Tag Archives: Romania

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 ūüôā 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” ? ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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, 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  sleep. By magic and 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 ūüôā

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!

Advertisements

Mysterious Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Happy snowmen. White snowmen. Fluffy snowmen.

Christmas and New Year, two of my favorite holidays of the year! I guess the cold, Christmas markets and the decorations make December a month full of mystery, hopes and joy.

I remember when I was very young, to have had really white Christmases and winters, We were spending hours splaying with the snow, fighting with snow, building castles, snowmen or sledding. The last activity was the funniest one, simply because I grew up in a monastery and the old nuns weren’t very happy to walk on a very slippery road, that is why they were throwing burnt coal on the ice or snow. This was a quiet war between kids from my neighborhood and the old nuns. At times they were winning, at times we were the ones to succeed…by throwing water on top of those coals.

My childhood winters were cold and white. For some of you, my readers, perhaps unimaginable cold Рminus 15, minus 25C.

I still associate Christmas with the smell of oranges, boiled wine and a lot of yummy food – mostly made of meat. We say that Christmas is the satiated (full – in terms of food) and Easter is proud (on Easter we usually cook rabbit or mutton meat – which I don’t like ūüėÄ and many many salads, cookies and all kind of desserts).

Now, that is almost that time of the year and people buy presents for their families and friends, I decided to look a bit at some traditions and myths related to this mesmerizing and holiday.

Christmas

It is believed (in Romania) that it’s bad luck to wear new shoes for Christmas.

A clear sky on Christmas announces a fruitful year, if the wind blows on Christmas, it is belived to bring bad luck. If it snows on Christmas Day, it is believed that on Easter will be fair weather.

It is good to have on Christmas table sprigs of mistletoe, for good luck. If you bathe on Christmas day, you’ll stay fresh all year, and if you eat apples on Christmas Eve, you’ll be healthy all the year around.

One should avoid, between Christmas and New Year, to knit, sew or machine wash. ¬†And parents with children born on Christmas or New Year’s Eve will be very happy to know that those kids will be very lucky!

On Christmas Eve, some people sweep the house threshold, for good luck in the coming year.

Women shall put in the water they use to wash themselves a nut and coins. It is believed that this will keep that woman healthy as a nut, and money, to be rich.

Against evil’s eye and spells, one should put, in the four corners of the table, garlic and poppy seeds.

It is said that Santa Claus is not the only one who “travels” rushed across the sky in this special night of December 24, all witches and demons come out of hiding as well.

Cat by the Fireside (credits: http://www.webdesignmash.com/)
Cat by the Fireside (credits: http://www.webdesignmash.com/)

New Year

The second between the years, is believed to have the most magical power. That’s exactly why many people make a wish in that moment ūüôā

Do not clean the house on December 31, otherwise a family member will die in the next year! The only items that you can wash without this adverse consequence are dishes.

The midnight kiss of the year marks not only the feelings that bind us to the people we care the most, but also how our relationship with those people will develop during the year that just started. In other words, it is desirable that at the turn of  the years, loved to be with you.

If you want to be lucky all the year around, wear something red, if you want your partner to find you very attractive, wear red underwear ūüėÄ On January 1 dress with a new coat for the same reason.

At midnight, all the doors should be wide open to let the “old” year leave and welcome the “new” year.

It is said that evil spirits are afraid of noise and bright light. Hence the habit of organizing fireworks and to make, in principle, a lot of noise. For the same reason people rang the bells when there is a religious wedding ceremony.

It is good thing if the New Year finds you with some money in your pocket. The meaning is that you’ll know no shortage of money all year. The amount does not matter, it’s just the idea, so few coins are enough. Therefore, make sure to have some cash in your pockets ūüėČ

Another superstition related to money is to pay back all your debts before New Year’s Eve. If you enter the new year in debts, you won’t get rid of them in the new year. Also, do not to give money on December 31 or January 1, otherwise you will have financial problems and debts all the year.

In fact, it is said that the object you hold in your hands at midnight, or the one that you touch or hold immediately after immediately after midnight, will be the most important plan in the coming year. So, be careful what you touch or hold!

If you have money in your hand, you’ll have good luck with them all the year, if you hold your lover’s hand, your love life will develop into a harmonious relationship, and if you keep a glass/cup in your hand, will have part of a joyful new year.

It is said that the first person who comes to your house after midnight will influence what happens to you in the new year.

Gingerbread cookies Credits: http://www.webdesignmash)
Gingerbread cookies Credits: http://www.webdesignmash)

For a woman, it would be ideal that the first person to step into your house should be a tall man with dark hair. If the guest brings a sprig of mistletoe, bread and salt, there are all chances that the new year will be the best of your life.

It’s bad luck if you hang the new year calendar before the new year begins.

On January 1 do not throw anything from home, even garbage. On the contrary, it is desirable to receive a gift on January 1, no matter how small and insignificant it may be.

Also on January 1, make sure you do something, some small task related to your work. In this way, you will have successes throughout the year. But beware – do not work full time or spend most of your time working on something, because the effect will be exactly the opposite!

Do not cry on January 1 and avoid to break an object.

It brings luck to eat pork or lentils on New Year. The New Year will be bright and good if you leave a lamp or a candle lit until sunrise. On the morning of January 1st place silver coins in water and wash your face with it.

Unmarried women¬†must put in a pot of water a thread of basil, a branch of apple tree and money (coins), in the morning they should dream the one with whom they will marry. ūüôā

New Year is greeted by a special custom in Italy, which is to throw out the window antiques, symbols of the past year. Thus, furniture and clothes end up in the street.

Christmas market in Aannaberg, Germany
Christmas market in Aannaberg, Germany

The Spanish are also quite superstitious. On New Year’s Eve they usually eat one grape for each of the 12 beats the clock announcing the turn of the year, these 12 grape berries symbolize desires for each month of the following year.

Portuguese are the same, they replace the grapes with figs.

Greeks dedicate New Year’s Day to St. Basil. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace in the New Year’s Eve, to receive gifts from the good saint. Adults eat something traditional, vassilopitta, a dessert in which a silver or a gold coin is placed. The one who finds the coin will have luck throughout the year. In some parts of Greece people take a pomegranate with them when they visit people on New Year‚Äôs Eve and smash it on the threshold, so that the household will have good luck

The Dutch “Oudejaarsdag” or “the last day of the year” (31 December) is celebrated by many with fireworks that start at dawn and hold until late at night. As in other European countries, in the Netherlands, it is believed that the first person to enter your house on New Year‚Äôs day will, if he be light haired, bring bad luck to you, if dark haired, good luck. The presence of a pair of storks or swallows is also seen as sign of good luck and friendship.¬†Another old Dutch superstition say that whatever you do on New Year‚Äôs Day is what you will be doing rest of the year.

Xmas trees. (From: https://i0.wp.com/ywcabanff.ab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/new-years.jpg)
Xmas trees. (From: http://ywcabanff.ab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/new-years.jpg)

According to an old Flemish tradition, one should place a coin under once plate at New Years’ Eve to be lucky for the coming year.

In Denmark, people will save their old and broken dishes throughout the year to be thrown on their friends and families doors on New Year’s Eve. It is considered good luck to find thrown dishes on your doorstep on the next morning.

In Latvia, people believe that if you eat fish on New Year’s Eve and put the fish scales into your wallet, then money will keep flowing into it during the year.

In Scotland, New Year is called “Hogmanay”. In some villages are on rolls of tar are lit up and then let to roll on the streets. It is believed that the old year is burned and the new one is allowed to come. Like the Romans, Scots believe that the first person who will enter the house on the New Year will bring either good luck or bad luck. The year will be lucky if a man with dark hair enters the house.

Chinese New Year is celebrated sometime between January 17 and February 19, during the¬†New Moon, “Yuan Tan”. Chinese people around the world take part in processions on the streets, where thousands of lanterns are lit up. They believe that evil spirits are everywhere at the time, and they use¬†fireworks to chase them away.

An image as reminder of what we have to do on New Year's Eve :)  (From : http://beforeitsnews.com/travel/2013/12/new-years-traditions-and-superstitions-2-2459792.html)
An image as reminder of what we have to do on New Year’s Eve ūüôā (From : http://beforeitsnews.com/travel/2013/12/new-years-traditions-and-superstitions-2-2459792.html)

For Japanese the New Year, “Oshogatsu” is one of the most important holidays. In December, families organize¬†“forget the year party” or “Bonenkai” . With this occasion, people leave behind problems and concerns of the year about to end. At the New Year’s Eve. at midnight, families go to the nearest temple to share sake and to assist to the 108 shots gong announcing the turn of the year.

Travel safe and wise!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 Year!!!!

Something blue, something stolen, something old, something new, something borrowed

Beautiful African Bride
Beautiful African Bride

I was thinking the other day that most people love to read about one or another city, country when they are planning their yearly holidays or weekend breaks, but one must, perhaps out of curiosity or just for fun, read is something related to the culture, traditions and superstitions of that country or region.

I decided to start a series of posts exactly on this subject and I’m going to talk about more of this whenever I have time. You can suggest, comment and complete the post in the comments with all you would like to read about or I have missed to mention. ūüôā

Just because one of my best friends got married last weekend, I decided to cover some superstitions linked to this unique and beautiful day.

Coming from Moldova, a country that is squished in between Romania and Ukraine, we have few traditions that are a must follow (if you want to have a happy married life). Some were borrowed from Russians, some from Ottomans and some are rooted so deep in our culture that nobody knows exactly or can track back the time when it all got started.

South Korean Traditional Bride and Groom Attire
South Korean Traditional Bride and Groom Attire

It’s hard to say which are true or which of the traditions and superstitions are right and which are just for fun, fact is that they survived many centuries and people do care, if not about all then about some of, these myths. So, to have a happy married life,¬†one young couple must keep in mind the following things:

– The bride must wear or have with her: something blue, something stolen, something old, something new, something borrowed and pearls

– The bride must place a “silver coin” in her shoes. It is considered to be a talisman that will bring wealth and fortune in the new household. If a silver coin is nowhere to find it is replaced by paper money or small coins that won’t hurt bride’s feet. This tradition is observed in Sweden as well.¬†A Swedish bride puts a silver coin from her father and a gold coin from her mother in each shoe to ensure that she’ll never do without. Learn more about¬†Swedish wedding traditions.

– NEVER get married in May month! That’s a very strong superstition that most of the couple believe and will try to avoid it. Therefore, it’s not a wedding month in Moldova, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Belarus…perhaps in some other countries as well. The reason behind is that the new communion or family won’t last long, in fact it is believed that couple’s love will fade away as cherries flowers in wind

Japanese Traditional Wedding Dress
Japanese Traditional Wedding Dress

– The bride should not change her shoes during the wedding (morning and evening), otherwise she runs the risk to marry again or cheat on her husband

–¬†Ancient Greeks and Romans thought the veil protected the bride from evil spirits, perhaps that’s why a veil is a must and a long one is preferred. The length of the veil represents how strong couple relationship will be.

– Also a girl should not try on a bridal dress with all the accessories on, because she will never get married

– No open shoes for the bride, it is considered that the good luck will sleep through your…well, toes ūüôā

– Do not buy your future husband/ wife a watch as a wedding present. It means that you’re counting the hours to go away or the days for you to be together are counted

– Do not marry on Wednesday and Fridays, because are fasting days. To get married during fasting periods is also forbidden. In fact, no priest will give you a blessing

Elegant Wintage Lace Wedding Dress
Elegant Wintage Lace Wedding Dress

– In the night, before the wedding, the future wife and husband should not sleep together because it is believed that they won’t have a long life as a couple, in the sense that one of them will die young

– In the wedding day, dressed in your wedding dress, put some salt under your right sole and say 3 times ” to be loved as much as the salt in food” ūüôā

– if you live in a place where you can see houses chimneys, then you should count as many as you want to be years until your first child to be born. You must count them, dressed as a bride and on the way to church. For example, if you want to have a first child after 3 years of married life, count 3 chimneys

– When the groom comes to take the bride from her house (that’s the tradition), she must sit on a large pillow made of gees feathers. It is said that as a wife you’ll have a comfortable life

– Candles from the wedding must be kept and when there’s a difficult moment in the family they have to be lit, in this way the couple will find solutions to their problems

Traditional Indian Wedding Dress
Traditional Indian Wedding Dress

– When the groom comes to take the bride from her house, the bride must look at the groom through the wedding ring (when he’s not looking at her) and the way she sees him in that moment, is how she will see him all her life

– In English tradition, Wednesday is considered the “best day” to marry, although Monday is for wealth and Tuesday is for health. In Romanian, the best day to marry is considered Monday and Tuesday, but most of the couples choose Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for their big party day

– The unluckiest wedding day, according to English folklore is Saturday! And it’s funny, because it’s the most popular day of the week to marry ūüôā

Some wedding traditions around the globe

РMiddle Eastern brides paint henna on their hands and feet to protect themselves from the evil eye. Find out about Muslim wedding rituals

РTo purify themselves before their wedding ceremony, Moroccan women take a milk bath. Read more about Moroccan wedding customs.

– In Finland, a bride will go door-to-door collecting gifts in a pillowcase, accompanied by an older married man who represented long marriage

 German Wedding Gown
German Wedding Gown

– In the Netherlands,¬†a pine tree is planted outside the newlyweds’ home as a symbol of fertility and luck.

– In Japan, white was always the color of choice for bridal ensembles. In the Western world it was Queen Victoria who started this trend, in 1840. Before that day, brides wore their best dress

– In Korea, brides do bright hues of red and yellow to take their vows

– In Denmark, brides and grooms traditionally cross-dressed to confuse evil spirits!

If you want to read more some other countries wedding traditions go here and here. Cosmopolitan has an article about superstitions. Curious? Then, click right here!

And what about some ABSOLUTELY AMAZING WEDDING DRESSES from around the world? This is my cherry on the cake…for those who read the article ūüôā Check the images¬†here¬†aaand¬†here, you’ll be surprised.

Traditional Wedding Dress from Transilvania - it weighs 30kg!
Traditional Wedding Dress from Transilvania – it weighs 30kg!

I have seen Japanese and Chinese brides dressed in their traditional wedding gowns. I will try to make good shots next time I come across ūüėČ

Travel safe and wise!

A treasure and a place where thousands of people go in October.

Palatul Culturii din Iasi / Palace of Culture Iasi, Romania
Palatul Culturii din Iasi / Palace of Culture Iasi, Romania

I was born in Moldova, the country, but there’s another piece of land that has the same name and that at times creates confusion. This region called Moldova, currently belongs to Romania and was a part of Moldova – the country.

I’m not going to unfold all the history of this region simply because there are too many things to tell, but one I want to mention though, Moldova was much bigger than it is today. This page on¬†Wikipedia¬†is a great source of information, for those who want to know more about the history of this part of Europe.

Now, capital of this region Moldova (from now on I will mention it as Moldova) is Iasi (pronounced as Yashi).¬†Iasi is also known as the “city of great love stories”, “city of new beginnings”, “cultural center of Moldavia”, “an open air museum”.

Manastirea Trei Ierarhi din Iasi / Three Hierarchs Monastery Iasi, Romania
Manastirea Trei Ierarhi din Iasi / Three Hierarchs Monastery Iasi, Romania

Iasi was the capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 until 1859, when Moldavia united with Walachia to form the basis of the future modern Romanian state and got to be again a capital between 1916-1918, when Bucharest was occupied by the German army. Its palaces and noblemen residences got to house in crisis conditions the state institutions necessary to command the country in times of war.

The 1977 year was devastating, from historical and cultural point of view. This year is known and remembered as one with the great loss because of the earthquake that destroyed parts of the historical centre of Iasi and because of the authorities at that time who took advantage of the occasion to raze some of its former town housing much of it made by the former multi-ethnic bourgeoisie – Jews, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Armenians, Russians, French, and other nationalities.

Detalii arhitectura manastirea Trei Ierarhi/ Architecture details Monastery Three Hierarcs
Detalii arhitectura manastirea Trei Ierarhi/ Architecture details Monastery Three Hierarcs

Today Iasi, besides being an important cultural and historical city is also the second higher education center in the country.

One of my favorite places in Iasi is the monastery of Trei Ierarhi, in English it will be Three Hierarchs The. One of the stories of this beautiful monastery and absolutely stunning church says that the main church, which is carved in stone from the foundation to the roof and the motives are all different, was gold plated. When Moldova was occupied by the Ottoman Empire they wanted that gold, so that they built around the church a pyre and melted all the gold.

Gradina Botanica Iasi/ Botanical Garden Iasi, Romania
Gradina Botanica Iasi/ Botanical Garden Iasi, Romania

This monastery is very famous in Romania and Moldova and people are coming from all over the countries to pray here.

On 14th of October and a week prior to this date, tens of thousands of pilgrims are coming to this monastery to pray at the relics of Saint Parascheva. The relics were brought from Constantinople and put in a niche that had been created especially for this purpose; this niche is decorated with marble, precious stones and mosaics that illustrate the Saint’s life. For more information about this monastery and church, see here.

Teiul lui Mihai Eminescu, Parcul Copou din Iasi / Mihai Eminescu linden tree, Copou Parc Iasi, Romania
Teiul lui Mihai Eminescu, Parcul Copou din Iasi / Mihai Eminescu linden tree, Copou Parc Iasi, Romania

Another place that I loved to visit is the Palace of Culture. Currently this museum is closed for visitors due to the restoration works, but to see it at least from the outside is worth the trouble to go there.

One curiosity about this palace is that it has 365 rooms, one room for  each day of the year.

Casa Dosoftei¬†or the Dosoftei House is another point of interest. This house¬†is a building from the second half of the 17th¬†century, in which in 1679 the metropolitan bishop Dosoftei settled the second typography in Moldavia. Behind this house you’ll see one of the oldest churches in the city –¬†Saint Nicholas Church.

Casa Dosoftei din Iasi / Dosoftei House Iasi
Casa Dosoftei din Iasi / Dosoftei House Iasi

If you ask people in Moldova or Romania or any other person that speaks Romanian and has a bit of knowledge about our culture and literature, then the names Ion Creanga and Mihai Eminescu will sound more than familiar to them.

In Iasi you’ll find a very cute, small house where Ion Creanga lived between 1872 and 1889. And there’s another one in¬†Humulesti, Neamt county. The house in Humulesti is the house where Ion Creanga was born and sent his childhood.

Some other places of interest are: Botanical Garden, Metropolitan Cathedral, the Catholic Church of Saint Mary and Cetatuia Monastery.

Cetatuia Monastery, Iasi, Romania

Cetatuia Monastery, Iasi, Romania

If you want to walk off the beaten path, then some of these suggestions may rise your interest:

  • Rich Gypsy Houses – they are not on maps. If you want to see some of these house, you should walk the street going from the main train station towards the smaller train station (Nicolina). Gypsy houses are covered in sparkly, glittery materials. Their walls might be completely covered in metal, and have metal decorations. If you see a shiny metal house, it’s a gypsy house. For those who’re brave Ciurea is a village where rich gypsies live ūüėČ
  • Releu – an ancient sea bed– The Releu is a¬†popular picnic spot, and offers a gorgeous view of the city. Here you’ll see a striking contrast of the village life and French Riviera. Therefore, if you go there, you’ll see cows and chicken and some nice properties bought by rich Europeans and converted into villas. You can reach this destination by taxi or by maxi-taxi.
  • Check the Jewish cemetery. You’ll find this cemetery in the PńÉcurari neighborhood. This cemetery represents a trace of the once thriving Jewish community of Iasi.
Cimitirul Evreiesc / Jewish Cemetery Iasi
Cimitirul Evreiesc / Jewish Cemetery Iasi
  • Up the Bucium hill¬†there is a lookout point with a really good view towards the city.
  • For some fresh fruits and veggies check thetraditional open markets¬† such as “PiaŇ£a Nicolina”, “PiaŇ£a Alexandru”and “PiaŇ£a PńÉcurari”. They are open daily.
  • Go shopping in the second-hand shops around the city – You’ll find really good bargains for some hippy clothes, antiquities, sport equipment. A lot of young locals prefer them to shopping malls, because you may find really quality stuff at affordable prices.

More information about Iasi/ Iassi you will find on the following links:

I’m sure that on those links you’ll find information regarding accommodation, transportation and much more about places to visit.

Don’t let the summer and the high season be a drawback. Travel smart and to destinations that aren’t very popular ūüėČ

Travel safe and wise!

Is Dracula Castle a place that you always wanted to see? Read this post to find more, much more about that place!

I decided to start this post today with my deepest condolences to all families that have lost their loved ones in the Malaysian airlines crash, yesterday. Even if I have never been into such a situation, I know how it feels to lose someone very and very dear to you.

 

Brasov Council Square / Piata sfatului Brasov
Brasov Council Square / Piata sfatului Brasov

I have lived and studied in Romania for 4 years, some will say long years and I will say short 4 years.

There’s a generalized idea about this part of Europe and at times not a very positive one, but I have to say that bad people are everywhere and it’s just a matter of luck and entourage that can make a big impact on your overall impression about one place or even a country.

Fringed by the peaks of the Southern Carpathian Mountains and resplendent with gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture, as well as a wealth of historical attractions, Brasov is one of the most visited places in Romania.

Bran Castle or Dracula's Castle
Bran Castle or Dracula’s Castle

I have been to Brasov in winter and summer and I have found it beautiful in both seasons and I’m sure that autumn and spring are breathtaking as well.

The old town exudes a distinct medieval ambiance, is compact and this makes it easy to be discovered on foot.

The location of this city,¬†¬†at the intersection of trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire and western Europe, allowed Saxon merchants to obtain considerable wealth reflected in the city’s German name, Kronstadt.

Strada Sforii / Rope Street Brasov
Strada Sforii / Rope Street Brasov

One of the streets that you would probably want to see, is Strada Sforii or the Rope Street  which is approximately four feet wide and links Cerbului Street with Poarta Schei Street.

As in most of European cities, in the main square in Brasov you’ll see a huge church, called Biserica Neagra or the Black Church. This is the largest gothic church in Romania. Its name derives from damage caused by the Great Fire of 1689, when flames and smoke blackened its walls. The interior is impressive and well-kept and houses one of the largest organs in Eastern Europe and the biggest church bell in Romania.¬†This church is surrounded by contrasting light painted and¬†ornately trimmed baroque houses.

Black Church / Biserica Neagra Brasov
Black Church / Biserica Neagra Brasov

For backpackers and travelers on budget will be a great news to know that¬†FREE walking tours¬†are available. The local guide will take you through Brasov’s medieval section, you’ll learn some more facts about the Black Church, the Town Council Square and the city’s 14th Century fortifications. Then you’ll be taken to one of Brasov’s medieval towers,¬†White Tower, from where you’ll admire the of the Old Town.

This tour starts everyday at 6pm from Piata Sfatului (Council Square), next to the fountain.  The whole experience will take about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Other activities in Brasov are  discovering the fortifications.

The story says that Saxons built these fortifications to protect the town from Mongol and Turks invasions. Most of the works were done between 1400 and 1650. Some parts of the wall, once 40 feet high, seven feet thick and two miles long, can still be seen today.

There were seven bastions, but only few have survived.

Some of the most important ones are:¬†Graft Bastion, located in the middle of the citadel’s northwest wing. The¬†Blacksmiths’ Bastion¬†is home to the Brasov Archives which hosts more than 100,000 old and rare documents, including 80 valuable 14th – 16th century letters. In the southeast, you’ll find the fairy-tale¬†Catherine’s Gate. This gate was built in 1559 and is the only original city gate to have survived.

Chaterine's Gate Brasov
Chaterine’s Gate Brasov

If you’re here then you should see the classicist¬†Schei Gate, built in 1827.¬†Weavers’ Bastion¬†is the largest medieval bastion in Brasov and the best-preserved among the seven original watchtowers constructed around the city walls. Today, the Weavers’ Bastion houses an interesting museum¬†(see museum details)¬†that can be visited on the way up¬†Tampa Mountain.

If you’re in Brasov for few days, then a walk in the¬†Schei District is a must. According to the history of this place, between 13th and 17th century Romanians could not own property inside the citade, which was built and ruled by Saxons, that’s why they settled in the Schei district.

Weavers' Bastion Brasov
Weavers’ Bastion Brasov

Spring comes with a very interesting event :¬†Junii Brasovului. ¬†During this time¬†thousands of Romanians gather at Solomon’s Rocks for a massive picnic and sing-along. This festival celebrates the one day a year that Romanians were allowed to enter the Saxon town freely.

If you want to know more about religious life of the city, then visit this page.

Poiana Brasov, Romania
Poiana Brasov, Romania

As any major city, Brasov is proud to host several beautiful museums and they are:

  • the¬†Art Museum¬†– here you’ll have the chance to admire canvases from 18th to 20th century artists and some are being signed by big names such¬†Theodor Pallady, Nicolae Grigorescu, Stefan Luchian and Horia Bernea,¬†¬†Janos Mattis-Teutsch and more.
  • Brasov History Museum. This museum displays¬†rare exhibits and collections showcasing Brasov’s history from ancient to modern times.
  • Ethnographic Museum¬†exhibits silver jewelry, fur and sheepskin coats and other folk costumes. The museum also presents the evolution of weaving from an old spinning wheel to a mechanized loom. Folk arts and crafts are available at the museum gift shop.
  • First Romanian School Museum. You can find it in¬†Piata Unirii 2-3. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Muresenilor Memorial Museum. Admission: FREE!
Peles Castle
Peles Castle

A lot of people know about Dracula, Transilvania and Dracula castle, but not many know where this castle is actually on the map.

Dracula Castle, also known as Bran Castle is at only 16 miles from Brasov. If you want to plan yor trip there, have a look on this page for more details.

Pelisor Castle
Pelisor Castle

Much more information about other sites around Brasov, events, day trips and more you’ll find on the¬†Official Travel and Tourism Information¬†website.

Travel safe and wise!

Black Sea Tall Ships Regatta!

Mircea (Romania)  - 1939
Mircea (Romania) – 1939

If in many of my posts I talk about trips that I’ve been in the past, today I’m going to talk about a spectacular event that it’s going to happen between April and May…this means very and very soon!

What is this event about?

The SCF Black Sea Tall Ships Regatta 2014 is the FIRST in the history of the Black Sea Tall Ships Regatta , maritime event around Black Sea with the aim to promote international youth sailing.

The spectacular aspect of this event is that there are more than fifty Tall Ships from over 20 countries of A,B,C,D classes are expected to take part in it, including four famous Russian Tall Ships ‚Äď Mir, Kruzenshtern, Sedov and Nadezhda. From Romania ‚Äď Mircea, will celebrate its 75-year jubilee celebrations in 2014, along with Adornate and Apolodor. Bulgaria will be represented by Kaliakra and Royal Helena, from PakistanRah Nawad and MaltaRunning on waves and more.

Running on waves (Malta) - 2011
Running on waves (Malta) – 2011

The world most beautiful sailing vessels will start their journey in Varna (Boulgaria) and stop in other 3 ports on the Black Sea: Novorossiysk, Sochi (Russia) and Constanta (Romania).

Visitors and participants of this unprecedented sailing event will become a part of various unforgettable activities such as: magnificent parade of sails, crew parades along the city streets, VIP receptions, entertaining activities for children, award ceremonies and incredible fireworks! During the 4-day stay in each port all the vessels will be open for the public.

What is the program?

April 30-May 4

Opening of the Regatta – Varna (Bulgaria)

May 4-9

Race One: Varna-Novorossiysk

May 9-12 

Novorossiysk

May 12-14

Cruise-in company: Novorossiysk-Sochi

May 14-19

Sochi

May 19-26

Race Two: Sochi-Constanta

May 26-29

Closing Ceremony – Constanta (Romania)

 

Who can participate?

As in many of events, organizers made sure that people of all abilities can take part in the Regatta, including those with mental and physical disabilities. The only condition is that participants are over 15 of age.

If you’re between 15 to 25 years old, then you may want to be part of the race as a trainee. I have found offers for that and the price varies according to the number of days on board.

Kruzenshtern (Russia) - 1926
Kruzenshtern (Russia) – 1926

Therefore:

  • Travel 24 Days: Boarding on May 2nd in Varna and debarkation on May 26th in Constanta
  • Travel 15 days: Boarding on May 2nd in Varna and debarkation on May 17th ¬†in Sochi
  • Travel for nine days: Boarding on May 17th in Sochi and debarkation on May 26th in Constanta

The offer includes transportation to and from your port, full board, training and access and participation to all events!

Now, about the price ūüôā

It’s a bit pricey, I reckon, but the experience can be unforgettable!

For example:

ATYLA (Spain) – 1984

Length: 25,28 m

Rig : 2 Masted Topsail Schooner

Languages spoken on board: Spanish, English, German, French, Czech and Catalan

  • 24 days: 2.850 Euros
  • 15 days: 2.600 Euros
  • 9 days: 1.800 Euros

KALIAKRA (Bulgaria) – 1984

Length: 52,37 m

Rig : Barquentine

Languages spoken on board: Bulgarian, English, Russian

  • 24 days: 2.100 Euros
  • 15 days: 1.950 Euros
  • 9 days: 1.400 Euros

ROYAL HELENA (Bulgaria) – 2009

Length: 44,06 m

Rig: Brigantine

Languages spoken on board: Bulgarian, English, German, Russian

  • 24 days: 2.300 Euros (dorm of 7 ppl, one shower)
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 3.000 Euros (cabin ‚Äď 2 ppl with shower)
  • 15 days: 1.900 Euros (dorm of 7 ppl, one shower)
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 2.250 Euros (cabin ‚Äď 2 ppl with shower)
  • 9 days: ¬† ¬†1.300 Euros (dorm of 7 ppl, one shower)
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† 1.700 Euros (cabin ‚Äď 2 ppl with shower)

NADEZHDA (Russia) – 1991

Length: 108,80 m

Rig: Topsail Schooner 2

Languages on board: English and Russian

  • ¬†24 days: 2.250 Euros
  • 15 days: 1.850 Euros
  • 9 days: 1.300 Euros

JOHANNA LUCRETIA ( UK) Р 1945

Length: 27,68 m

Rig: Gaff Schooner 2

Language spoken on board: English

  • ¬†24 days: 2.250 Euros
  • 15 days: 2.000 Euros
  • 9 days: 1.400 Euros

The agency that offers these packages says that prices may change from the price shown on their page, and therefore you should contact them for more details about prices, terms and conditions.

Note: there are ships where the only language spoken on board is English!

Mir (Russia) - 1987
Mir (Russia) – 1987

Some additional information about this event, you’ll find here.

Travel safe and wise!

The “Small Paris” or simply said : Bucharest

IMG_3119

Bucharest is close to my soul because there I learnt how’s to be an adult, how is to be alone in a foreign country, how’s to be surrounded by strangers, how’s to enjoy the beauty of the moment, how’s to deal with lots of challenges and of course to study, work and from time to time to travel ūüôā¬†Bucharest was my home for about 4 years and since then, I’ve never missed the opportunity to go back there even for a short trip, because every time I go, all the places I used to go are bringing back good memories.

The birth of Bucharest was in 1459 and 403 years later became the Romania. Today, this city is the centre of Romanian media, culture and art. Its architecture is a mix of neo-classical,¬†inter war period ,¬†Bauhaus¬†and¬†Art Deco, Communist-era and modern. One of the most glorious moments in the history of this city was the period between the two World Wars. It was then, the moment when the city’s elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of “Little Paris”.

If you have one free weekend and want to discover the most of this city, I recommend you to start with the Piata Unirii – where is the Palace of Parliament and the beautiful avenue that was build by Ceausescu.¬†One short note here :¬†tourists can visit the Palace of Parliament, but a previous appointment is required!¬†When you’re there and want to see something that not many tourists visit, go on to the¬†Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral¬†(address: Aleea Dealul Mitropoliei, nr. 25). The complex is very nice and the main church is painted from outside as well as inside. This place will be interesting for those interested in architecture and art ūüôā

Not very far from the Palace of Parliament, just across Dambovita river is the Old Bucuresti or the Old Town. There you can find the first Bank of Savings (CEC) with its old and very interesting architecture. The central part of the building is covered by a roof  in the form of a dome made of glass. Other things to be visited here are: the National Museum of History, the National Bank of Romania, many other old and interesting, from architectural point of view, buildings.

Some streets and buildings are still in reconstruction and some are even for sale. If you’re looking for a place to open a restaurant, studio or saloon this can be one of the most valued places in Bucharest. I’m saying it, because, Romania is getting more and more attention from foreign tourists and visitors and when in Bucharest many will take a walk around this area.

Along Calea Victoriei (Victory Avenue), you will find the¬†National Museum of Arts¬†and the¬†Romanian Athenaeum –¬†for a virtual tour, you can go¬†here¬†and for more information about performances and information regarding its history please access¬†this page¬†. Old churches that are build of red bricks are still opened to the public, one of them is almost attached to the National Museum of Arts.

If you decide to explore the blvd. Bratianu and Magheru (which are parallel to the Victory Avenue), then you’ll see the¬†National Theater¬†and across the street are the¬†old buildings of the¬†University of Bucharest. If you walk towards Piata Romana, then you’ll find the old building of the¬†Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest. For a vistual tour you can go¬†here.

From Piata Victoriei you have many options: to spend some hours wandering around on the blvd. Dacia, Eminescu street or blvd. Lascar Catargiu. If on the first two mentioned streets you could find various 18th, 19th, early 20th centuries city villas that are hosting now diverse Embassies, Museums and Institutes, then on blvd. Lascar Catargiu you’ll find the¬†Old Observatory Building¬†and many other city villas.

At the end of blvd. Lascar Catargiu¬†you’ll find Piata Victoriei or the Victory square, where are two important buildings: The Government Building – a big squared construction which is not accessible to visitors and the¬†Museum of the Romanian Peasant.

Then after having such a full day visiting and walking a lot, you can have a rest in one of the beautiful parks in Bucharest. My favorite parks are: Cismigiu Gadren (Gradina Cismigiu) and Herastrau Park.

For those who want to try some Romanian foods, I can recommend the following ones:

  • Caru’ cu bere. A very welcoming and warm restaurant. You might say that it looks very expensive, but you’ll be surprised to find reasonable prices. They have a special lunch menu that will cost you ~6 euro and if you’re a student you’ll have a special price of 4 euro ūüėČ
  • City grill. This place is popular among locals. You can have a lunch here for 5 euro and a dinner for less than 10 euro.
  • Curtea berarilor. This restaurants has a lot of space and cheaper drinks, if compared to other pubs and restaurants in the area. The food may seem a bit pricey, but the portions are quite big, therefore can be shared ūüėČ
  • Lacrimi si sfinti, is another restaurant where you can try dishes of 100 years old. This place will suprise you not only by its delicious food, but also by its design.
  • Crama Domneasca. The service is good and the food comes in big portions.
  • Zexe. Here you can try different foods that have the main ingredient the lamb! They have a small shop for those who want to take away a small part of Romanian kitchen.

If you want to try some Turkish food then I will suggest you to go to the¬†City Kebab¬†– the name sais it all, or for a more fine dinning you can try¬†Divan¬†– the chef is Turkish ūüėČ

If you arrive at Otopeni International Airport (Henry Coanda Aiport) and want to reach the city in a fast and convenient way, you can do it by buying tickets to the Express Line that connects Otopeni – Henry Coanda International Airport to Unirea Square, therefore, you’ll have plenty of choices where to step out of the bus. Also, in Piata Victoriei (Victoria Square), Piata Romana (Roman Square), Piata Universitatii (University Square) and Piata Unirii (Unification Square) you’ll find a metro line and buses lines that will take you to any part of the city.
The round trip from and to the International Airport will cost you about 1.5 euro! The full schedule you can download from the following links:

  • Bus schedule¬†from Bucharest to the International Airport¬†you can find and¬†download it to your PC or Smartphone¬†here.
  • Bus schedule from the International Airport to the city, you can consult and download¬†here.

Warning!¬†Keep your expensive things in deep pockets or in a locker at your hotel. The safest way to travel is to avoid crowded buses and places as these are the places where pickpockets are most likely to be. Don’t talk with suspicious people, don’t give advices or any kind of information to LOCALS! And better stay away from suspicious looking people….Romanian educated people won’t come to you and ask for things or information. Don’t be nervous and agitated, because this attracts troubles, just relax and enjoy your trip ūüėČ

I hope these tips will help you enjoy your trip to Bucharest and have a pleasant stay!

One last suggestion : try to find some time and especially a tour agency that will take you to¬†Cotroceni National Museum. In the new part of the building resides the president of the country – Traian Basescu and most of the officials are coming to this place. It’s a very very beautiful place to visit and it’s worth spending some of your time here. Not to forget: to enter you’ll need to provide and ID, Passport and DO NOT TAKE big bags, backpacks with you! All the electronic things will be left at the entrance and will be returned at your exit ūüėČ

Travel safe and wise!