Bran’s Castle

Before arriving to Romania, I made myself a list of attractions and places that I wanted to visit during my six-week stay. This past weekend I finally got to visit attraction number one on my list, Bran’s Castle. I know what you’re thinking – didn’t I mean to write Dracula’s Castle instead? In fact, I didn’t, but you should be informed about the Dracula Myth. In 1897, Irish novelist Bram Stoker wrote one of the enduring classics of the horror genre –Dracula. Stoker found his inspiration for the horror classic in Romania. Romania is a land rich in folktales, superstitions, gothic castles, and endless mountains. Stoker was inspired by the gothic simplicity that Romania has to offer, and chose the northern Transylvania region as the setting for his novel. “The Castle Dracula,” as it is known, is located on Mount Izvorul Calimanului, which is located near the former border with Moldavia. Romanians were not informed about the story of Dracula, and the Dracula Castle, until after the fall of the Romanian Communist Party in 1989. At first, they were baffled by the concept, but later accepted it due to capitalism – Romanians view Bran’s Castle as Dracula’s Castle for the sake of tourism. However, there is no evidence that suggests Stoker has ever even heard of Bran Castle. A Connection can be traced from the historical figure, Vlad III Dracula, who provided much of Stoker’s vampiric antagonist.

Vlad III Dracula

Vlad III Dracula was born to the house of Draculesti in 1431. Vlad was known for his love for cruelty throughout Europe. He was given the nickname “Vlad The Impaler” due to having killed thousands of enemies during his reign, from 1456 to 1462. Vlad III Dracula loved impaling his enemies on long wooden spikes. It has been said that he hired surgeons to help guide the thick shaft to prevent damage to the vital organs. He was exiled during his reign and was jailed during his second reign. Vlad was only a guest for a brief time at Bran Castle.

Bran Castle

It’s easy to see how the 15th century Bran’s Castle can stir up this mythology. The dark wooden-paneled floors open into arched white corridors. The castle has numerous balconies and walkways that offer spectacular views of the Transylvanian mountains. The castle also contains many secret passages that lead from the first floor to the third floor. Some rooms are arranged with furniture that Queen Marie had as her decor, while others contain museum exhibitions. It was a busy Saturday afternoon, but nothing could take away the beauty of the gothic simplicity of the castle. There are a few suggestions I would make if you ever plan on visiting the castle: First, bring your student i.d. card to receive a discount. Also, wait to buy your tourist souvenirs until you get to Bran. The gift shop really should be called “gift town.” It’s a series of markets where you can buy t-shirts, mugs, magnets, bells, and Dracula-theme souvenirs. One should always remember when visiting Bran, Dracula is solely used for marketing and you will not find any vampires. The castle itself is incredibly impressive and filled with history. I’m sure Dracula himself would have loved living there.

 

 

Carpe Diem!

Feeling Right at Home in Brasov.

As I sit in my favorite Romanian coffee shop in Brasov, Kafe Pub, I say to the waiter “multumesc” [thank you] when he serves me my coconut café; I can’t help but notice something different within myself. I feel well at home in this country after only being here for a week and a half. This feeling is somewhat shocking to me. Prior to this adventure, I was worried about not liking it here or immediately going through all of the stages of homesickness. However, the second I stepped foot off of that airplane, I felt safe and an immense amount of welcomeness from the Romanians I met. As I walk down the cobblestone streets of Brasov each day, I feel moved by the history that each building holds. I always stop and stare at The Black Church in awe on my commute to work. I walk down these same streets and can be greeted with a simple smile or salute from a stranger. I hear the church bells go off in the morning, and evening, reminding me that I am no longer in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But when I look up at the Carpathian Mountains and see the “Brasov” sign, I am reminded that this is my “new” home. That sign doesn’t just remind me that I am home – it triggers inspiration. I feel inspired to go to work everyday and not only teach my students, but to learn from them as well. I am inspired to immerse myself in the Romanian culture and explore other cities. I am going to end this short blog post with a quote by one of my favorite authors, R.M. Drake. – “She was in love with her life, and for the first time, in a long time, everything was inspiring.”

2016-05-17 15.31.37.jpg

(Kafe Pub)

2016-05-18 08.34.14-1.jpg

(Council Square)

Carpe Diem

Weekend Adventures in Sibiu and Sinaia, Romania

I am always eager to explore somewhere new on the weekends. I arrived in Brasov, Romania, a week ago and immediately fell in love with its atmosphere. However, since I am living in Brasov, Romania, for five more weeks and there’s many other Romania cities that I must see before my return to the States. I will later write a blog post about the gorgeous medieval Romanian city. This past week I got the chance to explore two other medieval  towns, Sibiu and Sinaia.

Sibiu

On Saturday, I left for Sibiu at 6 o’ clock in the morning and traveled four hours by train to the destination. Sibiu was built in the 12th century by German settlers, known as Transylvanian Saxons. Sibiu is a friendly city that has two easily accessible levels: Upper town and Lower town. The Upper town is home to most of Sibiu’s historic sights. In Lower town, you’ll find beautiful colorful houses on cobblestone streets and bounded by city walls and defense towers that overlooks the River Cibin.2016-05-21 14.18.27-1

(Lower town, Sibiu)

Since Sibiu is a relatively large Romanian city, I didn’t get to explore everything.  However, if you are planning to go to Sibiu, I suggest staying for a weekend that way you have enough time to experience it all. The first stop of the day was Muzeul National Brukenthal (The National Brukenthal Museum). It is considered to be one of Romania’s finest museum. Also it is the oldest museum in Romania and one of the first museums to open in Europe. The museum’s building itself contains architectural and historical significance; dated in 1790. The museum holds about 1,200 works from the 15th to the 18th century. I highly suggest checking out the Romanian art gallery and the museum’s garden.

 

Podul Minciunilor (The Bridge of Lies) was built in 1859 and was the first wrought iron bridge in Romania. It leads you from Upper to Lower Town. Legend says that if you lie while  standing on the bridge it will collapsed. Young lovers come here to say they love each other.

2016-05-21 14.05.56

Pasajul Scarilor (The Stairs Passage) was built in the 13th century and is architectural masterpiece that contains staircases and archways. It connects the Upper Lower Town.

2016-05-21 13.26.32.jpg

Turnul Dulgherilor (Carpenter’s Town) was built in the 15th century. It is one of three towers that one can find in the city of Sibiu.

2016-05-21 14.19.03.jpg

Parohia Evanghelica (Evangelic Church) is truly an impressive gothic church. It has the tallest tower in Transylvania. It is also home to one out of two existing organs from the Wilhelm Sauer Company.

Other pictures from Sibiu, Romania

Sinaia

On Sunday, we took a bus to picturesque town of Sinaia. The purpose of this trip was to see Peles Castle. Peles Castel is a German new-Renaissance architecture commissioned by King Carol I in 1873. It considered to be of the most beautifulest castles in Europe. The castle that has 160 rooms contains the finest European art, German-stained windows, and Murano crystal chandeliers. I recommend visiting the castle on a week day because it was overly crowded and bring your student i.d. card to receive a discount. Tour options can get expensive.

After visiting the castle, the volunteers that I work with and I decided to go site seeing. To see an overview of the town of Sinaia, I recommend going to Gondola “Telegondola” Sinaia. It’s a ski and bike resort, that open its chairlifts in the summer for people to enjoy the view of the town. You can also hike up the  mountain if you wish. 2016-05-22 14.42.05.jpg

Lastly, I recommend eating at Bucegi Restaurant. It has a great assortment of Romanian wines and they up dish specialities like grilled bear, omelettes, version, and range of salads. Other places you should check out if you’re in Sinaia is the casino located in Dimitrie Ghica park and the Sinaia Monastery.

Stay tune for Romanian adventures!

 

Carpe Diem!

 

Dealing with Bad Luck Traveling on Friday the 13th, yet Beating Jet Lag

Flying out on Friday 13th, didn’t phase me when I booked my flight tickets this past February. In fact, I was never one to believe in the superstition, due to having a few birthdays in the past fall on this “unfortunate” day. However, as the day approached it seem timing and luck weren’t on my side.

If you have had flown internationally before, you would know that it’s best to arrive to the airport two-three hours before your boarding time. That way you have enough time to go through baggage drop off and customs and border protection. I left my house five hours before my flight was set to fly out to Paris. On a typical Friday afternoon driving through New York City can be more hectic than normal, due to it being the weekend. The traffic was so notorious that I almost had to rush myself through baggage drop off and customs. However, as soon as I reached the airport, I receive a notification stating that my flight will be delayed by a half-hour. This half-hour delayed turn into a two-hour delayed, which conflicted with my scheduled two-hour layover in Paris. The delay left me with exactly thirty minutes to board on to the next flight. I looked like a chicken running its head cut off through the Paris airport trying to find the right terminal and gate to make it through the French customs and border protection. I board onto my final flight with only a minute to spare. Unfortunately, my bad luck didn’t stop there. My biggest fear when traveling happened. My luggage was left at the Paris airport and didn’t make its way with me to my final destination in Bucharest. Luckily, Air France delivered my luggage this morning. Regardless of this bad luck with traveling experience, I promised myself that I was not going to be defeated by jet lag.

Jet lag doesn’t necessarily happen because of hydration and tiredness after a journey. Jet lag occurs when you cross multiple time zones which can affect the level of your appetite, alertness and sleeping patterns. Being the jet lag dodger planner that I am, I started to change my sleeping patterns days before my trip. I would take more frequent naps and going to sleep earlier at night to prepared myself for the time zone difference in Europe. Another tip on how to beat jet lag is to fuel your body by having light meals and less caffeine. It’s best to avoid alcohol before, during and right after you land. Dehydration is alcohol’s ugly stepsister. On the plane the flight attendants will ask you periodically if you would like something to drink, always choose water. B what happens if you can’t beat jet lag?

Melatonin has been proven to have great results. The hormone melatonin already regulates your sleep rhythms. A synthetic dose of it can help with your adjustments to the new time zone. If that doesn’t work for you, simply just keep moving. During hours of transit, walk around the airport terminal to get your blood circulating. Another suggestion is to hide behind your sunglasses. Make sure you pack a pair of sunglasses; you can always wear them on the flight to help you sleep. Or you can simple embrace jet lag and its attendant insanity.

 

 

Carpe Diem!

Carry-On Essentials

Whenever I am preparing for a long or short-term trip, I like to have my essentials with me in my carry-on purse. These are items that I would absolutely need to have access to while being on a flight, and would want the second I reach my destination. I put a list together of some of the main items I always include in my carry-on purse. This is just a basic list, along with some tips and ideas to help make preparing for your flight easier.

Passport, identification documents, credit cards/cash

When traveling abroad, it is VERY important to remember to pack your passport and important identification documents. These items are your key into the airport security checkpoints, as well as for emergencies (missing luggage, cancelled flight re-booking, etc.) It is highly suggested that you make copies of your passport and identification documents. Another tip is to let your bankcard know ahead of time when you will be traveling outside of your general area, that way your card will work in your destination. Also, I always keep at least 20-30 American dollars on me for my return flight home to the States, in the event I need it to purchase food or souvenirs before exiting the airport.

Electronics

If you need your cell-phone, laptop, tablet or other electronics, then definitely pack those items in your carry-on. Also, don’t forget to pack your chargers and headphones; most airlines will charge you for a pair of headphones. Portable chargers are a good investment if you travel often. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to find an outlet in an airport on your phone and, especially if you’re traveling alone, you do not want to run out of battery on your devices.

Entertainment

Looking out the window will not keep you occupied throughout the flight. I suggest bringing  book, magazine, journals or crossword puzzles. I personally love to read while I’m on a plane. If you’re an E-Reader, you can pack hundreds of books onto your thin tablet. However, if you’re a reader who loves the feeling of physical book, please keep in mind that hardcover will weigh you down. I also keep a journal with me to document moments that I would love to share later with my friends and family. Trust me, you meet some interesting individuals while flying.

Extra pair of clothes

I have dealt with lost luggage before, but luckily I was prepared. I suggest packing a change of underwear, socks and a clean shirt. By doing this, you can feel refreshed until your luggage is found. Most important, however, make sure that your extra pair of clothes within carry-on is accommodating to the weather at your destination.

Hygiene

Invest in toiletries, especially when traveling on long flights. I always pack mints in my carry-on due to the fact that some cultures find chewing gum in public offensive. Also, I pick mini dental floss with me, along with Colgate Wisp Mini-Brushes. Alba Hawaiian 3-in-1 Clean Towelettes is a product that will always be found in my carry-on. This product leaves your skin feeling clean, which is a great way to refresh yourself especially after those long hours of flying. Other things that can be found in my carry-on are: mini deodorants,  tinted moisturizer, Benefit Cosmetics BADgal Lash mascara, EOS  lip balm, and lastly, a sample of my current favorite perfume that I can get at Sephora.

Sustenance

I always pack a small Ziplock bag of dry almonds, granola or a small bag of pretzels. You can pack your own lunch or snack as long as it’s wrapped and not a liquid. Lastly, I always carry a water bottle with me and fill it once I pass security.

Miscellaneous

Not important, but nice to have on hand: map of the destination, travel size bottle and containers and an umbrella.

 

Keep in mind, we all have different needs and travel styles. This list works the best for me, depending on the destination that I am traveling to. I hope you found this information helpful!

Carpe Diem

Don’t let anxiety stop you from traveling

I leave in a few days to travel to Southeastern Europe, where I’ll be spending two months working as a teaching assistant. I have been traveling for years now, either by plane or car; however, there’s always this feeling I encounter within myself before I leave for a big trip. This feeling is what one would call travel anxiety. There are many unknown factors when traveling to somewhere you’ve never been to before. Before leaving to a new destination, I am constantly battling my inner thoughts with such questions as: Did I forget to pack something? Will my bank hold my credit card ? Will the locals be able to speak my native language? Nonetheless, I never let my anxiety get in the way of experiencing what beauty this planet holds outside of my suburban hometown. I would be lying if I said it didn’t take me years to control my travel anxiety. I recently have had conversations with people who would love to travel; however, they too experience some sort of travel anxiety themselves. If you are someone who doesn’t travel often and has travel anxiety, here are some ways you can cope with your anxiety:

You are not the first person to visit

I always rationalize with myself that I wasn’t the first person to visit my target destination. Many of travelers have traveled before me and managed to be fine after their journey. Remind yourself why you want to travel and you’ll see what it’s like once you get there.  Also, remind yourself of the wonderful stories and experiences you will be able to share about your trip with your family and friends after you return home.

Don’t worry too much about what to pack

As I mentioned earlier in this post, I often worry about if I forgot to pack something during my traveling to the destination. When this question bothers me, I remind myself the most important things that I absolutely need with me are: passport, money supply (credit card, ATM card), and transport documents (plane tickets, train tickets, bus passes, etc.) Everything that you managed to pack prior is a bonus and you can always buy the clothing items you forgot at your destination.

Do your research

Don’t just arrive to a destination without doing your research first. Get yourself familiar with the language, greetings, table manners, currency exchange, laws, clothing, weather and what is expected of you as a guest in a host family’s home. You can always look up what other travelers have written about your destination on Thorn Three.

Book ahead

My travel anxiety would trigger when I felt like I wasn’t in control of how my days would play out. Therefore, you should plan out your first few days of your destination. Plan to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, write down a list of things that you would like to do and get familiar with a map of the arrival terminals of the airport in order for you to plan your route through the building. These suggestions will help make you feel like you’re in control of your trip.

 

 

Carpe Diem!