marți, 29 ianuarie 2013

The weirdest museums in Romania

Romania is a country like any other, and the Romanians normal European people like any others. Or not actually? Among my compatriots there are for sure a few ones who are above, or bellow the average, but it is still normally.

Collecting strange things is not a Romanian invention, and the people just do it, maybe aiming to be different compared to the neighbors. When other weird people find the collection interesting enough, to spend money for watching them, we can set up a museum. There are enough weird museums in the all world, and you might know them better than I do. Limiting to Romania, I made a personal selection, allow me to present it.
The Watch and clock  museum from Ploiesti is unique in Romania

A Museum of clocks and watches became one of the landmarks of the city Ploiesti. A clock, or watch, measures something doesn't exist for real, we can't feel with our senses. Similar museums are only a few in the all world, and its exhibited artifacts are very precious. His grounder Nicolae Simache, has been for decades the Director of the Ploiesti History Museum. An attraction to watches or clocks, a strong special one, hit me, and probably even you (no offence, please). Professor Simache was very special, and succeeded to follow his weird collecting mania, but we didn't!
The Railway Museum is interesting, educative,  and the guides fabulous!

Another museum I love is in the Capital Bucharest, next to its central railway station (Gara de Nord) and you can figure already what is all about. I am trying to tell you about The Railway Museum. You can see there magnificent steam locomotives, which are indeed spectacular ready to go, just in case, after almost 160 years of history. Very spectacular, epic and encyclopedic are the museum guides and curators, telling you unbelievable stories about there exhibited artifacts. Still wonder what was true in all of them, but I really enjoyed it!
The Pharmacy museum in Sibiu is actually a department of Bruckental museum

You can find in Romania even a Pharmacy museum, actually a department of the notorious Bruckental Museum from Sibiu/Hermannstadt. It is opened in a special chosen location, a better one is simply impossible: the oldest drugstore on the territory of today Romania, opened in 1644. If you are a history freak, and you are a little sick of conventional History museums, dotted all around Romania, in every city being a district residence, this pharmacy Museum (actually a a Museum of the History of Pharmaceutics in Romania) could be the right thing for you.

A very slow, yet unsignificant museum, but maybe the most attractive, is the Amber Museum, opened in Colti/District Buzau. The amber has been exploited here up to 1945, and you can see many strange forms to your delight. If you are lucky enough, you still can find by the locals wonderful pieces of amber, which they are still able to collect in secret places. My tip: if the museum is closed, search the key to the mayor, please!

duminică, 27 ianuarie 2013

Epic winter highlights in Romania

As a nature freak and wine afficionado, I must confess: I like winter indeed, no matter how many snow falls or how cold is! The winter has a secret charm, and I can feel it for sure. But of course I am not the only one, and I won't keep for myself.

As a child, I can remember my regular winter works: while visiting my grandma in vacations, in a plain village with harsh winter, I was supposed to shorten and then chop the fire wood. It was a very honorable occupation, and I was very happy doing it. 20 years later was closed to be frozen to death in the same harsh plain, watching over a truck with trading wares which ran out of gas.

Nevertheless, I don't hate and i don't fear winter, but on the contrary, I love it,and allow me to suggest now some winter activities for you as a tourist. There are many winter highlights in Romania, and I must select something special for you.
Skiing in Paltinis, the highest winter resort in Romania

The first saving idea shall be, as you can imagine, ski and other winter sports. there are good ski destinations in Romania, starting with the well renowned, but expensive Poiana Brasov. If you go to Borsa is much cheaper, but the slopes are much easier, good only for beginners. Ranca and Paltinis other important ski destinations in Romania.Right time to inform about the last massive snow falls in Romania, making all the ski destinations to be very good prepared for their guests.
Constanta and the sea in winter have a special secret spell and charm

Another proposition: the sea. Maybe seems weird, but the sea in winter looks fabulous, much more romantic than in summer season with their crowds and mass tourism. The chances to find snow in Constanta or Mangalia are very slim. Not all the hotels are opened in winter, but Hotel Malibu from Mamaia is one of them. Unfortunately no swimming pool inside, you must drive to hotel Yaki, e.g. The amazing city of Constanta looks charming, and in many restaurants, as one of the few visitors, you will be treated much better than in the peak season! They will totally spoil you. Use the opportunity to visit the excellent History museum ( as any contemporary History museum from Romania, it is closed on Monday and the known history stops suddenly with WWII)

If you followed in the hot season a certain way or destination in Romania, please repeat it in winter. It has a newer charm, and thus you are also able to gain another perspective. Such a destination is the Bucharest's Village Museum. Visit this amazing museum, observe the old genuine houses and imagine how was the daily life 200 years ago during course winters. It is the best method to get cured about the winter depression.

Another favorite destination in Romania in winter, or in summer is Sighisoara with its unique Medieval fortress, the only one still inhabitated in the all Europe. Discover it, and other secret charms of this small town staying in the exquisite Hotel Binder Bubi. After a long exhausting walk in the hilly fortress you may be spoiled with a perfect dinner and a sauna, making your day perfect.

So, if you fear the winter depression or winter blue, I have the right cure. As the right medication for many other diseases. Please be and remain positive, and don't worry for anything. Life is good and nice everywhere, but specially in Romania.

sâmbătă, 26 ianuarie 2013

Most important things to know about Bucharest museums

In a city like Bucharest its museums are a special attraction, enhancing the the provocative charm of the Romanian Capital. There are for sure many museums in Bucharest, and every one of them requires more hours for a thorough visit and discover. You must only make the good choice from the rich collections of Bucharest museums according your specific wishes and hobbies.

I tried to make a personal selection, and these are the museums I usually visit and recommend. I would start with the National Romanian History Museum, residing in a wonderful Palace in the very center of Bucharest downtown. The building is a former headquarter of the very well respected and influential  Romanian Post, but no one could find a better location for a history museum. It dates back from the beginning of the XXth century, and breaths history. Even if you are not a history freak, it is good start for knowing the Romanian history, which is very rich and long. You must have notice the Roman origin of the Romanian language, and in the museum you will understand it better watching the fragments (copies) of the Roman Traianus' Column: the mighty Romans have conquered the ancient Dacians, giving birth to the Romanian people and language. Many other artifacts, temporary or permanent exhibitions are waiting for you!
The Romanian national History museum hosts many artifacts, permanent or temporary exhibition

The History Museum lies on Calea Victoriei/Victory way,  where took place the military parades a few time ago. earlier, 300 years ago maybe, it was totally wood covered and the fancy horse wagons could drive in the best conditions, and was known as Podul mogosoaiei. Follow the street, heading north, in a nice walk and discover the National Art Museum, in a Royal palace, which Ceausescu has also used while he was a president in the communist time. Observe the nice building , its eclectic architecture style, but don't miss the paintings. They are simply amazing and wonderful, many Romanian and foreign masters.
Many Romanian and foreign painting masters can be seen in the Romanian Art Museum, a former Royal palace

Further, not very far, easy accessible and reachable by walking, is the Government residence in the huge Piata Victoriei/Victory square. Right here, in the big parks around, find other three Bucharest museums: Romanian peasant's; Geology museum and the Natural History Museum. It is a happy location here, you can visit any of them, or all of them. Important to know anyway, in my opinion, anyone of them is a visit worth. But you may also visit none of them, and keep walking with your last drops of energy, reaching the Village Museum, which is a must see. It is in the middle of Herastrau, the biggest park of the city, and has many traditional houses from the different parts of Romania, which are old, traditional and genuine. The craftsmen are proudly showing their works, sometimes even producers of bio products are exhibiting. But a visit here is an event always, and gives you a broader view on Romania and enjoying all your senses.
This wonderful building hosts The Museum of the National Peasant

vineri, 25 ianuarie 2013

Best destinations for singles in Romania on Valentine's day

As the Valentine's day is approaching fast, very fast, I am sure that all of you being in a relationship, marriage etc made all the preparations needed to spend it in the most romantic way with your favorite one. Romania is of course a good option, as I recommended it more times.

For the others,which are not so happy this time, the Valentine's day could come with some unpleasant feelings like frustration, loneliness, unhappiness, depression. In fact, you must not make it so dramatic, maybe it is better so for you this time. There are some cures against this depression, which could be worse and worse. One of it is working like a crazy, more and more, like a real workaholic, but it shows the results only on short time. You must make peace with yourself and stop blaming for any real or imagined bad things. A sort of yoga, if you understand what I mean. And you can do that even while traveling, makes all easier and smoother!

As a conclusion, you need a non Valentine's Day destination! And I have a selection of such destinations in Romania, where else!

1. Skiing and practicing other winter sports is a good idea, one of the best possible. Try it in Romania in Poiana Brasov, which is huge, overcrowded and charming. Drink from time to time a glass of boiled wine on the slope, but you may not exaggerate. Getting drunk doesn't help at all, but on the contrary, causes even deeper depressions! You might hate such overcrowded places like Poiana Brasov , I agree, and allow me to remember about other ski destinations in Romania. Anyway, you may not hate people and run away from them, on the contrary. Romanians are good and lovely, anytime prepared for helping someone.
Wine tasting somewhere in Romania will help you leaving behind all the  bad feelings

2. Go on wine tasting in Romania. Is a wonderful opportunity to share the joy of life. Be careful not to get drunk, spit the wine, is a basic rule of wine tasting. I think in winter the best destinations for wine tastings are Cotnari and Focsani. Be careful and inform yourself prior of your take off, due to massive snow falls not all the destinations in Romania are easy reachable. Maybe Murfatlar is then your pocket ace, as it lies south and there does not fall so much snow. Anyway, will be probably impossible to book a full Romania Wine Tour, unfortunately.
A  Romanian city break might be thing you need, if you organize it right, as a Non Valentine destination

3.As you need to kill your spleen only a few days, consider a city break in Romania, but avoid clubbing, I think to be the worst thing for you (or maybe on the contrary, you can find your night stand putting on your feet again). I can recommend Bucharest, Constanta, Sibiu and Cluj Napoca, as they have own airports and a lot of things to do and to see. And least, but not lasts, Timisoara and Oradea. If the weather will be better and the streets accessible, you can reach other Romanian cities and towns, anyone could say  something to you, you must only be prepared to hear it.
Going to the countryside is an excellent brillant idea, but not in this season

4.Going to the countryside might be an excellent idea, but the above mentioned observation applies again. There is the danger not to reach your destination, or being forced to remain there a few days longer than you have been planning. Bucovina is a good idea for that.

Most epic markets and monuments in Bucharest

Bucharest is a city with a strong personality, acquired during its long history. Once named The Little Paris, as the elites and aristocracy have been educated in France, its iconic downtown reminds in many places of this first love of the Romanians.

Walking, riding or driving on the iconic Boulevard Regina Elisabeta and observing its amazing old houses, you feel already in a strange atmosphere fin de siecle. In the square C.A.Rosetti, former prominent Romanian politician, it is a monument dedicated to the master, creation of the German architect W.C. Hegel. The statue is a masterpiece itself, showing a big artistic intrinsic value. All the traces of his face are perfectly designed and engraved, and the honored wears a fancy suit (for that time) and trench coat over it. The bas-reliefs on the statue show the crucial moments of the Romanian history where he was present and took part   very actively (the Unification from 1859 and the Declaration of Independence in 1877).
Monument of C.A Rosetti, prominent Romanian politician of the XIXth century

Not far from  it, one of the strangest building and museum of Bucharest: The Fire Tower/Foisorul de Foc. Nevertheless, remember that during the Middle age the houses of Bucharest where mostly build on wood, and the city falled more times victim to devastating fires. Nowadays, the building can seem weird and useless, but has a big emotional value. You can visit inside the special Museum of Firemen, with interesting data and tools.
The square  Pache Protopopescu and the controversial fountain

Observe in the area the Boulevard Pache Protopescu, a residential area. Pache Protopescu was the mayor of the city, which used to have a statue in the square Pache Protopescu. Unfortunately, the statue disappeared, but you can see a nice fountain instead. many people would love having back the statue of the former Mayor, destroyed by the communists when they took over in 1948.

Now please turn around and direct towards Piata Romana, or the Roman Square, a good name to underline the Roman origin and sympathies of the Romanian people. France has been looked for long time as the older  Latin sister, and you will notice for sure many similarities its rich culture. In the Roman Square observe the statue the Capitol Wolf, o copy of the original one located in Rome.
The original of Lupa capitolina is in Rome. The Bucharest's Lupa Capitolina  is one of the most nomadic city statues, and changed its location many times. Meanwhile is already removed from Piata Romana.

Observe now carefully the square, and on one of its sides The  Economy High School, a nice old building, with an ornamental ball on it. There is a wonderful underground legend about, and I wonder if is convenient or corect unvealing it to you, but we are grown up, I hope, and it is not such a bad history. According this myth, when the first student girl shall finish the High School as a virgin, the ball will fall down. 80 years after the inauguration of the building the ball is still sitting there!

miercuri, 23 ianuarie 2013

Epic palaces in Bucharest with myths an legends

As I love Bucharest so much, can give you a reliable tip: there are actually two or more cities of Bucharest, and you can observe all these layers entering the big city from any directions, but specially from Ploiesti and Brasov.

Watch first carefully the modern buildings, car repairing workshops, wonderful villas with modern amenities, this is the first level, the most recent one. It is followed by industrial factories from the Ceausescu's communist times, with their sad blocks of flats, really living siloses, whose inhabitants dream desperately to live definitively (only 10 % succeed!). The last layer consists of official or private buildings, build up to 1940, in very different Architecture styles, to the delight of any visitor. The resulting eclectic mix is the mainly reason to love Bucharest from the first sight, for any locals or visitors. Here is the heart and the head of the city indeed!
The CEC Palace at night, but it is no less impressive in daylight

Interior of the renowned CEC Palace. To visit it inside you must pretend to be a bank client!

In Downtown Bucharest the buildings are very different not only regarding the style, but also concerning the intrinsic value! The Parliament Palace is very new, huge and controversial; because of it an important part of the historic Bucharest has been sacrificed. Moving and destroying a few churches from this huge area triggered the curses which will kill Ceausescu ( popular myth!). Only a few steps away, crossing the dambovita river over the Izvor Bridge find, please, and observe the downtown, on Calea Victoriei. Next to it, on Stavropoleos street, an important target which you are not going to miss. Simply not allowed to waste the opportunity to visit Caru cu bere/The beer wagon, even for me, which I am normally a wine drinker and afficionado.

Caru cu Bere remains even today one of the Bucharest's best restaurants. Build at 1876 by a German architect (you could guess, I am sure) in New Gothic style, keeps inside the same obsolete atmosphere, and looks simply like a German brauerei from Bavaria e.g. It is overcrowded at any hour when is opened, due to the excellent kitchen and wonderful services. Don't be scared please by the noble local, it is still possible eating in Caru cu bere on a budget! At noon, e.g., there are easy to find some special offers, e.g. The Student menu, or the Senior menu, which are very cheap. Don't dare ordering any of them, you will be probably asked to show a document proofing one of these qualities!
This is maybe the best location for the Romanian National History Museum!

Back in Calea Victoriei, with a full stomach and a wonderful feeling, just to visit shorter or longer two other important palaces, real landmarks of Bucharest. First of it, the magnificent palace of Deposits and Economy bank/ CEC Palace, build at 1900 on a project from french Architect Gottereau, on the very place where an iconic church of the city was lieing. It has a fantastic eclectic style, fancy interiors with smart decorations. For visiting inside, is very difficult for big organized groups, but easier for individual, pretending to be the bank clients!

Just opposite to the CEC bank, a former residence of Post Administration hosts nowadays The national History Museum, build at 1894-1900 by the Romanian architect Savulescu on the ground of an important family of Romanian landlords, namely Balaceanu. Inside fantastic artifacts tighten with the rich history of the country would welcome you, it is worth a visit from you: fragments of the Roman Traian's Column, and the world renowned gold collection "The brood hen with its chicken"

marți, 22 ianuarie 2013

Most amazing palaces in Bucharest

Bucharest is an amazing overwhelming city, and has the huge advantage to have an excellent position between East and West. The strong trade always drove the city in the right way, and its supremacy against other important cities of Romania is obvious.

You can guess in Bucharest behind the civilized western buildings a strong vibration, coming from the opposite direction of the East full of myths, stories and unbelievable legends. But you need some training to feel this vibration, it is not easy, and totally impossible from the first sight!

Besides its old churches, its legendary fountains or its parks, the secret spirit of Bucharest still lives through its wonderful castles and palaces. There is no a clear regulation or systematization, these buildings are still in public use, many of them, after successive restaurations, and they could emerge in the middle of otherwise totally boring and insignificant streets.
The Justice palace strives to remain official

On Dambovita River, not far from the controversial Parliament Palace ( also knew as People House, or Ceausescu house) meat the nice Justice palace, a temple of the right things. It has been build in a record time, 5  years long ( please don't smile, between 1890 and 1895) according project of French architect Ballu, who build other famous Justice palaces in Paris and Brussels. The sculptures giving the building charm and refinement have been carved by an important Romanian artist, Carol Storck, and represent The Justice, The Law, The True, The Force and The Caution. The Architecture Style is New Renaissance, and the Room of lost steps covers a quarter of the building.
The ruins of the Old Royal Court can be visited in the very center of the modern Romanian capital

Very close, one of the oldest buildings of Bucharest, nowadays only ruins where you can visit a small museum, namely the Old Royal Court, where many ruling princes, e.g. Dracula, had their residence. Observe carefully the poor furniture, and imagine that they haven't smart phones or Internet, specially if you are computer addicted and need detox!

Next to The Old Royal Court, a very picturesque Inn, The Manuc's Inn, dating from a totally different period, the begin of the XIXth century. It is still one of the best restaurants in Bucharest, but the hotel is a
little obsolete. Manuc bey was a Turk and his grounder. The Manuc's Inn saw and hosted many important historical events, e.g The Peace talks and Treaty between Turkey and Russia from 1812. Make again the above mentioned fantastic effort of imagination, and figure out where were the horses, the camels or the best rooms.
The picturescque Manuc's Inn hosted  important crucial moments of the Romanian history

Only a few steps further a sort of mall from the XIXth century, Hanul cu Tei/ The linden Inn. Observe the wide inside court (patio), very similar to Manuc's  Inn. In the Linden Inn you have unique possibilities to buy hand made objects, all the former city guilds still have representatives here! Which doesn't happens very often in a city like Bucharest!

My tip: visit all these palaces and Inns during a Bucharest Architectural Tour, as they all are located in the Old town, inside a small circle, and you can see them all easily by walking or riding bikes.

duminică, 20 ianuarie 2013

Iconic landscapes in the Romanian Carpathians

Leaving Piatra Neamt towards Transilvania offers the good possibility to drive on the Highway 12 C, to Gheorheni, and further to Sighisoara or Brasov. Thus you go through an important Romanian National Park, called The Hasmas Nature Reserve, based on the neighboring mountains, also called the Hasmas Mountains.

It is not an easy way, if you reckon riding the bikes along, but also not impossible. Neither by car is not much easier, on certain parts of the way the street is very narrow, causing very often traffic jams. But the beauty of the landscape in The Bicaz Gorges / Cheile Bicazului makes you surely to forget any unpleasant things, as they are simply fantastic!
The impressive Bicaz Gorges,or  Bicaz canyon

I think the Americans would name it Bicaz Canyon. Call it anything you want, it is amazing and iconic. A small river, namely Bicaz, dug in the soft lime rocks one of the most impressive gorges in Romania. You are going to love these gorges from the first sight for sure. There are good possibilities to climb the mountains all around, watching the highway from the top of the rocks is simply breathtaking, but only recommended and permitted to skilled tourists. The beginners have other many possibilities.
Even in the mountains you  can find bargains and good shopping possibilities

A good idea to discover and conquer the Hasmas mountains is lodging in Lacu Rosu/Red Lake,  a resort on your way, with many hotels and cabins. A main attraction of the Red Lake is even the lake, born through a land slide in the XIXth century. The water is very cold, and deep, also full of trees trunks!  Also, not the best conditions for swimming, but you can take a boat. On the terraces you can enjoy afterwards a glass of beer or wine, and you can make shopping, there are many craftsmen in the area exhibiting their works.There is a wonderful legend about forming of Red Lake/Lacul Rosu. according this legend, a young beautiful girl has been kidnapped and raped by a local outlaw. She, very ashamed, has been crying for 1 day long, and implored the mounting, who finally accepted to let the rocks fall onto the bandit. That's why the falled mountain is called The Killer! Its colour is really reddish, due to the iron oxydes and the red rocks mirroring in the lake!If you are a mathematics or statistics freaks, note some numbers: altitude 983 meters, surface 13 hectars/26 acres, maximum depth 12,5 meters; extent 3 km, length 3 km, and a total volume of 680000 cubic meters. From the lake starts its journey the river Bicaz, but other  small rivers are tributary to the lake. The have been dammed, in order to prevent the lake from collecting mood, which could destroy it. You can fish in the lake, as any other visitor is entitled to do it. You can catch trouts, up to 1,5 kg, and you must notice the two distinct species: the lake trout has black point, while the river trout coming from the tributary rivers has red points.
The little but persistent Bicaz River starts its journey in the Red Lake/Lacul Rosu,  born through  a landslide. Nevertheless, there is a wonderful legend about it!

sâmbătă, 19 ianuarie 2013

Most important things to do in Focsani

Maybe Focsani is neither the most touristic, nor the most iconic little town in Romania, but I would recommend it warmly, as I live here and grew up here, being able to give you the best advices.

You can reach Focsani from many directions, coming from Bucharest, Iasi, Suceava, Brasov , etc. Most important thing to know, it is usually only a transit point toward other destinations. I find it not very correct and right, and I would like to convince you about the contrary, you can make a good vacations in Focsani! If you are a businessman wishing to conclude some business in the area, you must be aware about the former huge communist enterprises, just waiting for new masters, after their dissolution and bankruptcy.

Focsani proudly counts 70 000 inhabitants according the last census. Important to mention, during the last years of Ceausescu regime, when the industry of Focsani was reaching its peak, the town was counting 100000 people, and most of them were living in the sad communist block of flats, you will observe them for sure! As the town is not big, I would recommend whether a walking, or a biking tour!
Focsani, the central square and the Monument called "The carrot" by the locals

You can stay in Focsani at one of the big hotels Vrancea or Unirea, but no one has a good service; it is also possible that they don't even have warm water! Hotel Sorste has another level and expectations, but it simply fails on architecture, and bad positioning, in an old factory. The newer pensions of the town might be the last, but the best option.

Start your visit in Focsani from the southern part of the town, that quarter even is called South. Just entering the town, please discover the stadium with other sports installations ( important to know if you are the sport freak). On the other side, notice the huge former factories, which are today deserted. Some entrepreneurs invested there, but all the site seems sad and obsolete. A little further, a memorial mausoleum, build after WWI, hosting thousands of deaths in its underground. The architecture looks like Byzant church (as a matter of fact, it really is an orthodox church on Sunday e.g.).
Focsani, a broader view

Now come the military barracks, please don't take photos anymore, let the satellites do it for you! They are not so special and spectacular at all, don't worth to be mentioned, but they have in the front of them a few lovely monuments, and even an amazing wooden church, build in the good old tradition of Maramures!

Other 500 meters along the main road, and you find the Downtown, with the administrative buildings and the central square. In this square notice, please( you can't miss it simply!) the monument, called by locals "The carot", which is the favorite dating and meeting point in Focsani. It is dedicated to the Union from 1859, when Moldavia and Wallachia came together as only one country. The border was right there, and on that old times, Focsani was divided in two parts, two different cities with distinctive administrations! Do the huge importance of Focsani during the Union process, the town came in discussions to be appointed as the Capital of Romania. Finally, the town lost the battle in favor of Iasi and Bucharest, but every year at 24th of January, the celebration of the Union, there is a big people mass in the central market, with the president coming.
The mausoleum from Focsani is used as an Orthodoxe church

The church nereby is silent, but spectacular, the town oldest, dating back from 1663. All around, only a few steps further you can discover many other churches, or the animated trading market, with good shopping possibilities. Also, the town museums, the History Museum or the Natural Sciences Museum.  Another noticeable Museum, the Ethnographic one, is much further, 6 km away, in the middle of an oak forest.

Last, but not least: remember that the town of Focsani is the local Capital of the Vrancea vineyards. Be sure to find here at every step good wines, bottled or not. At the company Vinexport you can take part to wine tastings, and in October, by the end of the month, takes place an epic wine festival.

vineri, 18 ianuarie 2013

Epic  stories about the most famous churches of Bucharest

As you know Bucharest nowadays, it is a seducing capital, perfectly mixing the most modern buildings and hotels with the old ones. Bucharest is worth a visit for any people, of course, but first of all for any Architecture student, due to its unique Styles mix.

One of the most important part of the Romanian history  and tradition are the churches, and Bucharest is of course not an exception. Near its picturesque fountains, wonderful palaces or sad communist blocks of flats, the churches are for sure a landmark for the big city. At the Romanian countryside, the church is supposed to be the highest building. You can realize, that in Bucharest was impossible to keep this old unwritten traditions. The Bucharest churches still hold full of pride the famous names of their founders, members of the renowned aristocratic Romanian families. Nowadays the churches remained small islands of peace and worship in the middle of a busy city. Locals and visitors as well find them very lovely and inviting.
The curses triggered by the moving of Mihai Voda church caused the tragic death of Ceausescu and his wife!

The Michael Church/Biserica Mihai Voda was founded by the Romanian prince and ruler Michael the Brave and is an amazing and convincing splendid example of  Oriental Byzantine Architecture. His grounder build it on a hill, but when Ceausescu build the new Downtown, the church has been removed by a tank behind the blocks of flat. On that occasion the treasure hunters searched desperately for special prey, but did not find anything. The curses triggered on this occasion have finally hit Ceausescu.
The Patriarchy Cathedral rules over the city from the top of a hill!

The Patriarchy church has a much better position, and has been build in the XVIIth century; the noble prince and ruler Constantin Brancoveanu added later the bell tower. The church hosts nowadays the relics of St Dimitrie The New, the Protector of the Romanian capital. The impressive palace nearby was up to year 2000 the headquarter of the Deputies Chamber from the Romanian parliament.

The small Bucur church is accounted to the City founder, the shepherd called Bucur, which is not accurate, historically speaking, as the charming church dates back from the XVIIIth century! Please close your eyes about it, take it easy and don't ask so many questions!
The Good News Church; the news were good for sure for the ruler crowned years for centuries!

Very old, maybe the oldest, is doubtless The Good News Church/Biserica Buna Vestire, from the old court! Build around 1550, it has been for two centuries the place where the local rulers from Wallachia  have been crowned.

Smaller, newer, but very beautiful and even arogant, is the Stavropoleos church, build around 1720, by a Greek monk. It is after all a magnificent example of Brancoveanu Architecture style

joi, 17 ianuarie 2013

Epic wine based cocktails with their myths and legends

Not only in Romania, any wine taster, wine afficionado, wine lover or whatsoever needs sometimes to change and replace all the flavors, tastes etc, in order to reset and refresh all their senses.

Maybe Romania is still not excellent positioned at this chapter of the wine culture, nevertheless you can find some good wine bars in Bucharest, other big cities or in the vineyards. The people there could be not very happy when ordering a Julep, Sangria, Bellini etc. please help them to spare their time and money on Google search, giving them the good double checked recipe!

Sangria is an art summer punch, traditionally prepared in Spain. Its name sends to sangre (Spanish for blood), due to it main ingredient, the red wine (and we have plenty of it in Romania!). There are many preparation methods, according to the specific fruits we use, or adding other strong alcoholic drink.You can get a good Sangria even in Romania, the globalization works for you! My tip: never buy a bottled Sangria, it is far away from a real one. besides, remember to prepare it by your own, avoiding it in bars, even in Spain. Shortly, to be more efficient: take a bottle of half dried  red wine and 1 liter of soda; 3-4 spoons of lemon juice, 1 glass of brandy/whisky/Cointreau; 1 peach, 1 apple and 1 orange; 150-200 gr sugar (according one's taste), 1 powder of cinnamon. Peel and cut in pieces the fruits, and let them rest in the chosen alcoholic drink (don't dare to think to gin or vodka!). Before serving, mix the fruits with the juice, wine, soda and lemon juice. At least add the soda and mix softly. Powder with cinnamon and put on some ice.
How to get a perfect Sangria

Bellini is not very common in Romanian wine  bars, and that's why you must be prepared with the right recipe!   This cocktail has an interesting legend, starting in Harry's bar from Venice, where Hemingway and Orson Welles used to go between 1934 and 1938. Giuseppe Cipriani was the bar owner, and discovered this cocktail after many failures. The colour reminds the suit's colour of one saint from a painting by Giovani Bellini. You only need 100 ml of quality white sparkling wine and 50 ml chopped peaches! Put the peaches in a flutte glass, add the wine and stir softly. The original recipe was made with Prosecco wine!
Judge a wine cocktail similarly with a wine tasting

The B2C2 is even more sophisticated, and has the most captivating legend of all cocktails! It happened in march 1945 when the American Intelligence troops G2 found in Ruhr Gebiet a full cellar with fine french drinks, left by the Germans. Obviously, Cognac was drunk as the first, it was almost common those days. But what shall be done with all those fine liquors, as a man never drinks simple liquor. The Americans have been saved by a German war prisoner, who instructed them to mix the drinks in a certain way, resulting the B2C2 (B2=Benedictine+brandy; C2=Cointreau+Champagne). To be more specific, you need 45 ml of brandy (prefer the Cognac), 30 ml Benedictine, 30 ml Cointreau and 120 ml Champagne Brut. Mix the first three ingredients in a highball glass, with a few ice cubes, and add the Champagne at least!

miercuri, 16 ianuarie 2013

Myths, legends and true facts from the wine history

The history of the mankind is also a history of wine, at least in the last 6000 thousands of years. Can't figure a party in the good old times without wines, good wines, and food. Can't imagine neither today a party without wines, or a sophisticated dinner without wines. Besides, if the sophisticated dinner is a romantic one, the wine makes the perfect excuse for him, but also for her.

I am sure that wines played  an important role in the history of mankind, much more important than a serious scholastic historian could imagine. E.g., Cleopatra made history not only with her nose, but also with the glass of wine for Marc Anthony. The Romanian medieval ruler Stephen the Great enjoyed a glass of wine at the right time, and there must be much more examples for the way of mixing wine and history. Think a little about Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt, and the abstinent Hitler, who could destroy the world and its good habits!
Drinking wine is much older than you think

An important fact: the oldest evidence of drinking wine date back in 5400 b.C and has been found in Zagros, Iran. Most probably, the wine has been produced in that area. For 5000 years the wine consumption was reserved to the upper class. The kings of Egypt and Mesopotamia served wines to the high ranking guests, showing their wealth. The rich people of antique Athens were labeled according the belonging vineyards! The Greeks, inventors of the civilization, started to do what we call today wine tastings. This good habit has been taken and refined by the Romans.
The Greeks found first wine tastings, but the Romans took over and developed further

Around year 500 a.C takes place the segregation of the Europeans in wine drinkers and beer drinkers, which continues up today. The wine became the favorit drink for the southern part of Europe, where the Roman occupation was tighter and the influences stronger. The Northern part of Europe, with the British Islands, are populated with Barbarians drinking beer. (Actually, the segregation is not so obvious anymore!).

Very close to the places where have been found the first traces of wine, emerged the Islamic belief, forbidding the wine!. There is a legend: two pupils of Mahomed had a strong argument after taking too much on bord. The Prophete, asking advice and guiding from the allmighty Allah, became the simpliest answer: "The wine is a Devil invention". Even the Christians took champagne (actually sparkling wine, to be more precisely) for a Devil invention! It happened when the people did not know what is Carbon Dioxide, a gas which can be found in any wine.
And this is a modern wine tasting, a contest!

Champagne has been created first around 1700, surely not by the Monk Dom Perignon. Some people say, it was simply an accident. Dom Perignon only had major contributions to the development of champagne, which became shortly the favorite drink of the women! Madame de Pompadour used to declare " Champagne is the only wine making a woman more beautiful after drinking a glass!" ( I would add: the woman becomes much more beautiful if her partner drinks the Champagne!)

And a last legend for today: a renowned French porcelain producer created the first champagne cup based on an extraordinary model: the breast of Marie Antoinette.

A misteryous insulated town on Danube mouth

If you visit the breathtaking Danube Delta, you have so many things to see and to do. Besides the many spectacular views of natural reserves, protected areas, or endemic species, one of the first options is visiting the little town of Sulina, lieing on the arm with the same name, mainly on the right side. It is actually the  easternmost point not only in Romania, but in the all European Union.

In order to judge the works of the Danube, observe in the centre of the town the lighthouse, build at 1850 on the shore. Meanwhile  the Delta has won 1500 meters, it is obvious! The lighthouse has been build at the blossom of the history of Sulina. The port was very important, all the big protecting powers, starting with Austria, were deeply interesting controlling the navigation on the Danube. In the same time has been appointed an European Commision for Danube navigation, which build in Sulina an imposing palace for administrative tasks. This palace is another landmark of the today Sulina.
In Sulina you can bath in the Black sea, as in the Danube River, it is really unique

There are so many things to say about Sulina. Unoficially and unproofed, it might be the oldest human settlement in Romania, dating back from the VIIth century b.C. In the Middle Age starts the written history of Sulina. The Turks started to use first this port, which is simultaneously a river and a sea port! Later, in the XVIIth century, Sulina was an excellent pirate nest. The pirates used ships, but also the forests around the town, to disappear before and after their surprise attacks. A special mention for the legendary Greek pirate Karagounis, who has nerve and was very brave. He died suddenly, and the locals found and buried him respectfully, in the town cemetery. His lost treasure has been not found up to now,and if you are lucky, could also try. His tombstone is only readable  at morning, after wiping it with a wet towel!
When the Sulina's lighthouse has been build 200 years ago, it was on the shore line. Meanwhile the land has won almost 2 kilometers

There are also other prominent personalities  sleeping in the town cemetery, e.g. an English officer with his beloved wife, disappeared in a ship disaster of the XIXth century. After marrying a lower condition women, his parents forced him to leave the house, and he found a place as a ship officer, and his wife followed him disguised. The both receded in a spectacular shipwreck, and their parents build monuments for them. But the bodies have not been found, and the speculators say that they used the opportunity to go away for ever!
The Pirates' cemetery from Sulina

The peak of the recent history of Sulina was between 1860 and 1939, when the port started losing his importance due to the quick development of Constanta. Today the tourism might be a good chance for Sulina, as its excellent wide fine beach stretches along the Danube, as also on the seashore. It is comparable with Vama Veche, the Romanian Capital of the bohemians in the hot season. In the remote corners of the beach there are good conditions for naturalists, please don't disturb them. Sulina can be reach exclusively by water. This huge disavantage turns to be an advantage, as the travelers number rises permanently due to the genuine nature around Sulina ( e.g. the lakes Rosu, Rosulet, Puiu, Lumina as the many creeks and channels)

luni, 14 ianuarie 2013

Walking and hiking trails in Romanian Bucovina to the Giumalau peak

The Mount Rarau is a kind of Romanian Olympus, subject to many myths and legends, and very popular among Romanian, maybe because is easier accessible. There are more possible trails for that, I have already recommended you one.

Compared with Rarau, the Giumalau peak is only 200 meters higher, but so different! Is is not so friendly anymore, he won't allow you to discover it so easy. Giumalau is much more arrogant, has forests up to the peak, and on  its northwestern side you can discover another old genuine protected on 300 hectars forest (600 acres), called Pojorata. The forests is very similar with the Slatioara forests , and consists mainly on bruce firs, in pure unmixed woods! Over 1700 meters the spruce firs are amazing small, and suffer strong deformations due to the permanent winds. At this point of your climbing appear the small, but dense juniper tree (Pinus montana), which you can cross only after big efforts! My tip: leave them, and search for a proper trail. Other plants emerging often here : the blueberry bush (Vaccinium myrtillus), or the Vaccinium vitis-idaea. In the lightings appear Saldonella montana or the bells (Campanula abietina). A new apearance among the birds, a real star: the mountain grouse; about the bigger and smaller mammals, very similar with Slatioara: wolf, fox, roe, deer, bear, lynx in extended populations. You can still hunt there a lot, let me know about it!
The arrogant Giumalau is not impossible to conquer

One possible trail to conquer the Giumalau is starting from Vatra Dornei. You must climb 1057 meters, following the red band. Please leave by dawn, you must walk 10 hours. The trail leads from Vatra Dornei to Chilia Creek-Obcina Mare (1245 meters)-Obcina Mica (1322 meters)-Lighting Ciungi (1550 meters)-Giumalau Peak (1857 meters) -Mountain Hotel Rarau(1520 meters). Observe in Vatra Dornei the first red band in the small park near the local Council. Be so kind and leave at the left the highway, following the road 17B along the picturesque valley of Bistrita Aurie. When the creek Chilia pays its last tribut to the Bistrita Aurie, follow the creek valley (the red band is very easy to see and follow)
You deserve a good rest after  conquering the peaks Rarau or Giumalau, and the mountain hotel Raraul can offer you that

Follow 5 km the forest road , discovering the Obcina mare and obcina Mica. On the meadows appear the mountain typical landscapes: fences and summer rooms for peasants or animals. Don't miss the exceptionally view from the lighting of Obcina Mica. After only 3 km you cross other trails for conquering the Giumalau peak: one coming from Putna Valley and Itcani (red triangle), or from Mestecanis cabin (yellow band). In a short time you will be able to conquer the arrogant Giumalau peak, after 6 hours hiking, becoming as a small attention the breathtaking view. The other few hours you need to reach the Hotel Raraul, as you need lodging somewhere, and this is the most reasonable possibility! Hotel Raraul is satisfactory, you deserve a good rest after conquering a peak of 200 meters. Take also a refreshing dinner, with a glass of wine.

There also other options of trails towards Giumalaul Peak, but the main thing to know is this: it is not impossible conquering it, be self confident. Take good care on the way of you and your group/family, and never lose the from the sight the trail markings. Also important: don't dare to think of hiking these trails in winter, it is too dangerous. Imagine what happens losing the marks and direction!