The Romanian landscape is approximately one-third mountainous and one-third forested, with the remainder made up of hills and plains. The climate is temperate and marked by four distinct seasons. Romania enjoys a considerable wealth of natural resources: fertile land for agriculture; pastures for livestock; forests that provide hard and soft woods; petroleum reserves; metals, including gold and silver in the Apuseni Mountains; numerous rivers that supply hydroelectricity; and a Black Sea coastline that is the site of both ports and resorts.
The Romanian people derive much of their ethnic and cultural character from Roman influence, but this ancient identity has been reshaped continuously by Romania’s position astride major continental migration routes. Romanians regard themselves as the descendants of the ancient Romans who conquered southern Transylvania under the emperor Trajan in 105 CE and of the Dacians who lived in the mountains north of the Danubian Plain and in the Transylvanian Basin. By the time of the Roman withdrawal under the emperor Aurelian in 271, the Roman settlers and the Dacians had intermarried, resulting in a new nation. Both the Latin roots of the Romanian language and the Eastern Orthodox faith to which most Romanians adhere emerged from the mixture of these two cultures.
Well, it’s been a punch in the balls waking up in the morning yesterday and seeing the #Brexit poll results. 17 million people want out of the EU, 16 millions want to stay in the EU. Brits wanna leave, they voted to leave, they never thought it was going to happen, but it did.
Well, now they are going to live with the consequences. Even though theoretically a poll like this is not legally binding, turning around and saying that it don’t count would make Scotland vote again (even if they are definitely going to vote again next year to Stay in the EU despite Britain).
UK will become a small and negligeable country, surrounded by other countries they cannot trade with, needing passports and visas to travel again abroad and having the pound sterling value less than before. I even saw it on the Romanian markets – a sting drop from 5.9 lei to 5.6 lei and going down by the hour. Continue reading “We “decided” to leave the EU – what does it mean for non-Brits?”
Decided to do a city break in Bucharest this weekend and had a few surprises along the way. I’ll go in order so you feel what I’m saying!
The maps are odd (old)
Downloaded a few places I could go and visit on my trip and from Google Maps, everything seemed really far away from where I was. When I started walking, I found myself there in a minute or two. There is no in-city navigation that is easily accessible if you are lost. Found two spots that were supposed to be e-info centers but the screens were dead. Found a few maps in the old city, but it looked like it was set on an electricity box.
If you are paying attention, you can see markings like the one on the left on specific building showing you in three languages what it was used for. But you need to KNOW to look for it. I got smart only half way through the day.
Arrows for major attractions are few and far between. I had to navigate with “here maps” most of the time but that doesn’t show you city hotspots unless you are near them.
Cluj has all the landmarks clearly shown through the city and the parks and attractions are also marked. True, the city is smaller than Bucharest so you don’t have to travel a lot to see the Botanical gardens and all of the museums.
Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0
The city guide is very old
So, before I went, I got a guide from a government website. A very old and not-up-to-date guide. Bucharest Guide
Besides telling me loads about events that I do not care about, a blunt advertising of a few hotels, all the museum information is plain wrong. The entry fees were almost ten times here.
If you want to know how much I paid to get in the main museums? (btw, keep in mind that the National Gallery in London has free entry)
The National History Museum: 25 lei (about £5). 90% closed. Only exhibits running were one with WW2 made up of pictures printed on cards, one with chests from the center of the country used for dowry (loved the old pics tho)
one with evolution of fashion in the French nation from Roman times to today (exemplified with dolls) (Kinda creepy if you ask me)
and the last one was with an archaeological excavation of a settlement from 4800BC. This one was kinda interesting as they spent time and money to make it attractive.
The permanent exposition featured Roman columns and the National Treasure (guarded by some really bored women). I must admit, some jewlery looked really good and I would not mind wearing it on a night out.
In Cluj – the History Museum is so much more! It has mummies, it has the Roman wars, it has much more bones and bodies excavated!
Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0
Second museum: Casa Poporului (People’s Palace). Advertised in the guide as a 5 lei (£1) entry, went there to find out it was 45! (£9). Paying extra if you wanted to go to the top to see the city panorama. Didn’t pay 🙂
Third museum: The National Art museum. Both foreign and local exhibit cost £15 lei (£3). Not a lot, but it’s not free either. Found out that the price is that low because you can’t take any pictures. If you want to take a photo, be prepared to dish out 100 lei (£20) for a photo fee.
By the way, I was surprised that the people in each room were only there to guard the paintings. When I asked one of them about the medium of a painting – ie: wood, canvas, etc, she confessed that they have no training in art, they’re just there to make sure people don’t touch the paintings and to warn them against taking pictures.
The Art museum in Cluj is smaller in size but the works of art are higher quality. And you can take pictures. And the entry is 8 lei.
Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0
Fourth museum: The museum of the Romanian Peasant. The entry fee was 8 lei here (£1.37) and I can see why. Most of the building had been closed off as well and the remaining exhibits, while heart warming (at least for me who has grandparents in the countryside) had nothing to showcase to a foreigner seeing the country for the first time.
The Cluj Peasant Museum goes over 2 ha of land and has real-life churches and houses you can go into.
Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0
By this time, I was getting really tired and I skipped the geology museum from acrossed the street and also the Antipa museum with the animals.
People are weird
OK, let me explain by what I mean with Weird. It struck me odd to see people in the great capital walking about in clothes my grandma wore in her country-side days. Yes, you do have very modern looking 20-year old, but people over 50 dress like in the middle ages.
And not once, but twice, people mistook me for a foreigner and in a broken English tried to ask me for stuff. Ummm…. NO.
And I got honked at while waiting at the crossing. Apparently knee -length skirt and boots is sexy there.
And I got leered at by a guy who was openly staring at me… and when he invitingly smiled at me showing off his two teeth … I quickly crossed the road. OK, OK, maybe I’m freaking out a little. I travelled by myself, as always, and found that I attracted attention. I can usually blend in quite well and pass for a local (until I open my mouth and my American accent shines through).
Oh, did I tell you I got hit on by one of the museum watchmen? He was saying if I’m not in a hurry, I can do another walk around the room so we can chat some more. Or maybe come again next Monday, or the one after, or the one after?
The weirdest thing for me was the accent. I must sound like a country hick by saying this but us people in the North, when we speak it feels like mountains are trembling with each word, it feels like the waves are crashing slowly on a beach. We talk slow and we savour the words.
In Bucharest, when anyone opened their mouth to talk (not to me, to each other or on the phone), it jarred me. It annoyed me. I was cross with them without knowing them, for talking. And then it hit me.
Their way of talking is squeaky and like rapid fire. It’s the sound a mouse makes when trapped. It’s how you talk if your underwear is squeezing you too tight.
Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0
Concrete, concrete and more concrete. Did I mention concrete?
Everything in Bucharest suffers from a lack of green spaces. There are a few parks (Cismigiu, Herastrau, Izvorului, Ateneului, Gara de Nord) and I have been happy whenever my map was taking me next to a green space. Until I saw the desolation and the cramped space. The buildings are massive by comparison. They eat up from the sky and spit out dark grey colours and a depressive mindstate. Let me exemplify:
After you’ve seen a building, you’ve seen them all
They all look the same to me. A few columns in the middle, concrete all around. I was hunting for buildings that looked different. There seems to be a theme for all of them and it’s a little balcony, concrete. A tower, concrete. A gold leaf, concrete. I was sick of it after 3h.
Here’s a prime example. Gorgeous architecture, riddled with graffiti at the bottom. Grey. Possible flower van on the right. Or surveillence van (this was taken next to the DICOT building which deals with terrorism and corruption)
Talking about Grafitti. You can’t see any piece of Bucharest without Grafitti. It’s everywhere. Stenciled, drawn, on the top of city buildings, on the front of them. I started orienting myself based on where the pictures were.
There is some Grafitti in Cluj but not so bad. I assume with the increase in population, you also have more idiots per square meters that like to point out the obvious like “priveste in sus” – look up
Cluj 1 – Bucharest 0
Earlier today I was wasting some time on 9Gag and I came across some really nifty Japanese horror tales. As I was scrolling through them enjoying some ice-cream, I came across the story of Hitobashira:
Tales of “human pillars” (hitobashira) — people who were deliberately buried alive inside large-scale construction projects — have circulated in Japan since ancient times. Most often associated with castles, levees and bridges, these old legends are based on ancient beliefs that a more stable and durable structure could be achieved by sealing people inside the walls or foundation as an offering to the gods.
The sweet and caring people at Channel4 have recently aired (and keep on airing to their shame) a show that not only shows a few stereotypes as the general outlook of an entire nation, but are also encouraging dissensions among legal immigrants in the United Kingdom and Brits. I’m a Romanian, I am working in Northampton as a specialist (Software System Development), I have a phD in Computer Science and I have been feeling personally insulted by the show.
Why? Why take it on a personal level? Because the second day after the show aired I was welcomed at work with funny stares and questions about the country where I come from… As the saying goes, if it is in the newspaper or it’s on the telly, it must be true: That Romanians are thieves and rapists and tax “vacationists”.
I was short of losing my temper – we are nothing like the show depicted us. While they promised to look at Romanians from all levels and I was expecting a bit of “scum” to pass through the show’s documentary approach, I was appaled by the low quality of the script, the unflattering characters found to play and I can’t help but think that their add to star on the show was:
“We are looking for Romanian Thieves. We will pay you to appear on the show and tell us how bad you are. We will also make you tell us about every scam you made so you can be proud of yourself on national tv. No higher education necessary.”
Well – 2.5% of a population of Romanians that have their own ethnicity & customs and are refusing to integrate in the home country do not make 100% of the Romanian population who are (mostly) well adjusted adults, striving for higher education, working in high-skilled professions who love their children and respect their elders. We have Silicon Valley Transylvania – a group of Microsoft (and not only) specialized software developers, we outsource some of the greatest engineering brains Europe has to offer, we have great cities with massive universities. And we have access to free education and free healthcare. We know an average of 2.5 languages per person. We learn English as a second language since primary school and we also love French and German. My cousins both speak English, German, Greek and can read Latin. I can easily hold a conversation in French, German and a bit of Hungarian.
@Channel4 might try to spray our reputation with a pallet of shit, but there is nothing you can say to an individual who shows up to work every day of the year, regardless of colds and other illnesses, who is reliable, efficient and does not shy away from work.
You can’t put an honest man down. You can’t say a chemist, a bank manager or a doctor are less qualified because they come from a different background.
I’m not saying we are perfect. We, as any orchard, have our share of bad apples. But we are not the nation pointing the finger nor did we try to blow up the Channel4 building like some extremists might have done. (Remember #JeSuisCharlie?)
Thank you again @Channel4 for making me raise my voice. And believe me, my outrage is not singular.
Pe la cuiburi se adună,
Se ascund în rămurele –
Noapte bună!Doar izvoarele suspină,
Pe când codrul negru tace;
Dorm şi florile-n grădină –
Dormi în pace!
Trece lebăda pe ape
Între trestii să se culce –
Fie-ţi îngerii aproape,
Peste-a nopţii feerie
Se ridică mândra lună,
Totu-i vis şi armonie –
All those sleepy birds
Now tired from flight
Hide among the leaves
Good-night!Only the spring whispers
When the wood sleeps silently;
Even flowers in the gardens
Sleep peacefully!Swans glide to their nest
Sheltering among the reeds
May angels guard your rest,
Above a night of sorcery
Comes the moon’s graceful light,
All is peace and harmony
Every year, on Mihai Eminescu’s birthday, we love to pick a few of his most famous poems and share them with the world.
This one is a favorite of mine – it talks about the peace in the world when night time comes. It’s a nature poem, with no hint of mankind, frozen in time – as accurate today as it was a hundred years ago and a thousand years ago. The forest is dark and silent, the only noises that can be heard are made by a spring stream cursing through the woods. Even the flowers sleep.
Have you ever seen a sleeping flower? I have. They close up their petals for the night, just to open them up again in the morning. Delicate and feminine, they open as the first rays of the sun fall on them, the dew dripping from their small leaves.The swan going to bed is (like the flowers) a symbol of purity. A speck of white in a dark world. An angel in the dark. A whisper “Dormi in pace!” (“Sleep in peace!”) has both the meaning of love and understanding, the words you would say to a sleeping child and he will smile in his sleep knowing that he is protected. These are also the words you would say to a dead person – wishing that their eternal rest is peaceful and their sleep untroubled.
This is how death is hinted to in this poem – the sleep, the dreams, the darkness, the angels. But death is not such a bad thing. It brings you closer to your loved ones, it gives you rest and surrounds you with harmony. And every night – the sky dies as the sun goes away. The world is silent and un-moving, dead until morning.
And above all, the one ruler, silent and silver – the Moon goddess watches all.
The painting is complete. The silvery light, the peaceful sighs of animals and plants as they prepare for darkness The sounds are just the crickets and even they will soon be silent. A “Woosh” in the water as the majestic swan makes its way to the nest. And the happiness that comes with the peace.