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.

 

First Romanian School

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Hello, beautiful weather!

Mother Nature tried her best. For a few mornings, it would spit snow, only to melt straightaway. She decided to give it up, and now we have a beautiful Spring happening in Brasov.

Boy, am I thankful. As a solar-powered person, I was seriously lacking in much needed energy. Also, I was dead sick of boots. My feet needed to BREATHE.

We’re studying some various topics in Romanian classes, one of them being the Romanian educational system. Our Professor was kind enough to arrange a field trip to the First Romanian School, happily located in Brasov (Schei neighborhood).

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We took the bus to the Piata Unirii station and met our guide outside of Biserica Sfântul Nicolae din Brașov (St. Nicolas Church).

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Our guide was just the best – he had a great sense of humor and explained everything to us in detail. It was his birthday so we sang La Multi Ani to him.

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Technology in the first Romanian school: abacus = early computer; chalk tablet = early iPad

There were many things for sale – maps and books and etc. The guide said he’s written over thirty books that no one’s read – HA.

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Costumes of the Junii Brasovului – the founding families of Brasov

The books in the museum ranged from biblical to scientific. The ones we saw were either written in Romanian Cyrillic or in Greek. Fun fact: the Romanian language was written in Cyrillic until the late 1800s. To me, visually, it’s very beautiful – but alas, totally unreadable to me.

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Many of the books were from as early as the 1500s. Lots of the them had been printed right there in the school. During Communism, all of the texts were hidden in the church. By doing this, they were able to save over 30,000 of Romania’s historical documents and books.

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The entrance price is ten lei for adults and you can easily walk there from the Black Church (Biserica Neagra) or take a quick bus (4 lei for a round trip ticket) to Piata Unirii.

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I love Romanian stoves! These are original from the 1700s.

After we toured the school, we went into Biserica Sf. Nicolae and our Professor bought us some candles to light “for our health”. Because the church is so old, they have a separate building for lighting candles. We finished our trip by taking a tour of the grounds.

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The whole experience was really great. I love books, especially old ones, so I was in hog heaven 🙂

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Doina

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How you doina?

Just kidding.

I do a fair amount of scouring YouTube for music in the Romanian language. It helps me learn the language and sometimes I find a jewel hidden in between all the manele.

When I found Doina, I was kind of shocked that I had never heard about it before. It seems to be a very important part of Romanian folk tradition and heritage of the people. You would think that someone would’ve mentioned it (or maybe I would have seen mention of it somewhere!), but for whatever reason, I had to discover it on my own. Perhaps I’ve been hearing it all along, and I just never realized it 🙂

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Doina is a type of traditional Romanian music. The improvisational style of Doina melodies is what makes it so beautiful; they are the expression of the melancholy soul and its longing (dor).

There are different kinds of Doina: the songs of shepherds and peasants, drinking songs, lullaby, outlaws, and perhaps one more familiar to American audiences, klezmer. Yes, klezmer music is descendant from the Doina music form (don’t forget that until the 1930s, Romania had a population of over 750,000 Jews). Doinas can be sung without accompaniment, with simple instruments such as flute or even a leaf (!), or enhanced with multiple instruments like violin or accordion.

In 2009, UNESCO added Doina to its list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity“.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite Doina songs so far:

Doina Oltului (instrumental):

 

Doina Basarabia (instrumental):

 

Doina din Wallachia (instrumental):

 

Outlaw’s Doina (Doina haiduceasca):

 

Doina din Maramureș by the lovely Maria Tanase

 

Lullaby Doina (again by Maria Tanase!)

 

Doina Klezmer:

 

Doina de Jale (of grief):

 

Argatu’ also has a Doina de Jale for a more modern take:

 

Perhaps my most favorite modern Doina of all, from Subcarpati (of course):

Mărțișor în România

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Even doggies get the winter blues

Last year, I was in America for the Mărțișor holiday. I received a red and white bracelet with a lovely card in the mail. I wore the bracelet until the end of March, and then I tied it to a flowering tree in the hopes it would bring me good luck. Thankfully, it did – and I like to think the Mărțișor luck was the cause 🙂

In Romania, Mărțișor is the first day of spring. Technically, they are correct because March 1st is the first day of meteorological spring. Indeed, it feels like someone flipped the switch here from winter to spring.

 

We went from negative temperatures to consistently having days reaching 15c. Which, if you have just spent the last two months hibernating in temperatures as low as -20c, makes it feel like SPRING (all caps). Seriously, it is such a change.

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My handmade Martisor and beautiful snowdrop flowers

The holiday itself is very popular here. There is a big market for Mărțișor, the red and white strings usually made into jewelry. Everywhere you go, they are selling these things. People set up tables on the sidewalk to sell them. I discovered that there is an expectation for the men to buy all the women in their lives one of these trinkets. Only in some parts of Romania (Moldova) do the women purchase them for the men.

I received several of these sweet trifles – one from my sweetheart and a few from family and friends. It’s a sweet reminder that people are thinking of you. They also want you to receive the benefits of the magical Mărțișor – the red and white strings represent the transition of winter (white) into spring (red). Some people say that the colors represent life and victory or passion and wisdom. It really depends on who you ask.

At any rate, you must wear it through the month and then tie it to the branch of a flowering tree. This will ensure that the new year will be a lucky and bountiful one for the wearer.

Other symbols of Mărțișor holiday include the ghiocel (in English, snowdrop) flower. It’s usually the first flower you see at the beginning of spring. It pushes its way up through the snow and greets you when the snow finally melts. Right now, you can see these little pretties everywhere. We have a bunch out behind our bloc.

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Some lovely backyard flowers (left) and Ghiocei (far right)

One last cool March tradition that I want to mention are the Zilele Babelor (Baba Days – where Baba = The Old Woman). Baba is an old woman from Romanian folklore. Her days are the first nine days of March. Your Baba day is the day of your birth (my birthday easy because it’s the 8th, so March 8th is my Baba day. If your birthday is the 14th, you add 1+4 = 5, so your Baba day is the 5th of March). On this day, you check out the weather and the weather forecasts your year. If the weather is crappy on your Baba day, well, that’s just Baba. She can be a cranky old lady.

Dacians!

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Words cannot express how much I love the Dacian empire. I only started learning about these ancient people last year, when I started reading the book “A Brief Illustrated History of Romanians” by Neagu Djuvara.

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How could my history teachers have kept the knowledge of these venerable people from me all these years? Why did we waste our time learning about the Revolutionary War every single dang year, and we never once talked about the Dacians. Or really any empires other than the usual ones (Greek, Roman, Ottoman, British). Thanks, Obama.

The earliest Dacian people (Thracians and their descendants) showed up to the party around 3,000 B.C, and by the year 500 B.C., they had developed their own civilization. The empire ended around 100 A.D. when Trajan (of column fame) conquered the people.

Dacians were so cool. Other than the fact that they marched into battle with wolf heads on sticks (yes, WOLF HEADS ON STICKS), they had a king named Decebalus who resisted Roman rule and managed to fight off Trajan for a bit. Decebalus is still revered today as a symbol of freedom. He’s popular enough that they carved a giant face statue of him in southwestern Romanian.

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If you want to learn more, I’ve included a short video someone posted on Vimeo.

At first glance, this featurette looks like it’s an “alien conspiracy” kind of video, but it’s actually a really interesting history video of the pre-historic Romanian and Dacian people.

Twenty minutes full of historical artifacts and cool archaeological finds 🙂 Enjoy!

The Other Land of the Gods | English version – 22 mn FREE from Le savoir des anciens on Vimeo.