Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A mai trecut un an…



Să zic că l-am simţit sau că nu? A fost un an tricky, în care m-am simţit testată şi pusă la încercare din atât de multe puncte de vedere...
De câteva luni însă, cu toate lucrurile care au început să se lege, simt o şi mai mare fericire înăuntrul meu. În sfârşit, am finalul pe care-l visez de cam 4 ani. Zâmbesc cu atât de multă forţă şi nonşalanţă, sunt atât de relaxată şi de încrezătoare în ce va fi, că şi mie-mi vine uneori să-mi trag o ciupitură şi să mă asigur că nu visez.
Până una-alta, e un final şi un nou început. În forţă, alături de cei pe care-i iubesc şi care mi-au demonstrat în repetate rânduri că locul lor este lângă mine.
Aşadar, pe lângă fulgii aceştia pe care mi i-am dorit atât de mult, realizez că am tot ceea ce îmi doresc şi că de la „tot ce îmi doresc”-ul meu pot continua să construiesc mai mult şi mai mult, având o bază bună.
I have a dream... to travel all around the world, to make a difference, to turn the beings I love happy... J

Friday, 5 December 2014

Ukraine. Reversed



As I crossed the border back into Romania without any of the customs officers inventing funny bases to ask for a small bribe, I realised that some of the stories connected to this part of Ukraine were indeed urban legends: only a bunch of people spoke Romanian and none accepted payment in lei.
Always remember this when in Chernivtsi: while you’re driving on paving stone, you’re safe and close to the centre. On the way back from Kamianets-Podilskyi, I remembered the rows of lit reindeer, subtler to the eye as we approached the former Bukovynian capital in a very eager attempt to have a proper evening meal.
Red is the norm
As the darkness crept in, it got some human touch, too. Namely the conversations that were necessary to buy biscuits, chocolates, natural juice, and vodka [which is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever tasted]. It reconnected me to the kindness of Ukrainians... a kindness that had always been there, hanging like an extra discussion member, or at least these were my experiences in Ukraine. Talk about an extra smile when you buy vodka and you’re given chocolates as a ‘thank you for your purchase’ gesture. The big wow that meant glimpsing over Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle, a former Ruthenian-Lithuanian castle, with first records of it going back to the 14th century, will stay with me forever. I’m thankful for seeing its gates close before me, as this clearly meant brighter red towers perched against the evening sky.

The dry cold air @Khotyn
Letting go of my new-found friend, a quite chubby puppy I cuddled and fed, was a bit hard, I admit. It’ll go along every memory accompanying the tens of minutes spent at Khotyn Fortress, inside the walls that had seen so much and on the steps that had probably also guided important Romanian rulers. At least Ştefan cel Mare [Stephen the Great] was there – or it’s what I’d like to believe –. And he got the same incredible view of the clear and silent [for now] Dniester River. Going round the parking lot equalled a quick view over the traditional items sold: some carved, others painted, but all colourful and beautiful. By the time the trip to the local ATM had been completed and the admission and parking fees paid, it was already clear that the Ukrainian hryvnya was the currency and that I would probably get to see Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle as well, which made me quite happy.
Sunday in Chernivtsi: hmmm, a bit tricky. Crowded; people shopping; no road signs. Luckily, we always seemed to be on the right road. Colours of the city centre had replaced the grey of the suburbs, a colour I often associate to Ukraine because I had twice seen it in winter and only once in summer. ‘Beautiful’, I thought, ‘rows of colourful old buildings making your drive as spectacular and as curiosity-driven as it might get’.
A series of small villages and towns dotted on the way to Chernivtsi and their names stood as evidence to the fact that it used to be Romanian soil. I was not trying to make propaganda, not even in my heart, but I always feel connected to the parts of the land that are no longer Romanian – even if they had not been Romanian from the beginning of time –, because I do love my country a lot and exploring these lost territories makes me go full circle. The ‘Why’s at the border crossing reminded me of other such questions uttered by border control officers in Bosnia and Moldova. ‘I’m travelling and visiting places! Is it that hard to believe?’—I just wanted to pour the words out. There are conflicts, I know, but given the immensity of the country, it’s as safe a travel as one would get.
This reminds me of the reasons I haven’t told many people that I was travelling to Ukraine. I foresaw the questions, the doubts, the insecurity. And I didn’t want to go there. As reality almost always wins over what is shown on TV – and I’ve witnessed this a lot over the past two years –, I imagined southern Ukraine to be a sanctuary where people would normally get on with their lives even if conflicts are lurking. And even if people do not deserve them.    

Monday, 24 November 2014

Şi, până la urmă, ce este un broch?



Acum vreo 11 luni, scriam aşa-- „un broch este o construcţie tubulară, fără ferestre, cu scop de apărare, ce se întâlneşte doar pe teritoriul Scoţiei de azi şi care datează de prin Epoca Fierului.” Iar experţii consideră că prestigiul de a fi locatarii acestor structuri se poate să fi fost la fel de important ca securitatea pe care structurile o ofereau.
Poate că a venit vremea să adaug un mănunchi de informaţii, având în vedere că numărul de broch-uri explorate de mine a ajuns anul acesta la 4 [un număr mult prea mic, dacă e să ne gândim că sunt peste 500 de astfel de construcţii, în ruine, evident, pe întreg teritoriul scoţian].

  1. Dun Carloway
Recunosc, am dezvoltat o fascinaţie ascunsă pentru aceste construcţii. Îmi par aşa, că stau la graniţa dintre mistic şi zorii istoriei înregistrate, deci pline de semnificaţii.
Aşa se explică nerăbdarea cu care am colindat Insula Lewis, într-o dimineaţă ploioasă [şi vântoasă] de octombrie, pentru a-l găsi. [Să nu uit să vă spun că în vestul Scoţiei, cazul Hebridelor Interioare şi Exterioare (de faţă), broch-urile sunt denumite „dun”.]
Construit între anii 1200 şi 550 î.e.n., Dun Carloway este unul dintre cele mai bine păstrate broch-uri din întreaga Scoţie. De la o margine la alta, ruinele măsoară 15m şi aproape 9m în înălţime.    

  1. Dun Beag
Sau „Broch-ul cel mic”, aflat la 1 km NV de cochetul sat Struan de pe Insula Skye, pe un deal.
Nu este nici pe departe la fel de impresionant ca Dun Carloway, cu zidurile atingând o înălţime maximă de 2m, însă este o apariţie cel puţin prin privelişte. De remarcat este faptul că săpături au scos la iveală monede din epoci istorice mai recente, aşa că se presupune că Dun Beag a fost locuit până mai de curând.

  1. Broch of Gurness
Ne îndreptăm spre nord, de această dată, mai exact Insulele Orkney. Pe coasta nord-vestică a mainland-ului stă această structură. Este diferită de cele două construcţii din Vest, menţionate anterior. Prin aceea că deţinea un fel de structură adiacentă a unui sat [care, se presupune, este aşezarea cel mai bine conservată dintre toate de acest tip].
Zidurile, în starea lor actuală, ating 4.10m înălţime şi au fost descoperite morminte vikinge din secolul al IX-lea, tot aici.

  1. Broch of Clickimin
Pentru ultimul nostru popas de azi, mergem şi mai la nord, pe Insulele Shetland. Unde se găseşte şi cel mai bine păstrat broch din lume, Mousa. Şi izolarea insulei îşi spune cuvântul. Din păcate, eu nu am apucat să îl văd, dar am vizitat şi ascultat mărturii interesante despre un alt broch. Controversat de-a dreptul. Şi situat chiar în capitala arhipelagului shetlandez, Lerwick.
Asemeni broch-ului Gurness, şi acest broch prezintă o structură ranforsată, să-i zicem, de apărare. Sub forma unui fort de piatră ce-l înconjoară. Prin ce este el controversat, până la urmă? Prin pietrele de diverse origini, pe care oamenii ce l-au descoperit au hotărât să le utilizeze pentru a-i conferi construcţiei un aspect estetic, cu toate că ale lor cunoştinţe de arheologie şi arhitectură nu prea coincideau cu stadiul iniţial al lucrării. Astfel, vizitându-l, te simţi cumva păcălit şi amuzat în acelaşi timp, în afara sentimentelor de „wow” ce te cuprind când te gândeşti la numărul de ani pe care-l duce în spate.

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.