The Traveller

“The road suits the traveller” sounds a Romanian saying. As most sayings back in my home country, seems a bit difficult to translate. I started to appreciate its meaning early in life, as a result of challenging circumstances. But it had nothing to do with a traveller’s lifestyle, as the Gypsy people still led back then.

Berlin 2015: Brandenburg Gate. I celebrated my birthday that year with 4 days in Berlin,
a city of culture and museums great to see in winter too.

I vacationed regularly with my family to a number of resorts in Romania. As I suffered of acute allergic asthma from an early age and struggled with the condition for years, doctors recommended clean air and treatment by natural cures. It really seemed to improve my health long term. And Romania boasts a high density of natural resources known to treat health issues. Unfortunately, this remains widely unknown to Europeans.

Govora – a home from the fairy tales for a child treating her ashtma

Out of all the resorts we visited, Govora, in the hills South of the Carpathian mountains, became a second home to me. We always stayed at the majestic Palace Hotel, built between 1911-1914. Some sources say it was the first of the kind to offer spa treatment to guests. Designed by a French architect,  the building combines Romanian elements with the Art Nouveau style. Up on the hilltop, surrounded by a dense park, the building stands as a jewellery of architecture from the epoch.

 

Govora resort, 2010. Part of my series of reports on such locations in Romania, I travelled back
to Govora in winter. I hadn’t been there since my childhood.

A beautiful feature in the park around Palace Hotel in Govora, it used to be our playground
when we vacationed here in the 80’s. 

Every time we went to town and headed back, we took a stroll along the park. In my memories, it remains a coppice of the fairies, with the dragon-tree my favourite spot. Around the hotel, an explosion of fireflies showed up at dusk. I will write about all of these in detail in my childhood memoirs.

The child trying to avoid asthma turned into a real explorer

During those years, I also discovered the seaside resorts of Eforie Nord and Sud, the monastery on the shore of the Techirghiol lake, rich in curative mud, then the salt mines of Slanic Moldova  and Slanic Prahova. As my asthma improved at the age of 12, we ventured to new places. Considering the 800 km distance to the seaside, we had a closer summer holiday location. In the West of the country, some 4 hours from our village, lay Baile Felix, among the hills close to the city of Oradea. The local thermal waters brought to the modern development of this resorts, where you stumbled on a swimming pool around every corner.

Camping in the Apuseni Mountains, the West range of the Carpathians in Romania,
where I attended the protest festival FanFest, 2006.

The few photos I have of our Romanian mountains don’t do justice to the beauty of the landscape.

Leaving that early age behind, as a teenager and young adult I discovered new and exciting ways to explore. I started hiking in the mountains, attending writers retreats and camping. Students often set up a tent, for a fee, in somebody’s backyard in the 90’s. This type of tourism was widespread in resorts popular with young people. You could call it micro-campping, I suppose.

I rediscovered the Black Sea as a University student and later on

As a University student, I camped for 10 days with my then boyfriend in Costinesti, by the Black Sea. Getting cheap accommodation allowed us to pay for the 12 hours journey by train, at a considerable fare. We stayed in somebody’s huge yard, with an outdoors shower, a big picnic table with benches, and space under the trees for tents.

Despite the shade the foliage offered, you still boiled if trying to nap there in the afternoon. But who cared? We hid from the midday sun under an umbrella, with a refreshing drink, or under the trees. From late morning to late in the night we sunbathed on the beach or travelled to the big nearby city, Constanta. A historical place, set up as a Roman colony in ancient times, the city offered various geeky attractions, such as the museum, the old mosque, and other such locations.

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The international traveller: scholarship and studying nanny

Only in the year 2000 I journeyed abroad, further away from Romania. Before, I crossed the borders on one day trips to Yugoslavia, in the early 90’s, and Hungary, late 90’s, once in each direction. When I graduated from University I obtained a scholarship for a 4 months course in Denmark. Together with a colleague, I flew for the first time over Europe.

The Scandinavian country, as I discovered it back then, still holds its charm on me. As international students on a scholarship covering all costs, we felt spoiled. Part of our studies at Diakonhøjskolen in Aarhus involved visiting different social institutions around the country. So, the school arranged a one week trip to Copenhagen, and each of us did our practical placement in different cities. Luckily, I stayed for two weeks in Odense.
Our programme leader also thought of our free time and tried to make us feel very welcome. For leisure only we took a trip to Skagen, where the straits of Denmark and the Northern Sea meet. What about the highest hill in the country, which the locals call the high mountain – Højbjerg?

The American experience – between isolation and amazing trips

Returning to Romania after my Dannish adventure, I worked for 3 years as a teacher before deciding to take a Sabbatical year. I joined an Au Pair agency to live and study in the USA. Considering the low salary, I could have never afforded to travel the world on my pay as a Romanian teacher. I soon found a host family in Williamsburg, Virginia, the area of the first British settlements on the continent. With its history, the town felt attractive.  However, I discovered how isolating could be to live in the American countryside, 100 miles away from any city.

Still, with my host family I discovered New Orleans, which I hope to revisit one day, a city where history and a bohemian air intertwine. The host family took me with them on holiday to Cancun, and I discovered Chicken Itza in a one day trip. For these opportunities, I am grateful to the day.

The beauty of the Balkans: Istanbul and Alexandropolis

After my American adventure, I decided to convert my passion for writing into a job and become a journalist. Bucharest earned me a better salary, still not good enough to travel abroad much. In the summer of 2009 I managed to find a very affordable 5 nights, 6 days trip to Istanbul, a city I longed to explore. To me, it will always be first Constantinopole, the capital of the Byzantin Empire, turned into the capital of the Ottomans later on. What a richness of history, of culinary flavours, fabrics, music, dance and culture!

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As a journalist, I visited Alexandropolis, Northern Greece, in March, at an invitation from the local council and tourism promoters. They showed us around so we could review the location for prospective Romanian tourists. I remember their silk industry, food and the natural park nearby as best attractions.

The biggest adventure of my live: living abroad

As for the year 2011, when I took one of the biggest steps in my life to relocate to the UK, I could write about it until everybody got bored with reading. First, I lived in Bournemouth, and the seashore around, from Mudeford to the Jurassic Coast, presented opportunities to enjoy the scenery. I also spend a weekend in Torquay and one in Exeter, and loved Salisbury. To me, Stonehenge  looked better admired from the distance, mounting the old tombs.

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Now, I am also a big National Trust fan, and a member. Since living in the West Midlands, Wales became a nearby attraction. And my partner took me to his favourite city in Europe, Prague, which I instantly found fascinating.

Travel writing and reporting made a great job for me as magazine editor from 2008 to 2011. Sadly, it came to an end due to financial difficulties. Becoming redundant pushed me to seek for further education and opportunities in the UK. And I still want to share what I experienced of all these different places with other people who love to explore.