Roaming Romania, Take Two

Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 06:43 AM
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Thanks for the posting, good work keep it up.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 05:00 PM
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Fascinating! Thanks for sharing and please, please, please get better soon!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2014, 05:10 PM
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THURSDAYSD,

Enjoyed your description of the Museum of the Romanian Peasant that "concentrated very heavily on religion, as if nothing else in people's lives was of interest. The curator saw crosses in everything, including embroidery where I couldn't see them myself." Shades of Russia and Tolstoy.

Will follow along with rainy weather and your foot problem...
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 01:06 AM
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@Percy - i hope everything went well yesterday.

@kja - I'm trying! I am now an equal-opportunity limper - both ankles are unhappy. I soaked them in the thermal baths at the Gellert yesterday, and that seemed to help some. The weather is lousy, so am not planning much for today.

@all - you would have gotten this episode yesterday, but my smart phone's charger died. Instead of writing I trekked off to the massive Media Mart at the West End Mall, only to find it closed for two days for a national holiday!!!

<b>Sep 27, 2014: Leaving town, beautiful Brasov, that's just a hole, boots in church</b>

My Bucharest hotel lost a few more points when I realized I was sharing it with an unusually inconsiderate tour group. On arrival they crowded the access to the elevator so that I had trouble getting off. The next morning they crowded onto it and broke it, so that I had to carry my case downstairs. And at breakfast two of the women decided to hold a conversation across me, until I suggested that we change tables. (No, they were not American.)

Good thing I always allow plenty of time to reach airports and train stations, because the direct route to the Gara de Nord was blocked by a political demonstration no doubt associated with the upcoming election. The regional train to Brasov was on time and comfortable. I shared a four-seats-and-table section with two local women, friendly although we didn't share a language. When we reached Brasov the older woman (85, but didn't look it) organized a metered taxi and after we dropped her off in a residential area behind the station the driver took me through a modern town, past a pretty park with a wedding party, and then suddenly we were in the beautiful old town.

Brasov boasts one of the best squares in Europe. Historic buildings surround it, the 15th century council house is at one side, a major tourist destination, the Black Church, at one end, and it is liberally provided not only with outdoor cafes, but with free benches from which one can admire the fountain and the steep, forested slopes of Mt. Tampa, overlooking the town. On the ride north, after we had cleared the Bucharest suburbs, and the flat area around the Ploesti oilfields (yes, they still produce oil, although apparently much of it is sold cheaply abroad), we had traveled through some lovely, hilly country, and I was glad to see I was still in the hills.

Planning this trip I had debated: Sinaia or Brasov? Sinaia and Brasov? Sinaia as a base for Brasov? Eventually I settled on Brasov as a base for Sinaia, and after seeing both I believe it was the right decision, although Sinaia might be better if you were hiking or skiing.

I had reserved four nights in a double-for-single-use at the Bella Muzica, in an historic building opposite the Black Church (240 lei/night including breakfast, booked direct). When I checked in I was asked if I minded stairs. I don't, mostly, but I hadn't expected to find 18 stone steps separating the door, wardrobe, and safe from the rest of the room. I had been upgraded to an apartment, but what with the unguarded stone steps - really, just a hole in the floor! - and the absence of useful light in the sitting area, I think I would have been happier in a double. Otherwise, the hotel was fine, with helpful staff and a great location. The food in the basement restaurant was good, too, although the staff were less friendly and if you wanted a seat in the small no-smoking section you had to book.

After an OK lunch (across from me a young couple were both smoking, while holding a small child!) I paid an interesting visit to the Black Church. Originally Catholic, it had become Evangelical early in the Protestant reformation, and was bare in comparison to the Romanian Orthodox churches, aside from painting on the pews. But there was an amazing bronze font, dated 1472 and looking like an upturned bell, and a remarkable collection of Turkish carpets to remind me that Brasov had been for many years on the frontier between west and east. And on a couple of tombs, dated 1753 and 1780, I saw paintings of boots. Perhaps the occupants were boot makers? I have no idea. Oh, and for those who are musical the church also contains a Buchholz organ, with 3993 pipes, believed to be the only one in its original form, and still in use.

Reading the history of the church I learned that the area had sustained 30 earthquakes between 1550 and 1600, and that after a "great fire" in 1689 only the walls had been left standing (that's why it's the Black Church). No photos were allowed in the church, but I made up for it outside, walking up and down the streets of the old town, and finding many great buildings. I was also looking for an Ecco store, as I wanted to replace my rather old sandals, but when I stumbled on it (the Ecco website was out of date) they were only stocking shoes and boots.

I ate dinner at my hotel, and while the duck with honey and grapefruit was tough, it was also, to my surprise, delicious. Go to Brasov and try it!
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 05:51 AM
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Yes, the Gellert baths should have helped your ankle and the other bits too.
And I feel your pain re the group in the hotel. Where I am now tour groups reign supreme and I am having a hard time keeping my head above water. Have been pushed and jostled, trampled underfoot and crowded out of places. So I can sympathise.
Good to hear Brasov is a success. I really liked it. Remember having very delicious coffee and cake at a pavement cafe on the main drag! Sounds like that would help your ankle a lot.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 05:57 AM
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@gertie - The Bella Muzica sent me to "Come Back" for coffee in Brasov, and it was good. I have been trying to save cake intake for Vienna, although I have been indulging in after dinner Cointreau - it's been too cheap to resist.... Clothes are getting tighter...

Where are you?
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 06:02 AM
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Begins with a J and ends with an M. Somewhere I said I would never come. Never say never....
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 06:07 AM
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GERTIE, JERUSALEM? Where are these tour groups from? Sorry for your inconveniences...
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 06:10 AM
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Tour groups are from everywhere. The only place they aren't from that I can see is Japan!! It is totally overwhelming and exhausting for the solo traveller. I think I am the only solo traveller in the city. But not to hijack this Romania thread, let's draw a line for the moment.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 08:16 AM
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Percy...hope all went smoothly for you. Show them, get up and about today, no matter what!!!
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 05:30 PM
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"I am now an equal-opportunity limper - both ankles are unhappy." Oh no!!! That is NOT the news I was hoping to hear!
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 07:20 PM
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Thanks for the museum recommendation in Bucharest. You know us well.

Sorry you are still hurting... I might have taken a couple of days off from travel just to soak in the baths! Hope you are feeling better soon.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 08:03 PM
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Thanks tower I am up and limp
I have to walk or lie down .no sitting for ote than 15 minutes.

Six week recovery.
Thank again.
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Old Oct 24th, 2014, 09:21 PM
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@Kathie - actually, that was Budapest. Confusing running both at once, I know, I got the title wrong on one of my blog posts! All I did yesterday was go out for lunch (admittedly the Central Coffeehouse is practically a tourist sight) and to buy a new charger for my phone, we'll see if that helped.

@Percy - good luck with the recovery.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 03:30 AM
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yes, pleased that you are out and about, Percy, even if you can't sit for long. An excuse to lie down perhaps?
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 03:35 AM
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Am posting this from the very comfortable (well, comfortable in unusual-for-me first class, anyway) RailJet from Budapest to Vienna. The advertised wifi connected but didn't work in Hungary, but we just crossed the border.

<b>Sep 28, 2014: From Art Nouveau fun to dark formality, from a monastic church to an autumn festival, Sinaia delivers</b>

While wandering Brasov's streets the afternoon of my arrival, I had located the nearest bus stop, and the kiosk for buying tickets, so I had no trouble getting to the station for the train to Sinaia. On the bus I chatted with a Welsh woman about my own age, mostly about the Scottish independence referendum, and on the train I chatted with a young local woman. I had thought the train ticket reasonably cheap, but going back on a train of lesser status (but a comfortable double-decker) I paid only a third as much. Budget travelers take note!

I went to Sinaia to visit two palaces. Officially they are castles, but since they were built long after castles served any military purpose whatever, and were designed as residences, I refuse to misuse the term. Peles, the one with the crowds, was built as a summer residence for King Carol I between 1875 and 1914. While he was spending money on buildings (lots of it) he had Pelisor built nearby for his nephew, the future King Ferdinand, and his wife Marie. Both King Carol's wife, Elisabeta, and Marie were talented women, authors and artists.

From the outside the palaces look similar - fairy tale collections of turrets and spires - but the interiors could hardly be more different. I had read that Marie had decorated Pelisor in Art Nouveau style, and as I am a huge Art Nouveau fan I naturally started there. Following nywoman's tip I took a taxi up, and when I got out I turned left for Pelisor while almost everyone else turned right for Peles. Aside from an easily avoided small tour group, and a very few independents, I had the place to myself. And it was drop-dead gorgeous.

I suppose, if you're not interested in Art Nouveau, you might not be as enthusiastic as I was, but I can't imagine anyone disliking the place. Even the tutor's and governess's rooms were thoughtfully decorated and charming, and the gold room, literally covered with gilded leaves, was stunning.

In between Pelisor and Peles I ate an indifferent sandwich in what I thought was a restaurant. Later I discovered that it was just a cafe, and the restaurant was behind it.

I do admit that from the outside Peles is picture perfect. However, I found the inside far too dark and ornate for my taste. I did avoid being officially part of a group - I noticed that you could rent an audio guide for an independent visit - but I caught up to one of the groups anyway. Having paid extra to take photos at Pelisor I didn't do so at Peles, and I didn't regret it. It may have been a summer palace, but if you want pomp and circumstance Peles is your palace, if you want charm and elegance, pick Pelisor.

I wandered down towards the town past a collection of souvenir stands, and found, largely by accident, the Sinaia monastery. Here I first noticed the Romanian practice of stationing large black boxes outside churches, labeled Morti, apparently for people to light candles for the dead. Unfortunately, to me this set looked a lot like barbecue cookers. The monastery had a newer, more ornate church in the outer courtyard, and an older, more peaceful one in an inner courtyard, which I preferred. I took a rest, soaking up the peace.

Peace didn't last long. After I managed to find my way down to the town proper, I discovered a major festival in progress. The main drag was filled with booths, many of them selling food, much of it cooked on real barbecues, or in iron pots hung over open flames. I had thought Peles rather crowded, but the real crowds were down in town - the place was packed.

In among the expected stalls, I found one for an anti-fracking organization, and commiserated with the activists. I checked out the souvenirs, but as usual I wasn't in a buying mood. I was more taken with a light-hearted umbrella installation, floating above the crowd.

My lunch time sandwich hadn't been very filling, and rather than street food I opted for pizza and wine in the Irish pub, before catching my local train back to Brasov, where I spent more time admiring the main square.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 03:57 AM
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yet again your enthusiasm shines through, and you're making me think about a trip to this area, which is a part of europe that we've avoided so far.

Glad that you're enjoying travelling first class on this leg and thanks for using the time to post.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 09:31 AM
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KW...hope you get your pain under control very siin. What a bummer!

Perc...six weeks? My, that's a rather long period..hope it goes fast. Follow orders, of course. Send me letter with your address and I'll send you something that may make the time go faster.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 09:48 AM
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Percy:

Send full street address to

SgtBranko at aol dot com


KW..my error, should read "soon"...these aging eyes!
Since you're not coming home until Dec. 10th, where are you heading after Hungary?
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 10:47 AM
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Your stories make me want to return ASAP. I really loved Romania and sorry I missed Bucharest. Am planning on returning in May to see the Delta and then go further north to visit what I missed in September.
Feel better.
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