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.

Protests in Romania

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The politics in the Romania government have been very interesting as of late. The Romanian President, Klaus Iohannis, has spoken out publicly against the opposition party (PSD) and its party leader, Liviu Dragnea because the PSD has made some pretty shady moves this past month.

A few weeks ago, we started hearing about the new laws and changes that the PSD wanted to make in the government. Some were okay (free train tickets for students) and some were absolutely unbelievable. For example, a person working for the government can steal up to 50,000 euro without punishment. This is great news for a lot of criminals, including Mr. Dragnea, who was under investigation for stealing about 30,000 euros. The law was (obviously) wildly unpopular because it basically decriminalized corruption, which Romanians have been diligently trying to fight for years.

The law was passed in the middle of the night while we were all sleeping.

We woke up feeling outraged, like someone had stolen something from us. Pride? Dignity? A prosperous economic future in the European Union? Romania wants to enter Schengen, will they let us enter now that our country has legalized stealing?

The move by Dragnea and PSD was immediately censured by the international community. The Romanian people were also moved to action – and went to the streets.

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This doesn’t translate exactly – something like “Please, forgive us – we don’t produce as much as you steal”

This is where I chose to get involved. I am a legal, tax-paying resident of this country. I also love Romania and what it stands for – I couldn’t keep myself from joining the crowd and chanting, “Nu vrem sa fim o natie de hoti!” (We don’t want to be a nation of thieves!).

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Protests in Bucharest drew up to 250,000 people

As of right now, I have heard that the government will repeal the law, but people are still suspicious. I’ve heard others say they won’t stop protesting until the PSD government steps down. We’ll see in the next days and weeks what will happen, but I am so proud of Romania and her people. Democracy is here, alive and well.

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Teaching the next generation about the voice of the people 🙂

The protests themselves were mature, peaceful, and poignant. In Bucuresti and Brasov, people brought their children to make signs and march. It’s so important to pass on the values of democracy to the next generation.

Here is a video from the protests in Brasov (taken from a few different nights):

 

Further reading on the protests (in English):

Time Magazine (Feb. 6): Everything to Know About Romania’s Anti-Corruption Protests

Reuters (Feb. 2) – Romanian government stands ground as thousands protest 

Reuters (Feb. 5) – Video – Romania protests persist despite government climb down

New York Times (Feb. 5) – Romania Protests Simmer despite promises to back down

 

Balea Lac and the Ice Hotel

I wish I could say that I’ve been super busy and too distracted to post lately, but the truth is that I’ve had a lot of free time. I’m feeling pretty relaxed. Instead, however, of devoting this energy to constructive projects (like this blog), I’ve simply given up and become a human burrito.

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You see, it’s very cold here. Obviously from my last post (about the blizzard), we’re having an actual winter. I’m adjusting (? maybe?) but the truth is that being outside in the cold basically sucks a lot of your ambition out of you and you end up snuggled in your jammies watching Netflix. I’ve watched some very good TV lately. I watched The Crown, Poldark, Rebellion, and Vikings.

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But every now and then we get an urge to go do something, and after the new year we decided to drive to the Fagaras Mountains and take the telecabina to Balea Lac. In the summer, you might actually be able to drive up to Balea Lac, if the Transfagarasan is open, but right now it’s under about ten feet of snow.

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The Ice Hotel was our main motivation for making the trek up the hill, and it did not disappoint. We just visited, and I’m glad. I wouldn’t recommend actually sleeping there because the beds were very…firm. Everything, including the floors, is made out of ice. If you’re more of the Yeti/Sasquatch “love the cold” type, this is probably the hotel for you.

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Trying to find a comfortable way to sit on the ice bed

Each room is decorated in a different theme, and they carve figures out of the walls. I think this year’s theme for the whole hotel was Hollywood. They had Darth Vader, the Gladiator, a dinosaur, and an Orc. Also, Mihai Viteazu and Jesus. Because this is an ice hotel in Romania, after all.

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Jesus, dinosaur, Mihai V., and an Orc

We toured the hotel and watched the men use chainsaws to cut the ice blocks out of the lake. The blocks were this absolutely gorgeous color of blue. They looked like sea glass. The men used snow mobiles to drag the ice blocks over to the construction site. On this day, they were building an ice church.

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I think we spent about an hour on top of the mountain. We were lucky because when we got there we had good visibility and we could see the view from the cliffs down to the valley. At some point, it became very cloudy and started to snow, so visibility was basically nil. We decided to leave at that point, mostly because we were becoming ice blocks ourselves.

Here is a short video with some more moments from the Balea Lac and the Ice Hotel.