Welcome to my country! Bun venit! (boon veh-NEAT)
What happened? Did I blink and miss it? When did six weeks pass? Though we lived every day, time flew, moving from house to house, from tables laden with homemade traditional food to another one, from conversation to discussion and so forth.
Every day was a celebration!
Being back meant so many things. Suddenly, part of the people we were missing were right there with us, we could share some of our adventures, things that didn’t make it to the blog, we could find out how their life was, the one that we usually found out in long phone calls. We were sedentary, mostly because we loved more being with the people than to go look at a monument. I’m not saying that we didn’t visit anything, we did this too, but on a smaller scale compared with other countries. The combination of sitting, talking, eating (all this food that we didn’t eat in at least 14 months) lead to a logical weight gain. We could have different schedules, travel independently, relax from being in charge and responsible. It meant transitioning to a new life, where we were not a monolith, but five individuals.
What can I tell you about my country? If I tell you it is beautiful, will you believe me? It has mountains with peaks over 7 500 feet, you can trek them, climb them, ski on them, explore their caves and rivers. Maybe you would like to go to a sandy beach, at the shore of the Black Sea, that has a tide of only a couple of inches (better in the summer or beginning of fall). Or visit the Danube Delta, a birdwatching paradise and a nesting ground for the white pelican. Maybe you would like to taste wine aged in oak barrels, a Cotnari or a Murfatlar, and eat good food, close to the mediterranean style but with a local twist and flavor. Or visit museums and churches, and castles. Or have a night-life. Or just meet people, who are hospitable and speak English.
OK, I’ll just show you some pictures.
This is the view from Sinaia’s apartment, where we crashed for five days, after a fleeting moment with our families in the airport. It was like in the movies, we emerged from the terminal as we traveled, clothes on our backs and one bag each, and after a few minutes we had winter clothes and boots, hats and gloves, lots of bags with homemade food and a car to transport us.
Though Sinaia (See-NIGH-ah) is wonderfully located for winter sports or for trekking, we spent the whole time inside, sleeping, eating, reading and working on the computers. The treatment worked, we perked up, usually at dinner time, talking about a possible book and movie, titles, whose role is what, deadlines and so forth. The children were active, had their opinions, suggestions, an attitude so much different from the “before the trip”.
Maria’s birthday translated into twenty five people crammed in a room singing “Happy Birthday!” and that was just immediate family! In Romania turning eighteen is becoming an adult, at least in front of the law. She glowed at the attention!
|Four generations ranging from 98 to 13 years old.|
This Christmas I had all and more that I wished for last year. Carols, gifts, three days of eating sarmale (cabbage meat rolls) with mămăligă (polenta), pork sausages and roasts, loaves of cakes, similar to panettone, and every kind of sweets.
|These are the best cookies ever! And they're homemade!|
We left for Craiova, where both of us have relatives, then we moved toward Cluj (Cluezh) to see one of my best friends and spend New Year. But to get there we drove through Târgu-Jiu, the birth place of Constantin Brâncuși (Brun-koosh). Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan and the National Gallery of Art have some of his famous works. He lived most of his life in Paris, where we visited with the children some years ago. It was natural that we wanted to show them the complex from our country. Dedicated as a War Memorial for the fallen soldiers in the First World War, The Table of Silence represents the moment before the battle, with the time passing in the twelve hourglass chairs; the Alley of Chairs, or of the Apostles, leads toward the Gate of the Kiss, and passing through, into a different world, toward the Endless Column, symbolizing the supreme sacrifice.
We were so close to losing our minds and drive toward Sarmizegetusa, the Dacian capital from 2000 years ago. Time and the missing four wheel drive made us reconsider. Still we enjoyed the views of rolling hills and flocks of sheep.
|Inside Lainici Monastery|
|A small orchard, crop fields, hay stacks to feed the stock.|
|The modern day shepards are still leaning on the stick the same way as their ancestors|
New Year found us around the table with friends, mulled wine and sparkles.
|Noroc! (noh-rock) Cheers!|
Moving again, we made a stop in Sighișoara (See-ghee-SHWA-rah), a medieval inhabited fortress, with a fortified church (to keep the people and the faith alive during Ottoman invasions) and a covered stair (similar to the covered bridges) that enabled children to go to school.
|Up there is a medieval figurine clock|
|I just love these cobbled streets.|
|The walls have ears and the roofs have eyes!|
|The fortified church and the covered stairs leading to it.|
Major stop in Câmpina (Cum-PEE-nah), where we stayed with my sister and friends, seventeen people in one house. The children, happy to be with their cousins, transformed every night into an all-nighter, playing games, singing, talking. They tried for the first time in their life to ski, and while it was enjoyable, only Ioan wanted to repeat the experience.
|Get in line!|
|Grilled pork sausage, chicken wings and tzuica, a strong plum brandy.|
|You need a professional grill!|
Always rolling, we arrived in Iași (Yash) for one full day, to present our children to my father’s side of the family (they’ve seen them just in pictures). Before meeting with everybody at the restaurant, my uncle took us on a tour of downtown.
|"Independent Romania" the monument for the ones who gave their life in 1877 so we could be free of the Ottoman rule|
|At the statue of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the first ruler of Romania.|
|The Three Hyierarchs church, built in 1639, a mix of Eastern and Western styles|
|Detail: each row is different, a true stone lace.|
București (Boo-coo-REH-sht) end of the line. We had time to squeeze a second visit with some of our friends, and even a reunion with Mihai’s high-school friends (some of them were my middle school class mates).
|I grew up next to Atheneul Roman, a concert hall, doing my homework with the background sound of rehearsals. In front there is a statue of Mihai Eminescu, our national poet.|
There were so many things to do before departure. Maria’s decision to study in Romania sent us in a whirlwind finding the requirements for taking the Baccalaureate (a serious exam on several disciplines, taken right after high school, required for continuing education to the University level, medicine in her case). It would have been easier if we had started when we arrived, but, from times immemorial, winter vacation feeling starts in Romania somewhere around Dec. 15 and ends, reluctantly, on Jan. 8. People still go to work, but nothing gets done, no major decisions are taken, everything is left for “after”. We found some information on the internet, but we had questions, we went to the office to have them answered, we bought books, and had more talks than we wanted if this is the best thing for her to do.
The talks were the reason that I didn’t suspect. The signs were there, secret projects between grandpa and Ileana, a formal invitation to a restaurant so we could “talk with no interference”, serious face but with eyes laughing in anticipation...it never crossed my mind, but my last thought before entering that room was that I should arrange my scarf to look good and... SURPRISE! Our families, joined for celebrating us, our trip, our achievement. We even got “Awesomeness Awards.”
Looking back it didn’t seem so out of the ordinary. We lived every day, doing normal things, just in different surroundings. As all the things balance, they were the ones worrying, having received news of floods, earthquakes or social unrest, depending on where we were. Thinking that they were the ones who told us that people don’t even dream of this kind of things, not to talk about transforming them into reality, they are the ones who should receive an award, for putting up with us. Mulțumim (mool-tzoo-mim)! Thank you!
This is the end. We really went home from here, to our house, in the most beautiful place on Earth. No kidding. It took us only three days...I’ll tell you more next time. Until then...
La revedere! (lah reh-veh-deh-reh) See you!