Romania is here (even when I’m not there)

Last week I asked for recommendations for must-reads on Romania on my Facebook page, and to my utter and pleasant surprise I got about fifteen people replying within the span of half an hour. All with great suggestions that made me expand both the Further Reading appendix to my guidebook (pub date Feb 2020) and my personal to-read list. What was more, two of these wonderful commenters, Ghent-based, suggested I could borrow some of their books. I thought I’d have to probably message them so that it would actually happen, but no: again to my surprise my boss pressed a book into my hands at work on Tuesday morning. ‘Someone dropped this off for you yesterday,’ he said, as I joyfully cradled Never Mind the Balkans: Here’s Romania by Mike Ormsby. I browsed through the pages and found a postcard from Tatiana, wishing me a pleasant read and with her number on it for when I was finished. No need to tell you this was a very good start to my day. I miss Romania awfully – autumn looks and feels quite forbidding here in Belgium and it inspires a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. Whereas I know I could be roaming the mountains and feel perfectly blissful despite, or perhaps even because of, the season. So, suddenly getting surrounded with local Romanian love is the best thing that could happen to me right now.

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Crossing the Baiului and Grohotiș Mountains

This week I finally got to go on my first full-pack hike, after three frustrating weeks of waiting for the weather to clear up. There were thunderstorms and torrential rains almost every day, and I just couldn’t find a big enough gap to go hiking without risking getting absolutely drenched. Now I don’t mind a little rain – it’s part of the adventure – but I know three days of rain would mean misery. So I was overjoyed when the weather forecasts (I check multiple sources) ‘promised’ three days of reasonably favourable weather from Sunday to Tuesday. So on Saturday I took the train to Predeal so that I would be able to start early Sunday morning. Well, my early – I left at 9am.

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Some of my favourite Romanian films

Although I like to think I’m beginning to understand Romania and the spirit of Romanians, I realize there is always much more to learn. One excellent way to learn more about Romanian culture is by watching films. As is true for any country, you can’t really understand Romania without getting to grips with its history.

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Recharging at a bar in Poienile de sub Munte – the art of doing nothing at all

This is an old story – but one that needs to be told. I have so many of these – but they keep heaping up and then I end up focusing on the ‘more important’ posts about routes and the like. But I like stories. And telling them.

31st of July 2016, Poienile de sub Munte. I have just arrived in this hamlet in the Munții Maramureșului, the northermost mountain range in Romania that borders on the Ukraine. I managed to sprain my ankle – badly – in the last 500 metres of my hike from Lacul Vinderel. I have pitched my tent near an abandoned and derelict cabana. Now I need a drink.

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Sauntering through Sibiu

Usually when I write about cities – or when others do – blog posts end up including things like “The five best cafes” and “The ten top attractions”. The truth is, however, that no amount of time is enough to do a beautiful city justice and it is therefore nigh impossible to get to know its true character in just a couple of days. This certainly applies to the seductive Saxon city of Sibiu (sorry for the alliteration, couldn’t help myself), which I visited late in September, when the CibinFEST was in full swing. So what I’ll do this time round is just take you on my walks through the city and tell you what I encountered. Perhaps you’ll want to try for yourself afterwards! more “Sauntering through Sibiu”

A Day in Sighetu Marmaţiei

Sighetu Marmaţiei is the northernmost town of Maramureş, right on the border with the Ukraine. With a population of only 100,000, it is nevertheless an important hub. When you have to do your grocery shopping, it’s either Baia Mare or Sighetu Marmaţiei (most people simply refer to it as Sighet) you go to. But the town offers much more than that. Here are some ideas to spend a pleasant day in and around Sighet. more “A Day in Sighetu Marmaţiei”

Farming in Breb: A Portrait

I was going to write a longish introduction to this post – about how I admire the farmers in Breb. But instead, I will just introduce you straight away to Maria, Vasile, Marioara and Vasile: two self-sufficient farmer couples who are living their hard, but also satisfying lives in the beautiful village of Breb. I met them during an afternoon of haymaking: a vital part of a Romanian farmer’s life. But I will let the images speak for themselves. more “Farming in Breb: A Portrait”

Sounds of Romania: the Post Office

Yesterday I went to the post office in Sighetu Marmatiei to get some stamps so I can send snail mail to the home front. It was an interesting experience. I’ve never had to wait so long for stamps in my life. But then again I asked for timbri pentru Europa (stamps for Europe) and that turned out to be a difficult request. more “Sounds of Romania: the Post Office”

Breb revisited

Breb has got to be the most beautiful and harmonious village in Romania. I felt at home immediately when I first visited it in 2014, so I didn’t have to think long where I’d start my travels this year. A walk through the village is never the same. Here are some of yesterday’s encounters. more “Breb revisited”

Review: Chuck Norris vs Communism

The voice of freedom and hope

“To deny 20 million people access to information and to keep a whole country in ignorance for years has very serious consequences.”

3000 films. That’s how many ‘western, imperialist’ films Irina Nistor had dubbed by 1989. Sometimes she dubbed as much as six films in a row. Now that’s what I call binge-watching. And binge-dubbing. But why did she dub? more “Review: Chuck Norris vs Communism”