Friday, August 20, 2010

Ca Ca Ca Capri!!!!

Monday March 22nd, 2010
Monday morning Emily and I met with a new tour guide that usually drove the city bus, that was Sorin’s friend because Sorin had already had a tour booked before us. So we met both of them outside the hotel in the morning and they acted like our body guards when we went to the ATM’s to get money for all of the entry fees for the monasteries for the day. It was funny. I felt like I was the President with someone casually watching out for me leaning on our car and the other around the corner. :) Usually an entrance fee to a monastery was 3 leu (lion) which was about a dollar, and most places in Romania charge you to take pictures which costs more than the entrance fee sometimes! :)  We said goodbye to Sorin and headed out for the day. 
One of my favorite things today was that we got to drive through a lot of little towns and really see the Romanian people - outside of the touristy towns. It was interesting to see the pockets of Gypsy people (which were originally slaves taken from India) and the roles that different demographics took. It was a real eye opener to how blessed I am, when we saw some of the houses that Romanians lived in, in the more rural villages. I think one of the largest shocks was when we came out of the Probota monastery and we saw  a school of children at recess and their “playground” was a run down house and yard. It broke my heart. The most impressive thing when we visited Probota Monastery was most likely the fact that the dome ceilings were so beautiful. Probota has been restored much more than many other monasteries so it was fun seeing the bright and beautiful paintings inside the monastery. Something that always surprised me was how cold the insides of the monasteries were. It had to have dropped at least 20 degrees from the outside temperature! I could never imagine sitting through a few hour long service in the chilling cold in the middle of the winter!

After Probota our driver took us to a little restaurant that he grew up enjoying, Han Maria. He helped us order, as we had no idea what anything on the menu was. He and Emily decided on polenta (kind of a mix between corn mash potatoes and grits) and garlic chicken, and I got the sampler plate that had an egg, sheep cheese, pork, and polenta. I have never had such a “from the back yard” meal in my life! It was all so fresh and you knew that the animals had been in the back the night before and that the cheese was super fresh. I do have to say tho, I am not the largest fan of sheep cheese! It was interesting because our tour guide told me that the meal I ordered was very Romanian and that it was what the workers often took to the fields. Looked like a well balanced, filling meal to me! He also suggested for us to start our meal off with a yellow soup with a bit of cream in it - it had so much more taste to it than I expected! He disclosed to us that it was what they considered a “hangover recovery soup”. Lol. :) At the end of the meal we went to pay and Emily and I came were taken a bit by surprise when he expected us to pay for his lunch, but we split it and considered it his tip for the day. :) 

Our second to last monastery for the day was Rasca Monastery. Once we walked through the gates we came upon a special cultural experience. We had walked into a funeral of a bishop of the monastery. As had approached the gate we had seen a large black cloth hanging over the door well, which signifies a death and a period of morning. When we walked into the courtyard of the monastery was saw lots of people that we assumed were from the nearby village listening to the clergy men (dressed in beautifully bright blue robes) recite the service in an elegant gazebo. It was really amazing looking in on such a cultural event, especially since I had never seen a Romanian Orthodox service before. It was interesting because by the gazebo were a few men that were holding braided breads on sticks, I never did find out what significance they held. Further away from the main gazebo sat another gazebo with a water well in it where a few old ladies and gentlemen were holding a passionate discussion. :) It was fun watching the hands flail in the air! The outside paintings of the Rasca were ever so impressive, but I would have to say that the cultural experience was the highlight. 

Then we visited a beautiful 1400 stone tile monastery, Neamt Monastery, that had colored bricks from Venice! It was really neat to see a stone building with color after all of the painted monasteries. :) It was one of the most important and oldest monasteries of its kind because of the Moldavian architecture. It was really unique with its large gothic windows too! We were not able to go inside because we could not find the Nun or Monk, but we snuck a peak inside the windows. 
Another interesting thing we saw was that at one of the monasteries there was a cemetery in the back and a room designated to skulls. When the grave yards became too full, the families would take the skulls of their loved ones and paint on their skulls and write their names and dates. It was a little different walking into a room full of skulls and other bones, but I am glad that they could remember their family members in some way. 

After that we went to the Cetatea Neamtului or the Neamt Citadel. It was a medieval fortress, that has a very foggy history as many groups believe it had different histories. But in the past few years there has been a lot of research into the sight and coins from Petru I Musat were found, meaning it existed around the 1300. I could not believe that I was somewhere that old, a fortress that I was walking in that was over 400 years older than America!? :) In order to get to the fortress we had to walk up this intensely steep and long winding road, (like up a mountain!) with lots of beautiful tall trees up to the ticket booth. I have never felt more out of shape in my life. I was huffing and puffing the whole way up - even after I thought I had gained some endurance with walking with my backpack often! Our tour guide was not even out of breath when we got to the top! Once we got there we had to cross this winding walkway that was on really high stilts - a little nerve wreaking! Once we got into the fortress it was such a breath taking view over the village below! If I was King I would definitely love looking out on this landscape! Petru was smart man because it was so high on the hill and he could see anything coming his way!
After the fortress our driver really wanted to show us Romanian buffalo because “America has buffalo too!” lol. So he drove us to a “zoo”. It was very different because it looked more like a farm, it had regular farm wire between us and the animals and just a trail type of walking path! We saw some deer, caribou looking things, and buffalo along with some storks! We went up to the buffalo area and one of them charged at me! It was a bit worrisome because the wire was not that sturdy! They were suppose to have a brown bear too - but it was missing... lol. The brown bear is Romania’s animal because it has a very high population of them. After that we headed back to our hotel where Emily and I crashed into bed without even getting dinner. :) 

Tuesday March 23rd, 2010
Our driver for Tuesday was the same as Monday. He decided to take us to a Polish community in Cacica where one of the most significant salt mines in Romania exists. It was interesting because when we came into the town you could tell that it was a community primarily of a different ethnic background just by their facial features. :) The salt mine was put into place when Romania was under Habsburg rule, because the Empire needed the salt resource from Romania and stayed for many years after. We got a personal tour down into the depths of the mine. You could just feel your lungs filling up with the dust and dirt as you traveled through. I don’t know how the miners did it! We got down to the first level and I was so surprised to find a full chapel! There was a beautiful wooden cross, a podium and a few benches. It was beautiful to see this church deep down, hidden in the ground; and knowing that the miners came here to pray before and after each shift. We walked further down and found a place where the miners use to take their breaks, playing sporting games and such. They had just put in a modern basketball court in and we saw to men sitting on a bench talking. We later discovered that they had been miners years ago in this mine! We kept walking further and found an underground pool, and carvings in the walls of Mary Magdalene etc.! It was amazing seeing all of the salt crystalizing along the walls in huge clumps, we could see our foot prints on the floor because the floor was coated so much with salt particles! 

After the mining town we went to the Dragomirna Monastery (a nun monastery) was the last place we stopped before we headed off to the train station. It was special because this was the monastery that our tour guide had grown up going to. There was a large iced over lake outside the “fortress walls” that surround the monastery that his family use to go to and fish and eat lunch at on the weekends. On the bell tower there is an inscription that around 1627 the Turks and Tatars invaded often so they built walls to protect the monastery. Inside the monastery I bought some more beautifully painted Easter eggs! The paintings were spectacular inside because the halos on the walls of all the Saints were 3-D carvings of wood mounted onto the paintings! It was also interesting because in most of the churches there were podiums for the Bishop, that you would see in the Orthodox churches. We later found out that during the Habsburg rule all of the churches had to be created or modified to be in Catholic style and it simply remains in the church even though it is not used. You could often even find a beautiful wooden carving of the falcon (the Habsburg symbol) on the podium. The monastery is the tallest medieval monastery in Bucovina.The next monastery was Avbore which was an architectural wonder for the Moldovia region because the walls made space for the steeple. 
We had extra time before the train arrived so our driver showed us the old fortress ruins of the Suceava castle and “the largest Romanian Easter egg”! lol. We then took a detour because Emily and I had seen a beautiful church on our way into town that had circular colorful bricks on it. We stopped and took pictures, finding out unsurprisingly that the bricks were from Venice, it was a modern take on the 14th century Venice brick church we had seen earlier in the day. The only difference was that the colored bricks were on the ceiling on the new one, they were more like round ceramic tiles, and they had more vibrant colors. After that we said goodbye to the Sorin and our driver the past few days and headed to Bucharest.

We took the train from Suceava to Bucharest (8 hours!) and got filled our time with creating “Bucket Lists” because we decided that there is too much that Emily and I want to do so we have to start now to fit it all in! I consumed a whole liter of peach tea and realized what a poor decision that was because the Romanian train bathrooms were not spectacular to say the least! :) 
Once we got to Bucharest it was about 10pm and that train station is really sketchy outside at night - actually even during the day. We called the hostel - Happy Hostel, and they sent a cab to pick us up, as you cannot trust the cab drivers. While we were waiting we had to keep moving around because we were just waiting to be pick pocketed. It was really sad because there was a homeless boy that was walking around asking for money who I think was also mentally disabled. It was hard just to see him alone and desperate. Our taxi driver finally arrived and drove us to the hostel - taking a different route than we had gone before to our hostel. I started to get worried that he wasn’t taking us to our hostel or that he just wanted to drive further and charge us more. I was hoping for the latter and it was thank Heavens! 
Our fabulous hostel manager met us at the gate of the hostel and welcomed us in. We had called the hostel on the train to see if he would let us stay for a few hours at the hostel to shower and nap before we took our early morning plane ride to Rome. We were lucky he said yes they had room, and he was so sweet to give us a whole room to ourselves with our own bathroom! We napped and got up at 5am to go to the little airport in Bucharest. We had met two guys from America before we left Happy Hostel for Suceava, one of them studying in Rome for the semester. It ended up that all four of us were going on the same flight! 
Wednesday March 24th, 2010

Emily and I took our cab to the airport and walked into the airport, checked in, went through security (where I got wacked in the head by the hardest plastic security bucket by the guard! - surely on accident...) and finally got to the waiting room. To find out that the place was completely full to its gills by 6am! Emily and I bought overpriced muffins and juices and found ourselves a set on the floor while watching the truly international gathering of people walk around in chaos of trying to figure out what door to line up in front of to catch the right bus to the plane. When we tried to get to our bus we had no idea if it was ours or not so we had to do a lot of hand gesturing with the other lost soles to figure it out! :) We finally got on the plane and I slept the whole ride to Rome! 

We arrived in Rome and took a bus to the main train station. We grabbed lunch while we waited for our next train to Napels (Napoli) where we got on a ferry to go to the island of Capri! Once we were at the train station in Napels it was quite a task to try and find the buses to the ferry district and then find the right bus! We had to walk in a horse shoe in order to find the well hidden bus depot - through a thousand street vendors from Africa trying to sell us socks and such. We finally made it to the depot and then had to wiggle our way around asking which bus went to Capri! Finally got the bus, and asked the bus driver if we could buy tickets from him (like you can in Austria) and he said that we had to buy tickets from a booth across the street but hurry he was leaving. So I ran to the booth and bought two tickets and bolted to the bus and the driver left right after I got on!  
We got to the ferry dock and went looking for a  line to buy a ticket when this lady with a baby came up and told us to that we needed to get into this line for the tickets and that the office will open up in fifteen minutes because the office was at lunch. As we waited for the office to open we noticed that the lady and her baby and her husband, and preteen son were all “helping” people find where they needed to go and then asking for money. You have to be careful who you take advice from! Luckily the lady just stood by the counter once it opened with a cup so we just dropped in a few pennies. We have heard horror stories how people are stocked down until they pay the people say twenty five euros. 
We got on the boat and were surprised when the ride took almost two hours! Once we got to the beautiful island with all of the beautiful colorful boats on the dock, we got our tickets for the bus to take us to Anacapri where our hotel was. Somehow tho we missed our bus and discovered that in off season that the buses only go to Anacapri every hour instead of every 15 minutes! So in the meantime Emily and I decided to devour some delicious gelato and watch little kids playing in the water. :) 

We finally caught a bus up to  Anacapri at 5pm and asked the bus driver to drop us off near the hotel - thank Heavens he was nice and did. Except that the island is mostly a walking island and so once we got dropped off we followed the information ladies directions - ask people how to get there, eventually you will find it! So we did exactly that as we wandered through the cobblestone thin walk ways until we found a St. Maria church square we asked for directions from a lady who pointed us down more ally ways! We thought it would never end and that we were getting more and more stuck in a maze! We finally found it down the hill away - Hotel Bussola - beautiful with a sunset over the water from the balcony. We checked in and met Rita the receptionist and she just welcomed us in like we were her new family. :) Telling us we could walk safely at night on the island and where to take the best hikes, and to get the best pasta that night. We settled into our first HOTEL during our trip and we felt that we were living in a luxury sweet even though we were only spending 35 euros a night with breakfast! Emily and I had decided that Capri was going to be our “spoil yourself” place. :)

We set off for an adventure to get ourselves to dinner that was on the main street, weaving in and out of streets hoping we could get ourselves back in the dark! We finally found it after asking a police man. I had the most delicious lemon shrimp pasta (Capri is known for their lemons and the alcoholic drink lemoncello)! The waiter was so fun and he helped us practice our Italian and we laughed a lot! Once we were done Emily and I strolled home, stopping by a little fruit market that was open late, to get somethings for our picnic lunch for our hike the next day, then crashed into bed!
Thursday March 25th, 2010

In the morning Emily and I enjoyed croissant and a delicious coffee for breakfast and then we headed out to discover the island by catching one of the bright orange buses that headed towards Capri. When we got out we walked around the small town square looking over the lemon orchards and beautiful blue water below! Emily and I started walking down the other side of the island and promptly found gelato that we could simply not pass up - even if it was before 12am! We wandered down cobblestone ally ways lined with the most beautiful yellow flowers! 
We discovered a garden area with trees that had the most extensive above root system we had ever seen, and in the garden we found the middle or high school for Capri! I wish I went to school there because it had the most beautiful courtyard and orange and lemon trees around it (we looked in the windows and saw them all hard at work)! We wandered into a part of the school that was open to the public - the island’s historical art museum. :) The fun things we tumbled upon, we also got to see some great paintings being restored with rice paper! I never know that was what they used to keep the paint from coming off of the canvas! 

We kept wandering (honestly we were pretty lost - but had a whole day to get unlost) and found a tour group that we followed to the Capri perfume factory/museum where we discovered that with all of the beautiful lemons and flowers Capri was famous for their perfumes too! It was cool seeing the large canisters where perfume is made! Then we ventured to a little garden that was up on a cliff that gave an impressive overview - but we could tell that it was one of the touristy check points so we continued down a winding, cliff hanger path down to the beach so we could eat our lunch. The view was so indescribable - it was perfect on the walk down. Out from the island there were some smaller islands that I swear that “Spy Kids” was filmed at! I think the most impressive thing was that the water is so aqua blue (yah yah I know it should be aqua cause it is water - but I am talking about the hue). 
Emily and I eventually found a little rock beach where a little Italian boy was playing basketball while his grandma sun tanned. Emily and I dipped our feet into the water (which was bitter cold in March!) and ate our classic American PBJ while laying out on the rocks. :) The grandma came over to me and handed me a rock from the beach that she had picked out, it was so nice but I have no idea what was so special about that rock. Maybe she wanted me to take home part of the beach with me. :) I dozed in and out and took pictures, while Emily (being the artist she is) looked through the rocks for broken and smoothed colored pieces of tiles to make a mosaic out of. I loved that Emily collected them to make something because she use to collect rocks with her mom when she was alive, and her mom always wanted Emily to go to Europe, so it was really special to her! I can’t wait to see what she creates! Emily got stung by a really little tan jelly fish so we had to find some clean water to wash it out with and then we decided that was probably enough beach for us for the afternoon. We were setting out for our large hike back (uphill of course) when we perfectly stumbled upon an orange bus headed for Capri! 

We jumped on and then switched buses to get to Anacapri, timing everything perfectly for once. On our bus from Anacapri to Capri we met our hotel “mom” and her daughter and mother. She was so sweet and talked about our days with us and we learned that she had gone shopping for shoes for her daughter because she had started to dress herself for school. It was so funny because this Italian mama was getting worried what the other mothers would think of her daughter and her because of what her daughter looked like when she left the house. So she went to buy her “appropriate” shoes today, and had a big fight over blue versus pink shoes. But of course the pink shoes the girl chose were just about the most adorable Italian leather flower shoes you could imagine! We got to the hotel ate an entire jar of olives on our balcony, watched the sun set, and collected our clothes from air drying (after we hand washed them in the shower) and agreed on a nap before dinner. Except the next time we woke up it was morning. lol. 
Friday March 26th, 2010
This morning I awoke to our room phone ringing at 6am. I answered it and it was my mom on the other end sounding completely terrified. While I had been traveling I had had contacted her every day or every other day. But when I arrived in Capri my international cell phone did not work to call America and the hotel’s internet was being upgraded and “the newspaper stand” with internet had been unfindable by us for the last two days. In the morning I had planned to search out a pay phone to call my family. But too many hours in America had passed and my family and friends had been worried about not hearing about me as I traveled out of Romania. Sorry everyone! Mom and I talked and we clarified that I was ok and that I would be contacting her the minute I could when I got to Rome my next stop. I felt so bad! It was a little hard for everyone in America to understand that Europe really does not have all the wonderful and reliable cell phone and internet services as America! Things to be thankful for. :) After telling Mom and Dad and Reid I loved them Emily and I enjoyed our last Italian cappuccino (yummy!) together and she went off to Salzburg to meet her aunt from America. :) 
I went back to the hotel and and our hotel “mom” told me how to get to “the most beautiful” place on the island. It was a three hour walk along the coastline! So I headed out to do the famous Blue Grotto and the leave from there on my leisurely walk!

Our "hotel mom" : )

I visited the Blue Grotto and it was impeccable! I could not believe that water could get any bluer than what I saw outside the cave! I bought my ticket to go on the boat tour which involves boarding a rowing boat with a handsome Italian driver, being boated over to the “pay boat” where you had over eleven whole euros, then you are propelled towards the cave opening where it is so low that you must lie down into the laps of the other passengers to get in! Once you are in the completely dark cave you see the water, the brightest blue, glow in the dark! Our boat man told us that the King of the island use to have his private entrance to the island in this cave and we got to see his stairwell! The reason the water manages to be so blue inside the cave is because when the light hits the water outside the cave there is a chemical filter that absorbs all of the red pigments leaving only the brilliant blue to be reflected into our eyes! This is the case for most of the water around Capri but especially exciting seeing even brighter inside the cave! Apparently, most other coasts where the water is a similar blue is because of volcanos nearby - but not Capri they are special!
After the Blue Gratto I started to walk up the street the bus came down in endeavors to find the beginning of the path and luck struck upon me and I found it after only a few yards! I am surprised that I did not just walk past it because it was not a large trail head and did not have any big signs! I walked along the path that was basically a cleared path - and enjoyed seeing the chalk like rocks against the blue water, the green foliage and beautiful yellow flowers! It was such a peaceful walk consumed by thoughts and drinking in the beauty and nature. I was amazed at how different the landscape got over my two hours of walking, I got to see chalky rocks, beautiful prairies, and walk through what felt like the rain forest! I even found some adorable goats and an old fortress! 
I was getting a bit tired during my second hour and came to a fork in the path that lead five different ways, with a sign to Capri not distinctly pointing at any of them! So I tried a few of the paths out a bit just to see if any were more promising and realized that I was just going to have to go for one and hope it took me home! Before going I took some pictures of these huge plants that looked a bit like a yucca cactus by smoother that were honestly almost the size of me! It was soooo cool! :) So I kept walking and was getting quite concerned that I had taken the wrong way because the path was becoming more unkept and I REALLY felt like I was walking through the jungle - I was in fact ready to meet a clan of gorillas... until I found a road - thank Heavens! Except... that it was super steep and I was exhausted. I did meet a nice tourist on his way down the street and asked me if the trail started down the road which gave me confidence that I was not completely lost! 

But once I got to the top of the first part of the road it forked in two directions - both uphill of course. So i decided to sit at the fork and ponder which direction I would take (learning that maybe it is not always the best to take “the road less traveled” when you are alone lol) and ate my lunch. A few cars drove by and at this point I was seriously debating trying to get one to drive me to Capri. The third car stopped and asked me in Italian if I was ok and I of course had no idea how to reply so I pointed at the fork and asked which way was Capri. He pointed to the right and then invited me to ride up to the bus station in Capri. I gratefully accepted (he seemed genuinely nice) as I was so exhausted and tired and it was a good thing too because it seemed like the hill to Capri never ended! I thanked him and caught the bus to Capri glad to be knowing where I was! 

Once I got to Capri I decided a refreshing lemonade and a “The Kiss” (it is about Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss”) book were in order while watching the tourists and locals outside a cafe. I paid a ridiculous 7 euros for a lemonade (silly tourist) but at this point I just needed something refreshing! To of course find out that the lemon island would be squeezing fresh lemons and handing you two sugar packets. It was so sour even after two sugar packets that my jaw is still locking as I type this! I also bought a British newspaper and was super impressed by the coverage and topics, way better than many America papers I read! :) On my ride back to the hotel I saw our “hotel mom” again and she told me that she had gotten a call from my mom last night on her voicemail and to make sure to call her back and let her know that her baby is ok and safe. Lol. Oh Italians. :) I watched BBC (the only English channel) and saw that the regular news for Italia always had a sign language translator for the news! How cool is that? America needs to step it up a notch. I also packed for the morning and fell into bed!
Saturday March 27th, 2010
In the morning I headed out to travel to Rome where I would stay by myself for a few days before meeting up more of the students from Salzburg College in Florence. I had planned to catch the 11 o’clock ferry to Napoli but had been just a few minutes late after some confusion over bus times, so I sat down and enjoyed a Cappacino and people watching until the next one at noon. That was one thing that I really learned while traveling was that if something did not work out it is not a big deal; just enjoy what you have there otherwise you will just spend the time being upset in a foreign exciting place!
Our “hotel mom” had drawn me a map of how to get to the train station in Napoli from the ferry - but I was a little nervous about getting there, as when we arrived I did not feel completely safe even with Emily there! So I got off the boat and of course the boat did not dock in the same area as where it had departed a few days ago! So thank Heavens I can acquired my location most of the time by sight so I wandered myself over to the original docking port. The problem with being in a foreign city and public transportation is that when you get off a bus it does not mean that the bus stop going the opposite direction will be across the street. So I had to find the bus back to the train station which involved following directions to cross the street, find the large fortress in the distance then take a right, walk down past a “few” lights and then go to the middle of the road and wait for the R1 bus. I was so lost and looking like a complete tourist with my huge backpack so I eventually surrendered and went into the first hotel that had an American flag hanging outside it! (It is a great travel tip, cause someone always speaks English, and they will be more patient with you!) They pointed down the road one light, so I did and did not find a bus stop ... until i looked at a little strip of concrete in the middle of the high traffic road where people were standing by a sign. 
So I joined them and had a hard time figuring out if a R1 bus would arrive, as I almost stepped onto a wrong bus! It was so lucky the drivers were so nice! Eventually a man came up to me and through our huge language barrier he expressed he would take me to the “central statione”! Knowing your basic vocabulary really can come in handy! So we got onto the bus (that was busting at its seems with people) and when my guardian angel had to get off the bus he took my hand and went to the bus driver, put my hand in the drivers, talked to him and then said “central statione!”. lol. I was officially handed off to the bus driver to make sure that I would get to the station. They were so nice. The driver was completely fine with it too! He got me off at the right station and made it very clear how to get to the station from the stop. I walked through the street vendors with a fast pace and a know where I am going attitude to the station. Unfortunately, the station is under construction so there is only one entrance and it is super hard to find, but with the help of an officer I got to the station and boarded my train to Roma!
Once I arrived in Rome I had to find my hotel. (I was staying in a real hotel just to be safe while traveling alone in Europe for the first time in this huge city!) Lucky for me I walked out of the station and there was an information booth giving out directions! So the lady gave me directions to go down the street seven blocks and then turn left - and I did except I did seven blocks the wrong direction and I was getting into a less nice area of town. So I decided to get a water and a ham and cheese sandwich and gear up for my next 14 blocks of walking with my backpack. I finally found the right area of town and had to call the hotel three times for more directions, visit a hotel with an America flag where I acquired a map (I had tried to look at a map at a vendor - but my street was not even on the map!) and THEN I found it! No wonder it took me so long because the hotel was only one floor of a building and the sign was only the size of my finger! 
I got checked in and the room was beautiful (like what you see in all the Italian movies!) and I settled in. I called my mom on Skype and talked to Seida a little bit. I ran out to get dinner from a pizzeria down the street where I ordered a Napoli pizza (because that was where I just was right? I should try it.) to discover that means it has anchovies on it! Yucky! The young man that was cooking pizza had one of his friends come over to tell me I was beautiful in English. Yah I am a tourist but hey keep talking like that and I will come back for more pizza. lol. I talked with mom while I ate and she could not believe how fast I ate the pizza - she said I looked like a teenage boy - but I was sooo hungary. The only thing slowing me down was picking out the anchovies! 
Sunday March 28th, 2010

Today I went to Pompeii! I took the subway all by myself back towards Napoli to the town of Campania. Unfortunately I had forgotten that it was daylights savings time, so I was a bit off with my schedule when I arrived at the train station. But Napoli is a popular destination so I only had to wait an hour. I met some girls from the east coast on the train and we talked for the ride down. The train was pretty sketch, but at least they made the touristy Pompeii stop obvious! :) We got off and were trying to decide whether we should pay for a tour or go by ourselves with the handbook we were given. I decided that I wanted to do Pompeii right so I took a “private” tour with six people - the tour guide had been trying to sell us while we were in line. He told us not to tell anyone but since we were students he would not charge us 12 euros but 9. Eventually I told him I would do the tour for 7 and he accepted. Victory was mine! haha. :) All of those poor souls that paid the full price. 

Anyways the tour ended up being wonderful and very educational. Our tour guide absolutely loved his job and it was fun seeing him be so excited. He told us that the town had been developed into two sections, the first being the rich and the second being the working class. The wealthy side had founded themselves on the side of the town where they had more sunlight to enjoy themselves, while the workers would have to work in the dark at an earlier hour. Also the streets had bits of while marble in them so that the moon would reflect against the stones at night and light the way! So clever! :) 

Also Pompeii use to be on the shore line and a very popular port. And because it was a very popular port they had a lot of prostitution for the sailors. They called the prostitutes the “she wolves” so when the sailors came to the Pompeii all they had to do was howl like a wolf and they would get a reply that sent them to the house. Creative right? lol. Also you could find engravings on the road of the male anatomy and it would be pointing towards the house! When we got to the prostitution house our tour guide said that we can all come in except that I might want to be cautious because it dealt with adult matters. lol. But it was funny because the way the system was set up was that you come in and choose one of about three pictures on the wall of positions, then you would choose the girl and go to a stone bed. So crazy. Then we saw the famous dog and little boy huddled up that were petrified because of how quickly the ash and lava came down upon them from the eruption. It was uncanny because just based on their posture you could tell how scared they were. I wandered around for a while just looking at the ruins and then headed back to Napoli as I wanted to try to go the world famous Archeological Museum that houses many Pompeii items. But the once I got out of the train station at 4pm in Napoli I looked around and decided I did not feel comfortable walking around the town to find the museum or trusting a taxi so I just went back to Rome for the night. :) 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rummaging through Romania's Past

Monday March 15th, 2010
Today in German Jasmine my teacher was nice enough to give us a vocabulary quiz for extra points on our German exam. Thank heavens because I really needed those points after getting a C on my exam. But honestly that was a lot better than I thought it was going to be - so I was happy. :) I finally have confirmation on the Suceava tour of the monasteries. It has been a quick put together but I think things are settled now. It is more expensive than I wanted but, I know it is the right thing to do to make sure someone that knows what they are doing is with us in Romania. So far Emily and I have not been able to cancel our flight to Greece for the three of us because the airline thought we already cancelled our flight - which we didn’t - but that is what their computers say. Unfortunately that is not what my bank account says as they took out the money for the tickets. Planning, Planning, Planning.
Tuesday March 16th, 2010
Scrambling to make sure I know that everything is settled for this trip. I have never felt more unprepared for something like this in my life! But I guess this is good practice at being spontaneous and adventurous. At this point I know that in the next few days I will arrive in Bucharest and then go to Suceava and see some monasteries. I don’t even have a flight from Bucharest to Rome which is our next stop! But I guess things are the way that they are and you make the best of it! So scrambling to print of addresses, consulates, and tour guide pamphlets. :) 
Wednesday March 17th, 2010 / Thursday March 18th, 2010
The morning I woke up at 6 am and tried to make new plans with Mom over Skype for organizing Romania and Italy. Spent most of the morning doing research before I left. I went to Bergita’s delicious lunch where we had one of my favorite deserts a slice of her amazing light chocolately cake with super vanilla ice cream. Umm Umm Umm! Then I had German and Economics. I had to run to the train station to activate my Eurorail pass, but it was okay because the weather was finally nice in Salzburg (of course it gets nice when we all leave!). After Economics (I was a bobble head during it, as I was falling asleep) I printed last minute agendas and then headed home. 
I spent the night packing and doing last minute things. My train left at 3:45 so I took an hour nap between 1-2 am and then headed to the train station with my backpack and a big bag of food that my host mom gave me for Thursday and Friday. I won’t lie it was a little bit creepy walking down the streets to the train station at 3 am. It was a very eventful walk tho, it started with a falling star sighting above my house as I left, then a  black cat walked in front of me and a huge wind tunnel came. I met a few people on my walk that were coming home from St. Patty’s day fun. I got to the train station at 3:20 and wished that I had left later because it was so dark and the sounds of trains stopping and starting and workers walking around was a bit unnerving but all was good. I found my train platform (not 9 and 3/4!) and waited. There was a huge train there when I arrived that had cars on it for as longs as the eye could see. At 3:35 I followed some people down to the front of the track and thank goodness I did because there were regular train cars at the front of the train that I had been waiting to leave with cars on it! I found a cart with a lady and man in it and fell asleep for most of the ride. I hate sleeping on trains because it is always so pretty outside the window and I miss it! But I was so tired. I arrived in Vienna at Wien Westbahnhof (West Train Station) and followed the signs to the airport shuttle.
For 6 euros I got to ride in a charter bus to the station, a 45 minute ride but it was perfectly fine because I napped again. :) I was dropped off into the airport and it was pretty easy to follow the signs. I exchanged 30 euros for 203 liro (Romanian money) and headed off to be checked in. I was able to check my backpack in for free so that was amazing - I like AirBerlin! Security was a breeze and I was quickly   was at Gate 50 going to Bucharest. I met this really sweet lady and her older mother that  were Romanian while we were waiting. The mother was so cute she played with her rosary for a long time and walked around. The daughter who was in her forties probably tried to come up to me and talk in Romanian. She found out I did not know English but still was super nice and smiled at me while we waited. I had a list of Romanian phrases that she and I went over pronunciations with. It was really fun. I liked her a lot and she smiled - already a better start than Austrians. 
The airports in Europe (at least the ones I have been to) are so weird! You ride a shuttle to the plane and then walk up the stairs from the ground to the plane. I had a window seat but kept falling in and out of sleep during the flight. Some of the best views were of the mountains - so breath taking, and the little villages. Aww Romania! I couldn’t believe I was actually going there! It was so interesting to see the rural houses and farms and then the big crazy city of Bucharest with all of its horrible drivers!
I got off and picked up my luggage and found my taxi driver Christian from TaxiBucharesti waiting for me. Christian drove me to my hostel - Happy Hotel - and we had a great conversation. He told me to be safe from gypsies pick-pocketing me and cheating me on expensive taxi rides. He said that I really need to be careful as a young pretty girl not to be taken advantage of. He said to send him any questions I have about which taxi services, or tour prices, etc. Either really nice of him or he is extra good at ripping me off. He made me a bet that he would pay me $100,000 if I would drive in the city for one day and live. lol. I see what he meant because we passed a crash even on the way to the hostel. 
I got to my hostel and the owner was really nice and met me at the door when he saw the taxi. I took the my shoes off and chatted with the owner who apparently had lived in Texas at some point. There were magnets on the wall of American states. lol. I got up to my room which had the most flimsy door I have ever encountered! The door handle literally was falling out of the door and I am sure if you kicked it it would fall to the floor. I had booked a double room as I was going to be with Emily before she learned she had a final today - so she comes tomorrow. So the double room ended up being a 6 person room all to myself. The room was clean and beds comfy but definitely not a 3 star hotel. :) The door creeped me out as I was the only one staying in the room, and there was no lock on it! Thank heavens a family friend Susan, had mentioned to buy a door alarm! I used it and felt a lot better - but I am sure that the guys downstairs were wondering what the heck the alarm was that kept going off because it took me a while to figure out how it worked! In the end I did not even need it as it was a very safe hostel due to the staff - but hey I was scared! Basically all that day I stayed in the hostel. After an exhausting week of midterms I slept like a baby until evening where I talked with Seida for most of it over skype and watched Igor the cartoon movie. :) Outside my window it looked like a Halloween film with the full moon’s light hitting on the run down block of houses as stray dogs walked the streets and growled at each other. Yah I was creeped out. lol. 
Friday March 19th, 2010
Jane and Emily came to meet me in Bucharest today! They arrived around 1 o’clock when Christian dropped them off. Jane was at a different hostel as she booked separately so she met us later at our hostel. I had stayed in my room all morning, being scared to go out on walking adventure, so when I got downstairs to meet Emily the hostel owner was like, “Why haven’t you been out of your room!? Have you been sleeping this whole time?” I said yes even though I hadn’t cause I didn’t want him to know that I was scared. lol. Jane arrived about a half hour later and had crazy stories about her hostel owner becoming best friends with her already and something about crack. Oh Jane.
So we decided that we wanted to go out and see the Romanian art museum that was suppose to have a bunch of traditional art pieces and furniture. We had the hostel call a taxi and the man talked with the driver about where we were suppose to go, they kept going back and forth about the art place and an open air Romanian house museum that the driver thought we were going to. On our drive through downtown Bucharest we realized that with driving there are no lanes, at some point there were six cars across in a three lane area! What made me really sad was that there was an ambulance that was trying to get through traffic and was literally at a stand still. Made me not want to get hurt, cause I would never arrive at the hospital to get the hospital care that my nurse at school said “If you get hurt in Romania - go to another country for medical care”! The taxi driver finally dropped us off at a museum - the open air museum that we did not want to go to. But honestly I think the guy understood where we wanted to go, he simply did not want to drive there. So we paid our 7 lei to get into the museum that had old homes from all of the different regions of Romania. It ended up being very cool, even though we had not planned on going. The wood engravings on the homes were just beautiful, and I found a perfect little cottage that had blue shutters with white flowers painted on it! It was fun walking around peaking our heads out of windows and looking at the large diversity of styles of homes. We found a random semi-modern carousel that we just had to take pictures on the horses and two little metal cars that children are meant to sit in - that looked like they were right out of the book of 1989 by George Orwell - so communistic looking! The park started to shut down and we were shooed out by big, non-smiling Romanian security guards dressed in red military uniforms with large guns. I could not honestly figure out why so many would need such large guns to protect these houses but whatever - we listened to say the least! Once we were out we realized we needed a taxi and so we called the hostel to call one for us, and 10 minutes later a taxi arrived and took us to dinner at Casa Doina. We walked in and realized it was a really expensive restaurant but so beautifully decorated inside with almost Turkish looking designs in green and gold! The man even gave me a chair for my bag - it was a high class area. Too bad all of us were not highly dressed! But we ordered and all enjoyed a delicious meal! I had cabbage rolls with meat inside them which I would later find out was my biggest weakness in Romania - I just loved them! It made us laugh when our 100 lei bill was twenty dollars. :) Then we called it a night and called a taxi. But on our way home the taxi did not just go straight home so I was worried that either we were being taken to a different destination or he was just running up the meter. I hoped it was the second I could deal with that, and it was. We got home safe and sound! :)
Saturday March 20th, 2010
We had said good bye to Jane the night before at dinner, as she was staying in Bucharest for more days than us. Ends up she missed her flight to Turkey so she stayed in Bucharest the whole two weeks! Emily and I went on a tour to Brasov and Bran with a company we had booked online with Travel Romania.  
At 8 am we met the driver outside our hostel and got into his ‘80s car for our tour. We started driving and had the most beautiful drive through the plains and the mountains. We passed a statue of a wolf with two orphans drinking milk from it, and learned that that was the story of how Romania began. The roads continued to be horrible for our all day driving adventure, between crazy drivers who have no since of a law and pot wholes almost the size of my body we never lulled off to sleep to say the least! It was so surprising because we saw Coca-Cola snack shops everywhere! That was just about the only thing that we saw in the little towns as we made our way through little villages.  We had lunch outside the Brasov Castle at Popasul Reginei. We had a great view of the castle from our table and saw the animal pen outside with lots of chickens and deer! We were so surprised to find the deer. :) We tried to ignore the idea that those were probably going to be someone’s dinner later! We had the most delicious cabbage rolls with pork and a type of corn grits thing with a great donut thing with blueberries for desert! :) 
The castles were really basic and neat to see, you felt like you were living in the age the princes lived because when you looked out the window it was small cottages, fields - what I imagined a prince’s view would have been. I don’t think it has changed really all that much! At the base of the Brasov Castle there was a little open market with all kinds of beautifully embroidered white shirts, dolls, and people selling cheeses! I bought a doll set in beautiful costumes for my collection. :) 
In Brasov the Romanians battled against the Turkish and won over 50 battles. The one battle where the Romanians lost was when they ran out of water and had to surrender because they were located on the top of a mountain. In the future they made the Turkish POWs dig a well, they told them they would be free when it was done. Too bad for the Turkish that it took 17 years to finish!
As we drove we wandered through neighbors filled with brightly colored; oranges and pink flaking homes, with kids with no shoes and heavily worn clothes ran around and the elderly sat on benches watching the odd car driving through their town. It was so interesting to see this different world from my escalade driving, predominately upper middle class, suburban life I grew up in.
I started asking the driver questions about Romania because I was curious and I knew I had to write a paper about Romania for my European Union Politics and Economics course. ;) Our driver had lived through the Soviet occupation in Romania and had a lot of interesting comments and was very well informed, as he said he is always reading news - because during the Soviet occupation they did not receive information and when they did it was altered and highly monitored. Now he seeks all the information can, he said it was just so hard to know that there was so much information out there that was being hidden from you. He also mentioned that the only time that t.v. was on was from 8-10 pm every night. The only programs mainly were musical concerts! The information below is from the driver, I am not sure about all of its accuracy so just take it as you please. :) 
Some interesting things I learned; 
  • Culture
    • Romanians are there own special branch of Orthodox
    • On Easter when Romanians go into markets with hanging lambs, they have to be careful not to buy a skinned stray dog - apparently they look very similar!
    • 100 years ago Romania conquered Adrian people and Italians brought to Romania and the product of the mixing of Italians and Romanians are the “Roman” people
    • The Romanian language was surprisingly readable! It looked very similar to Italian or Spanish and I could read a menu for the most part! I was expecting it to be as foreign as Czech, Hungarian or Greek! It is because of the Italian influence from the people  brought to Romania. And thank you is Merci - French! It is a mixing pot of languages. Kinda fun. :) 
    • There are Coca-Cola stands everywhere on rural roads, as that was the largest American enterprise after the fall of the Soviet wall. It is like a Starbucks in America! :) 
    • In 2005-2008 real-estate went up drastically and everything collapsed! (Sound familiar Americans? :) ) And now you can clearly see construction left completely abandoned.
    • After the revolution against the Soviets there was a law created that orphans could not be adopted outside Romania because there were large problems with people trying to sell the kids. Today the general attitude is that it would be okay for children to be adopted outside Romania if it is what is best for the kids.
    • Agriculture is the staple of the Romanian economy - but it is mostly only makes the country self sustainable in the respects to food. 
    • In order to protect the trees on the sides of the streets Romanians (often the Gypsy population) paints a limestone and water combination onto them! It is the same paint mix that they often use on the country houses. The only downfall is that you have to do it every spring! 
  • Romanian History
    • King Carol was the first German King to rule Romania in the 19th century
    • Romania is a country split into three regions by the mountains. In the past they were ruled by three kinds with three different governments - Moldovia, Transylvania, Wallachia.
    • The Brasov Castle was the first castle in Europe that used electricity - from the stream near by. (Yet it seems like every country claims to have the first castle with electricity!) The Russians took it over during the Soviet rule, but the Romanian family got it back after the fall of the curtain and currently rent it out to the State for a museum that we visited. In 1918 Queen Mary united the whole country with the Transylvania region. She was Romania’s Queen mother that really worked for the people. They adore her. She placed a huge cross by the Brasov Castle to remember the Romanian soldiers. In WWII she fought the Germans out to protect Romania. 
    • Dracula anyone? Well there really was a Count Dracula that was born in 1431 that was from the Transylvania region of Romania. Dracula’s father was known as Vlood (The order of the Dragon) and he worked against the muslims Vlood had to rule during the Turkish invasion and he was a prisoner for 6 years by the Turks. When his dad died, Count Dracula came into rule. The people called him cruel but also fair. He established free taxes for locals, but high taxes for foreigners (mainly Hungarians and Germans). name was not Dracula. Dracula came to be his name because the Germans thought he was so evil because they had to pay taxes (which they had never had to do before!) They called him “blood thirsty” - do you see the movie and book coming into view now? :) Dracula means the dragon devil. 
    • The “Dracula Castle” that is on the cover of the book is the Bran Castle but it is not the real castle that Dracula lived in. Also during the times of fighting against the Turks, Count Dracula would have his soldiers cut down some trees in the forests the height of people and then clothe the stumps as soldiers! Pretty clever man right!? lol. 
  • Current Politics
    • Romanians saw that if they did not join the European Union, they would no longer really be considered part of Europe. 
    • Romanians are oddly not very concerned over the matters of Turkey joining the EU, while that seems all of the EU nations like Austria, and Germany can talk about (besides the Greece financial crisis!) Most of the immigrants to Romania are from poor African countries, Chinese, and Moldavians. 
    • Romanians are very grateful to be recently added to the protective area of the NATO air shield. I was worried about bringing up American military when I talked to him because so many countries have hostilities to us being in other countries but I was surprised by his response; “Why would we not want American military here?”. I was shocked! He said that America protects them from the world, especially Russia. He said that after the fall of the Soviet Curtain that Romanians were waiting for America to come and save them like they were saving all of the countries. But America only came 50 years late, compared to other post Soviet satellite countries. They said “We are waiting America. Where are you?”. It was interesting because the way the man talked he did not hint any hostility of America not coming earlier, it was the positive fact that they came and that they were still there that he highlighted.
    • He said that at the rate the country is going that the collapse of the country is near “I do not hope for, but I am afraid”, because of the economics, mentality of the people and government. 
    • In order to get money from the EU in the form of grants the application process is really difficult. But extra hard for Romanians as when the EU translated the rule book into Romanian their choice of words made it more difficult to receive grant money. So a large amount of money that is set aside in the EU for Romania to build up its country - is not accessible to the country!
    • Lots of Romanians are going abroad in Europe to bring money back to Romania for their families, but it is having a toll on the average family structure as children do not have parents at home - or even in the same country!
  • Retirement
    • He said that Romania is a country of retired people. 3 million people are working while there are 9 million adults in the country. Most of them retired early in their late 40’s from getting a medical paper saying they cannot work or bribes. 
    • The money does not come from the employers but from the state for retirement, and there is not enough people working for the country to really run. The state has to borrow money from the national fund to help support the retired.
    • He said the country will collapse by 2030 because a large population will reach retirement age. Their “baby boom” generation will hit retirement. Half the world away and sounds like a lot of the same problems as America!
      • The reason there were so many babies, was that in 1968 abortion became illegal and lots of children were dropped off to orphanages (which contributed to why Romania is still one of the countries with the largest orphan problem in the world!) and there were just a higher amount of children without this other alternative.
  • School
    • Elementary School is grades 1-4, Primary School is grades 5-8, High School is grades 9-12 and then college.
    • Teacher salaries are very low, the constant change of government makes lots of reforms of education so that kids have lots of gaps on their knowledge with the revisions of curriculum.
    • Our guide said, “We are a country of lawyers and engineers, but we really know nothing.” What a profound statement! He said that the level of higher education in Romania is so poor compared to other countries that if a college graduate from Romania leaves to go to another country in Europe that they will not find a job - because it is not “of satisfactory level”. In order to be considered for a job you really need three years of experience AFTER they graduate with a degree. 
After I had asked this man enough questions to make him want to tell me he was a mute, he kindly drove us to the train station and helped us to buy our overnight sleeper car to Suceava for that night. Good thing he did too cause there was no way we would have been able to communicate correctly with the lady behind the counter! It cost me maybe 50 dollars for a first class sleeper car for 8 hours! What a great deal! :) We were eventually dropped off at our Happy Hostel back in Bucharest, showered, packed, and headed in a taxi to the station where we caught our train to Suceava to see painted monasteries for the next few days! The sleeper car we had was very basic but so much better than we thought it would be! Minus the fact that I tried to roll down the window and the handle came off (we safely secured it on again!), and that we had to creatively strap Emily in on the top bunk so she didn’t fall out on the juts of the train against the track, we slept well!
Sunday March 21st, 2010
We arrived in the morning in Suceava and came off of the train to meet Sorin who was the Romanian that was to be our tour guide. We got off and somehow he found us (could it have been the touristy backpacks that gave us away amongst all the locals?) He kindly drove us to the hotel where we were to stay, down a dirt rode to a house with chickens in the front and a beautiful German Shepard chained up. We dropped our bags in our room - a very basic room that had a rosy hue from the curtains. :) Sorin would return at 8:30 so I went to get a coffee from the sweet girl working at the hotel while Emily took a short nap. I talked with the girl that was so kind and very curious about us. She spoke pretty good English and we spoke of how she had lived in Italy for a few years and had learned Italian and how she loved it so much. She did not look much older than me maybe 25, but you could she had aged a bit more through her rougher life style. I was surprised to learn that she had a four year old little girl, who I discovered was her world. :) It was so sweet because she brought me to her room to show me a picture of her blond pig-tailed daughter. :) Emily and I had breakfast - delicious scrambled eggs (the first eggs we had had since arriving in Europe - 3 months!) and enjoyed the best machine cappuccino I have ever had! We watched the black and white hotel cat sit in the photo perfect red framed window as we ate! : ) 
When Sorin drove up we left for a day of adventures! We drove a long while seeing the villages of the Suceava area discussing the bright colors of the homes, and the unique style of each. Each family builds their own home, so it is not the cookie cutter houses that we have in America! It is so refreshing. But it is easy to see that we are in an area of low incomes, in fact probably categorized as poverty in America. Almost all of the homes look like they are falling apart in some way, whether it be the concrete siding is falling off or the wooden roof has gaps. We drove through some of the most beautiful country sides, with thick green forests and deep valleys filled with golden winter foliage. Sorin says that Romanians call the forests their brother and they respect nature very much. During the Ottoman invasions Romanians would flee to the forests for weeks and  survive because of the hunting and gathering provided by the forest.  
We drive probably for an hour before we arrive at the first painted monastery. The Bucovina Region of northern Romania where Suceava (pronounced Suchava) area is, is known for their famous painted monasteries both on the inside and uniquely on the outside as well. Here is a brief history of the monasteries.
Stephen the Great (1504) fought for the Christian Romanians for 47 years against the Muslim Ottomans from invading Romania. He believed that every victory he had against the Ottomans was because of God’s will and he created a church to thank God. He was created a saint and many of the churches in Romania are now in honor of St. Stephen. St. Stephen had become the image of Romania. St. Stephen continued to build a church for every one of his victories and in the end Suceava ended up with 44 churches from St. Stephen. 
In 1527/47 (only like 200 years before our country was created!) Petru IV Rares (Stephen the Great’s illegitimate son) decided to decorate the outsides of the monasteries in the region with religious scenes from the Bible. The next year it became mandatory that all monasteries be painted on the outside.
We started off the day visiting the Sucevita monastery which is the largest and youngest painted monastery in Bucovina. 
Next we visited the Voronet monastery which is in the town of Gura Humorului. It is known as the “Sistine Chapel of the East” because of the beautiful frescoes. The blue of the paint on this monastery was so vibrant I loved it! Turns out that  that shade of blue in Romanian has its own name “Voronet blue”! Sorin our tour guide told us that like many other religions and groups of people the paintings were added onto the buildings so that the illiterate could understand the story of God and the Bible through pictures. The Suceava region is unique in that not only are the insides of the churches painted but also the outside! Inside most of the churches there are three rooms for the Romanian Orthodox church. The first is for the women which usually has women Saints painted on the walls, the next is the mens part with male saints and parts of Genesis are often found and then the last section that is only for the Priest. There is sometimes a room before the women’s section where we found the Bible in images for the 365 days of the year. I was surprised that many of the days had Jesus cutting the heads off of the a Saints, I never remembered to ask Sorin why! :( 
Then we drove through some of the Carpathian front range mountains to get to another one of the monasteries that we were to see for the day. We saw beautiful bee wagons where villagers move wagons that home bees in them from field to field to get honey and the land owners do not mind because then their crops grow better. This is an example of the team work of survival and collaboration that is so refreshing in Romania. We drove through the beautiful snow capped mountains and it reminded me of the Rockies I miss so much. We stopped at the top to take some pictures of the breath taking view and were landed right next to a huge communist remembrance statue of a hand with a gun wrapped around it. Its placement on top of this mountain landscape was really powerful! :) We walked around a bit and saw the men of a family selling their family goods. The grandpa had a table set up with the most beautiful jars of honey and preservatives while his grandsons tried to sell us hand painted eggs - as Easter was the following Sunday.

We continued down our mountain drive and came upon the village of Vatra Moldovitei where the Moldovita Monastery was. My favorite thing about this one was the Jesus’ Tree painting!
After that Sorin dropped us off at the Suceava Mall that use to be a chemical plant during the communist days. I am not sure if I would be making such a public building as a mall from a chemical plant! Looking out over the rural plains one could see the mall from far away with its largest smoke stack painted orange and yellow sticking out along the sky line! Emily and I went in and bought lunch and did some cheap shopping where I found a fun necklace for an American dollar - and some children’s books in Romanian. :) Emily and I were so surprised at how modern the mall was - it was just like it was out of America! Everything surrounding the mall is like time traveling into the past and then this little section is so modern! The inside had escalators, and clean walls, and bright advertisements! Since Easter was just a few days there were large fake painted Easter eggs lining the inside water fountain! Even the clothing of the people at the mall was everything opposite from outside the mall! It was a little pocket of the Western world!
Sorin picked us up and drove us to our hotel in downtown Suceava and suggested a little pub for dinner that was just down the street with live music. We took a nap and then headed out for a late dinner - down our dirt street that was under construction and had poor lighting to the pub. We had dinner in the dimly lit restaurant, watched a group of 20ish year old Romanians celebrate a birthday and ate our pasta while listening to horrible ABBA impressionist Romanian singers! lol. I was so surprised when I looked at the menu and was able to figure out what most of the meals were! I thought that I would be completely lost on the language but it was so similar to Spanish (that I only wiggled my way through in high school!) that we had an idea of what we were ordering! After dinner we stopped by a stand next to the restaurant and got the most delicious crape like roll deserts filled with Nutella and apricot jam! Emily and I headed back to the hotel in the completely sketch and creepy, dark, construction ally with stray cats all over the place. Needless to say - mom did not hear about that walk and we were power walking it back! :)
Fun facts of the day: 
*Merci is a widely accepted word of thank you in Romania. Multumesc is the traditional Romanian word, but you often hear Merci. Apparently in the 1800’s many Romanians sent their children to France to study and the word became a part of the Romanian culture when these children returned. 
*It is common for every family to have a well outside their home, it looks like a little house with a decorated roof. It was amazing to see 80 year old women dumping the buckets into the well and working so hard at such an old age!
*Lots of Moldavians try to get Romanian citizenship so that they may then receive the travel visa for work that Romanians get for being a part of the EU. They seek better lives in Italy, or Germany working hard. 
*The EU has brought some conflicts to the villages of people as it has sometimes disturbed their traditions and ways of life. One example Sorin mentioned was that since 2007 when Romania joined the EU, villagers are unable to cut the throats of pigs to kill them for Christmas dinners and now have to use injections. The villagers believe that it is worse with the injection and less natural to do such a process, and has cause conflict with their traditions.
*When lambs are sacrificed (mostly in the villages) at Easter and other special occasions the wool from the lamb is used to make the traditional wool hats (Cusma) that men wear in the winter. These hats look like a modern day beany in a way but they stick further up into the air. On Sundays the men wear their nice hats the ones that are the most shiny from the lamb wool. 
*I was surprised of all of the people using roller blades in the downtown part of Suceava. I felt like I was in an 80’s MTV video!

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