Boris in Bulgaria

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Boris in Bulgaria. Give him a hat and a pretty girl and he is happy.

We woke to enjoy one of those fabulous Uniworld breakfasts before heading out to explore Bulgaria, our next stop on our Eastern European river cruise.  It looked a little grey outside so I asked the front desk attendant if rain was predicted.  She said it would be sunny.  I should have followed the program advice instead.  I brought a raincoat and umbrella on the cruise, but left both in the room.  Boris wisely got both of us umbrellas.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The ancient Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo.

We left the riverside city of Rousse where we were docked for our day-long tour of the medieval capital of Bulgaria, Velikovo Tarnovo, and the Bulgarian village of Arbanasi.  Along the way, we will have a traditional Bulgarian lunch and be back to the ship by 5 pm.  Some guests chose to tour Rousse and see the cave churches instead.  Their tour ends at 2 pm.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Rousse, Bulgaria.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Newer apartment construction with shops on the bottom. Rousse, Bulgaria

As we left Rousse, a city of soviet-style apartments and crumbling architectural beauties used for that purpose, the guide gave us information about Bulgaria.  It is a country of 7.2 million with a declining population.  They rely on tourism, grain farming, and heavy industry as their main sources of income.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Rousse, Bulgaria

Under communism, they were part of the 5-year plan of specialization between countries.  Bulgaria concentrated on textiles, computers, bicycles, farming, and ship building.   There was negative unemployment; they even brought in workers from Cuba and Vietnam to assist with the ship building.  With the collapse of communism and the loss of guaranteed markets, there was massive unemployment.  Having always been given a job and guaranteed employment, people did not have the mindset to deal with the new system.  In the 90s, unemployment was at 25%.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Veliko Tarnovo is on the Varna River, Bulgaria.

Bulgaria joined the EU and with investment from the European Union unemployment dropped as low as 4%.  It now hovers around 7%.  Not all EU countries are on the same footing.  If coming from another EU nation, you still have to go through immigration to enter Bulgaria or when entering another EU country from Bulgaria.  They do not use the Euro currency.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Ancient bridge, Bulgaria.

Bulgarian children go to school until the age of 16; some go on for more advanced studies.  They are experiencing a brain drain, especially in the medical profession, where their students can make far more money abroad.  There is a large expat community of Bulgarians in Chicago.  The most popular courses of study are math and the sciences and the students do very well in international competitions in these areas.  The average monthly income in Bulgaria is 500 euros.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

It was a lovely drive to Veliko Tarnovo through the Bulgarian countryside.  The city itself sits on three hilltop with the River Yantra below.  It is the medieval capital of Bulgaria.  Today it is a University town with a thriving artists community and one of the few cities in Bulgaria that is growing.  It has a incredible setting and tourism continues to grow.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Velido Tarnovo.

We took a comfort stop at a local hotel and admired the view while trying Bulgarian pastries.  We will return here to do a little shopping later today in the artisans shops.  As we re-boarded the buses, the rain started.  Closer views of the castle were all from inside the bus and at least one photo stop was cancelled due to rain.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen decoration on exterior of Orthodox church in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Church of the Archangels, Michael and Gabriel, Arbanasi, Bulgaria

We went on the the village of Arbanasi less than 4 miles from Velido Tarnovo.  Arbanasi is a tourist designation in and of itself with its beautiful 17th and 18th century churches (disguised on the outside) and the buildings in the Bulgarian National Revival style.  In fact, any new construction in the village must follow this architectural style.  It is enchanting and the light rain (it had eased a bit at this point) made it even more romantic.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. We enjoyed beautiful a cappella chanting in Arbanasi.

In the historic Orthodox Church of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, we heard lovely chanting by four a capella singers.  People stand in the Orthodox churches and there is limited seating for the infirm with high arms around the edges.  When you wanted to pull yourself out of these narrow spaces, you learned why they had high arms.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Exterior of the Church of the Nativity of Christ, Arbanasi, Bulgaria.

We next visited the Church of the Nativity of Christ where a wonderful guide told us about the amazing artwork and architecture.  From the exterior the building was very unassuming.  During foreign rule, the churches were permitted if they had a low profile and no bell tower.  They were dug deep into the earth to give the full height inside.  Unfortunately, no interior photographs were permitted in this church.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Rooftops in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Home interior, note the beautiful carved ceiling, Arbanasi, Bulgaria

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. “Indoor Plumbing” at the historical museum Arbanasi, Bulgaria

We did a little more walking the village in the rain ending up at a gift shop that sold rose oil products, a regional favorite.  After the shop, we walked across the street tot he village museum where they depicted what life had been like for the inhabitants.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Home Confinement Room where mothers stayed with their newborns for 40 days after their birth to regain strength. After 40 days the child was introduced to society and baptized.

After the museum, we went to a charming restaurant where were served  a traditional Bulgarian lunch-a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, a vegetable soup, a meat stew with bread, and a yogurt dessert.  The rain was really pouring outside, so we were happy to be indoors and enjoy the wonderful food and the music and dancing.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bulgarian dancer, Arbanasi, Bulgaria

After lunch we returned to Velido Tarnovo and walked the artisan street in the rain.  Both Boris and I found handicrafts to take home with us-decorated wooden spoons, embroidery, and a mask.  We enjoyed our full day in Bulgaria.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bulgarian musicians, Arbanasi, Bulgaria

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Snagov Monastery and the Mogosoaia Palace near Bucharest, Romania

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Beautiful lakeside setting of the Mogosoaia Palace outside Bucharest, Romania.

We set our bags outside the room early and then went down for an early breakfast.  We are touring the countryside near Bucharest today with stops at the Snagov Monastery and Mogosoaia Palace.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Front facade of the Mogosoaia Palace facing the lake.

The Palace has a lovely setting on a lake about 6 miles from Bucharest.  “It was built between 1698-1702 by Constantin Brâncoveanu in what is called the Romanian Renaissance style or Brâncovenesc style.”  After murdering the family, the Ottomans took over the Palace in the early 1700s and made it an inn.  It was later returned to the family and stayed in their hands until the 19th century.  Notable were the beautiful small-tiled floors and the ornate doors.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior Door in the Mogosoaia Palace.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Tapestry in the Mogosoaia Palace showing the murdered Brâncoveanu family-husband, wife, 4 sons, and 7 daughters.

After touring the interior of the Palace, we spent a little time at the church which sat next door and did a little walking around the Palace grounds before reboarding the coach to go to the Monastery.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. View from the Mogosoaia Palace.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Mogosoaia Palace.

Our next stop was the Sangov Monastery, about a 45 minute drive from Bucharest.  The monastery sits on an island in a lake and is best known as the resting place of Vlad the Impaler.  Although he was killed in the forests near this island, DNA testing suggests that Vlad is not actually here.  Regardless of whether Vlad was buried here, he did have a connection to the monastery, building fortifications, a new church, bell tower, a prison and torture chamber on the island.  At one time, coins were also minted on the island.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Snagov Monastery outside Bucharest, Romania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Sleepy greeters enjoying the shade at the Snagov Monastery.

Up until 5 years ago when a bridge was built to the island, the monks shuttled visitors over in boats.  It is a peaceful setting, as evidenced by the dogs who slept in the shade near the monastery.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior of the Snagov Monastery Church.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Entrance to the altar in the Snagov Monastery Church.

Walking through the bell tower, you arrive at the church with its beautiful painted interiors and soaring ceilings.  We had some time to spend in the cool interior.  Inside the church where was also a display regarding Vlad the Impaler, including some good maps of what the country looked like at the time he ruled.  His alleged grave is also marked.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Map showing the area at the time of Vlad’s rule.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Alleged grave of Vlad the Impaler inside the church at the Snagov Monastery.

Outside we wandered the lovely grounds, creating the friendly miniature horses that were staked on the lawn.  There is also a picturesque well behind the church and a gazebo as well.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Miniature horses on the grounds of the Snagov Monastery.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Snagov Monastery Church as seen from the back side.

After the monastery, we went back to the hotel (although we had all checked out) for a lunch break.  Since Boris and I had been there for several days we were familiar wight he area and choose an Italian restaurant on a street behind the Romanian Athenee Concert Hall to have lunch.  We saw several of the musicians coming and going with their instruments and for a while heard a performer warming up.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Last lunch in Bucharest, behind the Romanian Athenee Concert Hall.

Also at the restaurant were other people from the ship.  We met two women from New Orleans, both retired teachers and two younger men, Mark and David, who both work in Washington DC.  I think a lot of people just ate at the hotel.

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Canadian Embassy, Bucharest

After lunch we waited at the hotel for them to call our bus.  As we rode out of the city she told us a little more.  We once again passed the embassies, noting the odd Green building that serves as the Canadian Embassy, close to the one for Russia.  We drove by many of the beautiful older homes.  75% of the properties were returned to the families after communism, but that doesn’t mean all had the means to keep them up.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. One of many transportation options in Bucharest.

Romania has been part of the European Union for 10 years and the EU’s investment in the country is obvious in some of the wonderful renovation work that has been done.  The expenses were shared by the EU and the local governments.  Bucharest does have a modern unground METRO system.  All the lines are $1 (I might have the currency wrong) regardless of where you go.  There are also lots of car in Bucharest, in fact more cars than people.  The most common is the Dacia; this word is also the original name of the country.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Parliament Building, Bucharest.

We passed the Parliament building one last time.  Most of the guest told us the inside tour wasn’t worth it.  It was just lots of marble and meeting rooms and had a very cold feeling to it.  The building is the second largest in the world, behind the pentagon.  We also saw a huge Orthodox Cathedral under construction and I thought of Alex and his complaints that too much money was spent on building new churches rather than new infrastructure like new roads.

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Ceausescu’s Villa in Bucharest

Some of the people on our ship had taken an optional tour to Ceausescu’s villa in Bucharest.  We had seen it on the Panoramic tour and it looked surprisingly modest for a villa.  The home just opened for visitors in March 2016 and those that went found it fascinating.  Their clothing has even been kept in airtight storage to preserve it.  I may have missed out on something there.  Would love to hear from anyone that has visited the villa.  Also, the hop on/hop off bus for the city comes highly recommended.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Mogosoaia Palace, Romania.

We had an hour and a half drive from the city to the River Beatrice that was at dock in Giurgiu, Romania.  When we arrived, they took our passports and we had a drink in the lounge while they checked us in.  Our bags were already in the room and we were able to unpack before we left the dock.  We have been on the Uniworld’s River Beatrice before.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Church at the Snagov Monastery, Romania.

Our river travel time was a whole 15 minutes.  We basically just crossed the Danube to Rousse on the Bulgarian side.  The Danube serves as a natural boarder between the two countries.  Touring Bulgaria tomorrow.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen At the Snagov Monastery, Romania.

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Bucharest, Romania

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Library building across from the Palace and next to Communist headquarters and Revolutionary Square. In front is the statute of King Carol I, Bucharest, Romania.

We had the breakfast buffet at the Radisson Blu. It was essentially the same food as at the Hilton, but with a nicer presentation. We saw one of the families that had been at the Hilton joined us for the cruise. We had time to go upstairs after and collect our things for the tour. We won’t be back to the hotel until late this afternoon.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Revolutionary Square and the Communist Party Headquarters, Bucharest, Romania. Ceausescu and his wife fled by helicopter from the top of this building. The monument is to those who lost their lives in the quest for freedom from Communist oppression. It is to represent a stake or sword through the heart, although the locals think the heart looks more like a potato.

The bus tour started out with the buildings be had seen nearby-The Palace, the Concert Hall, the Statute of King Carol I and the University building. Next door and almost across from the palace was Revolutionary Square and the communist headquarters building where the protests were and where Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena famously attempted to escape by helicopter in 1989. The helicopter didn’t have enough fuel, so it had to land before the border. The Ceausescus were later captured, hastily tried, and executed. In the square there is now a monument to the protest victims that is said to represent a stake/sword through the heart. The residents think the heart looks more like a potato. I have to agree.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bucharest’s Military Academy since 1889.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Reliefs added by the Communists to the Military Academy in Bucharest.

We next passed one of the Oldest Orthodox Churches in the country. About 86% of the Romanian people are of this faith. We went pass the many academic buildings of the University most dedicated to a particular discipline. We made a stop at the military academy, Carol I National Defense University that has been in use since 1889. The communists added the wall carvings outside. They detail the country through its’ pre-20th century history on one side, completely ignores the era of royal leadership, and then highlights World Wars I and II on the other side.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Parliament building in Bucharest, Romania, commonly referred to as Ceausescu’s Palace.

We drove by the Parliament Building, one of the largest in the world. The residents refer to it as Ceausescu’s Palace. The building is only in partial use for the government, having always been far bigger than is needed. Some of the conference space is rented out.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen The “mini me”. Elena Ceausescu’s building across from the Parliament Building in Bucharest.

Ceausescu’s wife Elena, with no college degree, fancied herself a chemist. So, Ceausescu built her a smaller version of the building across the street from a side facade as an institute to chemical studies. Across from the front of the Parliament building are two moon-shaped buildings for supportive offices and there is a fountained street with more office and residential space intended for offices and homes for well-connected party members.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Journey Pub, Bucharest. Most of the restaurants and bars took advantage of the weather with outdoor seating.

Ceausescu wanted a completely new and modern city and he leveled everything in this area of town to complete his dream. Our guide told us that the lighted fountains are particularly beautiful at night. However, she also said that she was glad the construction dream was never fully realized. The buildings are cold and sterile.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Athenee Concert Hall (the one we could see from the Hilton balcony) as seen from street level in Bucharest, Romania.

After a photo stop to view the façade of the Parliament building, we went to the Lipscani Old Town where we left the bus. The guide gave us a short tour of the area including a small, but very lovely Orthodox Church, a Romanian brewery/pub, and the ancient royal court.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Next to the Palace is one of the oldest Romanian Orthodox churches in Bucharest.

In the Romanian Orthodox church, women stand on the left side, men on the right. There are a very limited number of seats for the disabled, but otherwise the members stand for the 2 -hour services. Except for baptisms and prior to the consecration of the church, the priest is the only one to go behind the screen at the front where the altar is. There is a door in the screen. During the service, the members can hear the priest, but cannot see him. Decoration inside the church is by paintings.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The ancient court of Vlad the Impaler, Old Town, Bucharest, Romania

Our last tour stop was the ancient royal court. This was a real residence of our old friend, Vlad Tepes Dracul (Vlad the Impaler). It was to this location that the Ottoman sultan dispatched diplomats to attempt to control Vlad after their military loss to him. The diplomats failed to show respect by removing their turbans. Vlad sensed the insincerely of their words, refused to accept the sultan’s proposal, and ordered that the turbans of the Ottoman diplomats be nailed to their head. They were then free to leave (if they could).

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Old Inn, Bucharest.

After viewing the ruins of the royal court, we were given free time in the old town to get lunch. Hanul lui Manuc was right by the royal court. Built in 1808, until 2007 when it was closed for renovation, it was the oldest operating inn in Bucharest. The space also contains perhaps the most famous restaurant in the city. It is on the recommended restaurant list and Boris wanted to eat there. I was a little concerned about time. We had just under an hour left to eat and get back to the bus for our late afternoon tour.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Stairs in the interior courtyard of the old inn, Bucharest.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Courtyard Dining at the Old Inn, Bucharest.

In the summer months, you eat in the large courtyard of the hanual lui (translates to “the old inn”). It is a beautiful setting with umbrellas keeping the area cool. We ordered several of the recommended traditional dishes. Boris liked the food. I found it exceptionally bland and dry.   Sorry, while I love the feel and the setting, I cannot recommend the food. The servers were also the least friendly we have had in Romania. Stop by, step inside the courtyard and take a few pictures, but pass on the food and drinks. You’ll save yourself the disappointment and some money; this was our most expensive meal of the trip so far and the smallest and least tasty.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Ice Cream in the old city, Bucharest.

We also missed our afternoon tour. Of course, this had been Boris’ intent all along. He had never had any interest in seeing the interior of the Parliament Building.   We wandered back to near the bus stop and had some ice cream before catching a cab back to the hotel. It was a really hot afternoon.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Many of the landmarks in Bucharest are conveniently located near each other. Grab a bike and go.

I was tired and took a nap. When things had cooled off, I headed out to take pictures of some things we had seen from the bus but couldn’t really get pictures of. All were within walking distance. Then I met up with Boris at the handicraft store we had seen the night before. Everything there was handmade in Romania.

I got some lovely embroidered traditional blouses and pottery. Boris got an icon and some woven bookmarks. I highly recommend My Romanian Store and the very helpful young woman who assisted us. We asked the young clerk for a recommendation for a casual restaurant nearby and she suggested Journey Pub, just around the corner and down a few blocks. We sat in a covered garden-like setting.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Journey Pub in Bucharest had these cute menus in a small suitcase. Drinks and food in a garden-like setting.

Carrying out their theme, Journey presents their menu in a small suitcase with a world map on the outside. We had a friendly server and tried a bunch of small things. Boris was discovering new Romanian beers as well. After dinner we walked back to the hotel. We had to pack and be ready to have our bags out early in the morning. The bags are going to the ship; we are going on a countryside tour. One more day near Bucharest and then we board Uniworld’s River Beatrice.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Last night in Bucharest.

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The Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior of a home at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Site map for the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.

After a long day in Transylvania, we relaxed this morning and secured a late checkout. We are transferring hotels to join the cruise line tour group. After a big breakfast, we took a cab to the Village Museum (Muzeul Satului in Romanian) that has been around since the 1930s. The museum’s official name (in English) is the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum.  It is a collection of over 272 houses from all over Romania that have been dismantled and rebuilt as a display on how Romanians from different regions lived in the 19th and 20 centuries. The museum has a lovely setting on the edge of a lake in one of Bucharest’s parks. On display there are mostly houses, but you can also see the supporting buildings (barns, haylofts, windmills, etc.), churches, and even a dance hall. The wonderful park setting under the trees made for comfortable touring even in the heat. Other tourists and Romanian families joined us as well.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Hay Loft storage structure, a supporting building to the Romanian homes rebuilt at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Most of the houses at the Village Museum in Bucharest had these wonderful decorated gates. Also note the tree stump that is supporting the porch of the home.

Both our cab driver and Alex recommended the museum. I was in my element, taking so many pictures I even filled up the memory card and had to start deleting pictures so I could keep going. I loved that these were actual homes rebuilt with their gates, fences, wells, barns, and even yard art in place. Although from many regions of the country, they were placed next to each other to create a village-like setting.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Repositioned Romanian home at the Village Museum in Bucharest.

For each building, there was a sign (also in English) telling you the region the home came from, how the people lived, and the time frame of the home’s construction and use. Pictures of people in the regional costumes and maps completed the signage. Unfortunately the gift shop was out of a printed guide in English. That is something I would have taken home.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Decorated door of a 1889 home of a Lipponvan family originally from Russia at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania.

Boris and I spent hours at the museum. There was also a café if you wanted a snack. The gift shop was also very nice and had quality merchandise. I looked for the decorated wooden spoons Alex had recommended as a keepsake. The designs each have a specific meaning.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. This half-buried house was originally built around 1800 and is now at the Village Museum in Bucharest. These homes were designed for defensive purposes. From a distance, it just looked like a haystack.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Well display at the Village Museum in Bucharest.

After we completed our touring, we took a cab back to the hotel.  Cabs are very cheap in Romania, just make sure they use the meter or set a price before you go. The official cabs will be numbered and have the rate printed on the outside of the cab; these are the ones to use. If you are leaving from the hotel, have them call one for you. The concierge will give you a ticket with the cab number on it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A Romanian church from 1722 at the Village Museum in Bucharest.

We weren’t hungry so we just went up to the lounge to grab a drink before the transfer. The Radisson Blu, there we will be staying with the tour group, is just around the corner; we just rolled our bags over. Uniworld had a check-in desk in the lobby where they gave us the information on the land portion of the cruise. Then we checked in at the registration desk for the hotel. Because the guests were coming at such different times, they did not hold a reception but gave us each a drink voucher instead.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bar in the Radisson Blu on Calea Victoriei in Bucharest. It looks like a giant ice cube. The glass floor has water jets underneath it.

The Radisson Blu is as different as night and day from the Hilton. While conveniently located on Calea Victoriei, there is no Palace view. However, everything was very modern and the room amenities and particularly the bathroom were a definite upgrade. With a multi-story all glass front and a bar right in the center of the lobby that looks like an ice cube (the glass floor underneath the bar has jets shooting out water), the hotel is definitely going for that hip vibe. Boris proclaimed immediately that it was too trendy for him. I liked it.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Summertime outside dining at La Mama in Bucharest.

After we settled in, we went out to try another recommended restaurant in the area, La Mama. We once again had Romanian food. I tried the grilled trout that Alex had suggested given the regional access to very fresh fish. It was fresh and presented whole. We also had the plum brandy, a specialty of the country. We were seated outside in the courtyard under umbrellas. It was very crowded the entire time we were there. The restaurant is right around the corner from the palace; it was originally the home of one of the king’s mistresses.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior of a Romanian home at the Village Museum in Bucharest.

Our big meals have been costing between 200-240 lei ($50-$60) for two. That is for appetizers, main courses, side dishes, desserts, bottled water, and alcohol. You could eat here for very little for a normal-sized meal.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Dated 1775 from the Berbesti Village in the Mara Valley, Romania rebuilt in the Village Museum, Bucharest.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and did a little window-shopping at a handicrafts store nearby and noted the hours for the next day. They have switched the schedule for the day tours. Tomorrow we have the panoramic tour of Bucharest, lunch in the old town, and the afternoon at the Parliament building.

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Brasov, Transylvania

 

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Transylvania is a region of Romania. The literal translation into English is “across the forest.”

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  Council Building, now the local history museum, Brasov, Transylvania

In all fairness, this post should be titled Brasov, Transylvania and a conversation with Alex, a Romanian.  As our private tour continued through the day, I really felt I had the opportunity to get to know a person more than just hear the words of a tour guide.

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Alex took this picture of Boris and I at St. Catherine’s Gate, the only medieval city gate in Brasov that survives.  It obviously sits at a lower elevation than when it was erected.  It was maintained by the Tailors’ Guild and is on the site of and named for a Monastery which was here in former times.  The four small turrets, also seen on other Transylvanian towers, notified those that entered that the city had the “power of the sword” (judicial autonomy to decide life or death).

 

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Recently restored city tower with glass top roof, Brasov, Transylvania.

We left Bran Castle and went to the special Transylvanian city of Brasov.  Those of you reading the blog, already know that Transylvania is today a region in Romania.  We passed villages with German Saxon style homes, much different from the other neighborhoods we had seen.  These homes had a gate right at the roadway which opens into the garden and then the home within.  They are not in the least bit inviting.  All you see is gate after gate, all in a line.  The German Saxons had a great deal of influence in the development Brasov.  They were craftsmen and traders, Brasov being on the trade route from the Ottoman Empire and the West.  Brasov was at one time a walled city.  Following a medieval custom, it was the craftsmen’s guilds who maintained the towers and gate along the city walls.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Black Church as seen from Council Square, Brasov, Transylvania.  It is currently under renovation.  It is smaller, but modeled after the one in Cologne, Germany.

Alex once again had a parking connection.  After leaving the van, we entered the old town by the Black Church, a gothic style church completed in 1477 so named because of the color it took on from the great fire of 1689.  It is a Lutheran Church, although there is little of this German population left in the city.  We entered the Council Square, most of which is owned by the church.  The square definitely has a German feel reminiscent of town squares we have visited in Germany and Western Poland.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Council Square, Brasov, Transylvania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Building facade, Brasov, Transylvania.

Having a late lunch as typical Romanians do, we followed Alex’s suggestion and went to local restaurant on the square.  We tried a sampler platter of many meats, potatoes, and vegetables.  We added a side of polenta with cheese and sour cream.  It was so much food, but we loved it.  The most traditional meat in Romania is pork and it is usually served with polenta.  I also tried the orange lemonade, a nice treat on a day that had grown very warm.  After lunch, Alex gave us time to stroll down the main shopping street and take photographs.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Food cart in Brasov, Transylvania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Outside dining along the main shopping street in Brasov, Transylvania.

I learned a couple of things during my stroll.  If you are going to sell from a street cart it should be a gypsy-style wagon.  If you are going to offer sidewalk dining, you have to decorate with red geraniums.  Finally, your individual lemonade will be served in a small pitcher or carafe with a straw (actually I learned that a few days ago).

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Boris toured a World War I exhibit inside the Council building. He cut it short when he got to the World War II section that glorified the Romanian army that fought with the Nazis. The feel of this exhibit might have something to do with the people’s strong dislike of communism. In fact from 1950 to 1960, the name of the city was changed to Orasul Stalin (Stalin City).  This was not a popular choice.  Alex spoke out very strongly against communism, especially against Stalin.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. There is an Orthodox Church right on the Square, with a friendly KFC right next door. 🙂

I enjoyed taking pictures around the square.  Boris made a new friend inside a local book shop who told him about a World War I exhibition going on in the Council Building, now a museum.  I think Alex was pleased that Boris was interacting with the locals.  Alex was very flexible so he set Boris up with the tour and he and I visited on a bench in the shade meeting Buggy, a french bulldog.  Not to be outdone with local interaction by Boris, I visited with the owners and shared that my brother has 3 french bulldogs as I petted Buggy.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Statuary on the facade of the Black Church, Brasov, Transylvania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Rope Street in Brasov, Romania’s narrowest street.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Strolling through old town Brasov, Transylvania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The law courts, Brasov, Transylvania, Romania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Synagogue in old town Brasov, Transylvania, Romania.

When Boris joined us, Alex gave us a brief tour around old town Brasov.  We saw the towers, Romania’s narrowest street, a Jewish synagogue, a sign depicting the home of Vlad’s favorite mistress from the area, and the law courts.  This is after all, Alex’s hometown.  Although his parents are both originally from Wallachia, they met at school and moved to Transylvania.  On our way out of the city, Alex pointed out the apartment building where he grew up and where his parents still live in a 3-bedroom apartment they now own.  Next door was the playground he enjoyed as a child.  Alex’s dad is a plumber and in exchange for some work he had done-in lieu of pay-he asked to get an apartment in a good neighborhood.  While an older soviet-style building, it was noticeably nicer that most others we had seen.  Alex told us that most of the apartments in the Soviet-era buildings have been extensively renovated inside.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania, Romania.

As we left Brasov we had two choices, take the short way back and face certain traffic returning to Bucharest-we had seen it coming in-or take the winding mountain path that was 30 km longer.  Alex let me choose and I went with forest.  It turned out to be an excellent choice.  Yes, it was a 4 hour return trip, but we made it at least 2 hours faster than other tour groups in his company who took the original route home.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen Roadside Forest, Transylvania.

Alex and I talked the whole time back to Bucharest, with Boris fading in and out.  I learned more about his country, but we also ventured into taboo topics like politics and religion.  I wonder if he knew I was a skilled litigator.  I am not sure I even know when I am “taking someone’s deposition”.  One tidbit I will share, according to Alex “the national sport in Romania is corruption”.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Want to know how winding the road was? Not the clearest picture, but Alex’s APP tells the tale.

The countryside was extraordinarily beautiful.  Horses roamed free-although I saw this in villages too-and shepherds tended sheep (or were sometimes sleeping on the job).  The road did wind, but fortunately Alex was driving and I got to take it all in.  We are traveling in the Carpathian Mountains, on a cool, forested, winding path.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Little gypsy houses in the Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania.

We did drive though an area with a gypsy settlement with very small houses-you don’t need as much if you are nomadic.  The houses have no electricity (unless bootlegged) and no running water.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Romanians just created these impromptu parks in the fields by the side of the road. I saw these all over on the drive back to Bucharest.

Frequently on the road, we passed by fields where people had just pulled over and parked on the meadow.  Some were just enjoying the sun, others had meals and fires going.

As we neared Bucharest, we once again passed the refineries.  The world’s first were in Romania, established three years before the one in Titusville, Pennsylvania.  In another first, Romanian Henri Coanda invented the jet engine; he also holds several patents.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Brasov’s hollywood style sign in the mountains that surround the city.

But the Romanian with whom I am most impressed is my new friend Alexandru Stan.  Alex worked on a river cruise line, starting at age 19.  He did that for seven years, working himself up to the 3-bar position of purser.  No small feat, and a position of extreme importance and responsibility.  He was born during the communist regime to parents whose whole lifetime to that point had been dictated by that political party’s whims.  His grandparents had fought in the world wars and seen their land and possessions striped from them.  He was a child in the 90s just after the communist government fell when his country was in transition and a very unsafe place.  He has survived to be a special young man willing to spend the day sharing his country and a bit of his personal story with a visitor.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. What the cool kids are wearing in Transylvania these days. As seen window shopping in Brasov.

You won’t find a better guide than Alex.  If you want to really experience Romania, Alex recommends a 10-day full country tour.  He is an independent contractor now, doing most of his work with Unzip Romania, who has outstanding ratings on Trip Advisor.  I met their organizer Diana and several of their other guides, all of whom are knowledgeable and friendly.  Alex is also the Romanian representative for a River Cruise line (although not Uniworld which is who we are traveling with).

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. More red geraniums! Brasov, Romania

We had a long drive back, but I thoroughly enjoyed my day.  It was beautiful and enlightening.  I didn’t find any vampires, but I have another chance when I visit the Parliament Building in a few days. 🙂

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©Jean Janssen. Transylvania.

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Countryside Touring in Transylvania and Wallachia, Romania

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Natasha at Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania. Summer Residence of the King of Romania.

Ok, I admit it.  When I knew we were coming to Romania for a River Cruise I wanted to come in a few days early so I could visit Transylvania.  Its not that I believe in vampires, but there is just something mysterious about this region of Romania that was once its own country.  I started by researching day trips out of Bucharest where we are based.  I found a couple that would take me to some of the special castles in the region and a lovely Transylvanian city.  My hope was to see some of the villages in the region where time has stood still and the horse-drawn cart is still in use.

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Photo @Jean Janssen. Spotted on the major road in route to Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania.

We booked a full day tour with Unzip Romania (through Viator).  It was not substantially more to book the tour as a private one, so it is just Boris and I with our guide.  We booked before we left home and pre-paid in American dollars.  A few days ago, I was sent the name of the tour guide and the confirmation time for pick-up in our hotel lobby.  We enjoyed a big buffet breakfast and were at the concierge desk at 7:30 am to meet Alex.

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If you love carved walnut and stain glass windows, you are going to love Peles Castles.

Even though it is just the two of us, Alex brought a mini van so we are sitting up a little higher which is great for touring.  He invited one of us to join him up front, so I was excited to ride shotgun.  Right off it was clear he had read my comments sent along with our reservation.  Boris and I both love history, so Alex jumped right in and filled us in as we traveled out of city.  We have about a two hour drive to our first designation, Peles Castle, a royal summer residence commissioned by King Carol I in 1873 and completed in 1883.

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Carol I’s interest in weaponry was revealed in his vast collection of armory from all over the world.

 

 

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The most valuable piece in the Peles Castle armory is the full-suited knight and horse with lance.

Carol I, born Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, was a German selected by Romanian nobles to lead the new country rather than to create in-fighting among the barons by selecting one of their own.  He entered the country under an assumed identity to protect his safety.  He ruled Romania from 1866 to 1914, the longest reigning Romanian monarch.  He served first as a Reigning Prince until the military victories he led allowed him to declare Romania an independent nation in 1877.  He was crowned King in 1881.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The gardens at Peles Castle, Sinia, Romania.

In addition to his military victories, he brought innovation to the young country.  He ordered the building of the first bridge over the Danube.  When he arrived in the country, he did not speak the language but learned Romanian in only one year.  He further endeared himself to the Romanian people by adopting the native spelling of his name.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Peles Castle, the beautiful summer residence of the King of Romania in Sinaia at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains.

The castle is located in the Bucegi Mountains in the charming village of Sinaia with the look of a Swiss ski resort.  With only two-lane traffic, vehicles move in the area at a snail’s pace.  Alex is well known in the area and he secured us great parking and tickets with no wait.  The private tour does not include attraction entrance fees, but Alex passed on the discounted prices to us.  We also had the choice of the basic tour or the extended one which includes the private apartments.  There is a hefty fee for the use of a camera in the interior so I opted out.  That said, there was so much to photograph that I think I would have gotten my money’s worth.

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The music room in Peles Castle.

If you like dark, carved wood and stained glass, Peles Castle would be a favorite.  Each room also features a different theme based on different parts of the world.  The three ballrooms flow into one another.  One is in the Venetian style, one is Ottoman, and one is decorated with mock thrones.  The castle features a 36-seat dining room table off the center ballroom.  After dinner, the men retired to the Turkish room for smoking and drinking.  The ladies retreated to the music room where Queen Elizabeth played the piano and harp.  The teak wood furniture in this room was a gift to King Carol I from an Indian Maharaja.  Later in the queen’s life she wrote fairy tales; paintings featuring her characters appear in the room.  The stained glass in the music room also depicts fairy tale characters.

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The Turkish Room in Peles Castle.

The queen was devastated by the death of her only child, a daughter Maria who was not yet age 4 when she died of scarlet fever.  It was after her child’s death that Elizabeth began the writing under the pen name of Carmen Sylva.  She wrote numerous works in English, German, Romanian, and French.

As relatively recent construction, for a castle that is, Peles features some pretty neat conveniences like an elevator and a central vacuum system.  All the maids hooked hoses in at the same time and then the switch was turned.  Dust all over the castle was sucked in.  More significantly, Peles was the first European castle to be lit entirely by electric current which was produced by hydro power at the castle’s own plant.

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The theater in Peles Castle.

The castle also features a secret passage from the library to the king’s bedchamber above.  You pass through Carol I’s office.  Rumor is that he always stood during audiences so the meetings would be shorter.  There is also a 60-seat theater.  Shortly after the first film was produced in the world, the castle theater was renovated to accommodate a screen.  Romania’s first screening of a film took place in this theater.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Detail on Peles Castle, Sinaia, Romania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Peles Castle viewed from the fountain.

After completing the interior tour, Alex gave us time to take photographs and tour the gardens.  The great thing about the private tour is that you can choose to allocate your time as you wish.  When we left Sinaia, the crowds, as well as the traffic, had grown.  Peles is on the historical route from Transylvania to Wallachia.  Carol I had also chosen this location for the beauty of the landscape and its similarities to the Black Forest in Germany.  I would have to agree.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bran Castle from a distance, Transylvania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Monument to a World War I soldier who lost his arm and returned to battle to throw grenades from the trenches. Romania

Our next stop is Bran Castle in Transylvania.  Large wooden markers identify the spot where you pass from one region into an other.  Alex had picked up on Boris’ comments regarding his love for World War I history.  He pointed out that each village had a monuments to local members who had died in each of the world wars.  In route to Bran he pointed out the statute of a particular soldier who lost an arm in battle and asked to be returned to the front; the solider drew grenades from the trenches-the statute depicts this feat.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. World War I battle site graveyard, Romania

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Romanian grave in a World War I cemetery. The wooden marker in the back was erected by the Orthodox Church.

Alex also told us about cemeteries at the site of certain battles where soldiers from both sides were buried.  He made an unscheduled stop at one of the cemeteries for us.  Both German and Romanian soldiers are buried in marked graves and a large monument marks the site.  There are also wooden crosses erected by the church.  Alex said that while the soldiers had fought against each other, all were comrades at arms in death as each served bravely for their own countries.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Gypsy cart pulled by a horse, Romania.

We passed through a village where a gypsy settlement was just beyond the houses along the road.  While Sasha Baron Cohen stayed at a resort in Sinaia, this is where the mythical village of his homeland in Borat was filmed.  In perfect timing, we slowed behind a wooden gypsy cart being pulled by a horse.  The gypsy people are an ethnic minority in Romania; to a limited extent, they are still a nomadic people.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Bran Castle, Transylvania, Romania.

As we neared to Bran Castle, Alex gave us the real history of “vampires” and Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes Dracula) who was said to inspire Bram Stroker’s Dracula.  If you want to go on believing in the myth, you might want to skip the next paragraph.  Vampire really is a word used by the Romanians.  Alex’s grandmother uses it to describe those “who have a thirst for blood”, but not in the literal sense.  The word is used to describe those who enjoy the kill but not by sucking blood from a body through their mouth.  His grandmother knows nothing about Dracula.  The guides liked to joke that the real Romanian vampires are in Parliament.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A replica of Vlad the Impaler “uniform” shown in the Bran Castle.

Vlad the Impaler was a real figure in history; in fact, he is considered a hero by the Romanians.  His father was Vlad Dracul, a surname that came from the word dragon or devil.  The younger Vlad watched his father and older brother be killed by the Ottomans who took he and a younger sibling to be raised in their culture. This was a common practice.  As adults, they returned the young leaders to their homeland contemplating their loyalty and the swift payment of their taxes.  Vlad saw his younger brother be used for the sultan’s pleasure.  He learned their language and their tactics.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior of Bran Castle, Transylvania. Because its Tudor style remind the queen of her English heritage, she liked Bran Castle and it was later renovated to accommodate their visits. Note the bear rug. 80% of the world’s black bears are found in Romania.

When returned, Vlad had no love for the Ottomans.  He refused the payment of taxes and defeated the tax collectors.  At night, he infiltrated their camp with his warriors dressed as Ottomans and speaking their language.  He murdered thousands and left the bodies impaled on spikes along the path the survivors had to take to return home.  Thus he earned his moniker.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Interior courtyard of Bran Castle, Transylvania.

However, Vlad was the ruler of Wallachia, not Transylvania.  The medieval Bran Castle was really a customs stop, not a home or fortress.  Vlad stayed there only a few times in route between the two regions and usually for less than 24 hours a visit.  The castle sits at a strategic location between Transylvania and Wallachia.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The castle featured a hidden staircase that could be drawn up through the the fireplace chimney. Later renovations created a dark narrow passageway up to the upper levels, terraces, and courtyard walkways.

In other words, there is very little connection between Vlad and Bran, but that has not stopped the tourism industry.  One fun story (depicted by a photograph inside the castle) reports that a British tourist looking for the site of the mythical story asked two local peasants who did not speak English if this was Dracula’s castle.  Upon their affirmative reply, the connection was born.  The castle was very crowded during our visit.  They clearly promote the connection.  Alex has even brought young American tourists here, dressed in costume, for Halloween.  The holiday (not really observed by Romanians) is well celebrated at Bran.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Terraces and covered walkways look into the interior courtyard of Bran Castle.

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Natasha’s Vampire Hunt in Transylvania.

After our interior visit, we walked down to the small lake to take pictures of the castle from below.  Visitors lounged on the hillside on this sunny day.  We stopped at the souvenir booths outside the castle gates for cold water.  Boris also found a traditional Romanian mask that can be worn over the head featuring real wool.  Of course, he bought it.  We met up with Alex in the parking lot to head toward the Transylvanian city of Brasov, Alex’s hometown.

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Arriving Bucharest for our Eastern European Cruise through the Iron Gates

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. The Athenee Concert Hall as seen from the terrace of the Athenee Palace in Bucharest, Romania.

Boris and I are off to Eastern Europe for another River Cruise.  We will visit Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, and Hungry, starting in Bucharest and ending in Budapest.  Serbia will be a new country for me.  Because I wanted to visit Transylvania and a few of the many castles in the region, we are going a few days early.  It will also be nice to  acclimate to the time change by the time the cruise starts.  We have a couple of days on our own, then do some land touring with the cruise line for two days before we get on The Beatrice for our seven-day cruise.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In Bucharest, pork is the most common meat eaten, but this fried chicken served impaled looked pretty good. Has me thinking of Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) whose home we will see tomorrow in Transylvania.

Lots of drama before departure.  Boris’s phone wouldn’t take a charge and it was to be our designated line for international service.  Peabody ran into the street right in front of a car when we opened the door to take the luggage outside-he is just fine.  Then the UBER driver took a route we were not familiar with and gave use some concern about time.  When we arrived at the airport two hours before our international flight to Frankfurt, we thought the worst was behind us.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Early dining, anything before 8:30 or 9 pm, in Bucharest means tourists, older residents, or families with young children. This family was some of the few quests at Vatra when we arrived. Got to love the mom’s bright yellow skirt and watermelon-colored tights.

Then we got to the Lufthansa counter.   I had checked-in on line and it was smooth sailing to check the bags.  The problem was the carry-on bag which had to be so light you couldn’t take electronics aboard and I just won’t check those for fear of breakage or theft.  I was frustrated because I had specifically called about weight and the number of bags.  Since we are Star Alliance Gold I had not anticipated a problem.  Even though I was allowed a carry on and a personal item (purse, etc.) in addition to the checked bags, by having it all in one small rolling bag I exceeded the limit.  Boris was way over.  We weren’t allowed to repack at the counter, so they unchecked the bags and we repacked and reweighed at the open counters down the aisle from Lufthansa.  So much for getting to the airport early.

By the time we got on board, both of us were frustrated.  The flight went fine and we arrived in Frankfurt in time to hustle through the airport to make our second flight to Bucharest.  We had only an hour layover.  We had to go through security again and I was glad we were able to use the priority line.  If you are going through regular security, you  need a layover that lasts a lot longer than an hour.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  No, we are not in France.  This is Bucharest, Romania, sometimes called “Little Paris”.

 

If you want to choose your seat on Lufthansa, you have to pay a fee and book early on line.  Otherwise it is luck of the draw.  In other words, in the summer you are going to end up in a middle seat.  It was worth the extra charge to book early.  When we arrived in Bucharest, the bags came down quickly and we met the hotel driver.  On the twenty-five minute drive in, the driver pointed out several of the landmarks, including the large Soviet-style free press building.  The city has wide, beautifully landscaped boulevards and has been called “Little Paris”.  They even has a replica of the Arc of Triumph.  We drove down the boulevard of the embassies, but he only pointed out the one for Russia.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Athenee Palace Hotel, Bucharest, Romania

In Bucharest, we are staying at the Hilton Athenee Palace for the first two nights.  The hotel is a city landmark built between 1912 and 1914.  It was the notorious hangout of British spies, the Gestapo, and ladies of the evening.  It has a beautiful ballroom with a stained glass ceiling.  The ballroom was set up for a wedding on the day of our arrival.  The hotel was last removed by Hilton in 1997; Hilton still manages the hotel, but sold it in 2005.  The rooms are badly in need of an update.  The toilet seat didn’t even match the size of the toilet.

 

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Ballroom of the Athenee Palace Hotel, Bucharest.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. Lobby of the Athenee Palace Hotel, Bucharest.

They did upgrade us to a junior suite and the hotel is conveniently located and is considered luxury in Bucharest.  The hotel does feature a casino, spa, a nice Italian restaurant, outdoor dining, and an American bar.  One of my favorite features was the photos in the hotel lobby with comparison pictures of the hotel in 1914 and as renovated in 1997.  We are staying here primarily for the history and the Hilton points.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. In the Athenee Palace Hotel, there are photos of the original look, next to the post renovation photos. The hotel is due for another upgrade.

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Hotel Athenee back in the day.

“In 1948 the hotel was nationalized by the new Communist government, who famously bugged every room, tapped every phone (and every pay phone within half a mile), and staffed the entire hotel with informers.” In 2005, Dan Halpern wrote in The Walls Have Ears in Travel and Leisure that “[t]he hotel’s general director was an undercover colonel in the Securitate’s Counterespionage Directorate; the hotel’s deputy director was a colonel in the DIE, the Romanian external intelligence organization. The doormen did surveillance; the housekeeping staff photographed all documents in the guests’ rooms. The prostitutes in the lobby and in the bar and in the nightclub reported directly to their employers; the free-speaking bons vivants and Romanian intellectuals hanging around the café, not to mention a number of the guests, had been planted.”

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. With the hotel’s rich history of spies, Boris felt compelled to purchase, bring with him, and wear his monocle on the terrace of the Athenee Palace.

Boris is in heaven.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  The courtyard at Vatra in Bucharest, serving traditional Romanian food on painted wooden seats in the courtyard or in a more elegant dining room inside.

I was wiped out and decided to rest a bit upon arrival.  We got up later and took a cab to a traditional Romanian restaurant, Vatra, recommended by the concierge.  The weather was perfect to sit outside.  We arrived just after 7pm, really early by Romanian standards.  The restaurant didn’t really start to fill up until about 8:30 pm.  It is not unusual for the locals to go to dinner at 10 pm.

IMG_8651IMG_8649We hadn’t eaten much since our departure from Houston yesterday, so we made up for it here.  We started with an appetizer of pork sausages made with Romanian spices.  Boris also had a meatball soup.  He drank several-light and dark-Romanian beers; I had the homemade lemonade.  The main course for me was meatball made from pork and beef with fried potatoes.  Boris had the cabbage rolls with polenta.  They were served with a garlic paste and bread.  All were fabulous.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen.  Performance in the courtyard at Vatra, Bucharest, Romania

Once the restaurant was full, costumed staff did a traditional dance.  A nice, unexpected treat.  Although we were no longer hungry, we had to partake in dessert.  Boris choose pancakes.  I had the donuts with sour cream and a fruit syrup.  Wow.  Each was big enough for two.  We left nothing.

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Photo @ Jean Janssen. My dessert at Vatra in Bucharest was wonderful donuts covered with cream and fruit syrup.

After our wonderful dinner, we went back to the hotel for drinks on the 5th floor lounge, with an outdoor terrace complete with a view of the Athenee Concert Hall and the Art Museum, the former Royal Palace.  We closed our day with the setting sun.  Tomorrow we are headed to Transylvania.

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Photo ©Jean Janssen. A side view of the Royal Palace, now an art museum, as seen from the Terrace of the Athenee Palace in Bucharest, Romania.

 

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