Monday, 17 November 2014

Is it a castle? Well, you might call it like that. My favourites.


A castle is not just a castle. It could also be a fortress. Or a giant mud structure. Or even a rock-hewn city. [And I suspect this list’s going to welcome at least one or two new entries in the following 2 weeks – to be continued.]
Not intending to bore you with history stuff for now, here are the amazing structures and the feelings that stayed with me after exploring them.

  1. Urquhart Castle
Highlands, Scotland
Built: 13th to 16th century

The green of March, the quirky spring weather, the rainbow over Loch Ness, and Saint Andrew’s Cross flaunting in the wind.
  1. Trascăului Fortress
Colţeşti, Transylvania, Romania
Built: 1296

The intoxicating June heat, the constant buzzing of the insects, the luscious green surroundings.
  1. Ostrožac Castle
Una-Sana Canton, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Built: 16th century

The astonishing view seemingly encompassing the whole of Bosnia, the high grass inviting you for a jump, the eerie and mysterious vibe. 
  1. Uplistsikhe
Eastern Georgia
Built: 8th to 9th century

The sunset over Mtkvari River, the smoke rising from the village homesteads, and one of the most extraordinary and powerful feels I’ve ever come across: this place has soul!
  1. Ardvreck Castle
NW Highlands, Scotland
Built: 1590

‘Would you have liked to live here?’ I was asked.
‘Of course!’ I instantly replied.
What could be more welcoming on a cold early autumn afternoon than staring at greyish Loch Assynt and listening to the murmur of the wind from inside this castle’s walls?
  1. Corvin Castle
Hunedoara, Transylvania, Romania
Built: 1446

It is the typical fairy-tale castle, without the usual commercial aspects that come with this trait… and that includes the crowds.
  1. Enisala Fortress
Dobruja, Romania
Built: 12th to 14th century

The cool air of the early evening, mixed with the salty flavour of nearby lakes Babadag and Razim, and one incredible sunset.
  1. Arg-é Bam
Bam, Kerman Province, Iran
Built: 6th to 4th century BC [but presumed to have existed earlier]

The awe before what men can create and before the endurance that proved the world wrong.
  1. Rupea Fortress
Rupea, Transylvania, Romania
Built: 14th to 17th century

In my opinion, still the most dramatic fortress in Romania. And I believe that says it all.
  1. Peleş Castle
Sinaia, Muntenia, Romania
Built: 1873 – 1914

The mix of modernity, royalness, and humbleness lingering in the air at each and every visit. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Jonesin'



Acum aproape un an eram încă în Hebride şi într-un extaz atât de mare încât nici nu îmi dădeam seama cât de legată eram de locurile pe care le colindam: frumuseţea aceea sălbatică [văi şi-apoi culmi neregulate şi totuşi rotunde], plajele acelea pustii veghind oceanul turcoaz, valurile de ploaie care păreau că nu mai contenesc şi apoi se opreau... brusc. În momentele acelea, viaţa mea (la cum o visam eu pe ea) se apropia de perfecţiune. Sfârşitul de an mi-a adus însă un final mai puţin aşteptat. 2014 a fost fix pe dos – greu, până acum, când toate îşi găsesc locul şi de mult nu simt că aş fi fost atât de fericită şi îmi vine să o urlu din toţi rărunchii. Când e dat, e dat.
Ring of Brodgar, Orkney
Când ţi-e dat să te trezeşti la plăcinta cu rabarbură cu tovarăşi de mic dejun veseli, cu urechile ciulite şi codiţele pufoase... nu uiţi. Nu poţi. Eu, una, compar. Absolut tot. O fi bine, o fi rău? Aşa sunt eu. Nordul meu – sau o continuare a lui – e încă acolo, ca idee, ca dorinţă într-un ungher al minţii mele. Încă nu pot spune că l-am găsit în totalitate şi mă întreb dacă îl voi găsi vreodată. În septembrie mi s-a mai îndeplinit un vis – să ajung în Northern Isles ale Scoţiei. Şi acum, dacă mă uit pe hartă, mă iau fiori. Şi mi se pare că să ajung în Shetland a fost mai exclusivist şi exotic parcă şi decât drumul pe Itaparica, din povestea „Brazilia 2011”.
Zori de zi pe Hoy
Când ţi-e dat să ajungi undeva, o faci indiferent de oprelişti. Aşa că Orkney a fost prima oprire. „Orkneyinga saga” mă făcuse, la citirea şi studiul ei, să mă gândesc la o insulă sălbatică, cu ape neprimitoare şi cu stânci neşlefuite. Când colo, câmpuri verzi, văcuţe negre, turme de oiţe, orăşele de ştrumfi. Cu agricultura asta în floare, scepticismul localnicilor [diferit de stilul scoţian, total, şi amintindind mai degrabă a Norvegia] şi... senzaţia overall că mă aflam pe un loc de joacă, şi nu pe un tărâm atât de disputat şi de încercat de istorie au făcut ca dezămăgirea să îşi arate colţii în sufletul meu. Nu m-am bucurat atât de mult de clipele petrecute acolo pentru că nu am simţit că aş putea. Era mult prea comercial şi obişnuit totul pentru mine. [După Shetland însă, a urmat Hoy... şi, da, acolo m-am simţit în rugozitatea nordico-scoţiană pe care o voi iubi mereu!]
Isle of Noss, Shetland
Când ţi-e dat însă ca, din când în când, să mai iei şi o gură de aer proaspăt, se va întâmpla. În cazul meu, nedormită şi înfrigurată după o noapte pe ferry, am câlcat pe pământ shetlandez. Într-adevăr, o poveste cu totul diferită. Aici stăteau ascunse aşadar apele neprimitoare şi stâncile neşlefuite! Şi focile cu ochi duioşi. Şi gâştele de mare cu zborul ascuţit! Şi căldura tipic scoţiană, care se simţea din nou în aer, undeva la 7 ore pe mare, la Nord. Hmmm... voi ţine mereu minte cum m-am simţit acolo, cum am fost primită şi răsfăţată, cât de mult am visat să îmi simt paşii pe străduţele înguste din Lerwick. Şi totuşi, nu a fost un cerc, nu a fost o bucurie completă. Şi nici când am ajuns acasă [pentru că, de obicei, îmi las sentimentele să se decanteze – aşa a ajuns, de pildă, Armenia în top 3-ul sufletului meu călător], nu am simţit-o diferit. Şi asta pentru că...
Aşa a fost dat ca sufletul meu să rătăcească încă, printre fire de iarbă înalte şi munţi albaştri, şi să privească ore-n şir oceanul. La vest. 


Text  şi fotografii: © Olivia-Petra Coman

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The 13 beaches I love most


There’s a story to every great moment in our lives.
These are stories about how I fell in love. The feelings are there. Haven’t faded. Not even a bit.

1. Horgabost
Isle of Harris, Scotland
Petra (to the bus driver): ‘Two tickets to Horgabost, please.’
[I had found Horgabost on UK’s list of 10 most beautiful campsites, but I wasn’t expecting the paradise that I found there. It’s been a year and I still pinch myself… is this place real?]  

2. Dyrhólaey
Iceland
Petra (upon arrival): ‘Wow!...’
Petra (after a few minutes): ‘I don’t want to leave this place. I could stay here forever.’
[And I rarely say that.]

3. Oldshoremore
Scotland
Petra: ‘Hello. Are we anywhere near Sandwood Bay?’
Very nice man working on a boat in the harbour: ‘Well… I will tell you, but first, I will have to ask you—what are you planning to do there?’
Petra (surprised): ‘Well, just walk along the beach and watch the sunset.’
Very nice man working on a boat in the harbour: ‘You’re not far, but there’s a 2-hour walk to Sandwood Bay.’
Petra (very surprised): ‘Ah…’
Very nice man working on a boat in the harbour: ‘You could go to Oldshoremore instead. It’s close and it’s one of the prettiest beaches in Scotland, in my opinion.’
Petra (looking happy)
Very nice man working on a boat in the harbour: ‘You don’t happen to have a washer, do you?... We’ve lost it…’ J
[Oldshoremore: it didn't just live up to the expectations, it exceeded them. Talk about fate.]  
4. Jökulsárlón
Iceland
Petra (to Marcel): ‘A seal! Right over there! I wonder how they got into the lagoon…’
[…via a channel connecting it to the ocean, we would later find out. Extra: this amazing beach, chunks of ice as far as the eye could see.]

5. Balnakeil
Scotland
Petra (to Marcel): ‘The best things in life are free. At times like these, when you’ve got pink sunsets, green seas, and creamy sands… you don’t need anything else. We should only feel grateful.’
[no comment]

6. Seilebost
Isle of Harris, Scotland
Petra (to Marcel): ‘I’m hungry. Let’s go find some food. The egg roll was great, but I could eat more.’
[We didn’t find stores or restaurants. We found this amazing beach and another wow instead.]

7. Copacabana
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Petra (to Marcel): ‘I’ve never seen anything like this. It is the most beautiful beach of my life.’
[At that time, it was.]

8. West Beach
North Berwick, Scotland
Petra (to Marcel): ‘I want to see the puffins! Let’s go to the Scottish Seabird Centre!’
[That’s how we got to North Berwick, which is still my favourite inhabited spot in Scotland, and saw the beach… and fell in love…]

9. Matosinhos
Portugal
Petra (to Marcel): ‘I want to go to the beach! I want to have a swim in the ocean!’
[One underground ride later.]
Petra (to Marcel): ‘This is one great beach. And it’s so close to the city [Oporto]. I can’t wait to take my clothes off and get into the water!...’
10. Plage de Bon Secours
Saint-Malo, France
[This was probably my first love. It was September 2000. I just sat and watched La Manche, that grim light and those greyish waves… and I told myself that I had probably never seen any sea or beach that could fascinate me like that.]

11. Farr Beach
Bettyhill, Scotland
Petra: ‘Hey! Why are you back so soon?’
Marcel: ‘I’ve come to tell you that I won’t make it to lunch with you, guys. …I’m going surfin’!...’
[I’ve gone to the beach later on to watch him with my friend Alison. The light, the waves, the sand… they were all incredible. I’ll always remember that afternoon. I secretly wished to be in the water and ride those waves, too. History came first at that time. But there’ll always be a ‘next time’.] 

12. Jurmala
Latvia
Petra: ‘Don’t forget to take your beach towel.’
Marcel: ‘Damn! I dropped it… the sun from the Sun Museum… you and your crazy ideas!’ 
[And he was apparently right. There was no need for a beach towel. It was the last day of May, at a pretty high latitude, the wind was cold… but our spirits were high.]
13. Aphrodite's Rock
Cyprus
Ice cream seller: ‘Would you like a flake bar with your ice cream?’
Petra: ‘Yes, please.’
[As I felt the ice cream melting on my tongue, I could sense the murmur of the sea and perceive everything as the white version of dark Dyrhólaey.]