As May 1st is a day after the International jazz day I explore organizes a Musical May 1st . We invite you to the concert in Pestera Valea Cetatii (cave)fire camp and mulled wine, and whoever wishes may attend a photography workshop. The concert is performed by Academic Clarinet Quartet and organized by I explore.
Rasnov Rasnov is a town in Brasov county, 20 km away form Brasov city and 6 km away from the famous Bran castle, the one people associates with Dracula. Rasnov Citadel is a peasant citadel, a proof of former local organization of villages in Transylvania.
The Valea Cetatii cave is very well organized and besides, this is a “cultural cave”.
Attractions in and around Rasnov area:
• Rasnov Citadel
• Bran Castle
• Zip-line at Pestera Valea Cetatii
• Hiking or cycling in the mountains
• Brasov city Music: Jazz concert performed by Academic Clarinet Quartet Photography workshop (optional): event photography
Martisor celebration is symbol of spring time and fertility in Romania and Bulgarian tradition. Martisor is a small jewel or decoration attached to a red and white string and it is offered during March ( “Martie” in Romanian).
Today the custom is more commercial, men offering as “martisor”s to women al sort of broche or gifts with the white and red string. In fact the story of Martisor is more connected with the string itself.
The myth says that Sun came down on Earth transformed into a beautiful young girl. A bad dragon found out that beyond that beautiful woman was the sun and imprisoned her into his dark castle. After Sun disappeared everything went sad, from animal and flowers in wilderness to the playing children. .
One brave lad, seeing all the unhappiness around him decided to confront the bad dragon. He looked for the castle an entire year, summer, autumn, through the winter. When he finally found the Dragon, the spring time was approaching. There was an incredible fight between the young man and, finally, the young man killed the dragon and released the you girl. She transformed into Sun again, started shining and everybody regain happiness.
The young man was so bad wounded that the his blood poured into the white snow . The snow , under the heat of the sun melt and snowdrops started growing. It is said that people wear with and red string to remember the brave man.
I do not know if many remember this, but Martisor in Romanian tradition it is an optimist day, happening on 1st March. Men offers sometime snowdrops and the feeling that freezing season is left behind incite to happiness.
Also, the traditions says that the Martisor is worn the entire March and at the end of the month the string should be placed in a fruit tree. To be honest, I haven’t seen too many fruit trees with red and white strings, this is a reason to remind you. To be completely honest, my friend Annie remind me that Martisor ( 1 of March) is pretty close and I have to take attitude.
Placed in the center of Bucharest- from Victoriei Palace, meeting Dambovita river on the other end- it is and it has been the greatest attraction of Bucharest. It was named the Large Street and it had that muddy Balkan look, so there was a layer of wood in order to prevent this. Thus, in late 17 century the road was named Mogosoaia Wood-Paved Road. Only in 1842, wood was replaced with asphalt. In 1878, after the Independence War (1877-1878) the road was name Victoriei ( Victory’s road).
Calea Victoriei was the street lighten road in Bucharest, sheltered the many important buildings and still does. Calea Victoriei remains the “high end” road. Besides all the Historical buildings along the road, many boutiques or luxury shops can be found on Calea Victoriei.
Important Buildings on Calea Victoriei
– Romanian Athenaeum- designed by the French architect Albert Galleron, it was built by public donation. It was a saying “donate a leu (Romanian currency) for the Athenaeum”. It was finished in 1888. Inside the Athenaeum ceiling, in the grand hall, it is painted the entire history of Romania starting with Roman times.
– National Museum of Art of Romania- former Royal Palace. It was built at the beginning of 19th century, but it becomes Princedom residence in 18376 with Alexandru Ghica Voda. It was also the residence of Carol Ist Hohenzollern.At the end of 19th century, It was the first building on Calea Victoriei with electrical lightening. Following to a great fire, the entire building is rebuilt in 1937. After communism coming to lead, it became National Museum of Art.
– Kretzulescu Church- It was built in 1722 by local boyar Iordache Cretulescu.
– Piata Revoluţiei (Revolution Square). It is situated in from of former Communist party headquarter and it is the place where Romanian Revolution started in Bucharest in December 1989.
– Palatul Telefoanelor ( Telephony Palace)- Built in 1933. It was the most modern building on those times.
– National Museum of History of Romania-It was built at the end of 19th century as Post Palace. Since 1970s it shelters the National Museum of History of Romania.
– Casa de Economii si Consemnaţiuni ( CEC- Economy house)- it was finished in 1900 as Economy house. The plans were made by French Architect Paul Gottereau.
Soseaua Kiseleff ( Kiselef Road)
Road name after the Russian count Paul Kiseleff (Kiseliov) who lead the Russian Military administration in Romania between 1829 to 1834.
Buildings on Kiseleff:
National Museum of Geology- Built at the beginning of 20th Century for Institute of Geology
Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History- the present building of Museum was built between 1893 – 1944. The National Museum of Natural History was established and developed by Grigore Antipa. It has a great collection of natural science exhibitons.
The Romanian Peasant Museum –The actual building was finished in 1941. The collections exhibited within the museum are samples of folklore, customs and living of Romanians in rural side of Romania.
Elisabeta Palace- Built in 1936 for Elisabeta of Greece ( born princess of Romania) as combination of Romanian Brancovenesc and Mauro style , King Michael ask permission for residing there. It is the place where he abdicated and also still have his residence.
Village Museum- It is an outdoor museum offering a significant representation houses and villages all over Romania. I recommend visiting while in Bucharest. Opened since 1936.
It is the district where former communist leaders had their residence houses. It was initially build for the Union in Gas field. Gheorghe Gheorghiu Dej used the houses as conspiratorial houses, then little by little it became a communist leaders cluster. Under pretext of offering the inhabitants a priviledge of leaving there, Nicolae Ceausescu rather took measures to supervise lower rank communist party leaders.
Old Center of Bucharest
Situated close to km 0 of Bucharest, the historical center is the place where you can find anything: from fun to culture or religion. This area is mainly pedestrian and all over, in old historical buildings, you can find pubs, coffee –shops, clubs, restaurants , pub-theatres… In this area, where once used to be the area of small traders or artisans, but also the Old court of Vlad the Impaler residence, now is the nucleus of fun and joy of Bucharest. During summer, Old Center is a delight: restaurant with cuisines all around the world, pubs and cafes of all sorts, terraces all around, clubs, pub concerts …anyone can find something on its own taste.
A realist description of changes around the Old Center can be found also here: Read also
Palace of Parliament
The Palace of Parliament is the biggest building in Bucharest and not only. People House, how it was named during its construction period – in Communism- it is the largest civilian administrative building in the world. The enormous building shows the show off attitude of former Communist leader, Nicolae Ceausescu.
The story behind this megalomaniac building started after the earthquake in March 1977. Nicolae Ceausescu considered to redesign Bucharest entirely and to include in this plan a building for Communist party leaders.
In order to chose the best project to suite “the new face of Bucharest” there was a contest, taking around one year for nominating the winning project. The architect winning the project was Anca Petrescu, very young at that time. Even if the Palace of Parliament concept was initiated by Nicolae Ceausescu, he did not reach to see it finalize as in 1898 the Revolution took place, culminating with Ceausescu’s death sentence. The Palace was inaugurate in 1997 and now it is MP’s house.
As I previously said, the legend behind Bucharest is a shepherd, named Bucur, here comes the name Bucharest (Bucuresti, locally) . Actually, shepherds are legendary figures in Romanian folklore and local legends. Romanian most representative folkloric poem is “Little sheep” (“Miorita ” in Romanian), the story of three shepherds and the attitude of Romanian shepherd in front of death.
The date of establishment is uncertain. Certain it is that in 1474 there was already built a Princedom curt as secondary residence of Prince of Wallachia. I am mentioning 1474 as that was the last year of Vlad the Impaler, the one people know as Dracula, leadership, his third lordship.
Context: During medieval times, once with the development of Ottoman Empire, Romanian states, as well as neighboring country, Bulgaria, were under constant attacks of Ottoman ( Turks) army. This countries were a defending gate for Christianity and, considering around 75% of Romanian Christian population in Romania and that the rest of Europe Christianity still exists, they did a good job! Bucharest was in army’s way to Occident at that time. Bucharest it is said to have been surrounded by forest (Vlasia Forest) and mashes, a type of natural protection. Most favorite way of Romanian defense was to poison fountains and to attract enemies into the marshes or unfriendly terrain or weather.
Besides outside enemies, constant fights between boyar “houses” was a reason for short leadership for Princes/ leaders of Romanian Princedoms. Vlad the Impaler himself, the most known Romanian leader worldwide, was involved in such a local fight. The battle between Draculesti and Danesti(adverse house) crashed Wallachia within during those times. It is much to be said here, even the story behind the name Dracula, but it will come into another post.
Considering all these battles, within and, mostly, outside, Wallachia did not have the environment to be on the same line as western countries. As they used to pay tribute to Ottoman Empire and they were repeatedly under suzerainty of Ottoman Empire for a long time, the influences during that period were obviously coming from Orient.
Starting with Phanariote rulers in first two decades of 1700s, Bucharest became capital of Wallachia, many boyars moved to Bucharest, building their residence in the city. In 1862, once with the small union ( Moldavia+ Wallachia) under Alexandru Ioan Cuza leader, Bucharest to become the capital of Romania. This is the time of major changes in Bucharest look.
In 1866, Romania became reign and this was the period of major changing. The German thinking of Romanian kings descendants of Hohenzollern family with the help of many French architects involved in creation of numerous now historical buildings in Bucharest, changed Bucharest into little Paris of East.
In December 1947 King Michael of Hohenzollern abdicated and Romania, Bucharest inclusively, was highly influenced by communist rulers and their way of thinking. Industrialization was the main word. After the earthquake in 1976, Nicolae Ceausescu planned a new global look for Bucharest. Most of the district or suburbs houses were demolished and replaced with tall blocks of flats in order to gather in the same city a larger population. During this period was also the time when it was taken the decision to build House of Parliament ( or the People House as it was named during communism), a building meant to impress Phenian.
After the Revolution of December 1989, modern, glass buildings showed into Bucharest landscape, sometimes in an uncontrolled way.
Bucharest, the little Paris of the East. Why a city-break?
Legend and general stuff
First I will explain the sub-title” yes, between the Two World Wars, Bucharest was considered the little Bucharest of the east. If you ever have the privilege to up on the Arch of the Triumph in Bucharest, the landscape convinces you that Bucharest is little Paris, established on the gates to the Balkan world.
The legend says that the shepherd Bucur during his yearly transhumance from Charpatians to south, down to Danube river, he got tired and decided to find a place in the field to rest with his sheep. In Vlasia Forest he found this river, Dambovita river. He settled there with his daughter and some shepherds that were helping him with the herd. His descendants and her daughter descendants were the settlers of Bucharest. On a small hill in center of Bucharest, next to Dambovita river, there a church named Bucur. It is said that the church was established by Bucur and his family.
As this is a legend, it is difficult to date back in time. It is certain thought that during Vlad the Impaler, so wrongly imagined as Dacula, has his second residence in Bucharest. Considering that the latest of three princedoms and year of his death was 1474, the tow must have existed there long before that date. The ruins of Old Court can be still seen in the Old city, during night the lighted statue of Vlad the Impaler is dominating the place.
As a fact, in Romanian “(ma) bucur” mean “I feel joy”. In a sense you can interpret Bucharest (Bucuresti in Romanian) as city of joy or just simply enjoy it.
I am not going to say the entire Romanian history, but I will name key periods that influenced Bucharest as a town/ city and its inhabitants.
In the early medieval time, from 11 to 14th century, after the Roman pullback, on the Romanian territory there were formed 3 states: Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia.
Situated in southern side of actual Romania, Bucharest is present capital of Romania and part of former Wallachia. There were several capitals/residences of Wallachia. The main capital of Wallachia were Curtea de Arges, followed Campulung for a short while, Targoviste was for a longer period of time capital of Wallachia (1396-1714), Bucharest became the capital of Wallachia, once the phanariotes rulers came to lead Romanian Princedom.
Back to Bucharest now: it is inhabited by almost 2 million citizens, it is the most populated city in Romania and it is the city with the biggest contributor to Romanian GDP. It has a surface of 228 sqkm and it has colorful architecture: mall, communist buildings and historical once, all in the same city.
Recently I wrote about Brasov, one of the seven inhabited citadels in Romania. Today I am going to write about another one, Sibiu, also one of the most beautiful cities in Romania. Considered by Forbs in top eight as one of the most idyllic cities to live in, Sibiu is a beautiful cities in Transylvania, but also Sibiu can be also an important cultural experience while you are visiting Romania. Just to confirm the authentic lovely and romantic air of the city, during last November, the Bollywood Salamn Khan shot part of a video for his coming up movie in Sibiu and Sighisoara.
Sibiu, also known as Hermannstadt in German was built around 12th century by Transylvanian Saxons. Sibiu was also known as the richest and flourishing citadels built by German dwellers. The wealth of the inhabitants of Sibiu was reflected in majestic buildings and strong fortification built for defense. The two main squares are still bringing the air of authenticity of Medieval times, imbued with Saxon architecture, in a Romanian setting. Narrow little streets contract with sumptuous buildings around the Old town.
The grandeur of Sibiu was enhanced by the influenced by the erudite Samuel von Brunkethal, governor of Transylvania, but also an art lover and virtuoso. He also was the founder of Museum in Sibiu, the oldest museum in Romania. Another Samuel, Samuel von Hahnemann was to write history in Sibiu as was the first to open homeopathic laboratory at the beginning of 18th century.
It is something more about Sibiu. It has that “visit me!” magnet and from cobbled streets to imposing constructions, all are inviting the tourist to go ahead and enjoy the city. The division Upper and Lower town does not draw a line between Old and new how it happens in other cities. Upper town involves a promenade on the alleys with sumptuous and historical buildings, while Lower town makes you feel like a handicraftsman or merchant in the Medieval town. The Big, the Small and Huet Square are the main places where one should start wandering around. Pass through Stairs Passage, cross the Bridge of Lies, visit Brukenthal Museum and you will fall in love with Sibiu forever.
What to visit: Great Square, Huet Square, the beautiful Stairs Passage connection between upper town and lower town, the Bridge of Lies, Goldsmiths’ Square and the Small Square. And do not miss Brukenthal National Museum and Astra Open Air Museum!
When it comes to Romania, most of the tourists associate Romania to Transylvania.
Brasov is the closest Transylvanian city, situated at around 200 km away from the Romanian capital- Bucharest. The city has always been flourishing, along centuries being a referral of trade and crafts, mainly due to its position, on the border of Wallachia and close to Moldavia as well as an important trade gate in Transylvania. Corona, Kronstadt, Brasso or Brasov, as the city was named along centuries, has always been an important strategic point as the residence of Barsa County. Besides, being placed at the base of Tampa Mountains, in the Carpathians, Brasov it is charming regardless the season or even the centuries.
The city seems to date back to Dacian times, some archeological indices being found at Solomon stones and close to Mayor Hall Square.
Founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211 on previously Dacian location, as previously mentioned, and settled by the Saxons as one of the seven walled citadels, along with Sibiu, Cluj, Sighisoara, Medias and Bistrita.
More proofs about the existence of the city at Tampa are found around 14th century when the town of those days had nucleus around St Mary Church ( presently Black Church).
Attractions in Brasov:
The Council Square: Placed in the heart of old medieval Brasov among red-roofed merchant houses, the Council Square is a lovely rest place for the tourist.
Old Town Hall (1420 – now it shelters Brasov’s History Museum), it is situated close to another famous attraction of the city: Black Church.Merchant’s House (Cerbul Carpatin restaurant) built in the Renaissance style is placed close to it.
Black Church: Impressive by its size ( known as the biggest church between Vienna and Istanbul), the building got its name as a consequence of the big fire in 1689, when most of the town burnt. During this fire, the wall of the edifice blacken and the damages were repaired in 100 years of restoration. During restorations, the gothic aspect of the interior tended to the baroque style mostly seen today. The church also shelters 119 Anatolian Carpets( being the biggest collection of this type in Europe) and also a big attraction is the sound 4,000-pipe organ.
Defensive Fortifications: The fortification was built by Saxons as a consequence to the repeated attacks of Mongols and Turks starting since 12th century.
They were originally built between 1440 and 1650 and a small part of the historical fortification can be seen today. From the 7 initially bastions today can still be seen : Graft Bastion, White tower, Black Tower, Blacksmiths’ Bastion, Weavers’ Bastion, Brasov fortress, Catherine’s Gate, Schei Gate.
Facts: the 3rd narrowest street in Europe is Rope Street ( strada Sforii) and it measures from 111 to 135 cm and it is 80 m long.
Surdesti wooden church in 1721 one of the eight churches included in UNESCO World Heritage Circuit and highest wooden church in the world 72m
Wooden church Budeşti – there is a collection of icons painted on glass. There is the armor of Pintea the Brave, a Robin Hood of Maramures
continue along the valley Cosau the holidays, the next village, where you can admire some hand carved wooden gates Maramures style and extraordinary old local crafts: whirlpool, Horinca mill and grain mill, all functional
Barsana Monastery – dating from the seventeenth century but demolished by the communist regime and rebuilt on the old settlement residents of old monastery
The Memorial of Communism at the Sighet Memorial – former communist prison where they were incarcerated and have found the end most of the interwar Romanian intellectuals;
Meal at one of the many restaurants with traditional food from Sighet (recommended Marmatia)
Merry Cemetery in Sapinta – these unique wooden works and poems engraved on the tombs in the village cemetery crosses made by a folk artist named Stan Ioan Patrascu since 1935
return to Sighet 18 km and Berbesti can admire a beautiful wooden cross built by unknown local village dating centuries back
Wooden church from Desesti – UNESCO circuit paintings with biblical images interior well preserved throughout the walls and even on the ceiling of the church
back in Baia Mare along the Mara Valley, crossing Gutii mountains the most important access road to Historical Maramures
Includes: itinerary as described, car, driver/ guide.
This tour can be made entirely during summer, when day is longer.
There is a local airport in Baia Mare with flights to and from Bucharest.
The closest international airport is Cluj Napoca on a shorter route or overnight during itinerary. Transfers and trip can be done upon request for tourists lodged in Cluj Napoca .
I just came a while ago from Maramures, the most Nordic point on Romanian map and this is an experience should be shared, but mostly to be lived. I went to find some accommodation to suite my taste: traditional, but still having good facilities. What started to be work, it was joy and fun from one end to the other.
As you reach Baia Mare, the “capital” of Maramures, even as Romanian I felt in another world. People are calmer and they seem not to be in a permanent rush as people from southern side of Romania. The small historical centre of Baia Mare is clean and coquette, the main historical buildings watch over the pedestrian area. This central place is a return in the past; even people are well connected to modern times. The Tower of St Stefan is around 50 m tall and seems to watch over the city. Part of the St. Stephan cathedral, the building was started in 14 th century by John of Hunedoara as a sign of victory against Turks, the tower was finished only in mid 15th Century during Mateius Corvinus. It is made from rough blocks of river stones and in 17 century, while rebuilding the tower, a clock was added. Weather, lightning and time left us only this tower from entire cathedral.
On the opposite- south corner of Old city, imposing in its baroque style, stays the Romano- Catholic Cathedral (former Jesuit). Built in the first quarter of 18 century by Jesuit priests, the beautiful Cathedral remains a point of attraction. The butcher bastion is the only fortification tower remains from seven bastions built around medieval city built during between 14-16th centuries.
Historical buildings are spread around the old center, colorful and with personality, contrasting with Industrial tower ( the tallest building in Romania 351.5 m) situated in the opposite side of the city, of course in industrial area.
As you leave the city to the historical Maramures, the scenery changes and bits and pieces of the history seems to be alive. Modern times brought their contribution, but there is an impressive touch of beautiful to pass through archaic rural reminiscence. Hay stacks are spread here and there, locals, wearing traditional hats bring the hay from hills on carts pulled by car, cow herd’s crop on the grassland around villages.
The Monastery of Surdesti (part of UNESCO Heritage since 1999) is a local presence by its wooden tower, 54 m tall. Besides its tower, one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world, the innocent rural look, the simplicity of this beautiful church it makes it more beautiful. There is no gold, arcades or excessive stylization. A local skilled constructor in wood, Ion Macarie, built in 1766 this church for his community. The traditional entrance, a small stoop, shows also the constructor mastery of working the wood. It incredible high, I should admit. But also impressive about this church is its simplicity and still elaborated aspect. The village around it contributes to serenity that this place brings it to the passer by. I just felt that every church should look like this: impressive and still simple.
Cosmopolite, colorful, historical, University-based, relaxed, cultural, joyful , these are some of the attributes I find for Cluj Napoca. They are not few, but still not enough to describe this Northern Transylvanian city.
Places on Feleacu Hill, Cluj Napoca is always an attraction for any type of tourist. Even a this late November day , this city was sunny and shinning. The glow came from inside, the sun was friendly with Cluj Napoca, even if over all Romania was announced and winter to start its role. The enormous gothic church, St. Michael ( the second biggest in Transylvania) surveys the Union Square of Cluj. Built between 14-15 century, the building still dominates the big city of 21 century. Its dimensions impresses the people passing by, regardless their religious opinion. To have an idea: It is 80 m tall and 70 m long!
Cluj Napoca- city Theatre
On the pedestrian area, people of all ages walk calm on the paved alley. Romanian flags fly on buildings as a manifestation of happiness. Restaurants, coffee shops and bars welcome clients along the street. Places for all budgets and tastes: from doner kebab shop or pizzeria to traditional cabbage restaurant where you can have tasty local meal “varza a la Cluj” ( cabbage as in Cluj).
Cluj is Universitar city and Universities of every type are spread here and there with their specific: arts, installations, medicine, technology and… many students- young happy faces. The most known is Babes Bolay, University building of an eclectic architectural style, shelters over 50.000 students yearly.
On Avram Iancu Square The Orthodox church watches over the city and over Avram Iancu statue. The grandness of the Cathedral overwhelms you and seems to have impresses even the statue in front of it. Built between 1923 -1933 in Romanian style, the 18 derricks of the church watches over the Theater, the Theology University, the Metropolitan Palace.
The Cluj City Theatre faces the Orthodox Cathedral- proud shows off its eclectic -colorful arcade style. Inaugurated in 1919, the building is in 2000’s a representative house of culture, beauty and grandeur.