Tag Archives: Europe

Traditions and superstitions, part of our student life

It’s late June and a large number of high school students or university students are taking graduation exams. Most of those students will be aware of some sort of tradition or superstition to follow and respect if they want to graduate.

It was only after my graduation when I have found out about a no no thing 馃檪 I took my masters degree in Italy, at Bologna University, and one of the superstitions says that students should not go to the top of one of the leaning towers, otherwise they will never graduate. Another superstition said that you cannot cross on diagonal the Piazza Maggiore or Maggiore Square if you want to graduate and have good marks.

I did know about the second one and I found it funny, but some people were really following the “rule” and not forcing their luck.

One tradition that I find really cute is to have your family and close friends buy a laurel wreath on your graduation day (for university graduates) which the newly graduate will carry it for the whole day. While back in the ancient times the wreath was more of a horseshoe shape, nowadays, it is a complete circle. In Italy each faculty will have a representing colour, therefore, if you have friends or family members studying in Italy, make sure that you also have small accessories such as a handkerchief, the paper around the bouquet of flowers or the crucial ribbon woven into the wreath are of a right colour.

A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel. The tradition is believed to have started at University of Padua or Padova, but the roots of crowning a person with a similar wreath go well back to the ancient Greece when wreaths were awarded to victors in athletic competitions and in poetic meets; and ancient Rome where they were symbols of martial victory.

Remember the often used expression: “resting on one’s laurels” ? 馃檪

Going a little back to the Italian tradition and to the main colours representing university faculties, I am listing some of them below:

  • Agriculture – Dark green
  • Architecture – Black
  • Economy – Yellow
  • Education Sciences – Pink
  • Engineering – Black
  • Law – Blue
  • Mathematical, physical, and natural sciences – Green
  • Medicine and Surgery – Red
  • Philosophy and Letters – White
  • Pharmacy – Red grenade
  • Political Science – Lilac
  • Psychology – Grey
  • Sociology – Orange
  • Veterinary – Violet

It is also common that family and friends will prepare in advance a surprise attire which the newly graduate will have to wear. Something similar to stag nights when the groom to be is wearing funny clothes. If you got to Bologna or other major cities with large universities, you will probably have the chance to encounter such parties. They are fun!

Oh, and the last one. It is mandatory to walk behind the newly graduate a song, confirming the status of the subject. Just to understand what I am talking about, I am sharing 2 short films found on Youtube here and here 馃檪

When I was student in Romania, there was a whole list of superstitions related to exams and graduation which was circulated among students. These “must do” or “must avoid” activities are shared among students in Russian and Moldovan as well.

One of the most popular superstitious refers to personal hygiene. The student should not take shower or wash their hair on the eve of an exam. The reason for that was that by washing your hair, you could remove the accumulated knowledge. Another one says that you should not have a haircut before the exams, because you risk of loosing everything you learned before.

It was believed and even feared to accidentally drop a book or a course. It was thought to be a sign of bad luck.

On the positive side,聽if you wanted to have good results on your exam or test, make sure to step out of your house and enter the school/university with the right foot. If possible, sit down on the same place or the same table as the last time you successfully have taken a test. An Use the same pen. And the last one which will probably make you smile is to place the materials, courses and the book (opened) under the pillow before going to 聽sleep. By magic and聽during sleep, the knowledge will move slowly in the mind of the sleeping student, giving the opportunity to get a high mark on the subject which is not really liked.

If a student went to an oral exam or viva voce, will have to extract an examination ticket only with the right hand or only the left hand, depending on the preference and past experience.

When coming back from an examination, the student should not place his/her backpack or bag facing the wall or on the floor, otherwise there is a risk of failing the test.

The tradition in Romania, is to wear graduation robes and hats, the same as in the USA and many other countries. You must wear them from the moment you attend the graduation ceremony and keep it on for the most of the day, even when going out to celebrate. It is common that people will stop you on the street to congratulate you 馃檪

I must recognize that the “right foot” is something I kind of follow not only for meetings, but whenever I leave my house or enter a new place.

What are the superstitions discussed by students in your country? Do you believe in such things?

Travel safe and wise!

Land of superlatives.

Some time ago I was talking with my husband to go on our honeymoon to a place where not so many people will actually go. It was later, much later when we discovered that there are a lot of couples spending their honeymoon in Iceland.

For the past few months we were planning a trip in 3. I wanted to spend this Christmas with my father. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad and his flight was cancelled.

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Landing at Kefavlik International Airport

So we went on our trip.

At the landing, we were told to look through the window on our right – the sky was on fire! We saw the aurora borealis or the Northern lights. I had a window sit – so lucky! The cabin crew won’t turn off the lights and will not dim the lights either. I tried to take a picture of it, but it’s not clear and with a lot of reflections…too bad, I thought, but there are many other opportunities to actually see the aurora borealis, perhaps soon after landing.

At Kefavlik airport was a great weather – snow storm – but who cares? The ground was all white and I haven’t seen so much snow in ages! I was so happy, excited and all smiles.

We knew that Iceland is notoriously expensive and we did some research. First, we gave up on self drive and opted for tours – I know, it sounds very laid back, but in WINTER time is better this way. It is the safest option!

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A very original Christmas Tree

Then we decided to take a bus, instead of a taxi. Much cheaper – if booked in advance – and it takes you to your accommodation. There are 2 companies, one is Reykjavik Excursions聽and the other one is Airport Express or the Gray Line. Have your tickets printed out, to avoid delays.

Due to our party – 3 people – we have searched and booked a room for 3. We have got a spacious room with 2 singles and a sofa. It was clean and warm. Our breakfast was simple, but delicious. Withing walking distance from the old town, Reykjavik Lights, was a good choice for us. If you do not like walking (about 25-30 minutes), then consider a hotel much closer to the downtown. Attached to this hotel you will find a restaurant serving pizza and at 2 minutes a Vietnamese restaurant which is much better than the one on the main street. A lot more restaurants are lined up on the way to the city center, so plenty of choice.

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We had to improvise with the nose, eyes and mouth… the hat was borrowed – from me 馃檪

Keep in mind that in winter some of the guesthouses and hotels are closed. At Christmas and New Year, the country almost shuts down – you will have to book in advance your restaurant otherwise you may find yourself in a very interesting situation. Supermarkets are closed, shops as well, tours are very few, if any, and a limited number of restaurants are open for business.

We have had various foods, but we could not not try the Icelandic cuisine. On Christmas day, we went to聽L忙kjarbrekka.聽L忙kjarbrekka is聽a classic Icelandic restaurant, operated since 1981. You cannot miss it, it is not too far from Harpa and from the city hall. It is located in one of the main streets. The building is one of the oldest and most iconic in the city.

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I simply adore this one. My favorite corner of Reykjavik!

We have tried the Icelandic lamb and the salty cod.Both dishes were delicious. Be aware of the price. Food in Iceland is more probably more expensive than you’d expect. A glass of Bordeaux at this restaurant is about 拢16. Do not skip the desserts. They are very nice too!

On another occasion, we have had dinner at a different restaurant – Matwerk. It seemed new because the staff was not too familiar with the arrangement (which table has which number). It seemed a bit hectic, but the food was delicious. It is about on the same price range as聽L忙kjarbrekka, but it has a cosy and modern twist.

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Somewhere South

If you do not have a reservation, try to have your dinner around 5:30pm. It seemed that locals and tourists are going out for dinner at 7pm. In this way you avoid crowds and you may be lucky to have a table at your desired restaurant.

Coffee shops are plenty. We could not try one of them –聽Kaffibrennslan. Their cappuccino and hot chocolate are good, but do not take the carrot cake, unless you like very sweet cakes. It is worth to mention that the portion of the cake is quite generous too.

If you want to do some shopping and depending on what exactly you are looking for, go to the Red Cross shops first. You may find something you want, at a discounted price. Icelandic sweaters are very nice and most of the shops sell the same models, but prices may vary from shop to shop. Do not wait to buy at the airport. At the airport these sweaters are a bit more expensive and you have few models to choose from.

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The mall

Because we went on Christmas Eve, we had plenty of time to enjoy Reykjavik. We had enough snow to build a snowman and it seemed that people in the city were doing exactly the same thing. We saw a kangaroo, a fat Buddha and many 聽smaller or taller snowmen.

Harpa, I have mentioned about it earlier, is the concert hall. We were planning to go to聽Bj枚rk Digital –聽an experimental VR project, a total merging of Bj枚rk鈥檚 music and cutting-edge technology that expands the musical experiment realm – but we could not make it due to late return to Reykjavik. Besides聽Bj枚rk Digital, there are many other events to choose from.

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Harpa

Due to poor visibility and low clouds, we did not see the aurora borealis, but our guides were brave or I should say VERY brave to go ahead with the tours on snow and rain storms. You probably read in many places and blogs about how expensive Iceland is and how unpredictable the weather is. Well, this post will not make an exception. The weather is changing every 30-45 minutes. You do not know if it will be raining, snowing or you’ll have clear sky above your head – and if you do, for how long it will last.

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Gullfoss Falls

Winter in Iceland does not mean snow, it means snow, rain, strong wind and if you’re lucky clear sky. We saw a rainbow on our last day, so everything is possible! Bring warm, waterproof, windproof clothes, shoes, gloves and bags. A protection for your face will come handy as well.聽Fat, moisturizing cream is what you will need. Don’t forget to buy one, if you do not have it already.

We selected 3 tours: the Golden Circle, the South Coast and horse riding. Our favorite was the South Coast part, and this mainly because the guides were funny and we had a great time. The landscape everywhere you go is just amazingly beautiful.

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Somewhere South

On these 3 tours (3 more were cancelled due to weather conditions) we have learnt some interesting facts about Iceland and its people. Here are some (that I remember):

  1. Icelanders do believe in Elves. The nation believes that these creatures/spirits live in stones. When the country was building the ring road, the constructors stumbled upon a large stone in the middle of the road. As they could not simply blow it up, they have stopped the works and invited an elf specialist to give them an advice. The decision was to remove the entire stone and transport it to an island where the elf will be happy and safe.
  2. Besides Elves, Icelanders believe in Trolls. These guys/girls live in caves and go out only in the night. At the sunrise they hide. If they do not manage to do it, they become stones.
  3. Iceland is located on 2 tectonic plates – North American and Eurasian. Where these 2 plates move apart one from another (with an impressive speed of 2 cm per year) earthquakes and volcanoes erupt. In one of the villages a deep crack in the ground appeared. Initially, builders were thinking to fill it with concrete, but it was decided to cover it with a thick glass instead. If you go to the Golden Circle tour, you will probably stop over there.
  4. Warm thermal water is used for heating not only houses, but also greenhouses. The same water is in the Blue Lagoon and in any pool of the country – even in your shower 馃檪
  5. Icelandic horses are unique. Icelanders take a national pride in these horses, do not call them ponies! The first impression of the horses is that they are very fluffy, shorter than their cousins on the continent (Europe) and have strong legs. Regardless of your experience in riding horses, you will be given the chance to ride one – it’s the mindset of learning by doing.
  6. Talking about horses, there are no wild horses in Iceland. All the horses are owned by someone, but they are left to roam free. Their owners, however, will make sure that their horses have enough food when it’s snowing or the weather conditions are difficult.
  7. There are no large carnivores in Iceland. The largest of all is the arctic fox. It is a very beautiful animal with red fur in summer and white in winter. Because their favorite food are the mountain lambs, these animals were close to extinction. The government intervened and now these animals are safe, but their number is controlled to make sure that no harm is done.
  8. All the salmon produced in Iceland is wild salmon. Some of the rivers are so clean that one can drink water directly from the river. (You can drink tap water. That’s what Icelanders do.)
  9. The country is self sufficient. It produces vegetables, berries, meat and fish it needs. In fact, the largest banana plantation in Europe is also in Iceland. Who would have thought about it? 馃檪
  10. Dairy products are very very good and not expensive. Skyr is one of my favorite products. It reminded me of one of the products we have at home in Moldova – brinzica.
  11. More and more tourists are including Iceland in their “to do” list. Icelanders understood that having not so many natural resources, they need to do something about it and ran a promotion campaign worldwide after the eruption of Eyjafjallaj枚kull. The news channels and their promotional campaign helped the country to gain more visibility and interest from people around the wold. If in 2015 about 700,000 people visited Iceland, in 2016 the estimated number is around 1,700,000 tourists!
  12. Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon and cannot be predicted or told with 100% certainty when and where it will appear. There are several websites which can help you understand what will be the chances for you to see it, but in clear winter nights, you can see it also in Reykjavik – just find a less bright place. One such website is Vedur.
  13. Do not drive in winter. Some people do, but to stay on the safe side, better trust professionals. The wind is very strong and roads can be slippery. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.
  14. All the tall trees are not native to Iceland…at least this is what we have been told. The native ones are not very tall and look more like a bush.
  15. Do not walk or drive on the moss. If you do that then you will seriously damage the moss. Let’s respect the nature and keep it beautiful for many other people 馃槈

We have stayed 5 nights and at the end of our stay, we knew that we will probably be back before the winter ends. We still want to see the aurora borealis and few more places we have missed.

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I love these cars!

Travel safe and wise!

House with history…Knebworth House

When I travel to London, one of the stops is Knebworth. Not a place where you would want to get out of the train and start exploring….well, not until you see the big banner inviting visitors to a聽historic house.

I did not know much about it before, but the picture of it stuck in my mind for a long time. Maybe because I was in search of some beautiful locations for my pre-wedding pictures 馃檪 On our last bank holiday, we decided to visit this house and change our weekend routine.

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This house is famous among those groups which love rock concerts or have a special passion for film making. It happens that here some famous movies have been filmed – or at least some scenes were. Just to name few:聽The Kings Speech, Nanny McPhee, Batman the Movie,聽Miss Marple, Jonathan Creek or聽Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Fans of British TV series may recognize the house in some productions, such as:聽Flog it, East Enders, Antiques Roadshow or Saturday Morning Kitchen. For a full list of TV shows, go here.

I believe that you can check out this list for more information about movies or TV series filmed on this property.

The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Oasis, Robbie Williams and a lot more singers and bands have had their concerts at Knebworth. In 2014, the house celebrated 40 years of live rock concerts. For more details, go here.

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It is true that this destination is perfect for families with children, however, adults have plenty of things to do as well. The house is open for visit and there is the family private exhibition also open for visitors. It shows the life of the family at the time when they were staying in India.

The gardens and the dinosaurs little park is perfect for walks, picnics and just a nice day out.

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If you want to visit the house, make sure you check the opening times and if there are any events happening in any of those days. We have been to the motor show,聽which was very well attended.

Another thing to keep in mind is to carry cash with you. If there are events, there will be mini-shops and mobile-restaurants which will accept only cash. The house has a restaurant and there you can pay with your debit/credit card.

I hope you liked my new story.

 

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Travel save and wise!

 

 

 

The city where taking a horse drawn carriage is classy and right

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As many of my readers already know, last month I have made a quite an important step – yes, I have got married 馃檪 聽A post about it will follow because it was too fun and awesome not to talk about hehe

A decision was taken to travel to Vienna and I had to follow…

I believe that this city does not need an introduction and it’s better to let my pictures talk from themselves 馃檪

P.S.

Before you admire my gallery, do not forget to try the ice creams from the various shops and have a night ride in a carriage drawn by horses.

If you do not have 3 or 4 days to explore Vienna, the Hop on Hop off bus is a very good way to see most of the attractions. Tr to bargain and ask for a cheaper ticket price. We have got a deal of 20 euro/ person instead of 25 euro.

P.S.S.

In case you are wondering where we have stayed, at a rooftop apartment, very close to the Rathaus – more privacy and more flexibility.

Finally, I have decided to share few useful links:

  1. It’s the Film Festival time
  2. Museum of History has some nice exhibits. If you have time, do not skip it.
  3. St. Stefan’s Cathedral – the National emblem of Austria and a symbol of Austrian identity.
  4. Military (War) Museum
  5. House of Music
  6. SCHOENBRUNN

 

Travel safe and wise!

 

 

 

 

En route … to a small but charming ancient English village

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Street in Bibury

In the UK there are 2 bank holidays in May. I have used one of these days to visit a village which was mentioned by a friend of mine.

This is a village聽in Gloucestershire, England, it is on both banks of the River Coln and it’s called Bibury.

It is a small village with a fish farm. You will think that there is nothing special to see, but if you happen to hold a British passport, then the inside cover picture depicts Arlington Row from Bibury. The cottages were built around 1380 as a monastic wool store to be converted into cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century. The area is a nationally notable architectural conservation and聽is one of six places in the country featured in Mini-Europe, in聽Brussels.聽On the Arlington (west) side of the village is Arlington Baptist Church, where a congregation has been meeting since the 1740’s.

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Swan Hotel’s garden

If you want to stay overnight, then there are 3 hotels which are ready to great their guests. I have seen the Swan Hotel and it looks very very nice. I am sure that the Old Farm Cottage and the Old Byre are equally nice and comfortable.

The predominant honey color of the seventeenth century stone cottages with steeply pitched roofs are another reason why people come here.聽聽

While tourists are coming here from all over the world, Japanese tourists have a particular interest because of聽Emperor Hirohito, who had stayed in the village on his European tour.

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Someone’s garden

 

If you have watched Stardust or Bridget John’s Diary, then you will most probably remember the scenes from those movies.

You probably will find a lot of websites which will recommend you what to see and what to do, I have decided to recommend you just 3 of them:

聽Images can tell substitute words, therefore, I let you admire the beauty and decide if this village will make it to your travel list 馃檪

4 days in Wales

Tenby, Wales
Tenby, Wales

Wales… only when I think about it makes me close my eyes and dream about a聽beautiful land with great people, delicious food and superb sunsets.

I wanted to visit this country for some time, but for various reasons could not find the right time to go there, so finally last August聽I have spent there聽4 days there and it was far from being聽enough!

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St. Catherine’s Island with the derelict Napoleonic Fort on top

Where have I been?

I have started with Tenby, a small town with cute colourful houses facing the ocean. The streets are narrow and packed with shops and cafes聽of all tastes. It is a touristic attraction and it an be crowded if you go there on bank holidays or summer.

Tenby is known for its clean waters and amazing beaches. If you walk聽along Tenby鈥檚 South Beach toward Giltar Point, you’ll be awarded by聽a聽picture perfect聽view of Caldey Island.

While walking along the harbour, I have seen people feeding the Seagulls and many signs forbidding this activity.

For those who have more time or stop in Tenby,聽you can board one of the cruises聽in search of the聽wildlife of this South West coast of Wales.

You can find more information about upcoming events, places to stay or what to do in Tenby, here.

After Tenby my and my fianc茅 drove North towards St. David’s.

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Ramsey Island – one of the many caves

 

St. David’s is known as the smallest聽city in Britain, but doesn’t lack historic monuments and beaches with fine sands.

If you’re hungry and want to have something fast, there聽is a fish and chips shop (we did not really enjoy it, but maybe other customers did). Sandwiches and hamburgers聽are another option.聽If you want something healthier 馃檪 then you will find several restaurants serving local foods.聽One of these restaurants is just at few meters distance from the Saint David’s Cathedral. However, do not expect a very wide range of restaurants or cafes. The option is ok just to make you feel comfortable to choose from.

Observing seals at Ramsey Island
Observing seals at Ramsey Island

We were surprised to see a lot of tourists here. And the questions is, what are they doing there?

Tourists, painters, photographers and curious minds are drawn here by the beautiful landscapes, beaches and by the wide range of outdoor activities provided by local companies. If you are an active person and you love the sea, then you probably will chose one of the following activities:聽coasteering, sea kayaking, climbing or surfing. If you聽prefer聽different types of activities, then聽you may want to take a boat/cruise trip聽and watch the wildlife. Whale and dolphin watching trips and聽gathering of gannets nesting site on Grassholm Island trips聽 are most popular聽in the summer. You could also take a boat聽trip to one of the largest islands –聽Ramsey Island. Here you’ll see the seals. Muffins are another attraction,聽and for that you聽must聽travel to St. David’s between May – July.

St. David's Cathedral
St. David’s Cathedral

Curious? Click here for more details or even book your expedition.

The rest of the time was dedicated to walking along the coastline. I have to say that it is amazing and it’s worth all the effort. We have been to Aabereiddy and Abercastle. We have seen a beautiful double rainbow and red-orange sunsets.

Next time in Wales, I want to sleep outdoors as well. Camping sites are all over the place. Make sure you book your place in advance, especially if you travel in summer or holidays.

Some of the sources of information, I have found (and rest assured there are many more) are:

We have staid at a very nice B&B. The owner was a very nice lady passionate about yoga. I have lost her contact details. I hope to find them in my collection of tickets and visit cards and post it later.

The beautiful coastline
The beautiful coastline

 

I hope that you are curious about nature, landscapes and country life 馃檪

More posts will be written, more memories shared but until then

Travel safe and wise!

Visiting the city with the old English name – Escanceaster

 

Cathedral Close, Exeter

I am living in the UK for a bit of time. A bit means a real bit, since Christmas 2014 and I have been to聽several cities, one of which is called聽Excanceaster or Exeter.

I have to say that after Bracknell, Exeter looks very nice. Bright, with large streets and countless of shops. The most impressive part of the city lies in the old town. You have the cathedral and surrounding houses, witnesses of the old and glorious times intertwined with newer ones.

The history of Exeter began as settlements on a dry ridge ending in a spur overlooking a navigable river Exe. The discovery of coins from the Hellenistic Kingdom is an evidence of a settlement trading with the Mediterranean in the 250bc.

Locals, as well as visitors, can see and touch a portion of Exeter’s city wall, formed of both Roman and medieval stones. The wall is one of the few constructions to be preserved by this date in Exeter and it was part of the fort built on 42 acres. The Roman fort had a surprising impact on the local communities,聽locals started to move around the fort聽where they have formed, with Roman soldiers, an unplanned civilian community.
The Exeter Cathedral had launched a bid to restore the baths and open an underground centre for visitors聽if you can and want to donate some money to this beautiful cause. More information about the Foundation Project, you will find here.
Some other ruins聽which, can be seen聽today in Exeter, are the ones of the Rougemont Castle and the medieval Exe Bridge, built around 1200. The Rougemont Castle was built by King William. A lot more information about its history and events to be held here. If you’re a foodie and love to explore new things and try new foods, then save 21st of April for a day trip to Exeter. On this day, a food festival will be held and you do not want to miss it. 馃檪
More details about this festival, the castle and many more you can find here.
If you’re not into food but you’re definitely a fan of Elton John, then 19th of June should be high in your agenda. Check聽Viagogo website for tickets, venue and prices.
Another good source of information is Heart of Devon website. You’ll find聽the latest news about the city, events聽and other useful information.
That’s it for now 馃檪
Travel safe and wise!