Romanian Traditions: Oktoberfest

Today I am going to answer the question, “Why do Romanians celebrate Oktoberfest?”

Because that was my question, too. Oktoberfest (in my mind) is a German festival. So why would it be important to Romanians?

It has a lot to do with the original settlers of Brasov. The Saxons, a Germanic people, were settled in the Transylvanian region in the 1100s. Even though that was almost a thousand years ago, there is still a Saxon population here today.

Many descendants of these original settlers in Transylvania feel connected to their Saxon heritage and celebrate it in traditional ways, like Oktoberfest. In some parts of Transylvania,
German is spoken just as much as Romanian. In Sibiu, many signs are written in German. They even have a ton of German TV channels. Our driver last year spoke both languages fluently.

The president o61599462f Romania, Klaus Iohannis, is even part of the Saxon tradition in Romania. He was born in Sibiu and considers German to be one of his native languages. Sadly, Romania has lost a lot of its Saxon population. Many left Romania to move to Germany after the last world war and the fall of Communism. In 1930, there were over 700,000 citizens of Saxon descent in Romania. In 2016, there are less than 40,000. In my eyes, it’s important that Romania continue the Saxon traditions or they risk losing an important part of their culture.

There are hints of the Saxons all over the place in Romania, like the existence of Oktoberfest. You can also see the Saxons in the place names they left behind.

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Did you know that Brasov has several different names? Originally, the city of Brasov was called Corona (in Latin = crown). The Transylvanian town was named by its Saxon inhabitants in the 1200s – it was also known as Kronstadt (Crown city).

The citizens of Brasov pay tribute to the original name and founders by including crown symbolism in the city’s emblem.

You can also see some local businesses getting inspired by the Saxon tradition…

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Brasov also has a Hungarian name. At one point, most of Transylvania belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and so it acquired the name of Brassó. If you travel around the city, there are several signs that show the name of Brasov in all three languages.

Most of the population today only refers to the city as Brasov, but if you happen to allude to Kronstadt or Brasso, people know what you are talking about.

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Fun fact: Brasov was also known as Stalin’s City during the Communist era. It was said that Brasov was his favorite city.

Today I learned there was a big statue of Stalin right across from the Modarom during Communism, just meters away from where bullet holes remain from the ’89 revolution. /end Tangent]

I hope now you can understand why people in Romania would celebrate Oktoberfest. If you’re interested in learning more about Romania’s history, I recommend this book. I get a lot of good information from here. It also has pictures 😛

If you want to read more about the Transylvanian Saxons, you can read up here and here.

Now on to the actual festival…

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We attended Oktoberfest in Brasov on two different days. We went the first night it was open and I was pretty overwhelmed. They had set up a huge tent and there were thousands of people inside, all drinking huge mugs of beer and eating sausages. There was even a German band playing. I’ve only ever been to Oktoberfest in Helen, Georgia, and this was so much more authentic.

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Here is a picture of the mugs of beer I was talking about. The picture is sort of misleading because the mug appears small…trust me, they were not. I think you could fit at least three cans of beer into that mug. It was at least a liter of beer.

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They were selling so many different kinds of food.

Gallons of goulash.

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KURTOS!

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My favorite were the pretzels. SO. GOOD. Put that pretzel with a beer = heaven. The pretzels were also very large. I will say that the ratio of pretzel to beer was very satisfying.

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Roasted pigs were also very popular at Oktoberfest. I was kind of transfixed by them. They just…glistened…as they rotated. Magical roasted pigs.

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They also had lots of candy, gingerbread cookies (these are in the shape of objects or cartoon characters with icing – I bought one at Christmas that looked like a house), strudels, doughnuts, etc. Basically everything you need to get diabetes in a very short time.

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I was super happy that we took a taxi. After those big beers, no one is in any position to drive a car. It also made me feel better to see so many police officers out and about. The police here have a different feeling than back home. In Georgia, I always felt like the police were present to catch me doing something wrong. Here, I feel like they’re creating a safe space for people to enjoy their lives.

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Obviously, we had the WURST time. Ha. Sorry, I had to throw in that pun.

We actually had a lot of fun at Oktoberfest. I wish more of our friends had been able to come with us, but the timing of the festival was off. I think people weren’t expecting it to start in late August. Because…it’s Oktober…fest.

Anyway, despite the festival being so early, it really got me excited for the end of summer. I am ready for autumn now. The leaves are starting to change a bit and I’m very thankful that the temperatures are hovering in the mid-70s lately.

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Fall :3

“Traditional Romanian Food”

 

 

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Really, McDonalds? The McMici?

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McDonald’s has a new campaign where they offer “traditional Romanian food” in the McDonald’s style. You can choose from a few interesting items, the most notable being the McMici. It’s definitely just a sandwich with meat that vaguely tastes like mici. How do I know this? Well, I tried it. For science.

In case you are unfamiliar with mici, it is basically an amazing grilled sausage thing that most people really, really enjoy. Ask any Romanian about mici, and most likely you’ll get a response along the lines of “Mici!” with some patting of the belly. You don’t need a lot of words to communicate how much these little sausages are loved.

I think traditionally it’s a mix of beef and pork, usually grilled outside and served with mustard. It’s the kind of thing you can buy on the side of the road or at a restaurant.

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Claudiu and I went to McDonald’s because we were kind of hungry and it was on the way to Carrefour (grocery store/mall-type place). He got the DOUBLE McMici (omg) and I, being of sound mind, ordered a regular cheeseburger.

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A double McMici

We split a drink and fries and also a Plăcintă casei, which to me sounds like the Latin name for some kind of weird animal, but apparently it means something like “pie made in the home”…or so I’m told 🙂 I’m not trying to be a hater, but this dessert is basically  a lame attempt at trying to make another item Romanian because it’s just an apple pie with ice cream. C’mon McDonald’s, if you’re going to uncomfortably pander to the Romanians, you might as well have tried to make a decent dessert. They really missed an opportunity to do something more special. A McPapanasi? McCovrigi??

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Placinta?

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Always eat dessert first 🙂 or else it will become soup

Speaking of special, this particular McDonald’s was really something to behold. It had not only a play place, but also a full basketball court (!) and a train car that’s painted up all cute specifically for birthday parties. I remember begging my mom to have my birthday at McDonald’s when I was a kid. A train car would’ve made it infinitely cooler.

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The restaurant itself was packed – tons of people eating inside and out. There was even an overflow eating section outside which is where we ended up sitting since there were no other seats. It was a lovely day and we were glad to be in the sunshine…eating a double McMici.

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Hoo boy.

 

Restaurant Review: Hockey Pub

I’ve been incredibly busy this week with my real job (as much as I’d like to blog full time, I have to bring home some kind of bacon – for now, at least). The awesome thing about my program is that I have the opportunity to eat at lots of restaurants around Brasov. I’d like to share one of my favorites today. It’s a great places to eat if you’re a local or a tourist.

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Hockey Pub, or “Hockey” as some of the locals call it, is located just off Piata Sfatului – a few minutes walk from Biserica Neagra (Black Church).

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Hockey Pub has a more local feel and has a menu that would seem familiar to most Americans. I almost always order some kind of soup here, usually tomato based. The first few times I went to Hockey Pub I had some red pepper cream tomato soup with some kind of alcohol (I think gin?). It was good but not as thick as I would have liked. This time I had the tomato soup au gratin and it was probably the best tomato soup I’ve ever had. Very, very filling. Definitely enough for a meal, but I didn’t know that when I ordered…so I also had the hot wings. Don’t let the name fool you, the hot is more of a smokey sweet flavor and you will need the wet wipes they leave at your table. The wings come with potato wedges. I wasn’t able to finish the soup or the wings even though they were delicious. Next time, I will have to make the difficult choice of ordering one or the other.

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Claudiu ordered the quesadilla. It was not really what I would consider to be a traditional quesadilla. There was melted cheese involved, but also hummus and some other things. No spice or cilantro, although we expected that. The saddest discovery I’ve made about Romania is that there is no cilantro! They have coriander but no fresh cilantro. Time to find some seeds and grow my own 😦

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The service here is fast and the wait staff is friendly. There is a new electronic system at each table where you can ring for your server and order or get your check without having to wait (you know, sit and try and make eye contact and then pretend to hold up a bill while you mouth, “Can we have the check?” and then wait some more before it actually comes). It expedited the end of the meal and we were able to leave as soon as we were done eating. Very, very nice.

I forgot to mention that Hockey Pub is also a great place to go and watch sports. Tons of high-def flat screen TVs. I think we’re going to try and watch the Romania/France soccer game there. There is no smoking in the restaurant, but there is a section outside if that’s your thing.

Overall, I really like this place. It’s a chill place to go eat with friends and it’s even nice to go by yourself. You can chat with the wait staff or just watch the game. For more information, you can visit their website: http://thehockeypub.ro/