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Romanian Salt Mines, Wineries, Mud Volcanoes and the Statue of Liberty!

…and the Statue of Liberty?  Yes!  Probably one of the last things I would have expected to see in Romania – but more about that in a moment…

I booked a private tour guide to take me exploring through some of Romania’s interesting sights and places and he was FABULOUS!  I will write a separate post about Adrian and his services before I leave Romania…

Anyway, we left Bucharest reasonably early in the morning and I love seeing the fields of poppies that just spring up all over the place…

This pair look soooooo cute!

While this below may look something akin to the Addams Family Mansion, it is actually a Gypsy mansion – and the names at the top are the people who live there…

The more I learn about the Romani people (gypsies), the more fascinating the subject becomes!

For instance, I didn’t realise that while most are Christian, they follow strict Hindi purity laws…  Here is some info on that from Wikipedia:  ”

This regulation affects many aspects of life, and is applied to actions, people and things: parts of the human body are considered impure: the genital organs (because they produce emissions), as well as the rest of the lower body. Clothes for the lower body, as well as the clothes of menstruating women, are washed separately. Items used for eating are also washed in a different place. Childbirth is considered impure, and must occur outside the dwelling place. The mother is considered impure for forty days after giving birth.

Death is considered impure, and affects the whole family of the dead, who remain impure for a period of time. In contrast to the practice of cremating the dead, Romani dead must be buried. Cremation and burial are both known from the time of the Rigveda, and both are widely practiced in Hinduism today (although the tendency is for Hindus to practice cremation, while some communities in South India tend to bury their dead). Some animals are also considered impure, for instance cats because they lick their hindquarters. Horses, in contrast, are not considered impure because they cannot do so.”

…and now we arrive at the Slanic Prahova Salt Mines…

…this little girl was so cute – she has obviously just learned to tie a knot and kept tying and untying her jacket – being very pleased with herself for each successful tie!  🙂

We board a…. errr…. ummm…..  kinda mini-bus of sorts…….

…and head off………..

…arriving at what looks like a disused nuclear waste facility………..

…and no, “inchideti usa” doesn’t mean American’s cannot enter – it means ‘close the door’…

…and then the ride began………..  going down and down and down at a ridiculous speed……….

…until we arrive at the caverns…….

…walk through the tunnel of doooooommmm…… not really, but it seemed to fit! 🙂

……through the door to who knows where……..

…and then……… oh, my goodness!

The galleries are over 180 feet high, we are 712 feet deep, and the temperature is a constant 12oC…….

Because of the purity and the composition of the sodium ion rich air, combined with the atmospheric pressure that is 18-20 mm Hg greater than that of the ground surface, the galleries have been used extremely successfully for more than 100 years in the healing of a range of respiratory challenges.

Also, due to the purity and stability of the micro-climate, many scientific experimental stations are set up within the galleries…

…this is actually a reflection…

Not just a place to explore, different galleries have been turned into football fields, basketball courts, and more…

…sculptures made from salt…

…and now we take the ‘interesting’ ride back to the surface…

This policeman had just finished taking a photo of this man posing in front of billboard for assault rifles…  but please do not get the impression that Romania is dangerous – it is one of the safest places I have ever been…  Will write another separate post on my thoughts about Romania – and how ‘free’ it is!  Seriously!  They have freedoms here that haven’t existed in most Western countries for generations…

…and now off to wine country…

…and along the way…  The Statue of Liberty!!!???

…and here, no signs of deer prancing across the road… here it is a prancing goat…

Welcome to LacertA Winery (pronounced la-cherta)…

The chief winemaker is pointing up to the ceiling…  Here, rather than pumping the liquid from one place to another, they use the force of gravity and simply have one level below the next…

…not such a bad way to while away a couple of hours……..

…and on our way again, we encounter a traffic jam…

These below are bee hives… and I have something fabulous to tell you about bees, honey and pollen when you get to my post on the Transfăgărășan Road!

 

 

…and so we arrive at the mud volcanoes…

…and don’t worry – the mud is cold…

From Wikipedia:  “As the gases erupt from 3000 metres deep towards the surface, through the underground layers of clay and water, they push up underground salty water and mud, so that they overflow through the mouths of the volcanoes, while the gas emerges as bubbles.”

 

 

…and so we leave the Berca Mud Volcanoes and head back to Bucharest…

…oh, and this is interesting…  These were built during the communist era, but rather than pull them down, the yellow you see is actually a high-tech coating that preserves the exterior and produces up to 50% reduction in energy loss!

…and back to what is now my favourite restaurant in the whole entire world… and it happens to be literally across the road!  …and for this incredible meal in a five-star, fine-dining restaurant, two large glasses of wine, one large bottle of sparkling mineral water – approximately thirty-five US dollars……!!!

~ 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 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

I Lost Blood Wine Playing Italian Frogger

…and no, there are no typos in the heading…  LOL!

Back in the 1980s, did you ever play the arcade game, Frogger?

You know, the one where you had to get a frog to successfully cross a highway without being squished by the traffic zooming along…

Well, here in Italy, Frogger is a daily way of life – by that, I mean crossing a road – any road – whether at a pedestrian crossing or not – is like getting the frog safely (or not) to the other side.  It really is a free-for-all for both drivers and pedestrians.

Anyway, while I was on my way home from the market today, my frog was slightly squashed…

wine frogger

As I was crossing the road – on a pedestrian crossing – a car came along and struck the wheeled bag I was pulling behind me in which I had my groceries, including a couple of bottles of wine.

The resulting impact (btw, both bag and I survived) broke one of the bottles but what was very funny, was that the pool of red liquid that then seeped onto the ground looked for all the world like blood!  LOL!

It caused quite a commotion – although not for the frog-wine-killing driver who continued on his oblivious way…

Welcome to life in Italy!

~ Bella

PS the following day:  

It’s funny how different situations can affect you…

When I went down to collect my mail today, I was confronted very abruptly by a woman who lives here asking me which apartment I live in – and I told her – and whether I was responsible for the dreadful state of the floor in the foyer and in the elevator.

I said no – she continued to angrily challenge me, again double-checking which apartment I am in and telling me (I think – she doesn’t have much English and I don’t have much Italian) that she had cleaned the floor in the elevator – and again, she checked which apartment I am in.

We went back up in the elevator together – and when I walked in the door I had the most interesting reaction – I was shaking and felt ‘hunted’ – a feeling I had not experienced since I was a child growing up in a not-so-fabulous situation.

…but then also having the realization that it probably was my fault – the wine!

So, I went down and cleaned the floor in the foyer – sent the person who owns the apartment an email telling him what had happened and apologizing for any inconvenience I had caused anyone (and he sent me a lovely, reassuring email back again) – and I sat down to get back to work…

…but this feeling of being trapped, unsafe, vulnerable and wanting to be anywhere else but here is still with me as I write this…  It’s funny how different situations can bring up emotions you didn’t even know you still had…

…but you know me, I am Pollyanna so will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again in no time…  🙂