Home » Blog (All Posts) » Eastern Europe

Category: Eastern Europe

Farewell Romania ~ Hello Ireland!

First, let me say, “I love Romania!”

I would go back there at any time – but that’s for another post…

Yesterday morning I left beautiful Romania and since my flight was at 07:15, I arrived at the airport at 04:30 – thinking that would be plenty of time…

Hmmmmmm……………

This (below) is a photo of Bucharest airport at 04:30…

This photo (below) was taken at 06:00… and one of the people in front of me mentioned that today was a relatively good day…  Apparently the last time he was there, it took over three hours to just get this far…  I guess Romania is quite popular!

See the yellow lettering in the faaaaaaaaaar off distance (below)?  That is the border patrol through which one needs to pass before one even gets to the beginning of the trek to the gates…

This photo below was taken just before 07:00 (bearing in mind my flight is due to leave at 07:15)…

Standing in line, I saw this gizmo…  There isn’t a red button large enough………..

I finally board the plane (that is scheduled to depart at 07:15) at 07:13 (after arriving at 04:30) and what was mildly disturbing was that while I was in line, there was a drip-feed of other people joining the line…  Ever so slowly…  Not like normal where, where the flight is called, everyone crowds into the line…

…and then when we took off, there was only around 30-40 people on the plane…

Me thinks many of the intended passengers were still standing in line at Bucharest airport!!!

Then, I arrive in beautiful Ireland!!!

What was also exceptionally lovely was that I was speaking with a client who is also a very dear friend and I mentioned that I was arriving in Dublin on July 1st – and he said that he was also arriving that day – and when we cross-referenced, we discovered we were arriving within less than an hour of each other…

So, we met at the airport and journeyed in my lovely rental car (his name (the car’s name) is Boswell and he is taking excellent care of me!) to my hotel in Malahide where I stayed the first two nights before heading to Sligo…

Not only that, but another of my very dear friends who is originally from Ireland but now lives in England is over here visiting family, so we caught up yesterday and today…

I feel ever so blessed!

I am staying two nights at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, built in 1835… just about 5-10 years before my time…  🙂

Here is where we curled up and drank and ate and drank at the Matt Ryan Bar…

…and I said to the waiter that I wanted a double of the best Irish Whiskey they had… and it was luverly!

Then, we went for dinner…

…and the following morning, went for a stroll along the beach road…

…and had a SCRUMPTIOUSLY DELICIOUS brunch!!!

Snoozed for awhile – soaked in the hot-tub (and found the first place anywhere in the world I have encountered that says you must wear a swim cap to go into the pool..!)

…and then enjoyed a delicious steak dinner (of which I could barely get through half, but it was sooooooooo good!)…

…and now about to head up to my room – btw, the bed and pillows are SOOOOOO comfortable here that I will find out what they are!  Seriously!  I think this is the most comfortable bed and pillows I have ever experienced in my entire 172 years on the planted!

Goodnight dear Friends!

~ Bella

Romanian Day of the National Flag

I awoke this morning to the sound of a PA system being set up and tested downstairs and then when, about an hour or so later, I heard drums I thought I would go and investigate…

It turns out today, June 26th, is The Day of the National Flag here in Romania.

Romanians are quite big into celebrating – and the military is no exception.  Here is the Military Celebration Calendar just for June and July:

June 10 – The Day of the Military Paratroopers
On June 10, 1941 by the Order D.M. 93/1941 the first Paratroopers sub-unit was established – the Company of Special Missions– commanded by Lieutenant Stefan Soverth.

June 18 – The Day of the Military Builders
On June 18, 1920 they established the Directorate of Buildings and Military Domains.

June 26 – The Day of the National Flag
The National Flag Day was established by Law No. 96/1998, to be held annually on June 26. The Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of the Interior organize military ceremonies in units across the country while public authorities and other civil institutions celebrate the day through various festive activities.

July 1 – The Day of the Military Bands
As provided by the “Organic regulations” of 1/13 July 1831, “musician soldiers” (a band comprising 1 drum, 24 musicians and 8 drummers) became part of and started their service in the Permanent National Army.

July 13 – The Day of the Military Speciality “Electronic Warfare”

July 14 – The Day of the Military Communications
On July 14, 1873 was established the first Communications sub-unit – the Telegraphy Section, marking the beginning of the Military Communications

July 15 – The Day of the Military Submarine Men

July 20 – The Day of Aviation and the Air Force, the Orthodox celebration of Saint Elijah the Thunderer.

July 23The Day of the Military Press
The first issue of the “Observatorul militar” weekly appeared on July 23, 1859.

July 25The Day of the Radiolocation
By the National Defence Minister’s Order of July 25, 1955 the Radio-Technical Troops was established.

July 26The Day of the Military Archives
On July 26, 1920 by Order no. 4 of the General Staff, the Archives of the 6th History Section of the General Staff was established.

July 29 – The Day of the National Anthem
The Day of the National Anthem was established by Law No. 99/1998 to be celebrated every year on July 29.

…and now back to work…

~ Bella

 

Lovely Majestic Hotel

It’s funny how different brands are represented differently in different countries.

In Australia Marriott is a premium brand,whereas in American it is a budget brand.  In America, Ramada is very often a budget accommodation, but here in Romania, it is a five star brand.

Anyway, I am recovering well (albeit slowly) from being Frogger-squished when I was hit by the car in Italy, and have found a FABULOUS massage guy who comes to my apartment a couple of times a week – but yesterday I was thinking that what I really need to aid my recovery in addition is a hot-tub and a heated pool…

To my infinite delight, I found both at the beautiful Ramada Majestic Hotel – and even better?  It is right across the road!  So, I packed up a case, walked across the road and checked in for a few days!

…and apart from the pool (that is wonderful and doing me a world of good!), the breakfast buffet is quite extraordinary!

…all inclusive for only 80 Euros per night!

…and I have come downstairs for an early dinner – this delicious meal is only $7.50 USD.

…and topped off with my favourite sparkling mineral water and a delightful Romania wine… (the rest of which I do not drink here they will magically transport up to my room…)

I have already decided that when I come back to Romania, I will be staying here instead of renting an apartment.

…and yes, I will be coming back!  I have not yet left, but am already looking forward to my return trip!

But, for now, I am sitting here enjoying my wine and the latest edition of “Country Life” – and all is well with the world…

 

Transfăgărășan Road into the Clouds and a 60′ Wall of Snow!

Before I get into the journey from Bucharest up into the Carpathian Mountains, I thought you might like a sneak peak at what a traffic jam looks like on the Transfăgărășan Road…

Being an avid “Top Gear” fan, I had seen the episode they did on what they termed the most amazing road in the world, the Transfăgărășan Road – but for some reason, forgot where it was until the other day I was exploring online and came across it and recalled it is actually in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania…

So, of course, I needed to do a road trip!  🙂

On this trip, as with the trip to the salt mines, I had a private tour guide – and he is soooo wonderful, I will write a separate post about Adrian and his Team before I leave Romania…

(and I need to point out right from the beginning – as I was scrolling through the photos to make notes, I kept thinking about how they sooooooo do not do justice to the majesty and beauty that we encountered)

Anyway, we left Bucharest reasonably early…

…and I have travelled to the other side of the planet, but still am haunted by Las Vegas!!!  (on Adrian’s keyring)

The Argeș River…

This building below is one of many, many now abandoned and dilapidated communist farming co-operative buildings…

…and of course, I had to buy some new clothes and a scarf!

This is the Cathedral of Curtea de Argeș and is stunningly beautiful…

Inside the Cathedral are buried the two favourite Kings of Romania and their Queens – Kings Carol I, and Ferdinand; and their Queens – Elisabeta and Maria (Queen Victoria’s grand-daughter).

Although the Queen’s actual name was Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise zu Wied, the majority also knew her through her literary works under the name, Carmen Silva [Sylva].

In this photo below, you will see a red image on the wall and this is such a sad story…

During construction, everything they built by day was mysteriously ruined by night – every night!  Tormented by the fact that he couldn’t finish his construction, master Manole dreamed one night that the only way that he could complete his masterpiece was to offer a human sacrifice. After he woke up, he and his workers decided that the first person to arrive that morning on the construction site should be the one sacrificed.

Unfortunately, the first person to arrive was Manole’s pregnant wife, Ana who had awoken especially early to prepare her husband a lovely meal and bring it to him.

Undaunted but heart-broken, Manole enclosed his wife and unborn child into the wall, brick by brick… and construction continued…

Manole did not come away with his life either…  After he and his men managed to finish the construction King Neagoe Basarab liked it so much that he wanted to make sure that a construction like that would never be replicated and so he locked all the men in the attic of the building intending never to release them.

Using the only items they had available, Manole and his men tried to escape their captives by building wooden wings and intending to fly down to the ground safely…  Every man died in the attempt…

…and this is King Neagoe Basarab of Wallachia who ordered construction of the building and death to the workers who created it…

On this stall, I found Heaven!

I had no idea about the notion of eating pollen – nor the combination of eating pollen and honey…

Pollen is one of the most amazing super-foods on the planet and is higher in protein than even meat!  http://www.mercola.com/article/diet/bee_pollen.htm

To traditional and ancient beekeepers, the pollen represents the masculine and the honey the feminine – the pollen gives you the protein and the honey the carbohydrates…

Even modern medicine has done experiments and proven the effectiveness of the combination, far outweighing the benefit of either alone.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645809

…and when you combine them from the same hive…….  Magic!

As a side note, in addition to the pollen and honey I purchased from this woman, Adrian was able to find me some FRESH (as in not dried) pollen here and I now take a large teaspoon of pollen and a large teaspoon of honey – just as is – and the a couple of strawberries (as apparently there is something in the fibres of the fruit that kickstart the reaction…

…and I do this as many times as I feel the urge to during the day – sometimes just twice, sometimes as much as five or six times…

It’s amazing!

 

 

…and now we reach the beginning of the Transfăgărășan Road… and this sign says that the road is only accessible for 104km – you will find out why soon…

…and here we have the real Dracula’s castle, well, sort of…

From Atlas Obscura:  “The true Dracula, (Turk-impaling Prince of Wallachia as opposed to the sultry blood sucker) fell in love with Poenari Castle in the 15th century, and realizing its potential as a major stronghold with an amazing vantage point, consolidated and fixed up the crumbling fortress, making it one of his main places of residence. It’s said that his first wife, Jusztina Szilagyi of Moldavia, flung herself from the towers of Poenari during a siege by Vlad’s muslim brother, Radu Bey. Before flinging herself into the Arges River below, she exclaimed she would rather rot and be eaten by the fish than to be a captive of the Turks.”

…and if you look carefully below, you will see a couple of impailed peasants…

“Ceresit” is simply an advertisement for a concrete company…

…and this little critter decided to come and visit – which is apparently a sign of good luck!

These women are picking the very tips from the new growth on the fir trees.  The Romanians ferment it and then around Christmas time turn it into a drink…

 

 

 

 

There are little temples like this scattered all through the country on the side of the road…

…and despite this being the middle of summer, we come across our first snow… but that is NOTHING compared with what we find a little later on…

 

 

The squiggly lines you see is actually the road…

The railings are destroyed every year by the snow…

Only two weeks ago, this area was under tens of feet of snow…

See the concrete structure in the middle of the photo below?  That’s the tunnel through which we would normally drive!

The wall of snow you see in the picture below is where we would normally drive… but what’s even more amazing is that in around three weeks, it will all be melted!!!

The water from this natural fountain was soooo sweet and pure…….

 

…and our traffic jam…

This slogan appears a LOT through Romania…  “Basarabia e Romania” means Basarabia (the bulk part of Moldova and a minor part Ukraine) is Romania – as there is still a huge push to have Basarabia reunited with Romania.

Want cheap wifi?  That’s certainly what you get here!

…and then back to my favourite restaurant for a late supper… (and this photo does not even come close to doing this meal justice!)

Oh, and I managed to find the Top Gear episode about the Transfăgărășan Road online:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bORvyzgykqw

~ Bella

Transylvania, Castles and more…

Oh my goodness gracious me…  I didn’t really have expectations before arriving in Romania – but even if I did, they would have all been blown out of the water…

I will give you a more in-depth response in a week or so when I update this post, but for now, know that I will be back – probably more than once – and I love this country!  I have made several new friends – find this to actually be the ‘free-est’ place I have ever experienced in soooo many ways – and feel like one month will not be enough to do it justice…

Anyway, here are the photos from my Transylvanian tour (including Peles Castle, Bran Castle and Brasov)…

It was lovely standing outside the Hotel Capitol watching Old Town Bucharest wake up and come to life…  We left reasonably early in the morning for what ended up being just over a 12 hour tour…

One thing I found fascinating was that almost every single house was like a mini-farm.  The Romanians are very self-sufficient and grow, make and produce the majority of what they need.

The gold roof on this building was soooooo incredibly bright and shining!  This photo doesn’t even come close to capturing the brilliance…

I know this photo is blurry, but this little boy was so cute – just standing beside the road waving to passing cars…

…and speaking of standing – they do a lot of that here!  Stand.  …and sit.  As for the standing – I haven’t quite worked that out – but the sitting…  There are seats outside most Romanian houses where the residents just sit – and people will visit and sit – and they chat – they exchange information, gossip, check in on each other – and move to another place to sit.

Life is lovely and slow here…

This building below is a now-defunct vehicle parts manufacturer.

…and now up to a world-class ski resort!

This, below, is Peles Castle.

From Wikipedia:  “Peleș Castle (Romanian: Castelul Peleș pronounced [kasˈtelul ˈpeleʃ] is a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia, in Prahova County, Romania, on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia, built between 1873 and 1914. Its inauguration was held in 1883. It was constructed for King Carol I.

A personal property of the Royal Family from the beginning, Peleș Castle was quickly nationalized after the Communist coup d’etat on December 30th, 1947 that led to the illegal abdication of HM King Michael and his forced exile. After the King’s return in 1997, the castle was returned to the Royal Family after a long judicial case that has been finalised in 2007. However, the King expressed his desire that the castle should continue to shelter the Peleș National Museum, as well as being ocassionally used for public ceremonies organised by the Royal Family.”

The photo below – this is not a bookshelf, but rather a secret passageway…

I am never fond of these signs..!

…and now we enter Brasov to stop for lunch…

Leaving Brasov on our way to Bran Castle – that most people think of as Dracula’s Castle but it actually wasn’t (we will see Drac’s castle in another post on another trip)…

There are a lot of unfinished houses like this one below – but the main reason is not that they have been abandoned.  Rather that Romanians are allowed to build their own homes in their entirety – and many take a few years to complete…  They do the work themselves, with the help of family, neighbours…

…and here we have Bran Castle…

From Wikipedia:  “Bran Castle (Romanian: Castelul Bran; German: Törzburg; Hungarian: Törcsvár), situated near Bran and in the immediate vicinity of Braşov, is a national monument and landmark in Romania. The fortress is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia, on DN73. Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Castle and Hunyad Castle), it is often erroneously referred to as the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There is, however, no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has only tangential associations with Vlad the Impaler, voivode of Wallachia, the putative inspiration for Dracula. As discovered by the Dutch author Hans Corneel de Roos, the location Bram Stoker actually had in mind for Castle Dracula while writing his novel was an empty mountain top, Mount Izvorul Călimanului, 2,033 metres (6,670 ft) high, located in the Călimani Alps near the former border with Moldavia. Stoker’s description of Dracula’s crumbling fictional castle also bears no resemblance to Bran Castle.”

Important note:  What hardly anyone knows is that just before I left Italy, I was hit by a car!  (Remember the ‘Frogger’ post that broke a bottle of wine?  It was about a week later that I myself was Froggered!).

Anyway, by the time we reached Bran Castle, I just was not up to going walking and exploring anymore so I sat at the bottom with a glass of wine and the following photos are thanks to lovely sisters from Missouri I met on the tour…  They agreed to take my camera and shot the following for me…

…meanwhile, this is where I was curled up…

…and so we leave Bran Castle and head back to Bucharest…

…and I thought it very fitting that I should see this sign just as we arrive home…

~ Bella

 

Bucharest’s Historic Casa Capsa

Sitting, working away on my balcony – I started to feel a little peckish so decided to get dressed and go out for dinner… literally across the road – to the historic Casa Capsa…

Whereas most places in Europe have designated hours for dinner, here in Bucharest many restaurants open from lunch, right through the evening without closing – fabulous for a girl like me who loves to have an early supper or dinner!

According to Wikipedia:  Casa Capșa is a historic restaurant in Bucharest, Romania, first established in 1852. … Capșa is not only associated with its exquisite pastry products, but also for a hectic literary life of yore… a welcoming place for Romanian writers where they could meet, talk and…associate.”

Again from Wikipedia:

In 1852, Anton and Vasile Capșa founded the first confectionery shop on Calea Victoriei, somewhat north of the present Casa Capșa, which was founded by their younger brother Grigore Capșa (1841-1902) in 1868.[1][2] Anton and Vasile had financed Grigore through four years of courses at the renowned Boissier in Paris, where he turned down an opportunity to become the supplier for the French Imperial Court.[3] The French-inspired confectionery of Casa Capșa soon established a continent-wide reputation. The business expanded in 1881 to a full-service restaurant, at a time when quality restaurants along Western European lines were still quite a rarity in Romania.[1][2]

In December 1916, during World War I, following the Battle of Bucharest and the occupation of the city by the Central Powers, the restaurant was requisitioned by troops of the Kingdom of Bulgaria‘s army. Reportedly, these left the place in a deplorable condition for an extended period of time.[4] Casa Capșa invented the all-chocolate Joffre cake in honor of a visit to Romania by Joseph Joffre after the war, and they were the first to introduce ice cream to the country.[2]

Interior of Casa Capșa

The coffee house, established 1891, was an important literary and artistic gathering place, but never turned a profit, “because the writers and artists who went there usually ordered mineral water and coffee and made them last for hours on end.” In contrast to the elegant restaurant and confectioner, the coffee house had simple, uncovered wooden tables. Tudor Arghezi referred to it as an “Academy”; one could make a literary reputation by reading one’s texts there. Actors also were among the regulars: at the time the Romanian National Theatre was nearly across the street, adjacent to the Terasa Oteteleșanu, now the site of the Palatul Telefoanelor.

When the Romanian Communist Party took power in 1948, they closed Casa Capșa. The restaurant operated during most of the communist era as the “Bucharest Restaurant”, regaining the Capșa name in 1984. It was at the Capșa that the poet Nicolae Labiș stood up in November 1956 and loudly recited Mihai Eminescu’s banned patriotic poem “Doina”; a few weeks later, after spending some time at the Capșa, Labiș was fatally hit by a tram, just a short distance away.

The In Your Pocket guide series describes it as having been “…the chosen venue for the beautiful people at the turn of the [19th] century…”  and sitting here listening to a Romanian-sounding Tom Jones-ish singer filling the air, I can certainly relate…  I felt ever so elegant and lovely…

My choice this evening – Moldavian Stew with Polenta and Poached Egg…  Delicious!  (it was more delicious than it looks in this photo!)

…and I rarely do dessert, but I told the waiter I felt like chocolate, and nuts, and berries, and vanilla ice-cream…  so they created this especially for me!

Oh, and while this may seem to be a photo of something old and tattered – it is just the opposite…  This photo shows that the marble columns are real and not some mere painted fake…

I LOVED my evening here sooooo much, (and one cannot beat the price!), that I think I will be back most nights for dinner until I leave…

There is something ever so lovely about dressing for dinner and going to somewhere elegant – especially when it is LITERALLY across the road!

~ Bella

Farewell Italy, Hello Romania!

Yesterday I left Italy and headed to Romania for the next stop on my “Freedom Life” tour…

(oh, and it was a good thing I flew yesterday as today, Romanian air traffic controllers decided to go on strike to demand better working conditions).

Sitting at Ciampino Airport, it was interesting to see the armed guards patrolling the grounds…  Interesting, also, that there were not as many guards here as there were at Roma Termini each time I was there…

…and this may look like people relaxing in a park somewhere in the city – no, it’s just people waiting to check-in…

I flew with RyanAir and they were lovely – the entire process from check-in to arrival was wonderful.

Arrival at Bucharest…

I saw soooo many wonderful sights in the limo on the way from the airport – will peruse many of them again in the daylight, but this one was worth snapping on my phone as we passed…

…and as I settled in and checked my phone…  Bewitching hour!  🙂

View from my bedroom window…

View from my balcony…

…and funnily enough, I check my phone and it’s the daytime bewitching hour!  LOL!

It’s funny – the apartment itself is lovely – and the outside of the building is lovely – however getting from one to the other, is… well……….

…and I step through those rather ghastly looking doors to this……!

I guess they don’t like frizzy hair in Romania?

All these people (apart from the woman in the white jacket) was standing in line at the patisserie…

I have found my new writing pub while I am here…

…and a bookstore full of Isaac Asimov…  Love it!

Sooooo…….  So far so good!

~ Bella