A trip home for Christmas: family, friends and… food… lots and lots of food…

Going to Romania for Christmas is testing for your bodyline. And your liver. And your pancreas. This is the time of the year when families spend at least a week before Christmas to prepare lots of pork-based foods, then another week to consume it, washed down with substantial quantities of wine and spirits, and then three months to get rid of the average 4kg they put on during this time. We missed the first week, but we got plenty of the rest, and at least me, I got within the expected margins of the extra kilos.

But, it is also the time of the year when families and friends get together to tell stories, remember the good times, and stock up on nice memories and great fun.

First stop, my hometown, Ramnicu Valcea. A stroll to the park in the morning took us along the river Olanesti,  under a gorgeous sun and clear sky. People were confused, thought it was Easter already…

We arrived in Zavoi Park, where the National Hymn was sung for the first time on 29 July 1848. Music was written by a local author, Anton Pann. The song is called “Wake up, Romanian!” (“Desteapta-te, Romane!”), and was a symbol of the 1848 nationalist Revolution against Imperial Russia and the feudal aristocracy. The song was declared the national hymn in 1989.

A few steps away, there was the statue of Nicolae Balcescu, one of the leaders of the 1848 Revolution. Originally, the statue was located on the grounds of my high-school, which was also named after the leader of the Revolution; in 1989 the authorities took the statue away and replaced it, and the name of the high-school with “Alexandru Lahovari”, the original name at the beginning of the 20th century. Lahovari was a local aristocrat, former Minister of Justice and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Romania between 1870s and 1890s.

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Next day – family reunion, with 8 of the cousins from my mother side, who I haven’t seen in ages. Now all grown up, with kids of our own. Awesome!

 

Drive to Bucharest, a quick shot of lake Ostroveni from the speeding car, to remember the days of ditching classes of mandatory agriculture work in high-school, to go for a stroll or a swim there…

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In Bucharest, we arrived at our hotel, to be greeted by a statue of Attaturk. We were told that the hotel (formerly a famous city hotel in the theatres quarter), was bought by Turkish owners immediately after the revolution, and the owners donated the statue to the city. Bucharest an international city…

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Then off for lunch with my brother and his family at a hipster restaurant, called “Energiea”, located in a former printing house from the beginning of the century. The restaurant is famous for its fresh fruit cocktails and the largest portion of potatoes that I’ve ever seen. Quite filling, and healthy!

After such a large meal, coffee next door at Origo – I am told, the best coffee shop in town. When the barista asked us what kind of coffee we would like, I thought he meant a choice between espresso, cappuccino or alike. No, he meant “we have Guatemala Finca Dominguez, El Salvador Borbollon, or Ethiopia Sidamo for long coffee”. And by long cafe he did not mean the expected “Americano”, but rather a slow infusion of freshly brewed coffee, served in a thermo-resistant glass cone. My choice, for a variety of reasons, was Ethiopian coffee and it was quite a treat!

Then we had a choice between visiting the House of Parliament or skating in the Cismigiu park. Did neither, because cousins could not decide. But managed to see the House of Parliament from a distance and in “contre-jour”, and because there was a huge queue at the skating park, the cousins ended up jumping up and down on the trampolines.

A few more shots in the park before heading to another family reunion and meal, with lots and lots of food… no pictures for this one, too busy talking and eating…

An amazing display of respect was the commemoration for the last king of Romania, King Mihai, who died in early December. He was living in Switzerland, was 96 years old, and was repatriated for burial in mid-December. Impressive display of candles and flowers extending on the entire length of the railings of the Royal Palace on Calea Victoriei.

Next day was spent at “Therme” – an amazing in-door (and partly out-door) waterpark, the largest in Europe, with 10 swimming pools, 6 saunas, 4 wet saunas and 16 toboggans. Plus 800,000 plants, of which 1600 palm-trees, orchids and other plants, in the largest botanical garden in the country. Plus amazing hydromassage beds. A refaire bientot!

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A quick stroll for some last-minute shopping and seeing the city lights – no time for fancy shots, just out of the speeding car…

 

So, no museums, no theatre, not even mega-shopping this time around – too busy eating, drinking and talking to family and friends! And recalling memories, and building new ones!

Craciun Fericit si un an nou cu bucurie tuturor!

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