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.

VISCOL (blizzard)

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The entire country of Romania has been hit with some pretty insane winter weather. Last week, we had a blizzard for three days. It was snowy and windy and freezing. The snow finally stopped, but the cold didn’t, and when woke up yesterday, it was -25c. I have no idea what that is in Freedom units (F), but at that temperature, I don’t think it matters. It’s COLD. Like, really, really, painfully cold.

This morning, we woke up to another blizzard. It’s only about -13c right now, but it’s not much relief. I want to do a post on how many layers of clothing I wear every day. Clau put on four (4!!!) layers today. Fleece undershirt, zip up sweater jacket thing, puffy under jacket, and outer jacket. He’s got pants under his pants and two pairs of wool socks under his winter boots. Insane.

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In fact, the weather is so bad that they cancelled school Tuesday and Wednesday. Keep in mind, Romania does not have school buses, so most kids walk. Even though most live close to school, it’s too cold to expect the kids to walk the short distances to class. They don’t cancel school for “ice” (looking at you, Georgia), but they do cancel school for a blizzard. Although the University is open today, which means *I* have to go to class. I am not walking, no way in hell. Today is an Uber day.

I am looking forward to the day that the weather is close to freezing again (ha ha).

Reuters article on our plight: HERE

Romanian newspaper article in English on the closing of schools: HERE

Want to watch the Romanian weather report? The weatherman is an institution – everyone loves him

Live Cameras of Brasov! (if you watch this today, you can observe our pain!)

 

A Drive in the Snow

We’ve had a lot of snow lately in Brasov, and it is very beautiful. I’m so glad that if it’s going to be cold, at least we get something beautiful in exchange! And because you already know me so well, you probably already guessed that I dragged Claudiu out in the cold to drive me to Poiana Brasov. It was a short trip (all we did was eat some soup at a restaurant up there), and when we left it started snowing very heavily. I think it took it something like 30 minutes to drive 12 km. I took some video of our drive to and from Poiana Brasov, so please enjoy:

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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