
The fire lookout tower burnt down,
The front door of the police station was stolen,
Their cemetery is on Resurrection Street and their prison is on Freedom Street.
They have only one school, and that school is called School Number 2.
You may remember hearing about Ceauşescu ordering that the land be cleared and people’s houses bulldozed to make space for the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest. Well, that is the second biggest government building in the world, after the Pentagon in the United States of America. It is the largest, heaviest, and most expensive administration building on earth! Inside you’ll find 3,500 tons of crystal, 480 chandeliers and 1,409 lights.
We couldn’t think of any jokes about Romania, but whenever I ask my daughter where she’d like to live when she’s grown up, she always says she’s going to Romania… remain here!
Romanian people have gone through so much and are greatly in need of the good news of the gospel. There is much we can learn from all they have been through. It’s a beautiful country to visit.
Now that the country is no longer closed, Nadia Comaneci has been able to return and she does so, many times a year to train young gymnasts and to help the new generation to have hope for the future.
We hope you enjoyed this Romania for Kids podcast!