Romanian Traditions: Summer Grilling

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I’ve talked a lot about how much I admire the Romanian people and their dedication to enjoying and relaxing in nature. It’s easy to see why – the landscape here is absolutely gorgeous, the weather is mostly temperate, and apartments are small. ┬áSo it makes sense that if the conditions are right, you would want to be outside. You can see people grilling out everywhere. Literally right on the side of the road or by the train tracks. Anywhere you can make an open fire, you can grill.

Last weekend, we headed out with a group of friends to the nature (Piatra Craiului) to do some grilling and hang out in the sun. We were carried with us the necessities – hammocks, coolers full of Beck’s, and our huge cast iron grill.

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We arrived and the first item of business was to hang our hammocks and make sure our drinks stayed cool. The creek we were next to was plenty cold, so together we collected rocks and made a dam. I have seen this done at other grills – those who don’t have enough rocks for a dam put their drinks in a small trash bag and leave them in the water for a while. It’s pretty ingenious, actually. I’m sure some people do this in America, but I’ve never seen it. We tend to spend a lot of money on coolers and ice.

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We put a big blanket in the shade and lounged around talking. We turned up our music because our grilling neighbors were blasting manele, and we all know manele is practically ear cancer.

At some point, I fell asleep. The sun was warm and I’m always sleepy, so it was bound to happen. When I woke up, the fire had been started for the grill and food was starting to be prepared.

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Piatra Craiului

We had lots of different kinds of meat. In Romania, this is called a mixed grill. There’s pork, chicken breasts, sausages, and mici. Mici is like little rectangle hamburgers if hamburgers were made from beef, pork, and (sometimes) lamb. With mustard, they’re pretty good. People here love mici, but I’m still learning to like them. Potatoes were peeled and chopped, the salad of tomatoes and bell peppers was prepared, and the grilling was ready to commence.

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The first thing they did was put bacon on the top of the grill. This way the fat from the bacon went down the grill into the bottom part with the potatoes. Who needs PAM when you have bacon grease? The mixed grill meat was put somewhere in between. Thus, the circle of life was complete. The bacon fat helped to cook the other meats and somewhat fried the potatoes. We ate everything in about five minutes and life was good.

 

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after dinner…a very messy blanket ­čÖé

After the sun went down, a guitar was produced and we built the fire up. We sat around the fire singing songs until it got very cold. The stars were amazing. It looked like there were clouds in the sky, but that was just the milky way. I’m not sure I’d ever seen that before. I wonder how much more I would’ve seen if I hadn’t been by the fire.

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When the cows are coming home, but nature calls

In summary, I had a great time just hanging out – no electronics needed. Just sun, fun, and friends. I hope I can get into grilling more when I return to America.

 

Piatra Craiului Visitor Center opens in Z─ârne╚Öti

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Zarnesti has opened the visitor center at Parcului Na┼úional Piatra Craiului (Piatra Craiului National Park). The mountain and the visitor center are about 30 km from Brasov. I saw┬áthem building the center back when I visited the mountain last July, and I remember thinking – what is that?┬áDuring 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)

 

Four hikes in Romania

I love to hike. It’s weird because as a kid there was nothing more that I wanted to do than sit in my bedroom and read a book. Get out into nature? Uh, no. I’ll take my Babysitters Club and read forever, thankyouverymuch. I was such a bookworm as a kid that many of my books have food stains (ew, I know) because I read at the table every chance I could get.┬áI couldn’t even stop reading while I was eating!┬áNow that I am a Grown Adult*,┬áI still love to read, but thankfully I have diversified my interests.

*may not actually be an adult

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Appalachian Trail, y’all

Mainly, I like to nature. Can nature be a verb? I like all things outside (afar─â! I know that word!): hiking, camping, drinking on patios, you name it. If it’s a beautiful day, I have a really hard time justifying staying inside. What can I say? I’m solar powered.

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My mother and I freezing to death on Blood Mountain – New Year’s Day 2015

Now, our mountains in Georgia are nothing like the mountains in Romania. Sure, they used Z─ârne╚Öti as a stand in for North Carolina for Cold Mountain, and I won’t deny they look an awful lot the same…but our mountains are like baby mountains compared to the Carpathians. Little, innocent, soft…baby mountains. The Appalachians are just so sweet.

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Indian Seats, Sawnee Mountain, Georgia

Down in Georgia where I live, we have the Blue Ridge mountain range. The mountains really do look blue. It’s really gorgeous. But when it comes to mountains, I’m craving something…more. Something bigger. Something wilder. Something…Romanian.

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Tampa Mountain…not a mountain?

Last summer, I had the pleasure to walk up a few Romanian mountains. First, I walked up Tampa thrice – but I have been informed that Tampa isn’t really a mountain (or is it? debate away). I walked up Post─âvarul – straight up, no trails (YOLO) – and I almost died. No, I didn’t, but it really challenged me.

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Postavarul, owned (j/k it kicked my ass)

I also got to hike up Piatra Mare after going┬áthrough the ╚śapte Sc─âri┬ácanyon. Piatra Mare was also a huge challenge, but I had a guide (the very best ever)┬áwho┬áwas very patient with me while I was sucking so much air. Thankfully, the trail up is wooded and shady. Lots of good places to take a break from wheezing.

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Damn, Romania. There you go again with that natural beauty…

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Look at this ass on the top of Piatra Mare! And there’s a donkey, too!

╚śapte Sc─âri, by the way, is incredible. I am deathly afraid of heights (ironic for someone who enjoys standing on the┬átops of mountains), but I made it up all of the ladders. I was more proud of myself that I got up the ladders than I was getting up Piatra Mare….

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Right this way to my very own version of Fear Factor

 

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Sapte Scari Canyon

Now I get to make my list for this year.

What mountains will I climb in 2016?

 

I have a pretty long wish list, but the obvious number one is:

Piatra Craiului

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Home of Plaiul Foii where you can get the most amazing Papanasi.

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I’ve been staring at this mountain a long, long time. Is this desire? Yes, yes it is.

Bucegi Mountains

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I have to digress here. Upon googling these mountains, I stumbled upon all these conspiracy theories. There is some sort of occult interest in an “unexplored” area of the Bucegi mountains. A convergence of energy? Secret tunnels? Giants? We were there in December and how did I miss all of this? All I saw was snow and Gendarmerie ­čśŽ

Lizard People?? Uh, now I’m definitely going hiking there.

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Science!

How did I fall down this rabbit hole? There’s holograms inside of Bucegi. Left for us by GIANTS. It’s real, people. There’s evidence. Now my YouTube suggestions are all weird ­čśŽ

 

Ceahl─âu Massif

Here is one mastiff that I’m not very familiar with. It’s located in Neam┼ú and is a very popular range for hiking. According to this article, there are seven trails for hikers. If you don’t feel like camping in a tent, there are a few chalets and refuges on the mountain. I’m very interested in those chalets. Not that I don’t like camping…I’ve just never stayed in a chalet before. Also, to my consonant riddled American ears, the world chalet just sounds fancy. Chalet. So many vowel sounds. I digress. Look at this beauty:

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Cuvintele…nu exista

Retezat National Park

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source: misulica via deviant art

These mountains are located in the Transylvanian Alps near Hunedoara. There are so many opportunities for hiking and camping here, I think you could probably spend a week exploring. Although I’m not a climber, there are┬ásome pretty cool hikes that include some actual mountain climbing. I’ll add those to my to-do list for when I ever get over my fear of heights.

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source: pietrele.ro

I would love some other suggestions about where to go for great hikes in Romania. I would love to know more about the great outdoors in western/southwestern Romania. I haven’t really been out that way yet, and I’d love to go explore. If you have an idea, please leave it in the comments.

Look at these beauties..

I love that people use drones for photography and videography. From a drone’s eye view, a building or town can be transformed. You get┬áan entirely new perspective of a place. You can experience a new facet of its personality and charm (especially in the case of Brasov).

Bucharest…

and Brasov…

 

Piatra Craiului – the mountain I am going to climb this summer (hopefully)…

Capra Neagra

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“Goats. They are weird. Yeah, they are crazy.” – Claudiu

We drove up to Zarnesti to Piatra Craiului and the beautiful gorge that is in the park. It was absolutely freezing, so we put on an extra pair of gloves – so officially, I had on: two pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, two sweaters, a parka, hat, scarf, and two pairs of gloves. And guess what? It was still freaking freezing. This is probably the coldest air I’ve ever felt, somewhere around -2 F.

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The snow on the ground was crunchy and the air was crisp, and by God, we were going to see the Zarnesti gorge!20151230_155819

We didn’t mean to walk too far, but as we were going along, we met a couple coming the other way who told us that there were black goats (capra neagra) on the mountain ahead. Black goats?! Apparently, these wild goats are something of a rarity, so we walked full steam ahead, ready for a treat. Well, we walked around one bend and then another, and no goats. We decided to walk just a few more minutes, and then give up if those furry little jerks didn’t show.

And then…goats.

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Can you see them in the photo? I spotted those assholes from the ground. There are six of them up there. A veritable goat-themed Where’s Waldo? of sorts. Look closer.

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We watched them hang out for a bit. I had never seen a wild goat before. All of my previous goats have been of the farm persuasion. But these ~wild~ goats were everything they’d been hyped up to be – cliff dwelling, impervious to cold, and very chill. But soon, the novelty had worn off enough that I was very aware that I was cold. Very cold. And so we turned around and hoofed it back to the car (pun intended). It took a long time for my feet to warm back up, some kind of goat-induced hypothermia, I suppose. But it was worth it – the Zarnesti gorge was absolutely breathtaking.┬á20151230_155248

I was actually surprised to see how many people were up there. Lots of hikers, both serious and casual, and some families. Again, this is a country of people who know exactly how beautiful their land is – and they enjoy it whenever possible.

…and of course, I can’t have a post about Zarnesti without including a photo of this beauty, Piatra Craiului:20151230_164620