Romania is the largest of the Balkan states, sitting at the crossroads of Europe, whose nationals are proud of being “an island of Latinos” in a “sea of slavs”. The country has seen several empires come and go – Roman, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian, all leaving their legacy.

Romania has a rich cultural and natural diversity. Its dramatic mountain scenery includes the densely forestedCarpathian Mountains, the Danube Delta (the largest wetland in Europe) and 70km (43 miles) of fine white sandy beaches on the Black Sea Coast.

In picturesque valleys and on mountain slopes are many health and winter resorts. Romania’s cultural heritagecan be experienced in the Saxon towns of Transylvania, also home to Bran Castle, of Dracula fame, the painted monasteries of Bucovina and the rural village idyll of Maramures.

The capital, Bucharest, earned the nickname “Paris of the Balkans”, but it is the stunning medieval city of Sibiu in Transylvania that was crowned European Capital of Culture 2007.

Since the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship in 1989, Romania has been working towards the twin goals of gaining admission to NATO, which it joined in 2004, and the European Union, which it achieved in January 2007, behind some of its neighbours.