Spring Comes for Leo

We have finally had some consistent spring weather. It seemed like for one week Mother Nature couldn’t make up her mind – I wore sandals and short sleeves on Thursday and then on Sunday we had a freak snowstorm…

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The view from our balcony…

…and now the sun and sky and everything is majestic again. I wore actual sunscreen on Saturday because the sun was so intense.

I completed the martișor ritual by tying my bracelet onto a flowering tree. I hope that the tree I picked was flowering enough because I could use the luck 🙂

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Clau and I went to Decathalon (for you USA people, Decathalon is like if REI was cheap lol) in search of some fun spring things. I had in mind to buy a scooter. I see these things everywhere and not just kids using them. I’m not quite brave enough to ride a bike in this town, so I thought a scooter would be the next best thing. However, I was really shocked at how much they cost. A decent adult scooter costs just as much as a bicycle, which means that I did not buy a scooter. Skateboards were also not an option because I am interested in having unbroken ankles.

So, I stuck with what I know (and can afford) and I bought some skates. They’re not like my roller derby skates (quad wheels), but I think I can learn on these pretty quickly. I mean, the physics can’t be that different, right? We’ll see 🙂

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Watch out, Brasov – no, really, watch out. I don’t know how to stop yet.

I spent some time trying to figure out which parks you can skate in – there’s one over in Tractorul that appears to allow wheeled contraptions in, but I’m not sure. The park in front of Aro Palace definitely does not, but you can skate around it 🙂 #loopholes

Springtime for Leo

We don’t need the weather forecast to tell if it’s spring because the Romanian Grill Index (RGI) is a much better indicator. If you step outside and the smell of grilling mici wafts up to your nose, then you know it’s OFFICIAL. Bonus if you can also hear manele.

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Mici!

Manele! (I am not a fan. Really.)

What’s my favorite F-list celebrity(?) been up to lately?

Well, it seems Leo hasn’t been doing too much else these days. Mostly lots of TV appearances with usual crew and the usual things: ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, and lots of money raining down on everyone. Not so many pictures of him with dogs, which makes me wonder if he’s doing okay.

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Leo approves of this keyboard.

This picture is very reassuring.

Of course, he’s been participating in one of life’s finer pleasures: The Grill.

 

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Car dancing!

I’ve never been invited to one of Leo’s grills, but it looks very fancy and fun.

 

Halloween in Romania

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The leaves were this beautiful for a few days and then we had some INSANE WIND come through…now the trees are very naked

Halloween in Romania is…not a thing…yet. I mean, it is kind of a thing, but only for parties in clubs and bars. I don’t think Romanians really grasp the spooky factor that is just so wonderful about ~Halloween~.

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In my country, Halloween is an amazing time to celebrate the changing color of the trees and the cooling of the weather (ha – well, maybe in the past…nothing cool about Georgia now). Rusty leaves blow past skeleton trees in the dim streetlights. Days shorten and shadows move across dusty fields. Crisp air and brisk walks and apple cider…SIGH

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Outside of ONIX station

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We found these beauties in the market near Billa/Star

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I’M GONNA CARVE YOU UP

 

 

Have I mentioned how much I love Halloween? On the first of October, I started looking for pumpkins and signs of spookiness. I found neither. That’s annoying because this city has so much spooky potential! Brasov would be an excellent place for a ghost tour (or better yet: ghost tour pub crawl!).

Eventually, I found pumpkins a few days before Halloween. I also found some friends to carve them with 🙂 Neither of them had ever carved a pumpkin before, so it was much fun all around.

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eeewwww pumpkin guts

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This was my second and derp-ier attempt at carving pumpkins

We also made other decorations:

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three guesses who made the happy ghost

 

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so spooky

I gathered the pine cones (surrounding the candle below) from Poiana Brasov. I think for Christmas I’ll spray paint them with some gold.

The day of Halloween I convinced Claudiu to take me to a cemetery. I don’t really think he likes them because he didn’t want to stay too long 😛

I love cemeteries because I like to read the headstones. The markers here sometimes have a picture of the deceased, so it really makes you curious about their lives. Right before we left, I found the saddest grave in the whole place:

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It says:

“Under this cold rock, in this silent memorial lies what I had most dear on this earth!”

😦

For Halloween night, we stayed in, ordered pizza, and watched Crimson Peak. I think Crimson Peak is a good “scary” movie for people who don’t like horror or intense shocks. It gives you just enough to leave you unsettled.

Sadly, trick or treating doesn’t happen here, so no cute kiddos in costume ringing my doorbell 😥

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awesome day full of traditions such as carving jack o lanterns and listening to kidz bop

…And now it’s November and I’m already sad thinking about Thanksgiving. I did hear that you can make Sarmale with minced turkey, so maybe I’ll see if I can celebrate some Thanksgiving here. I am kind of sad about not having so many holidays to celebrate. Boo 😦

 

State of the Leo

It’s been a while since I’ve posted because I’ve started Romanian classes! I hope that soon I can write some posts in Romanian. Because you’ve been so patient, I will honor you with a post on my favorite Romanian, Leo de la Strehaia.

According to “sources” (Cancan and the like), the King of the Gypsies has had a busy summer. He’s still married to his lovely wife, Dana Criminala.

New things I’ve learned about Leo:

  1. This man knows the way to the beach. At least 1/3 of the photos he posts on facebook are either on the beach, with the beach in background, or on a beach trip (the other 2/3 are him at a place called Shot Club – a place I like to think he gets all of his vaccinations).
  2. He has some favorite t-shirts. Notice there are like four shirts in rotation. These photos are all from different beach trips (according to Leo’s Facebook). He really wants everyone to know there’s more to him than Gypsy King. He’s also a Turkish Cowboy.

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He went to Bali!

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He acknowledged his son!

The “news” made a big scandal of this – but really this is his son with his first wife and my personal hero, Anca. Nothing scandalous here, except for those gold heels!

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Leo still loves dogs!

I cannot get enough of his dog photos. Especially because he dyed one of his dogs blue. Omg.

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Another shot of the blue dog (and Leo’s son in his underwear? ew).

I just noticed the pack of cigarettes next to the dog. I guess even Romanian dogs smoke, eh? I can just imagine this dog smoking and lamenting his Romanian life, “Ah, doamna ajutor…Steua a pierdut din nou! Pula mea.” ~takes long, disappointed puff of cigarette~

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Apparently, the King of the Gypsies loves KFC.

USA! USA!

I’m sure he gets his wings picant. I’m also loving the glasses, Mrs. Criminala.

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Recently, several “sources” were claiming that Leo’s wife, Dana, was pregnant. As much as I would be very happy for them, what’s most likely happened here is that she had dinner before hitting the club in an ill-fitting dress. Don’t take it personally, Dana.  In America, Jennifer Aniston has been pregnant for approximately fifteen years.

Look how happy Leo looks here:

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I know a lot of people out there don’t like Leo de la Strehaia and his family. It’s okay, haters. Dana Criminala is living her best life.

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Songs of the Moment

Smiley released this song the other day. It’s called Indragostit (in love) and it’s just so sweet. Smiley is really popular here and even though his stuff is really poppy, I love this song. I also really love his chin. But that’s a different story for a different day.

I can also safely say that Smiley makes the best faces.

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If you want to hear Smiley sing in English, here you go:

Same song, in Romanian:

 

Lidia Buble is one of my favorite singers in Romania. Her music is great for learning Romanian because it’s very repetitive. Just listen to this song – so easy to pick up! In five minutes you can sing with the chorus, “le arunc le arunc le arunc” (throw them throw them throw them) – it’s a break up song 😦

 

…and just because this song is fun (some people really hate this video, I get it – Delia is kind of wholesome and this video is pretty sexual):

At least it will teach you how to count a bit in Romanian 😛
unu, doi, trei, patru – cinci, șase, șapte, opt…[the “ș” is “sh” in English – so șase sounds like shah-say, șapte is shop-tay]

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Maybe you’ll just agree with me that that video is hella weird.

If you want to go to the next level and get into music that is actually written by the artists (sorry Smiley, Lidia, and Delia), then check out some of the new songs from Subcarpati. This song is called De Dor Si De Bucurie. De Dor Si De Bucurie is like “Of longing and joy” in English.

Dor is an interesting word because it doesn’t translate into English. It’s something along the lines of longing for someone or something you miss and a feeling of nostalgia. A soulful, nostalgic longing. You can say “Mi-e dor de tine” which means “I have dor of you” or more simply, “I miss you” – but this doesn’t really capture of emotion or the complexity of dor. It’s almost painful. Unlike listening to Subcarpati 😀

Electric Castle!

 

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I’ve been slowly working on this post for a week now because I’ve been very busy trying to sort out visa issues. Who knew how many papers and stamps you have to get to stay in this country? 😛 So, here it is – the recap from our time at Electric Castle Festival in Bontida (near Cluj).wp-1468922518323.jpg

When we got back from the Electric Castle festival, we were so exhausted from three days of camping and concerts. But I have to say, we had so much fun. I got to see some of my favorite bands and I think now I’ve crossed almost all of them off my list 🙂 It’s been a very good summer for music.

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We got to the festival and discovered that the whole thing is basically in the middle of a corn field. Cool. We parked in a huge grassy area with a thousand other cars, unpacked, and hauled our camping stuff in. We had opted for premium camping, so that meant we had to walk almost a mile around the festival to get to our “special” entrance. We checked in and scouted out a camping spot. It was kind of difficult to find space – the official camping area had opened the night before and already the place was packed.

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It didn’t take long to get set up (our tent is one of those 2-minute tents – totally awesome), and we went into the festival. We took some time exploring, getting drinks, and getting dinner.

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Sigur Ros was headlining the first night, and I was really excited because I have loved this band since I heard their music in the movie Vanilla Sky. As the band begins to play their hauntingly beautiful hymns, the sky opens up and we get our first drenching of the festival. No worries, at this point we were happy to be dancing in the rain.

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One of Sigur Ros’s songs:

After Sigur Ros came a dude known as Slow Magic. He basically wears an LED horse head and DJs some techno while he plays the drums over the music. He was pretty awesome.

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This photo is from his concert, but I like it because you can see the crowd in the video.

You can see him traipse about in the woods here:

The next day, I opted to shower in the morning (ha ha – huge mistake). After waiting in line for 30 minutes, I finally got my five minute ice shower. It was great because it was already hot, but I wish I had known that it was so much better to shower around 5pm. There’s no wait and it’s right when the day starts to cool off so you don’t get sweaty again.

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In the mornings, the showers were full of teenage girls who wanted to take 15 minute showers and then another 25 minutes to do their Kim Kardashian Coachella “festival” makeup and hair…and I’m standing over there, like, no way in hell I’m going to put anything on my face other than SPF today because it’s just going to melt off and I’m going to be wearing sunglasses anyway? What would be the point because no one would even see my face? I then realized that I am officially an old person 😛 Get off my lawn!

We spent the day chasing the shadows and avoiding the sun. We ate the most delicious doughnuts. I tried every flavor. I mean, not in one day, but over the course of the festival. Normally I don’t like the Romanian version of doughnuts, but these were verrrry close to something you might get a Dunkin’ Donuts and so I was pumped.

 

That night it started raining again, but we managed to see Argatu (related to the band Subcarpati). He did an awesome show, again with folk tunes mixed with techno beats. The crowd was really great and it made me really wonder why he wasn’t on the main stage. The crowd was huge; we filled the entire audience space and we were backed all the way up to the castle and the walkways. He really did a great job and I think he would’ve been great in the bigger venue.

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That dang banana was everywhere

A sample of Argatu:

I’m not sure how they decide who performs on what stage, but they really put some questionable acts on the main stage (uh, Elliphant?? Totally awful – the words to her big hit, “Spoon me, spoon me tonight, put your hands on my booty, you can’t spoon me too tight” duhh – I feel dumber just typing that out). Most of the people they had on the main stage were great, but some of them, Elliphant included, holy jeez they were not good.

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Thankfully you can skip around to many different stages and places in the festival. We spent some time in the Silent Disco where there are three different DJs spinning. They give you headphones and you can switch between the DJs and hear what they are playing. It’s fun because everyone is dancing to something different, but if you take off your headphones there’s no music. Just people jumping up and down. It was one of my favorite things about the whole festival.

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The following day we got a tour of the castle and the history behind it. The woman who did the tour was really informative. Banffy Castle is really old and she explained how the original structure was back in the late medieval times and how it was modified over the centuries. She even explained the more recent history with the world wars and the restoration. She pointed out some cool details in the buildings, like the tiny zodiac symbols carved under the Greek statues. I would’ve never seen those had she not mentioned them to us. I’m a big history fan, so I really enjoyed the tour.

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“Keep away from the walls”

We spent some time playing in the festival. They had a big wooden boat that rocked back and forth that was sponsored by Captain Morgan. The Captain himself gave the orders for the people to rock the boat. It was pretty fun.

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I took the “Pepsi challenge” where you try two samples of drink and pick the one you like better. I tried twice and (sorry Coke) both times I picked the Pepsi. As a southern girl from Atlanta, I feel pretty guilty that I didn’t like the coke more. They gave me a fun tattoo to commemorate my betrayal.

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The festival had also set up some carnival swings. They were also fun, but a little scary because the chains kind of creaked and you are pretty much trusting that they won’t break and send you flying off into oblivion.

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We also jumped off the Red Bull platform. This is one of the highlights of my life. It was so scary. Possibly the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Maybe the pictures don’t show it well, but it was like jumping off the third story of a building. I’m not an adrenaline junkie and I’m terribly afraid of heights. It didn’t look so bad from the ground, but when I got up there, I had to breathe for a few minutes before I could jump. The only reason I went ahead and did it was because the platform was burning my feet and that was the only way down…

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Claudiu was much braver than me. He jumped right away. Show off 😛

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Unfortunately after the sun went down that night it started to rain again. And OMG did it rain. So much thunder and lightning. Apparently it rained more that night than it normally rains in a month. Thankfully, the tent did not flood. Other people had to deal with wet tents and we did not! Major thank to the camping gods. But there was massive flooding in festival. Remember, this is a flat corn field, so it turned into a mud pit. The organizers had done some things in preparation, but unfortunately they had no idea that it would rain ~so~ much and really, there’s not much they could have done. Maybe drained out the water somehow? In some parts the water was so deep it was getting in people’s rain boots.

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We tried our best to avoid the shin-deep water, but we got totally muddy just the same. We listened to the Skrillex set that night from the tent. We were close enough that we could hear the music pretty well and we decided our need to be dry was greater than our need to see Skrillex on stage.

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Cool projections on the castle

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Nobody to watch this show 😦 it’s raining too hard

The next morning we had to leave, so we packed up our wet stuff and walked the mile back to the car. Surprise, the corn field is now a giant mud pit. Everyone is stuck. I could barely walk to the car, my shoes were getting pulled off my feet from the mud. There were gypsies there with their horse and cart towing people out for 50 lei. Thankfully, some other guys were there with their jeep and they were hauling people out for free.

wp-1468922740585.jpgI had a great time at Electric Castle. I think next year if I go, I’m going to spring for a yurt and VIP tickets so I can have a place to stand out of the rain. Maybe the organizers will have more places for people to stand (and sit) in case of bad weather next year. wp-1468922707477.jpg

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SHINE Festival

When I first arrived in Romania, Claudiu surprised me with tickets to the SHINE festival. SHINE Festival is a two day rock/metal festival in the heart of Bucharest.  I hadn’t heard of it, but once I found out the lineup, I was very excited. He had heard me talking about how much I was ~loving~ Carla’s Dreams lately, and he looked up when they were playing next. And, not only were we going to see Carla’s Dreams, but Subcarpati was playing the second night. Omg, I was so stoked.We booked a hotel and we were ready to go.

We decided to pack only our backpacks and take the train to Bucharest. I had heard scary stories about the trains in Romania, so I was pretty apprehensive, but the train we took was actually really lovely. It wasn’t too expensive and it took about two and a half hours, comparable with driving time. The difference is you can drink beer on the train. I also discovered that if you get car sickness, you can also have train sickness! Ha.

Our train ride took about two and a half hours, and we arrived at the Bucharest station, Gara de Nord. From Gara de Nord, we hopped on the metro – another neat experience. Despite the heat outside, the metro was nice and cool. Every time the train left the station, you got a nice breeze. Another really neat thing about the metro trains was that they are basically one long room – that’s right, you get on a train “car” but inside there are no partitions. You can look down from one end of the train and see all the way to the front. The metro trains are also much wider than ones I’ve seen in other cities. And the seats face inward (unlike Atlanta’s MARTA where the seats face all different directions and make absolutely no sense). Some of the stations have pretty artwork.

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We spent some time walking from the metro to the hotel (again, learning experience). I think mentally we were pretty convinced to take a taxi next. It was probably close to 95 degrees and humid as heck, so we were all sweaty and gross. Authentic backpacking. Anyway, we eventually found the hotel, took showers, and had a delicious dinner downstairs. Then, it was time for the first night of the festival!

We got some beers and settled into the seats around the Arenele. We had passes into the golden circle, which meant we could get right in front of the stage if we wanted, but we decided to chill out and enjoy the music first.

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My first observation was that I hadn’t packed enough black. Almost everyone was head to toe in black – I had forgotten this was a metal festival! I loved watching the young people (I sound really old here) enjoying their beers and thrashing about in the mosh pit. Everyone was having fun and being respectful at the same time. It was quite unlike what I would see in the US (people way too drunk starting actual fights – cops arresting and dragging hooligans out…etc.). The atmosphere here was chill and fun. Just a bunch of people enjoying some rad metal music.

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For Carla’s Dreams, we went to the front of the stage because I wanted to be as close as possible.

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They did a great show – even though I think they had some problems with their guitarist. Apparently he kept messing up(? although I couldn’t tell) and Claudiu said that the lead singer ended up kicking the guitarist off the stage for being drunk. Eh, it happens. They made up for his absence with great enthusiasm, and we all had fun.

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Most of the people singing in the crowd (around me, anyway) were younger women. Carla’s Dreams does a lot of pop songs, so I think they have a wider appeal to the population.

20160702_012426I sang along to the parts that I knew and I actually felt like I was a part of the group (which doesn’t happen often, I usually feel like the outsider in most groups).

We got back to the hotel, crashed, and slept until almost noon the next day. We had some time before the evening concert started, so we went to the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. They had a cool flea market going on outside and I ended up finding some very cool antiques – I can’t say specifically what I got because they’re going to be Christmas gifts for my family back home 🙂 We tried walking around some more, but we basically had heatstroke and nothing seemed worth the effort 😦

We decided to head back to the hotel to bask in the air conditioning after we did the flea market because it was already a zillion degrees and incredibly humid. Is this Romania or south Georgia?! Our air conditioner in our room was one of the most amazing things about our entire trip. The room was so deliciously cold. It really helped us to recharge.

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Robin and the Backstabbers

The last night of the SHINE festival was great – we saw Mihai and Robin and the Backstabbers perform, and then it was time for Subcarpati.

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I’ve written about them before, but honestly, there is so much more to this band that I could ever put into a post. I will say that what I admire most about this band is their commitment to integrating traditional old world Romanian music with new hip hop beats. 20160703_013822They make traditional Romanian music relevant for a new generation and it’s helping the younger generation connect with their culture. Subcarpati is doing what other artists should also be doing – helping to preserve Romania’s unique artistic culture not by changing it, but by adding to the “conversation”.

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Mara singing in Aromanian with Subcarpati

Here is an example of old world meeting new world – music that young people mostly likely wouldn’t listen to on their own transformed into something that makes you want to dance:

 

I wish we had bands in America that would try to do this with some of our traditional folk music. I’m thinking Appalachian folk music (because that’s where I’m from), but imagine if they took old bluegrass or traditional New England hymns and made something really wonderful with it?

Here’s another one (my personal favorite) that’s been transformed:

 

But I digress 🙂

Getting back to the concert – Subcarpati got on stage at close to midnight and when we left after two they were still going. The show was high energy with tons of crowd participation. So much jumping up and down and dancing. My soul was happy and joyful, but omg my legs were so sore the next day! They were the perfect ending to the SHINE festival. I’m very glad I got to see them perform. Argatu (part of Subcarpati) will be at the Electric Castle festival this week, and I hope to hear more of his work.

Again, we crashed at the hotel and probably would have slept a lot longer, but they wanted us to leave by noon 🙂 The concerts were so awesome and I’m so lucky to have see some of my favorite bands all in one place!

We took a different train back to Brasov – still nice, just older. Because I took a motion sickness pill, I ended up sleeping most of the way, so I don’t think it mattered really what train we were on, lol. I’m beginning to think that’s how those pills work – they just make you sleep so you’re completely unaware of the motion 😛

Up next is Electric Castle – I hope it’s as awesome as SHINE. I’m sure it will be 🙂