joi, 28 februarie 2013

Seeing Romania on a budget

If you want to visit Romania, but you can't afford see it in style, there is no problem. I am still very happy for that, and I am going to help you with all what I can, e.g. insider tips for finding the best destinations in Romania on a budget.

Romania is anyway normally not at all a very expensive destination. Who really wants to see it style, congrats, there are some exquisite  places with luxury hotels and restaurants. But you can go also backpacking in Romania, mixing with the locals and staying on a tiny budget. My first tip: sparing by meals is very easy in Romania, and you have got two possibilities doing that. First one: almost all the restaurants have an unbeatable offer, called Meniul zilei (Today's special) costing 4,5 Euros and containing 3 courses! The other possibility is buying vegetables from the locals markets, exactly like the happy Romanians! Not only that you are going to spare a lot of money, with respect to the tiny budget you have, but you will probably rediscover the incredible genuine flavor of the vegetables.
A typical cheap pension in Romania, offering human contacts and cheap  excellent food.

And be sure to find a lot of best  wine in bulk, at prices of around 2 Euros for the best sorts. You will surely draw the conclusion of affording to stay longer even with your low budget! And the people here are fantastic friendly and ready to give you a hand in every situation. If you tell them about your Romanian ancestors or about the fantastic feeling this wonderful land is awakening in you they will be very happy, and will surely invite you to the dinner. Hereby you won a friend for the rest of your life.

You can stay on a budget even in the exquisite expensive Bucharest. Don't need to stay to the Intercontinental Hotel **** in the very center( which is ugly and artificial, btw), you can choice Hotel Cismigiu ** and enjoy better the life and the present minute.
Hotel Cismigiu in Bucharest is a cheap extremely satisfying  alternative to a fancy hotel, but you can better enjoy the life 

In the rest of the country you can find everywhere cheap pensions, which are not very hard to find. They offer also cheap but excellent meals (e.g. Meniul zilei!). Better than that could only be staying by a local, who has invited you, as he enjoys your presence, or hires his extra rooms, as the pupils have left home (working and living probably somewhere in the wide world). My advice: ask about the price, to avoid any unpleasant surprise, and don't pay more than 20 Euros per night!

Backpacking in Romania is really an event, offering you the perfect opportunity to stay fit and see some of the savagest landscapes in Europe. Backpacking in Romania also allows you visit the most remote mountain cabins. After a few hours of climbing mountains no one will notice the lack of comfort, but only warmly appreciate the soft mattress from the common dormitories. And if the running water doesn't work perfectly, you have the creek outside. The view and landscape will perfectly compensate any efforts. I reckon to recommend now The Fagaras Mountains, the highest in Romania. Search there the cabins Balea Lac or Balea Cascada, climb our national symbols Moldoveanu and Negoiu, relax and enjoy. Observe the fantastic view on the Transfagarasan Road, which is really spectacular, one of the world's best.
Cabana Balea Lac in the spectacular Fagaras mountains, next to the Transfagarasan road

I gave you a few suggestions, let me know about your opinions about it, and tell me if I shall be more specific about programs and prices. But remember the important thing: it is very easy to visit Romania on a budget. Anyone can and shall afford it, and in some directions you can do it with style! I stay to your disposal for further detailed matters.

marți, 26 februarie 2013

24 hours in Iasi in style

Even if you are on a time pressure, but you really want to see the city of Iasi I can congratulate you. It is a good choice for sure, and no visitor was unhappy after seeing Iasi.

First of all, there is a fantastic atmosphere in Iasi. Very spiritual and high cultural, the city has a name and a huge potential in this direction. Almost all prominent Romanian writers and poets started their careers in Iasi, and then moved out in Bucharest, which offer more  and better possibilities. Mihai Eminescu, the most important Romanian poet, is just one of them. He has a statue in the awesome Copou park, in a place when he used to come, seeking inspiration among his favorite linden trees.
Grand Hotel Traian from Iasi is a landmark of city's fantastic flamboyant style

Iasi has style, no doubt. You can observe, smell and taste it in Hotel Restaurant  Traian, city's best and oldest, still showing an excellent style. The building is 150 years old, with steel reinforcements, and the wonderful design belongs to the renowned Gustave Eiffel. Entering the hotel you can feel the old atmosphere. Having a lunch or dinner in this hotel turns in an unforgettable event. They will spoil you totally, starting with the excellent service and exquisite cuisine, so that you will prolong your stay in this wonderful city (if you can do that, everybody will be very happy, and will deeply appreciate your choice and efforts.) These Moldavians (inhabitants of this part of Romania) have a natural born sense of friendship and hospitality.
Please discover the unique style of iasi even in the poor house of Ion Creanga, a prominent Romanian writer 

The style of Iasi is unique, yet fantastic, and you can feel it even while walking in the downtown. You can go shopping in one of the many city's mall, which are amazing empty, lacking on clients. Even if the city of Iasi is experiencing tough times, due to dissolution of the local industry, is still proud, very proud, as a former Capital. One of the downtown mall is not very happy situated, near the Historic Palace of Culture, and seems a little artificial in this place.

The unique style you are observing in the downtown, starting with the old churches, which are mostly perfectly kept and real masterpieces.  Start your walk with the central Trei Ierarhi (Three Saints), build by the Romanian ruling Prince Vasile Lupu, aiming to set a church of the churches, with very rich paintings and golden ornaments. Restored by French architect Lecomte de Nouy between 1881 and 1904 is proudly facing  its future.
Before the Holocaust Iasi has been populated by a strong Jewish minority, whose spurs are still to discover, e.g in this Synagogue

From the city's 240 000 inhabitants one quarter are students and during their vacations the city is strangely deserted, and the pubs empty. It is much more attractive visiting the city during a scholar period. Observe the young beautiful girls and the parks full of pairs of lovers, it is a part of this incredible charming city.

Further, you can still feel the style of Iasi even when visiting its poorest corners, e.g. the poor house of Ion Creanga, an important Romanian writer, contemporary with Mihai Eminescu, who visited him regularly in this house. Pay attention not only to the poor house, but also to the creative, spiritual atmosphere who inspired the both writers by the middle of XIXth century.

Iasi is still a Romanian cultural Capital, and has an amazing style you can still feel and observe even during a short stay!

luni, 25 februarie 2013

Zalau, an unknown Romanian pearl

Zalau/Zilau/Zilenmarkt is not very known neither among Romanians, nor travelers, and I think it is not right. The much nicer, bigger Cluj Napoca is only a half hour driving away. Every local teenager  aiming to make a future goes to Cluj Napoca, after its secondary school, becoming there a student.

On the surrounding hills and mountains there are a lot of plum orchards and the local plum brandy is legendary strong (double refined). Up to a few years ago any visitor could notice the locals carrying bigger or less recipients full of an interesting liquid. Well, it was water, as the town had not running water. Meanwhile, the situation has been improved. For sure, if you see anyone carrying nowadays a recipient is whether plum brandy, or , more rarely, wine.
A really wonderful Calvinist Church in Zalau, worth a visit, and makes the city so multicultural

Zalau still has a strong industry, but is also a wonderful touristic city with fantastic neighborhoods. You can hike on the mountains around, the legendary Mezes, there are a few trails available. Whether on the trails, or on the road, you can discover the interesting villages around through short trips. Keep in mind and discover Romanasi, Poarta Salajului, Treznea or Guruslau. Very interesting, in many of them you can still find Roman ruins. When the Romans conquered the local Dacia, they stopped in the area, further did not take the chance. The Salaj County, and also Maramures have managed to be still free.
The central square from Zalau with the mayoralty

Since almost 100 years Zalau is Romanian, and nowadays 80 % of the inhabitants are Romanian. Before, the  structure was totally reversed, the Hungarians were more. Two prominent personalities are tighten to Zalau, the Romanian politician Iuliu Maniu, and the Hungarian politician Wesselenyi, having a monument in the very centre of the city.

The Central Square of Zalau with the Mayoralty and the mentioned statue of Weselenyi acts interesting, like one or two centuries ago, without the daily routine. Few steps away, the Salaj County Museum, with a few interesting relics from the Roman era. All the city hotels are in the area, and you can see the city in style staying there. Zalau lies mainly on the main street, and along the River Zalau.

First the Dacians, and then the Romans settled in the area. In 1220 Anonymus makes a mention about "Villa Zilac" as a part of a Romanian county, and in 1241 the Mongols completely destroys Zalau, which recovers miraculously, becoming an important trade area for the local agricultural or craft products.

As a conclusion, you have many things to do and to see in Zalau and around, would suggest to plan few days for it.

Pitesti, a Romanian Detroit

The Romanian city of Pitesti is easy comparable with Detroit. Based mainly on the automotive industry it was bad hit by the major crisis in this branch. But we must nevertheless keep the right proportion, as Pitesti only counts nowadays 150 000 inhabitants, registering 10 % decrease within the last decade.

Pitesti enjoyed during the 50's  an unexpected international publicity. In the local jail people from Pitesti the feared Securitate (Romanian Secret Service) ran one of the darkest page in the contemporary history of Romania. Namely, the prisoners should mutually torture each other, reporting directly to the head Nicolschi the progress made on the right path! Known as the Experiment Pitesti, has been documented in many books, and I would mention and recommend as a good one this specific title written by Paul Goma. He succeeded to escape alive and emigrated later, but many people lost their lives or their minds there.
The St George Church from Pitesti has a strange beauty, inside and outside

But not all the local history is so dark, on the contrary. On the hills surrounding Pitesti there are many orchards and vineyards (Stefanesti is the best renowned all over Romania). The local plum brandy "Tuica de Pitesti" is turning to a national and international brand. A local legendary football player, namely Nicolae Dobrin, had a soft spot for it. Another prominent with his origin in Pitesti is the former Romanian dictator during WWII Ion Antonescu.

A few centuries ago the city was surrounded by thick oak forests. The huge Trivale park is a wonderful remnant and visiting it is really relaxing. It is exceptionally well kept, stretching on impressive 30 hectares (60 acres for the Americans).  You can even find a stadium and a Zoo there.
Mayoralty from Pitesti, only one piece from the interesting downtown

During Middle Age Pitesti was shortly a Royal residence of Wallachia. Very close to it, thus easy reachable through short trips, are other former Capitals, e.g. Targoviste, Curtea de Arges and Campulung. Pitesti has been hosting for centuries the residence of Bratianu family, prominent liberal leaders. The communist regime used and then brutally destroyed their manors, and even demolished a church build by the Bratianu family unfortunately.

But Pitesti still has many things to offer to any tourist coming in the area. The wonderful St George church is the first recommendation I can make. It is really wonderful, inside and outside. City Museum documents the long history of the city, starting with the Paleolithic age. Much later, at 1450 the city was for the first time mentioned in writing, as an important trade hub.

If you visit Pitesti in the Spring, and are lucky enough, you can catch the unbelievable local festival "Simfonia Lalelelor" ( or Tulip Symphony), which is really spectacular, much beyond you can imagine.

sâmbătă, 23 februarie 2013

Knowing  Romania in style

There are many possibilities for traveling in Romania with style (Btw: What is actually traveling in style? I understand hereby traveling in luxury, to be clear from the beginning! In order to refine this definition, what is luxury, we might have different approaches!).
Visiting The Medieval Fortress of Sighisoara is really stylish and chic

You won't find luxury exquisite hotels in every corner of Romania, but you can bet to find in the big cities. For Bucharest is even difficult to make the right selection from the wide offer. But I can still manage giving you the best advice with some insider tips, resulting from my long experience.

Traveling in style means for the men for sure wine tasting, while the women have a soft spot for spa.

1. A good solution for the both would be ***Hotel Continental Targu Mures, offering since short time a special wine tasting in a salt mine. The atmosphere while the wine tasting in that salt mine is special, yet really fabulous. It is actually one of The Europe's biggest salt mines, nowadays not working any more. Even if the hotel doesn't have a spa center, the ladies can enjoy a special package, known as Women Muz Capriccio, when they will be really spoiled.

2.Not far, in Sighisoara, at Binder Bubi ****, you can find a spa, and even a good one. Besides, Sighisoara is one of the best destination for traveling in style, with its amazing Medieval fortress, being the unique in all Europe still populated. Visiting the fortress is in my opinion really chic and stylish.Service and kitchen in Binder Bubi are convincing and alluring, enjoy them both! Wine tasting in restaurant or in the neighborhood, at Butoiul Sasului!
The exquisite hotel Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest has a long tradition behind, but also a glorious present!

3. Bucharest is a totally separate discussion, and I would like to recommend a traditional hotel, namely Ahenee Palace Hilton, located in the center of Bucharest, showing style in all details. Make your shopping in the exquisite boutiques from Calea Victoriei, which are anything else than cheap, and meet the Romanian Capital through long walking tours. Observe its stylish parks and fountains, visit Bucharest Museum. You can fill your time with most exciting activities and events, this city could draw your attention weeks and months.

4. In the Romanian mountains is totally in to ski in Poiana Brasov/Schulerau, as the renowned winter festival EYOWF is over. Consequently, you can find excellent offers. On Prahova Valley other exquisite targets would be in Predeal the hotels Orizont **** or Piemonte****
Hotel Malibu in Mamaia is one of the newest and best on the Romanian shore

5.For the coming summer there are a few luxury destinations on the Romanian Black See Coast, directly on the beach, but not far from the beloved clubs from Mamaia. The Hotels Malibu and Yaki are the best choices for that matter!

vineri, 22 februarie 2013

The ugliest places in Romania

As I can't and I don't want to deny the evidences, I must accept the true : there some places in Romania which are not attractive, neither for the tourists, and not even for the locals. Maybe it is not the best publicity possible, but is the most sincerely. And before all I intend to inform you correctly, from inside, and not doing publicity at any price.

There is in fact another important mention to be made: it is a matter of taste. De gustibus non disputandum, would have say the Latins ("The taste is not a matter to be discussed"). E.g.: The most notorious issue about is the second large building worldwide, lieing in Bucharest. Ceausescu planned and build it in the peak of his power, and no one dared to say anything against, despite the huge destruction caused to the Downtown! After the fall and dissolution of Ceausescu's communist regime the building, known as Parliament's building, or People' house could have been completely demolished, as it reminds the old times. It turned to be the most controversial building in the all world, and I sincerely would like to know your opinion about it.
Allow me to introduce one of Europe's biggest  steel factories, in Galati

Another matter of fact: during the almost 50 years long ruling of the Communist Party has been followed a policy of forced industrialization, which brought waves of migrants in the growing cities, which have been lodged in uniform grey blocks of flats. Really living silos, these blocks constitute compact quarters in every Romanian city, no one escaped the phenomena! Bucharest and other major cities recommended as city breaks are completely different inside their Downtown or new towns. The communists quarters of blocks lack totally charm, personality and urban life.
Many of the Romanian cities lack on personality and urban life; Bacau is one of the worst  hit by this plague

Unfortunately, some industrial cities don't have at all a downtown. You can barely make the difference between those cities, and you must search a lot finding something specific belonging exclusively to one of it. You don't have necessary to avoid all these cities, sometimes is simply impossible because they are located on the main ways. And after this long introduction, let's see the places!
Focsani might not been very spectacular, lacking on a proper downtown,  but  hosts a wine festival, and epic wine tastings.

1. Copsa Mica, near Medias, is a little town having hosting for decades a chemical factory, which production process was not at all environmental friendly. The houses are all covered with a thin coating of black matter. You can imagine, the rate of lung cancer among the locals was very high. Today the factory is not working anymore, but the houses are still black!

2.Bacau is a typical industrial city, no downtown, suffering after the dissolution of the industrial production. Digging deeper, you can find a few museums. Be very careful, don't take it for Galati!

3.Galati has been hosting one of the Europe's biggest steel factory. The steel factory is still working, while some other have been closed, and you can't miss its huge proportions, no matter from what direction you are approaching. Ask about Domneasca/Royal  street, and find there the most interesting part of the city.

4.Focsani was 20 years ago an important industrial city, which turned nowadays to a small town, due to to the depopulation caused by the closing of the most industrial cities. There is practically no downtown, but the town is an important Capital of Romanian wines, and you can take part here to the wine festival in October, or to epic wine tastings.

joi, 21 februarie 2013

Top 10 most interesting small towns in Romania

Knowing Romania from inside, but also through the avid eyes of foreign tourists I am working with, gives me the happy occasion to be able making such classification and rankings. I take the chance for the possible mistakes, I must repeat: this is my personal opinion, and I am waiting for yours, if you have one!

 First of all, let's set up the basics. A town is a settlement of no more than 100 000 inhabitants. And a nice time, worth to your visit, time and money is simply a nice town. You can recognize it as you enter and see it. Might be very well kept, with very friendly people or with something really special, e.g. historic buildings, picturesque position or fantastic neighborhood. Many of the Romanian small towns have been destroyed during the communist time due to the forced industrialization policy.

After all this long, but necessary introduction, here you are! Please find bellow my favs among the Romanian small towns.

1. Sighisoara is maybe the most historic and touristic Romanian town, with an amazing Medium Age fortress, which is really unique as still inhabited. The many medieval festivals, street parties and budgets or exquisite hotels make this town a perfect winning choice for any occasion.
From this Suceava fortress, Stefan cel Mare ruled over the all Moldavia

2.Suceava. Make the right difference please between downtown and the industrial area, please. Don't miss the railway station, it is one century old, big, interesting and totally functional at today standards. Don't miss the Medieval fortress, where the legendary Stephen The Great had his headquarter, and try to figure the life in the Royal court! Around, in the neighboring area, on a 50 km range you can find the fantastic painted monasteries, an UNESCO protected heritage.
Tulcea port is the town's main hub, as all the town day or night life turns around.

3.Tulcea. Or translated in English. the gate to the Danube Delta. Maybe the town is not so spectacular, despite intense night life on the docks, but has many hotels, and is the bast place for discovering the breathtaking Danube Delta, Europe's youngest land!

4.Alba Iulia. It means a lot from any point of vue. The new town is charming, but the fortress is overwhelming. Alba Iulia has been for decade the Capital of Transylvania. At 1784 three Romanian leaders of an liberating uprise have been drawn on wheel. Further, during a huge popular assembly of 1918 the Romanian representatives decided and sealed the Unification with Romania. This is nowadays our National day, and is celebrated yearly in Alba Iulia at 1. of December.
Drobeta Turnu Severin is nice, well kept and bears a Historic charge

5. Drobeta Turnu Severin. Drobeta is the ancient Roman name. Here, at 100 a.C the Romans build a bridge, crossed the river and fought with the local Dacians, which had no chance but fought heroic and desperately! The Dacian King Decebal commited suicide, rather than falling alive prisonner to the Romans. Through the interesting mixing of those 2 people emerged the Romanian people and language.
Satu Mare and one of its many interesting architecture monuments

6.Satu Mare. Charming town, very close to the Hungarian border, with many wonderful historical buildings and museums.
Piatra Neamt, viewed from the Mountain Pietricica

7.Piatra Neamt. Very picturesque town, at the hems of Mountain Pietricica. Even on the Mountain Pietricica you can stay on the terrace of restaurant Popasul Gospodinelor, and enjoy the fantastic view. Not far, a few significant monasteries (Agapia, Secu, Bistrita), many hiking trails or the amazing Bicaz gorges, near lacul Rosu.

miercuri, 20 februarie 2013

The Big Romania Tour of former Capitals

I am fascinated by the Middle Age, I wonder about all the conveniences from a Royal Court. It must have been a hard time comparing with a modern club when the girls are wearing shirt skirt as an uniform. I wonder how was during Middle Age accosting, dating and loving a women wearing a very long dress with a crinoline. Hard times indeed.

We can only speculate about, I am sure we can discuss a lot more about this hot issue. Visiting the former Romanian Capitals and asking or answering the right questions would be an interesting thing, I am sure, that's why I am proposing you the Tour of Former Romanian Capitals. As you might remember, during Middle Age the history mentions three Romanian countries : Wallachia, Moldavia and Transilvania. In Wallachia, before Bucharest gains its overwhelming importance, the capital was closer to the mountains, much easier to defend, successively in the towns of Campulung, Curtea de Arges and Targoviste.
Alba Iulia at night, inside the citadell, the Orthodoxe Church

The Moldavia Capital has been long time in Suceava. Even the legendary Stefan cel mare/Stephen the Great was located in Suceava and had here its Capital and headquarter. Later, under the constant pressure of the Othoman Empire, Iasi became the Capital.

Transilvania was under a strong Hungarian-Austrian influence, but I am not going to send you away in Budapest or Vienna. Go better to the headquarters of the local Diet (Parliament) in Alba Iulia, Sibiu or Cluj Napoca.
Cluj Napoca is former Capital, and a nice city for sure!

A difficult task indeed for a Swiss, overwhelmed by the huge Romania! Romania is not so big, would only say is a medium sized country with its 237 000 sqkm and 20 000 000 inhabitants. According my researches and ideas, if you are on a time pressure we can manage to see all these cities within 3 days. Less means to pass some interesting places.

The trip shall start  from Bucharest in my opinion, but I am very flexible about that. During first day visit please the former Wallachian Capitals Targoviste, Campulung and Curtea de Arges, which might appear nowadays unsignificant province towns. Digging deeper, you can find some wonderful, really royal churches (all the court was orthodox and attended the church regularly) or museums, even fortifications necessary for the defensive purposes. If you are in the warm season and the wonderful road Transfagarasan is opened, cross the mountains on it, the landscape is really fantastic. Reach then Sibiu, and visit it in detail, it is a still a wonderful city. You have all the time in the world, we are going to spend the night here, in an excellent **** hotel, with wine tasting to the dinner. Don't miss the Bruckenthal museum, it is also worth to a long visit.
The Culture Palace from Iasi, which is even today a Romanian Culture Capital

Start your second day leaving Sibiu and visiting Alba Iulia and its very well kept citadell, and the city of Cluj Napoca/Koloszvar/Klausenburg, still being today an interesting mix of populations, who lives in a perfect harmony (my opinion, the Hungarian shall correct me if I'm wrong, koeszonem szepszi!). Unfortunately, we have not much time for Cluj-napoca, as we have to reach Suceava's  hotel Bucovina. Visit Suceava citadell next morning, and imagine the legendary Stefan cel Mare ruling the city and the country. He was rather small, violent and with a soft spot  on beautiful women, no one could resist him, or didn't dare to say no. Live for Iasi, the Moldavian capital up to 1859, which is still nowadays a very important cultural city. The last for 400 km up to Bucharest are only a play. Please keep in mind that the all trip comprises 2000 km, and give the good news about dedicating it longer than three days. Also, according your budget, I can find a good solution! The trip as described above, 3 days with complete pension and lodging in exquisite hotels, would cost 500 Euros.

luni, 18 februarie 2013

Most important event in Romania: European  Youth Olympic Winter Festival EYOWF

If you would like to visit Romania, but always find a reason to postpone booking, hesitate or whatsoever, I can give you another serious reason to take the big decision.

Nowadays is taking place in Romania a major winter sports event of this year, namely The International Olympic Youth Festival. It is going to be a brilliant success, judging the flamboyant start from Saturday. As the event is very important, the president of International Olympic Commitee (IOC), Mr Jacques Rogge was present in person to the inauguration, and declared to have found an excellent developed infrastructure.
This is the picturesque Romanian city of Brasov, hosting the EYOWF Festival right now. You can still join the gang.

The Festival is taking place in Poiana Brasov and nearby, there is a lot of snow and the people are all very happy. An Olympic fire is permanently burning in Brasov. Mr Rogge would be delighted if Romania wins a medal, and meanwhile this thing has been already accomplished.

There have been rumors for decades in Romania in many circle to organize the Olympic Games. O,K, for the Summer Games Romania doesn't qualify, but for the Winter Olympic games is perfectly fit. This Olympic Festival is the perfect test and general repetition for the aspiration to organize The Winter Olympic games. At this moment all the hotels in Poiana Brasov are completely booked, and also on a 100 km radius. But if you still want to book and take part to this unique event, I can give some tip and help finding the best solution.
Poiana Brasov/Schulerau and its many slopes are hosting the most of the Festival. 

Once there, don't waste time, please. Besides the normal time on the slope for the sport freaks, you have so many things to do. Visit Brasov, Bucharest, or Sibiu, visit Dracula castle in Bran, or make a few of the recommended tours. Go shopping, go partying, there are so many things to do in Brasov. You are going to love the fantastic animation caused by the Festival, which you can observe in all bars and restaurants from Brasov. The city is once again charming and appealing and turned to a Babilon Tower. Unfortunately, a few restaurants ran out of wine, but will renew the strategic resources. The Festival has attracted many sportsmen and spectators showing to be a success. Prominent Romanian singer Inna sung in the first night of the event and everybody forgot the freezing temperature as any other trouble.

If you are a winter sport freak and fond of events, please join the tribe. If you are not in the mood for overcrowded places, wait two weeks, until the Festival is coming to an end, and the prices fall down.

duminică, 17 februarie 2013

Wonderful Spring traditions in Romania

What I really love in Romania most are the well kept traditions. They give me, and not only me,  the strength to keep on in this wonderful land.

The half of the Romanian population still lives in villages, still ruling a traditional way of life. Nowadays, after a harsh winter, the spring is calling its  coming finally. And is for sure a triumphant one! The people wish each other to have a wonderful spring, and they are all full of love an joy of life. At many of the local rural festival, the best farmer of the village is being asked to cut the first plough, thus causing another reason for celebration. The elder try to guess how rich will be the year, and they always report that the year is going to be a good one!

In some corners of my country the people are dancing with masks, in order to banish the bad spirits. Their suits are really fantastic, and 2000 years old. Almost all the people are orthodox (90 %) attending the church every Sunday. They also start the general spring cleaning inside the house and outside, in the garden. The lazy people are subject of jokes. Also on Sunday, after attending the church service, the people go traditionally in the local pub dancing the traditional round (hora), which is a good reason for the youngsters to fall, as the spring is really charming and irresistible. Young girls put under their pillow special plants with strong magical properties, helping them doing the right choice and the best approach. Near the well renowned Valentine's Day, there is a celebration dedicated to the local Dragobete. a legendary handsome young man, a sort of Cupid!
Very soon in Romania the winter shall leave, and there are many fantasctic traditions with this occasion

Some of the village seniors did not reach the spring, they are dead during the winter. The funerals in Romania  are also particular for any visitor observing it, and much more touching and human. Namely, the dead rests three days in an opened coffin, so that family and friends can tell the well deserved farewell. During nights the  closest relatives may not leave him alone. Only on burial the cofin is being sealed with the lid, and the family invites the guests to a ritual meal, and makes charity for the poor. The family must prey for 40 days, and only after this period the saw will finally leave the dead body. The wine plays an important role during the church service and during the meal. The people are not supposed to say cheers, but must drop some straws on the floor for the deceased to enjoy.
If you meet by chance in Romania a wedding ceremony, be sure to be invited becoming a part of it. It could be the event of your life.

Wedding in Romania are really interesting. If you meet one, be sure to be invited there. You are ought to eat and to drink, tough luck! Enjoy a Romanian wedding in one of the remote rural regions where the traditions are still alive, like Maramures, Bucovina, Sibiu e.g.

vineri, 15 februarie 2013

Best secret retreats nearby Bucharest

No matter how charming might be Bucharest, you need sometimes to move away. You are no more in the mood to socialize in a big city, you need to disconnect totally. Bucharest parks are a possibility, Bucharest churches another one.

But if you wanna go deeper in nature, you have excellent possibilities only 100 km away from Bucharest (excepting the rush hours on week ends, when the traffic jams are terribly frequent !). The all Prahova Valley, as the favorite  destinations of the Bucharest inhabitants, is sometimes overcrowded and overbooked, and also polluted. But you can still find some peace and quiet islands, in order to gain yourself and make peace with the inner you.

My suggestion for this noble goal would be a remote isolated cabin in these mountains. Reach first of all the little town of Predeal, only 20 km away from Brasov. You can reach it over Ploiesti and Sinaia, if is not week end and you hope on a fluent circulation, or over Cheia-Brasov, from the opposite side. Besides, you have the train option, which is pretty comfy and costs effective.
Belvedere Cabin offers fantastic view to all neighboring mountains.  It is also remoted and isolated, almost a romantic place, up to the big dormitories!

Once there in Predeal I can propose first the Diham Cabin, accessible after a two hours climbing. For that purpose, live the station and walk along the central boulevard Mihai Saulescu (Romanian poet, falled nearby in WWI). After observing a few shops, Post office and the Firemen, take care not to miss a panel to Hotel orizont, followed by another to the Cabin Trei Brazi (Three Firs). Start walking on the street leading to Trei Brazi, cut the road sinuosities as you are smart, and discover first Cabana Vanatorilor (The Hunters' Cabin), but don't  be happy, it is not your target! Notice here the two marking paths, one with a yellow band, and one with a blue cross. If you are not sure about them, enter the forrest. Inside  a small lighting the blue cross marking turns suddenly left. This is right, please follow it carefully, and start climbing The Mountain Fitifoiu for one or two hours (depending on your mood and shape). At a moment you will join a another path originating in Cabin Trei Brazi, carrying the same marking, a blue cross, whose finally destination is the same: Sipote lighting. At the end of the path, after 2-3 hours climbing you are going to reach your target, the Diham Cabin. Which is big and welcoming, with 70 places in rooms of 6-10 beds, hostel type. No chance of romance, unless you have practice and skills. I have some ideas, will reveal them soon. It is hot, you have running water, hot water and electricity. Limit yourself to the basics, and enjoy life, as the other also do. The cabin lies at an altitude of 1300 meters, you are away from the big city of Bucharest.
The Diham Cabin, not far from Predeal, is a good base for other sorter or longer  hiking trips  in Piatra Craiului Mountains.

If you think that this cabin is not easy enough reachable (which should make you seriously thinking about your way of life, shape and condition!), I can give you another option: The Belvedere Cabin. You can reach it by car, coming whether from Bucharest, or from Brasov, and living the highway to Piriul Rece- Rasnov. The street narrows, but is still o.k., and you can reach the cabin in the best condition. Don't expect a four stars hotel, is a simple cabin, organized as a hostel, but offers a fantastic view over of the nearby mountains.

There are many other options for cabins and almost secret retreats in the Piatra Craiului Mountains, by Predeal, but I wish limiting on these two, it's my choice and personal recommendation. You have wonderful possibilities for relaxing, outdooring and even socializing.

miercuri, 13 februarie 2013

The most interesting things to know about Bucharest parks

It is really interesting to be in Bucharest on any occasion, in every season. Wonderful charming city, nice people, and an unbelievable feeling of safety, much more pregnant than in any European Capital! (if you don't agree and had bad experiences in Bucharest, please tell me about them! But I really doubt, this city is really safe, if you only respect the basic rules!)

Supposing you have been partying all night in the Bucharest clubs (located mainly in Downtown. Lipscani street) and after a short well deserved rest you are in the right mood to starting again from scratch. But better wait, and postpone it a few hours, I know what you need. You need walking, an maybe taking some special soups in the right places. About the best places for walking and resting, the Bucharest parks are exactly what you need and I really recommend.
The legendary flower battle from Herastrau has been  painted by the Romanian master Stefan Luchian.

Bucharest has many parks, despite the building rush from the last decades. The big city's most renowned park are the favorite dating place, and there name are Libertatii, Cismigiu or Herastrau. In every of these wonderful parks you will find a leading restaurant, offering you the saving sour tripe soup, and I strongly suggest the restaurants Monte Carlo from Park Cismigiu, and Pescarus in Park Herastrau.

The Cismigiu Park, or garden, is in the very heart of Bucharest, an island of joy, happiness and peace in the middle of an overcrowded city. It is very old, and fantastic well kept. It is really chic at night taking a walk in the Cismigiu, you will meat some glamorous ladies. The word has a strong Turkish resonance, but the garden has been redesigned by the beginning of the XXth century by a prominent Vienna architect. Forget any trouble caused by nausea, you can even take a boat and float on the middle lake. During winter (cold will really help, keeping you awake) you can skate.

From Cismigiu Park to the Herastrau Park you have more than 2 km to run. If you can still keep moving, so good to you. If not, use public transportation or taxi. Start the visit in Herastrau from the Restaurant Pescarus, would be just the thing you need. But please, don't drink alcohol again, stay to the tripe soup with vinegar, chilli and sour cream. Wtf, not even a glass of wine? No, sorry, keep yourself sober and wait a little more. Walking in this huge park, Bucharest's biggest, is a wonderful event. Observe ,please the Miorita fountain and if you are lucky enough you can catch an amazing traditions, namely the flower battle. It has a long tradition, it was first time organized for goodwill at 1890. It was the most amazing possible event in the jet set,and a good opportunity for dating or flirting or conquering. It used to take place on the Kisselef street, on the western side of the park. There are plans to resuscitate this rarely event, that's why I tell you about your unique chance of getting a flower battle .

After this refreshing walk in the Bucharest parks you may start again partying and drinking during the fantastic Bucharest nights.

luni, 11 februarie 2013

Most spectacular mountain  lakes in Romania

Romania due to its continental mild climate experiences in summer long drought periods and consequently in wide parts of the country the lakes are appearing very rarely. It is no desert actually, but maybe similar in a way.

Some parts of the country, as Danube Delta or Black Sea coast enjoy the blessed presence of some wonderful lakes, like Razim-Sinoe, but I am going to report about them on a further occasion. I would like to concentrate right now to the Romanian mountains (The Romanian Carpathians) with there wonderful lakes , previously mentioned in Retezat Park e.g. I adore all these mountain lakes, and the fishermen also do. Most of these  lakes are glaciar ones; a few are natural dam lakes (e.g. Lacu Rosu/red lake) or anthropic dam lakes (Bicaz, Lotru, Portile de Fier, Valea Uzului).
The picturesque lake Sf. Ana/ Szent Ana To is really picturesque, and totally unique in Romania, due to its  volcanic origin

Only one lake in the wide area of Romanian mountains has a volcanic origin, and thus is really unique. Its name is Sf Ana, and not only its exotic origin make it really special, but also its breathtaking look and position. It lies in the Ciuc mountains, inside the Romanian Szekelyi County (or Szekelyfold), very close to natural dam lake, namely Bolatau, and an artificial dam lake, namely Poiana Uzului. These three spectacular lakes make from these county and mountains one of the most picturesque in the all Romania.
The dam lake Poiana Uzului matches perfectly with the landscape,  which is  rarely to a human made lake

The lake Sf Ana with a huge area around constitutes a huge protected natural reserve on more than 80 hectars (160 acres). It lies on the bottom of a former volcanic crater and has an almost perfectly circular form. Not very deep, only 7 meters, offers excellent conditions for swimming, despite its cold temperature in the middle of summer. The beautiful local szekelyi girls use to go swimming in this lake, totally naked. All around beech and fir forests. There is no any known sources on the surface, but most probably strong depth sources on the bottom. There is no river feeding or being feed from the lake, the water or snow falls are the only known sources. Very close to the  lake there is a motel, you can eat very well Hungarian like specialties, like goulasch. Fishing in the lake is permitted, but you can find only a small sort of trout, which has been populated 100 years ago. You can reach the beautiful lake by car, or walking a few hours whether from Bixad or from Tusnad.

The nearby Lake Poiana Uzului is totally different, but not less spectacular. It is human made, but picturesque and perfectly set in the natural landscape. The dam is huge, 80 meters high. You can reach the lake by car to the dam, when is a welcoming motel, or to the other end, where you can enjoy a much more genuine nature.

In my opinion these totally different contrasting lakes, lieing one next to the other, offer a perfect balance, and that is why I consider to be so spectacular!

sâmbătă, 9 februarie 2013

Epic stories about the inhabitants of the Danube Delta

Once arrived in the Danube Delta you might try visiting it off the beaten path. O.K., your choice, your risks. Without joking anymore, it could be a good idea, if you don't forget these tips!

In order to visit Delta in its depths and to discover all its secret, try to stay close to the people, the amazing locals. Take a regular ship from Tulcea in any direction, and start observing discretely the inhabitants. They are all fishermen, but I am sure that you can make the necessary distinction between the locals and the visiting fishermen!The locals won't wear fancy  suits, they have worked hands and a special look. They seldom go out shopping, only the really necessary things.
No local has car, would be useless, but all of them have boats

Since a few decades the population of Danube Delta is practically the same. They really love their places, otherwise won't stay here. This territory is one of the thinniest populated in Romania and Europe, nevertheless human settlements have been for milleniums here, remember Tulcea or Sulina, as the most important representatives. But along the years many other simply vanished, leaving behind some amazing ruins and monuments. The water had no mercy at all and gulped down many artifacts.
Locals (Lipovans) fishing in the Danube Delta

The locals of Danube Delta are one of the most important assets and attractions of the area. Their look and daily life are absolutely amazing. Most of them are very strong and tall, it is a basic condition for surviving. The men usually wear huge beards and spend most of their lives in the boats, searching for fish to make a living. Their stories, myths and legends are tighten to the river and fishing adventures (don't bother believing them, just pretend, as otherwise you can offend them). They are perfectly mastering the canoes or Kayaks, and some of them became renowned sportsmen and recordmen, e.g. Ivan Patzaichin, a Romanian legend living in Bucharest now.

You will appreciate at once, from the first sight, the uncomplicated way of the locals. They are really charming, due to their optimism and hospitality. Staying by them is an event and an honor you can refuse. Don't go there with empty hands: a bottle of strong alcoholic drink (vodka or brandy) will be the most welcomed present, together with cigarettes. And thus you will get a fantastic fish soup, secret recipes, with few different species, bigger or smaller, depending on the last captured prey.
Lucky skilled people get the deserved result of their  fantastic work

But who are these amazing people and where did they come from? If you were an outlaw, would go to idea that Danube Delta is the perfect hiding place. Remote villages, difficult communications, seldom policemen. Most of the locals came here as fugees, and the most important community is the Lipovans'. They had to live Russia by the beginning of the XIXth century due to strong confessional repressions. They are actually orthodoxe of the old communion, keeping on the Julian's calender. They are blond, strong and tall, and speak perfectly Romanian, but also a sort of Russian among them. You can find them all over Danube Delta, in Ilgani, Rosu, Ceatalchioi or Rosetti, Chilia etc. They build their houses from mood and wood, cover with bulrush. These houses are not supposed to hold a life, as these harsh locals are used to build more houses in a life. The houses are not very rich, but clean and well kept.

If you are a fisher they will adopt you at once, taking with them to the daily fishing. Please observe carefully, even note, and learn, as they are are really masters with a huge knowledge and unbelievable stories, far beyond your imagination. As a wine afficionado I had no easy task here, but I managed doing good friend among these excellent people you can rely on.