Tag Archives: Russia

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 🙂 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” ? 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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!

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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 ShipsMir, Kruzenshtern, Sedov and Nadezhda. From RomaniaMircea, 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 🙂

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 – 2 ppl with shower)
  • 15 days: 1.900 Euros (dorm of 7 ppl, one shower)
  •                   2.250 Euros (cabin – 2 ppl with shower)
  • 9 days:    1.300 Euros (dorm of 7 ppl, one shower)
  •                   1.700 Euros (cabin – 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) –  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!

White white nights in Riga!

IMG_3222Latvia is my first country that I chose to visit first from the 3 Baltic countries known also as Baltic States. The period of our travel coincided with the white nights month and is something one should experience 😉

How it feels, you may ask.

Well, it’s very confusing! You keep walking and enjoying your time out in Riga (or anywhere else in Latvia) and when you look at your watch it seems that it went crazy, because you don’t feel tired or sleepy and even though the sun is set, the day light is there and you feel like it’s around 9pm or 10 pm.

We planned to spend in Riga 3 nights, and if the first day we were just walking around the city and trying to enjoy it at the max, the second day and 3 day we went to see the Latvian Open Air Museum and Jurmala. Jurmala is a very popular destination among Russians, it might be the result of the numerous concerts and festivals organized by Russian artists and comedians in this country.

Not many bloggers will mention the things that least nice about a place, but I decided to do so. Therefore, what I disliked about Riga?

I didn’t like the feeling of being in Russia, even though I wasn’t there. I don’t have anything with this country, but I wanted to feel more of Latvian culture, to hear their native language and not Russian.

Also, you might have the chance of seeing the hysterical Russian, drunk or not, women who are screaming like crazy at their boyfriends/ husbands, waitresses and so on, because the things went not the way they wanted. We had a dinner at a very nice Japanese restaurant there, with this theatre at just 3 meters away from our table…not a very nice atmosphere and experience I have to say.

Ignoring the fact that some Russians need to read a guide of how to behave abroad, I have found locals very welcoming and ready to help you with the piece of information you need.

If you’re visiting UNESCO World Sites, then a trip to Riga must be on your list. Riga has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to the collection of art nouveau buildings that is one of the largest in the world, as well as a city in whose architecture the entire history from 1201 to the present day is reflected. It is also valued as a city with a unique collection of wooden developments in its central section.

I bought from there some souvenirs and warm handmade glows, made from goat fur. I absolutely love them and my sister as well 🙂 At the local market you can find berries, fruits and veggies at reasonable prices. The market is at walking distance from the train station. If you’re somewhere around, don’t miss it! If not, then make some time and go there, I’m sure you’ll find something you’d like to eat or own 😉

For a view over the city and for, as one of my friends loves to say “exclusive drinks”, I will recommend the skyline bar. You’ll have to pay at the entrance – entrance ticket – even if you don’t buy any drinks or food.

If you like to enjoy your dinner while listening to some good live music, then one of the numerous bars with live music around the old town should interest you. During white nights, after the “dawn” or better said after 8pm, the central part of the city can be very lively and noisy. If you don’t want to have dinner or buy any drinks, then take your camera and be ready for some nice pictures 🙂

I want to mention here that, not far from the train station there’s a sort of gallery and in there you can find a bistro with live music as well. The food is not something out of the ordinary, but definitely is a good quality-price food. I’m sure this page will help you find the right place for you.

Just at 1 hour drive from Riga, there’s an Open Air Ethnographic Museum. It is very interesting to see and learn how people lived here some hundreds of years ago. Maybe you’ll find common aspects with your home country. I have found really close similarities to Moldova, my home country and I have found some similarities to Japan as well. 🙂 During summer week-ends masters of the old crafts work in the farmsteads, visitors can observe scenes from ancient life and participate in various events and celebrations. Winter offers sledge rides, possibility to try your hand in ice-fishing, to slide on a sledge-wheel ride. The slopes and paths of the museum are popular among skiers. More than 135 thousand people from all over the world visit the museum annually.

The Museum can be reached by buses No. 1, 821,826, 19 and 28, getting off at the bus-stop “Open-Air Museum” (Brīvdabas muzejs) or by tram No.6, getting off at the final stop.

In our last full day in Latvia, I wanted to visit the very famous city among Russians – Jurmala. I was curious to see what is there that Russians like and why this city is an attraction for them.
I loved the wooden houses there. Each of these houses has an interesting architecture. The beach is very nice, but crowded. Locals say that in Latvia there are places where you can have a beach only for yourself, this, because Latvia has the longest coastline from the 3 Baltic countries. Therefore, I will recommend you to go to Jurmala – take some pictures and then drive to another place in search of a quiet place where you can enjoy the Baltic sea and have a picnic there. Sounds romantic, right? We are planning to do this on our next trip to Latvia or any other Baltic country 😉

I hope that this short review of my trip to Latvia is interesting enough to make you want to go there and discover your favorite part of this country.

Two more things before I go 🙂 

  • We stopped at a very nice B&B a bit outside Riga – Homestay. This place is at about 20 minutes away from city center (tram ride). Homestay is located in a very nice green, clean and quiet area. We used to come back around 11pm – 12am and we never felt unsafe for even one second! If you want to REST and not be bothered the whole night long by people partying on the streets, then this is the place to go! The host is a family of a British – New Zealander and Latvian. They travel the world and know very well Riga 😉 I’m sure they can direct you to some unique places, restaurants and art galleries.

For more information about Homestay, please visit their web page.

  • Riga is the European Capital of Culture in 2014! One more reason to visit it. More details about what will happen during 2014, you can find on this web page.

I know that you may need more information about Latvia and here are two nice pages where you can read more:

Travel safe and wise!

Winter time in Moldova

My and my brother and sister :)Winter usually starts in December, but there are years and years. Some years are milder than others that’s why it’s hard to predict how the winter will be. I remember to have experienced some winters when even in December were positive (above zero) temperatures and some winters where the freezing air was reigning from early November and all shapes and sizes of snowflakes were dancing down the sky ! Therefore, if you travel to Moldova somewhere between late November and late February, be prepared to face some days with very cold days.

But how bad can it be?
Some people are used to think and consider Moldova something similar with Siberia…I guess I have to disappoint those people, Moldova is not something like that. The good, warm and sunny weather starts from mid March until late October, and in Summer time temperatures go up to +35ºC sometimes it’s even hotter!

What about winter? Winter is mild if it’s snowing or if the sky is covered with dense clouds. Clear nights are the worst, but the most beautiful!!! Just try to imagine the white coat of snow and the full moon shining up in the sky, the magic of the sparkling little ice crystals, the heaviness of the snow on trees’ branches and the amazingly rich in stars sky! The light is so strong that you don’t need a torch or a light on such nights!!! You’ll even see your own shadow….how cool is that? 😉

February is known to be the coldest month of the year, but cold arctic air and can reach Moldova earlier…therefore a proper windproof winter jacket / coat is a must! I have to say, that compared with the Netherlands (the country I live in at the moment) or other northern country, in Moldova is not that windy and the air is dry cold, therefore the negative temperatures are not that acute. It starts to be freezing cold at -10ºC and below.

I want to stop a bit here and tell you more about February month. In old times February was called “Blacksmith” or “Wolf month” this because was considered to be a particularly ruthless month, coming up with big frosts and snowstorms. The popular name “Blacksmith” suggests the early preparation for field work and not only, works that villagers had to begin in March when the weather was milder.

When it’s -25ºC and below all the schools and kinder gardens are closed and if you are not attending your courses at university or even not going to work, it’s ok because  it’s considered a good motivation.

Local authorities are trying to keep the roads in a good condition, but sometimes the heavy snow will prove to be a headache even to the experienced drivers and to road sweepers.

I love winter and its magic! Just think about Christmas and the New Year’s Eve ….and in Moldova we celebrate twice each of these winter holidays. One pair 🙂 Xmas and New Year’s Eve is the same as in Western Europe and the other pair is celebrated according the old calendar or else said, we celebrate it together with all Orthodox Christians that follow the old calendar (or Julian calendar. This calendar was created under the reign of Julius Caesar in 45 BC ). You might find interesting to know that there are more countries that celebrate Christmas and the New Year according to the old calendar. Countries that celebrate Christmas on the night from 6th to 7th of January are: Belarus, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and the Ukraine. Countries with big communities of Orthodox Christians that follow the Julian calendar are:  Romania, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. And, according to the same calendar, the New Year’s eve falls on the night from 13th to 14th of January! 🙂

If you happen to be in Moldova during these winter holidays, make sure to find a host in a village, because there is the right place to be and to experience the TRUE SPIRIT of winter holly days!

What is so special about these days, you would ask. I don’t know about other places, but in Moldova traditions are still alive in the villages and if during the Christmas kids will go from house to house to announce the birth of the Jesus then during the next days your backyard wil be visited by many other people! 🙂
On the New Year’s eve from the morning until late in the night young (from afternoon until midnight – older guys and adults) will knock at your gate, they will have costumes and will use bells, different musical instruments (accordion, drums, Jew’s harp, pipe or whistle) and for this small show the host will give them money, sweets and wine 🙂 The next day, again from early in the morning (old people say after the prayer) kids are coming to “sow” the households. These kids are wishing a very prosperous and good new year, to have a healthy family and (especially for farmers and people who own land) a good year with rains and rich crops. They receive for this sweets, fruits, nuts and coins.

When I was kid and even now, when I go home and it’s cold outside, I love to stay close to a the warm wall called ‘ soba or fireplace/ceramic stove. It feels so relaxing 🙂 Women during this time have a lot of free time for crafting things for their house or for sale in spring 🙂

I hope Moldova will look more interesting and worth a visit, now that you little by little are introduced with the culture, weather 😀 and kitchen (I will dedicate a special post about it).

Travel safe and wise!

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Many of tourists are coming to Moldova with 2 things in their mind: wine cellars and Transnistria! Well, this is one of the places to GO! GO! GO!

Soroca FortressI have read some complaints from tourists that went to Soroca fortress and could not read too many things about it on the place. This is why I decided to look for some information and came across a web page that talks about the historical and cultural importance of the fortress.

Soroca and Soroca fortress is at about 2 hours drive from Chisinau and one day trip to there is more than enough. You can combine this trip with another site Orheiul Vechi and later have a dinner at one of the rustic restaurants, on the way back to Chisinau 🙂

Now back to our ship, Soroca is an old locality on the Nistru river. It was attested documentarily for the first time in 1470.
According to some sources it was Stephen the Great who in 1475 had built the fortress the way we know it to be today, some other sources say that Stephen the Great’s fortress was a wooden fortress. And only in 1643, Petru Rares built the stone fortress.

The fortress structure was very well thought. It had to be able to protect the soldiers and people living in it, to be a strong construction and in case of attack to have enough food and water reserves for all the inhabitants. That’s why on inside, it was composed of three wooden storey building. On the ground floor or the first floor were kept the horses and the hay. People lived at the second floor. There were kept all their food reserves as well. On the last floor were placed cannons, soldiers’ weapons and guns as well as their pitch boilers.

The fortress from the beginning had the role of border protection against the Ottoman Empire, who at that time conquered the towns Cetatea Alba, Chilia and Tighina. In these towns were built other three fortresses and they are open to visit. After being taken over by the Ottomans, in 1538, those towns were incorporated in a separate Turkish province.

The stone fortress represents the peak of the development of the Moldavian defense works. In order to make it resistant to the Ottomans attacks, works on it were undertaken from the end of the 14th to the middle of the 16th centuries. The building and the structure of it has the form of a pentagon, the vertices of which are marked by pieces of defense cannon surrounded by a circular wall.
The figure 5, that is present in the structure of the fortress, is also a sacred figure often met in the mythological astrology and cosmology: 5 days were the time during which the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of gods, there are 5 essential elements of the world in Buddhism (the earth, the water, the fire, the air, the wind) and there are 5 extremities of the human body (the head, two hands and two legs).
Some historians and architects are saying that Soroca Fortress might be a replica of the famous Appullian castle, adapted for artillery and built when, in Europe, the Renascence architectural models were built on a large scale. The similarities are striking and these are: both defense works have common space forms geometrically defined, the compositions being subordinated to more axes. The Castel del Monte announced the Renascence in the world’s military architecture, and the Soroca Fortress is a genuine Renascence architectural work of art.

Today, in the fortress you can visit a small church. Sometimes, young couples choose to have their religious / christian wedding ceremony or to baptize their children.

If you want to read more about Soroca fortress, the all you have to do it to click here 🙂

One more insight here, on the way back from Soroca to Chisinau, ask your guide to tell you where is the best view over the Nistru river. I forgot the name of that place, but as soon as I find it or remember, I will update this information. The view is spectacular, NOT TO BE MISSED!

Travel safe and wise!

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