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Originally published January 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Page modified January 4, 2013 at 12:14 PM

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Bucharest: Celebrating a turn toward enlightenment

The medieval towns and ancient castles of Transylvania draw a vampire-fascinated crowd since they inspired the legend of Count Dracula.

NW Traveler editor

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Information: romaniatourism.com/
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THE WORLD welcomes the new year with a bang as fireworks explode over cities big and small.

In Romania, the city of Bucharest lights up at midnight with pyrotechnics. It's a welcome burst of color and revelry in the winter drabness of the city, where architecturally brutal, Soviet-style apartments loom.

Once known as Eastern Europe's Paris, Bucharest was ravaged in the 20th century by World War II bombing, deadly earthquakes, decades of communist dictatorship and anti-communist revolution.

Now a semi-parliamentary republic and member of the European Union, Romania attracts visitors — though mostly to sights outside Bucharest.

The medieval towns and ancient castles of Transylvania draw a vampire-fascinated crowd since they inspired the legend of Count Dracula (created by 19th-century Irish novelist Bram Stoker).

For less bloodthirsty sightseeing, villages in the Moldova region are home to "painted monasteries," eight small churches elaborately decorated on the exterior with 500-year-old frescoes of saints and biblical tales. Maramures, where a half-dozen tall, narrow wooden churches have been the heart of village life for centuries, is another draw.

Rent a car to roam the villages and the countryside, preferably in spring and summer when sunshine, not fireworks, lights up Romanian life.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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