Archives May 2014

Reflections on Romania

By Aideen O’Brien, guest writer, writes about her life in Romania.

I write to you from Bucharest, Romania. I came here with my husband and 3 daughters in May 2013. I came with no expectations, no pre-conceived notions….or so I thought. When I broke the news of our impending departure, most of my friends exclaimed “What!” followed swiftly by “Why?! I left Ireland with 4 bags, 3 children, 2 bikes, 1 husband and myself. I felt a little like the emigrants of old….nervous, anxious and somewhat desolate. As if I would never see Ireland again.

I spent much of my childhood living in Zambia, Africa. A protected and sheltered childhood, full of wonderful memories. I would have absorbed and assimilated much of the sights and smells, the language, the culture and the people. It would have soaked into my blood, slowly but surely. Upon our return to Ireland, an adjustment was required. It was cold and rainy and they spoke strangely. My first major culture shock. But I was still young and I adapted well and settled quickly. In later years, I travelled extensively through the USA, Western Europe, South East Asia and Australia. These experiences make you who you are, they open your eyes to the world and your heart to the people. I thought I knew it all…..until we came to Romania.

All I could see then was the old, crumbling buildings; the beggars missing limbs on the street; the hanging wires waiting to strangle; the huge gaping holes in the road and the pathway lying in wait to trip you up; the stray dogs eying you warily or trying to bite; people staring as I travelled on the metro, tram and bus with 3 girls; the traffic and the honking horns and the sheer volume of noise grinding on my nerves; the intense heat burning our pale skin. My second major culture shock.

I desperately missed my friends and family; the misty rain on my face; the green hills; the certainty of life and knowing what to expect every day. I often felt like crying when it all got too much, indeed have done so only to emerge feeling washed out and exhausted but also renewed, invigorated and definitely calmer….for a few more days at least.

But a year on and what have I gained as a person and how have we matured and grown as a family? My children laugh and play with their Romanian friends, completely at ease, though neither child knows the language of the other; Culture, music, wine and food; The ability to communicate whether that be in English, Romanian, French or German; New friends…some will move on…some will stay…some will remain friends for life; Interacting with the country locals in the mountains..helping a stranger to put a wheel back on his horse and cart loaded with wood (using a car jack); Travelling in the Balkans…Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Turkey – countries previously only vaguely heard about; Campfires by the Danube; Boating in the Delta; Hot summers and cold winters.

We, as a family, have become stronger and we have found our niche in Bucharest. We play football with the Brits, go on camping trips with the Americans and drink with the Paddies. But we go to school, children’s parties and Mozart concerts with the Romanians. Every day I am surprised and at times overwhelmed by their indomitable spirit, hospitality and generosity.

When the time is right we shall return home. My friends and family will be there always. But I have the advantage. My heart, my ears and my mind are open again. Will I be different, will I be changed? It may be painful to change but change is inevitable. If we resist change, we grow stale and stagnant. If we embrace it, our life cannot but be the richer for it. I feel blessed. I hope you, my reader, will too.

Valea Doftanei – a beautiful beach in the middle of the forest

By Oana Pascu

A beautiful beach close to Bucharest which is not even close to the seaside

The summer has already taken over Bucharest and most of Romania and many of the people living in the capital are already planning a weekend getaway at the seaside in the following weeks. If you are not necessarily the kind of person who likes to go to the seaside, but would rather prefer a location that is closer to Bucharest and in the middle of a forest, we know a beach that would be the perfect place for you. Most likely it will not take you more than 2 two hours to get there, as it is 130 km away from Bucharest, and close to Campina.

Valea Doftanei (Romanian for “Valley of the Doftana”) is a commune in Prahova County, Romania. It is composed of two villages: Teşila (the commune center) and Trăisteni.

Located in the northwestern part of Prahova County, the commune has an area of some 286 sqm. Its population primarily inhabits the central and southern areas, with the north being taken up by mountainous terrain. The Doftana River crosses the commune for some 30 km from north to south before ending in the Paltinu Dam and reservoir.

The Paltinu Lake is a reservoir lake for drinking water located in a mountainous area at an altitude of 650 meters and it spreads over 3 km, offering an incredible view. Both shores are suitable for summer activities.

In case you want to explore further, Glodeasa is a beech and fir virgin secular forest, located in the Valea Doftanei commune. The forest is a live testimonial of the evolution of the forest coating of our mountains, and it is protected from logging. The trees you can see there are 200-300 years old and have heights of 40-45 meters.

The Glodeasa forest is one of the few virgin forests in Romania, presenting remarkable landscape diversity: forests, cliffs, meadows, sweet waters, and piers. The landscape is adorned with rare plant species, protected by the law.

If we stirred your interest and you want to go to Valea Doftanei, this is how you get there: you need to take DN1 in the direction of Brasov to Comarnic, and then follow DJ101S for another 14 km.

Romania in Focus – Through the Lenses of Expat Women

For the fifth year, Expat Women in Romania, are doing a Photo Charity Project, this year under the name  “Romania in Focus – Through the Lenses of Expat Women!”

The informal group ‘Expat Women in Romania’ is a non-governmental, non-profit organization, initiated in 2010. Profit from the project goes to established and well known charities that are carefully selected by the group. The project consist of a published photo book containing photos of Romania taken by the women in this group, an opening exhibition at Crown Plaza and the following exhibitions. Sale of books and prints are the main fundraising activities.

The photographs can be ordered as wonderful leaving presents for friends moving out from Romania this summer. The books can be purchased from Carturesti for 50 LEI and are currently exhibited at Jolie Ville in Pipera. All proceeds support 6 local charities.

Info here.

Good bye Romania – What are you taking with you?

Spring is here and for many the time has come to prepare to leave.

A new chapter will come after the summer break but, until then, there’s still precious days to enjoy Romania.

In an informal survey we asked foreigners who have lived in Romania what they will be taking with them when they leave the country.

Here the top 7 answers:

1. It took me a while to understand that not everything has to be in a certain way, the Romanian “Merge si asa” which can be translated as ” it works this way too”, has been a liberating thing for me, and I think this was a precious thing to learn from my time in Romania.

2. My wife was in shock for the first 6 months, regarding the parking, it just seem chaotic and random, however I have adopted this and now I park wherever there is space. It is faster and comfortable, though I have to admit I won’t be able to do it back home.

3. I had a thrill driving in Bucharest, I know many complain, but seriously, there aren’t many other European capitals where you can park everywhere or pay 1,5 lei for an hour.

4. Pufulets! I found them at the playground as many kids bring them and their kind to share it with other kids in the ground. My kids like them and they are not pricey.

5. Fresh products and slow food, I like that Romanian restaurants offer a variety of soups and almost homemade dishes, I have now always a soup and the other important fact is that there is an open market open daily in every neighborhood,

6. A sense of family, I see many grandparents taking care of their grandchild. I also see many teenagers doing things with their parents.

7. Easter eggs, I have spent the last 3 years finding new designs and colors, it is really nice to see traditional crafts done in such a delicate form.

Most foreigners admit they will miss Romania and, agree that they learned to love the place and  the opportunities and adventures it presented. But many add it requires a proactive attitude and an ability to let yourself go and  planning everything to the smallest detail.

So what will you take with you?

Send us your answers to [email protected]

Restaurant Review: Beer O'Clock

By Richard Fox, guest writer

Beer beer beer! You may say to yourself yet another bar to open in the Old Town, which is a fair observation as the streets are lined with bars and it can be a struggle to point out the differences between them all.

Beer O’Clock manages to create a different feel, in the fact that they only serve beer! This is bound to rule out some party goers. However for those who love beer, and I have to confess I am one, this is a paradise. Offering 135 different bottled beers imported from 7 European countries, it’s a unique place in Bucharest.

The bar was opened a month ago, fitted out in a very simple way. A long wooden bar behind which are large glass fronted chillers housing all that beer, with the drinking area made up of round wooden tables with chairs to match. If you are uncertain of your choice, I would suggest rather than ordering from the menu to have a look in the fridges to see if you find a label you recognise, or to find something that looks interesting. They have enough seating outside on the street terrace for around 40 people, so the ideal spot to sip a cold beer in this heat.

Beer O’Clock is a fantastic find for those who enjoy a beer and enjoy trying something different. Everything is very reasonably priced.

“..we’re only here for the beer..”