Piatra Craiului Visitor Center opens in Zărnești

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Zarnesti has opened the visitor center at Parcului Naţional Piatra Craiului (Piatra Craiului National Park). The mountain and the visitor center are about 30 km from Brasov. I saw them building the center back when I visited the mountain last July, and I remember thinking – what is that? During construction, it looked like a big black blob. I was intrigued.

The architecture of the building is distinctive because it mimics the topography of the mountain. I’m glad it looks more like a big mountain now. Especially since it cost 6 million lei (although it seems that this is a postmodern interpretation of “mountain”).

The windows kind of creep me out a little…does no one else see these as eyes? This also freaked me out in Sibiu – the sleepy way the windows are shaped made me feel like the buildings had eyes.

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Photo Credits: Adevarul

From the pictures, the center looks open and spacious with several exhibits. Everything is meant to be interactive. You can learn all about the flora and fauna of Piatra Craiului, the mountain that I am going to climb this summer.

 

The visitor center is free (yay!) and was paid for with a combination of funds from the Romanian government and the European Development Fund. The center is part of an initiative to preserve the biodiversity of the mountain and to develop tourism in the region.

Watch a cool news clip about the center on Digi24’s website (Romanian)

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Piatra Craiului at dusk (July 2015)

Read more at Adevarul (Romanian) or Romania Libera (also in Romanian)

Visit ZărneștiWebsite (English)

 

Preparations

You may have noticed that my posts have been slowing down lately. This is because I am moving to Romania in less than thirty (trei zeci) days (zile). I have an incredibly long to-do list that includes a lot of paperwork and visiting with family…and I am also pretty nervous. Of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is probably the most experimental. Leaving so many things in America (my regular full-time job, my family, my friends) definitely scares me, but in a good way. I think there would be something wrong with me if I wasn’t nervous at all about moving to a foreign country where I don’t really speak the language.

So there you have it – my excuse for not keeping up with the Carpathians lately.

Because soon I’ll be reporting live 🙂

Summer 2016 is heating up

I’ve begun to plan my summer activities and so far, I’m really excited. I think I have something fun planned for each month of summer.

I am pumped that I get to go to the Electric Castle Music Festival this year. Last year, I was working and I didn’t have the chance. Not this year! I’ve already got my tickets and my camping spot reserved. It’s happening!

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I am really pumped to see Sigur Ros and Bastille. Uh, and Skrillex…yeah. I’m sure I’ll be more excited about him after a few liters of Ursus.

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Consuming Ursus is recommended before consuming Skrillex

 

A sampling of bands that will be performing ECF ’16:

God, I hope Sigur Ros performs THE RAINS OF CASTAMERE at Electric Castle. Red Wedding 2016, y’all! Maybe you’ll remember Sigur Ros from Tom Cruise’s movie Vanilla Sky. I think they did all of the music for that film.

Here’s Gorgon City:

and Argatu (omgomg):

EC 2016 will go down in Cluj-Napoca. Cluj is an awesome city. It’s full of young people and it’s got lots of charm, especially in its historical district.

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I had the pleasure of eating at Cabinet de Vin & Cocotte when I was there, drinking lots of wine, and waking up to a beautiful sunrise over church steeples. I really enjoyed the botanical gardens – also located within the city.20150710_201838_Richtone(HDR).jpg

Electric Castle Festival is named thus because the concert takes place at Banffy Castle in Cluj. Banffy Castle’s history goes back to the 1300s, but the castle itself has only recently been restored to glory. Thank God, because this is probably the coolest concert venue I’ve ever seen. Just a castle, some EDM, and 30,000 of your closest friends.

Camping is happening, so let’s hope that it doesn’t rain like it did last year. I don’t mind an adventure, but I’ll have to remember to pack my rain boots and cheap flip flops just in case. Although, who am I kidding – this is Transylvania. It’s going to rain. It’ll be a great opportunity to wear my prettiest poncho. I will probably also pack some warm clothes because if this summer is anything like last summer, there might be a forty degree difference in night and day temperatures.

We-are-the-people

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Last year’s Electric Castle Festival. I guess I should also consider packing a canoe.

I should mention this will be my first EDM festival. I’m a little worried it’s going to go like this:

 

and…

The other event that I’m really excited for is The Color Run Romania. We have these in America and I’ve always wanted to go, but I never had the chance. I’m a total sucker for a 5k. I chose to go to the Timisoara race because I’ve never been to Timisoara and what a great excuse for a weekend trip 🙂

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I’m also debating buying tickets for the Rhianna concert in August. Ha ha – just kidding, there is no debate. Rhianna is happening.

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I would also like to take some intensive Romanian courses. I’m not sure where, though. There doesn’t seem to be many choices in Brasov, so any suggestions would be great. I would really like to be conversational as soon as possible because there are so many wonderful Romanian people that I’m not able to speak with – it’s incredibly frustrating sometimes when you don’t have someone who can translate for you.

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At some point, it would be nice to go to the sea. I loved going to Vama Veche last year, and I would be open to going there again…but maybe we could try something closer to the Danube Delta. I’d really like to see that this year.

 

 

I’m Bringing Bottles to Romania

My departure date is getting closer, and I’m starting to gather items to pack. I’m starting to feel nostalgic even though I haven’t left yet. I guess I’m starting to say goodbye to my country and my comfort zone.

I’m worried about everything. Culture shock, mostly. I know my Romanian is going to be horrible when I arrive, and I’m afraid to offend people with my bad language skills.

I’m worried there will come a day when I’m just done with Romania, Romanian, those damn beautiful mountains, polenta, EVERYTHING – and I just curl into a ball until someone spoon feeds me a McFlurry.

I’m sure there will be a time when all I want to do is make a blanket fort that I will claim for America, and I will eat Lay’s potato chips, drink Coca-Cola, and watch ~all~ of Gone with the Wind…and I think that’s okay.

I’m confident that if I mentally prepare myself for change, it will go easier for me. Maybe.

In order to help me feel like I’m not so far from home, I’m considering bringing a suitcase just for items I won’t be able to get in Romania. I’m going to be gone a long time, and I can’t expect anyone to pay the ridiculous shipping fees (and then lose the package anyway! Here’s looking at you, United States Postal Service).

Even though I was pleasantly surprised at how many diversity they have in food at the grocery store, there are some things I just wasn’t able to find. I was kind of surprised to discover a theme amongst my items…they are all (mostly) in bottles. Strange.

Bottle #1: Bottles of Hot Sauce

I’m going to bring Sriracha, Tapatio, and Frank’s to Romania. I love hot sauce. I love spicy food. I have found neither in Romania. Well, they have hot sauce, but it’s not hot enough for me. In fact, I don’t recall eating any spicy Romanian food…ever. Does it exist? The spiciest food I had last time was at the Turkish restaurant (which was amazing).

I’m going to need to bring my own supplies if I have any hope of re-creating Mexican food in Romania. I’m going to bring an assortment of Frank’s hot sauce, well, because I put that shit on everything. They have hot sauce and wing sauce. Both are absolutely amazing.

Now, if I can just find an actual cilantro plant, I’ll be set for salsa.

Bottle #2: Bottles of Beer

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I’m not a big drinker, but I will admit that I enjoy local craft beer over any other kind of alcohol. We have so many local breweries here that you would be insane to order some Budweiser (*COUGH*catpiss*COUGH) or even something like Guinness (which actually bottle_saovmbtastes good…in Ireland). The craft beer also changes by season as well. I’m not going to lie, I’ll really miss drinking a pumpkin ale on a crisp autumn night.

Bottle #3: Bottles of Fireball

Another bottle of alcohol that I’ll probably bring is Fireball. Fireball “Whiskey” is a cinnamon liqueur that tastes just like those cinnamon jawbreakers you used to get as a kid (fireball jawbreakers, hence the name). On it’s own, it’s kind of headache inducing, but you can mix it with a hard apple cider and it’s absolutely magic. It’s insanely popular here. I don’t think I’ve ever had a night at the bar where someone hasn’t (obnoxiously) called for a round of fireball shots. It’s probably what they serve in hell. Just look what it does to Christ Pratt:

I understand that it’s not sold in Europe because it has too much of a certain chemical and it doesn’t meet the standards. Maybe they’ve reformulated and it’s back out for sale, but I haven’t found it yet.

Bottle #4: …and some bottles of Georgia wine?

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University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Georgia

I’m going to miss Dahlonega wine. There’s nothing like eating cheese and sipping wine looking over the blue ridges of the southern Appalachians. I went to University here for both of my degrees, and I miss the beautiful view.

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The Appalachians. Be still, my heart.

:sheds a single tear for all the wine festivals that will be missed:

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Amy Schumer, My Spirit Animal

Bottle#5: Stuff for S’mores (okay, I lied – S’mores are not in bottles)

(large white marshmallows, honey graham crackers, and plain Hershey’s chocolate)

Here is something really funny. Before I came to Romania, I would have never thought twice about S’mores. Maybe if you’re at a bonfire and someone brings them, and you’re like, hey – great idea! But I think most people don’t really consider smores to be worth fretting about, let alone making this big of a deal about. S’mores weren’t important to me at all until I wanted to share them with the Romanian friends. Then, they became my unicorn. My Moby Dick.

 

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In case you were wondering how S’mores are born…

It was slightly impossible to find the ingredients for smores. I looked in several stores (actually, every grocery store we went into), and I was able to find small pink marshmallows and some other “American BBQ” style marshmallows, but nothing that would make an America-sized s’more. I also found Cookies-n-Creme Hershey’s (Ew, really?), but no plain. And forget graham crackers. The closest things I found were these kid crackers that were rectangle shaped.

So we ended up with a Frankenstein s’more. I was surprised by how not bad they were, but this Franken-s’more still wasn’t the real deal. I wanted to share my culture with my friends! How can they ever know what America tastes like if they don’t have S’MORES??!

I am still obsessed. So this time, I will bring my own supplies. Just call me Ishmael.