Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Out and About in Bucharest, Romania

When we would tell people our summer vacation plans, they always kind of looked confused when we said we were visiting Romania. To be honest, when Fionn first said he wanted to add it to our itinerary, I was also a little surprised. Romania? What's there?

Leave it to Fionn to push me outside my comfort zone. That's why I love him :)

We ended up spending way longer in Romania than we meant to since I made a mistake with the dates when booking our flights. Rather than spending 4 days there, we spent 5 plus a travel day, so technically 6. It ended up being a blessing though, because after the hectic schedule in Greece it was nice to relax and not have a rigid schedule for a few days.

That being said, our trip got off to a rocky start-when we arrived at the airport, Romanian police handed us pamphlets warning us about scams and health risks in Romania (not very encouraging, right?). Then, our taxi driver from the airport ripped us off by pulling the ole 'don't turn on the meter' trick. We were both pretty mad at ourselves for falling for that one, I guess Germany has made us too trusting...

Luckily, things got much better from there. Romanians were generally very nice, our hotel was awesome, and Bucharest was affordable and quite pretty, hence its nickname "Little Paris". Oh, and we had a fabulous 4 course lunch for $6 a person. Things only got better from there!

Romania had some beautiful Orthodox churches. We thought it was pretty neat that Romania is the only Latin country that is also Orthodox (all the others are Catholic).

Of course, you can't go to Romania without seeing something about Vlad the Impaler aka Dracula, but I'll talk more about him later...

Bucharest has a lot of Parisian-esque architecture because many of their architects were trained in Paris in the 19th century. We were surprised by how pretty Bucharest could be. 

This is the memorial for Communism in Romania. It's supposed to be a beacon of hope bursting through darkness, but the Romanians we met said it reminded them of an impaled potato. The Romanians really suffered under communism (especially under their terrible dictator who was later executed), but we were surprised by how candid they were about it. These are some tough, resilient people.

Their dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu, built this mammoth of a building as a tribute to himself, bankrupting Romania in the process and causing starvation due to subsequent food shortages. It is the second largest building in the world.

As my Romanian friend said, "If it looks weird, the Communists probably built it."

You're never too far from Cold War history in Romania, as we found in this Communist history room at a museum. We couldn't read anything, but the collection of Lenin and Stalin statues were kind of funny.

Bucharest had a lot of nice green space, which was a pleasant surprise. It made for great walking opportunities. 

Little Paris indeed. They even have their own Arc de Triomphe!

Last but not least, everyone told us we couldn't leave Romania without trying Papanași, sweet donuts filled with a soft cheese and topped with jam.

Not gonna lie, I totally ate mine and helped Fionn finish his ;)

So those are the highlights from Bucharest! Ready to hear about Dracula? I'm working on a recap of our adventure in Transylvania!

Hope you're enjoying our adventures. Would you visit Romania? Do you want some Papanași now? :)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Extravaganza of Ruins in Athens, Greece

When I was a kid, I'd make lists of places I wanted to go someday. Athens was always, always, on the list.

What can I say, I grew up to become a travel loving history major!

Being in Athens was a dream come true in a lot of ways. Everyone told us it wasn't very exciting and that we should spend no more than a day there and head on to better, prettier places. While I'll concede that Athens is a little rough around the edges, there is SO much to see there. One day was definitely not enough. But we did our best!

We got started by climbing up to the Parthenon...

It was pretty deserted until we got to the actual Acropolis where the Parthenon is. Then, suddenly, we were swept away by the deluge of tourist groups. Every language, every nationality, every tour company descended at once. So we decided to hurry up and get moving or risk getting crushed.

Finally, the Parthenon! All my nerdy childhood dreams come true!

It was pretty cool to actually stand there, especially after so many years spent reading books and taking classes on it. I'm in Athens! On the actual Acropolis! It was a bit like my reaction while exploring ruins in Rome. Needless to say, I was happy :)

From there we continued to more ruins nearby, including the Temple of Hephaestus.

A group of American students were doing a summer study abroad for an Archaeology class. I was fiercely jealous and totally stood there watching them like a creeper and wishing I could join them.

History nerd paradise.

We took a break for lunch and souvenir hunting before hitting up the history museum in Athens. They built the museum over an ancient Greek town but put glass floors so you can still see it. Could this day get any better for me??

ever present evil eye

After the museum we visited one final ruin before turning in for the day. 

Athens was incredible. Not as sexy as Santorini, but so much history. I loved it.

That was it for Greece! Then we were off to our next stop, Bucharest Romania!

Stay tuned! :)