Garana Jazz Festival

You might be aware about the Jazz Festival held each year in the Semenic mountains, close to the beautiful village of Garana. You don’t have to like jazz music to offer yourself such an interesting experience. It’s the perfect oportunity to meet new people and make friends, to see a beautiful mountain village from Banat and spend some time alone in a boat on the mountain lake “3 ape” drinking beer and waiting for the night to come so you can party. Yes, you can rent the boat, it’s cheap. The last time I rented a boat at 3 ape we spent about 2 hours on water with a few friends and a lot of cold beer. It was bliss.

Now let’s get back to the plan. Even if you will find outstanding accommodation in Garana village I will always recommend you the tent. That is the best way to spend your time like a local and you give yourself the chance to meet people.

I have been there many times. The best way is to have a car but if you don’t, you will have to take the train and get to the city of Resita. Once there, close to the rail station, just ask anyone how to get to the top of the mountain. This is one of those moments you will be needeing a native guide. There is one think taking the taxi, another think knowing who to ask, a totally different thing if you ask your question in english or in a perfect romanian. And then, there is all the rest, what to say and how to say it. The difference might save you 50 euros.

Once there, just find accommodation or a nice spot to set camp. It happened to me in the past at the moment I was about to erect my tent, that people nearby told me the spot is reserved. This is because people already there are expecting maybe another group of friends to arrive and join them. This will be entirely subject of your good will as there is no such thing as reserved spots in nature.

Once you have your tent ready there is one less thing to worry about. However, like in any other tent camp in the world, you should take with you all the objects you value, just to be sure.

Now, this festival is great. There will be food, beer & wine, music. A lot of young and funny people to make friends. Fresh air. A lake. Beautiful landscape and the deep green forest who will invite you in. You can only hope for great weather. If you are lucky and it will be one of those sunny summer days, you will have a great time and you will go home with another amazing story to tell.

I remember myself many years ago lying on the grass and gazing at the starts charmed by the jazz rhytms I could hear from distance. At some point it started ti rain. I went back to my tent and my friends were all there opening a bottle of wine. What a night !

Timisoara, the city of light

Timisoara happens to be my home town. I know for sure it is the kind of place to visit without having second thoughts. Being a western city, even during communism it was a “cosmopolit” city. Imagine romanians, hungarians, serbians, germans, living happily together since like forever. You can google about the history of this amazing city and you will find many interesting informations. You will see this is a place with history and tradition.

You will like our river Bega that despite the fact is dirty and you cannot see the bottom, is finally navigable and there are small boats ready to transport you along the river. The terraces are a tradition in Timisoara and the nightlife is full of music, dancing and lights.

What you don’t know if that unfortunately Timisoara has a very old tradition of scams and scammers. So if you are a foreigner you should be very careful who you interact with. Not everybody in the city has good intentions and the greatest thieves in the west part of Romania are lurking in Timisoara. The locals know very well those things, you as a tourist might be vulnerable. But let’s face it, this can happen in any other european city so let’s not just put a stigmata on Timisoara. Just take into consideration what I have just told you and you’ll be fine.

Now, there is one secret I will share with you: you have to try the “pleskavita” and if possible buy it from Lera. That’s a very small local somewhere close to the Unirii Square. The pleskavita is “the serbian hamburger” but do not let yourself fooled by the McDonalds commercials, this is much bigger and way tastier. And cheaper.

For sure you will like the old building and as the shadow of the night falls upon the city you will be immersed in a romantic and melancholic state. Sometimes you can hear the violin when passing by the Unirii Square and in summer there are free concerts in open air in the city center. We like to party, no doubts about it!

So, will you spend a quality tine while visiting Timisoara? Oh yes you will. There are so many things to see and to do that you will need at least 2 days to get a sense of the city. X marks the spot my friend. It has to be on your list. Visit Timisoara !

The story of our sad beaches

Oh yes, we have beaches all right. But only one is virgin. Because you see, when you say you go to the beach in Romania, you just don’t expect an exotic one with white sand and perfct shores. You expect a dirty beach, extremely crowded, full of people with the mind of an insect. If that is what you are searching for you are not my ideal customer, please don’t contact me, you will find many other guides ready to take your money.

If you are searching for a different experience, if you want to connect with the sand and the sea, if you want to listen to the waves and find sea shells on the sand, if you are waiting forward to see dolphins in a lucky moment and if you have your camera ready for anything that might find a good place in your photo album, I will take you there. Not all our beaches are dirty. We still have a virgin beach, protected and untouched, beautiful and lonely, and her name is Vadu. And that’s a man’s name. No comment on that, of course.

I am not sure about the camping but for sure you cannot have a fire. You will however be able to find accommodation in the area. And that’s a place for poetry. Not that you won’t get bored if you stick around for more than 2 days but drinking a bottle of good wine on the beach, in a cool summer night, find an old boat to sleep in, meet some good people, spend quality time with your higher self, that is something to do once at every 10 years. To see what changed, to see what’s left, to take a good look at yourself out of the influence of society that most definitely distorsions your image. To see how you stand today. A sunset at the Vadu beach is a conversation with yourself.

And the fish soup. You have to taste the fish soup. Any fisherman in the area will be proud to invite you home and put on the table his best fish soup made using his original recepy.

Who would refuse that ?

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Herculane, the beauty left to die

When you here the word Herculane what do you think about? About Hercules if you arel a smart person. And yes, it is said the famous Hercules wandered that place. It is a small city in the heartof the mountains and even if the beauty of the place is well known among romanian people, Herculane if famous for a different thing: thermal bath.

Just imagine, having a thermal bath in open air and whevever you look around you you see the mountains, the green forest with huge trees and the peaks rising toward the sky. Does it sound like something for your bucket list? Also, many hotels in the area have their own thermal pool.

Now, if you are lazy or just too old to have real fun, you have to know there are many hotels in the area. Cheap ex communist hotels anyone can aford. You can find accommodation at the locals or choose from one of the fancy hostels.

I remember getting lost in the forest. I walked for 4 hours up hill, climbing the mountain, only to find a hidden paradise hidden in the forest and the big prize: a hunter’s small cabin. It was deserted. Lost in the beauty of the image I realized the night is coming fast and the best thing would be to get back to the camp. It was not. I have lost the trails and wandered one hour more until I found the right path. And then the storm came.

I entered my tent in the middle of the night, wet like a homeless dog. I had a bottle of wine waiting for me. It was bliss. Alcohool and thunders. My Herculane experience was a 5 star.

If you can ignore the post communist vibe this little mountaincity immerse you in, you will have the time of your life.
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Cluj, hammocking like a boss

Many things you can read about Cluj Napoca. About how it is a multi cultural environment, about its hippie spirit, about how there is a place for any freaka or amputee soul in this city. True that. This is exactly how it is  But there is more.

At some point a group of people decided that The Great Park or whatever is the translation for Parcul Mare, suffers from loneliness. So they called their friends and their friends friends and brought hammocks  At that time it was strange in Romania to see people with hammocks in the park. But thanks to those kids and their free spirit, in Cluj Napoca 2016 the most natural thing in the work after a demanding office day is to go and relax in your hammock in the park. You will notbe alone.

Every Summer day douzens of people bring their coloured hammock in the park to hang out together, listen to music or to read. I remember one day a french tourist approached me to tell me he is impressed by the number of people gathered in the same place to spend some quality time together.

And after all, why not. The grass is green and it is there to be steped on with your bare foot. The sky is blue and free to be enjoyed. And all the good things that the system could not obtain ownership upon remain wild and free. So YES, If you visit ClujNapoca there is a Decathlon store who sells cheap hammocks. Just go, buy one and come to the park. You will love it.
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Transalpina

Freedom! This is the feeling that runs through your veins when speading downhill Transalpina in your car, enjoying the magnificent view.

Along the road there is a point where you reach the absolute top. There you can buy souvenirs or buy some traditional food but the best thing is the panorama. And the cold. That kind of cold that makes you feel alive. The hills, the rocks, the grass, the colors, they all speak to you. You only need to pay attention. They are telling the sad story of so many people who are lost in their daily work and under the evil spell of society they forget to enjoy life, they forget who they really are, they are consumed by the emptiness.

I have been there in Summer. Not into the emptiness, I will never return there, I was talking about Transalpina. They call it the King’s Road for a reason. The sun was up in the sky and the bright blue sky was breathtaking. I was hungry, oh sohungrybecause the cold air makes you feel the need to constantly eat. However, I eat nobody on that trip. It was somehow disapointing but I needed all of them to drive.

It was a long drive and we were many miles from home. One thing I will tell you. If you come to Romania and skip driving through Transalpina, you are a fool.
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Baciu, the haunted forest

If you are interested in paranormal you already know the story around Baciu Forest. This forest is situated within aprox. 2 hours walking distance from Cluj Napoca.

Many legends have been told, studies has been made, UFOs has been sighted, I personally have seen some creepy photos, but I still don’t know what to think. I am sceptical by nature, but I have to admit some strange things happen from time to time in the forest and there is something un-earthly about it.

I have wondered near the forest many times acompained by my dog and nothing spooky happened. Except the sensations you have in any forest. The deepest of the feelings is that you are being watched. And the trees are extremely stranged shaped like something tormented them and changed their natural shape. As soon as you enter the forest you understand what I am talking about.

But for those of you who are brave enough and enjoy a fire camp and a delicious meal cooked outdoors, I organize 1night trips in the Baciu forest.

It will be an experience. There is a round place inside the forest where some people say from time to time a deep unbreakable silence takes over. Many camp stories are told, stories about people who started wondering alone into the forest in the middle of the night mechanicaly following strange playful lights, and the next morning they had no memory about it.

This is where we camp. So bring your tent, your hammock or tarp and don’t forget your photo camera. There is much the human eye can’t see.

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Bucura lake, Retezat

If you plan on going to the Retezat National Park I would say this is the best decision you can take while you are in Romania.

You should know that in the area weather is tricky. If you plan to spend the night in Retezat you should also know that it is forbidden to camp anywhere except a few places. One of the best camping sites is near the Bucura lake, however take it seriously as there are freezing temperatures even in the Summer nights and it is totally forbidden to make fire. The good news is you will have the Salvamont cabin nearby and they will be able to assist you if you struggle with sickness or cold.

So…go for it. Google it. Look for pictures. And GO !

The Bucura lake is waiting for you. It will be amazing !

There are a few way of access for the Retezat National Park, I would suggest for you to spend the night in the Bradatel camp. Here you will find good food and a warm bed. You can also camp for free at your own risk. I know I did.

There is a long way from Bradatel to the Bucura lake so you will 100% need a car or at least a bike. If you are thinking doing this by foot you are crazy and we will be very good friends but you are still crazy. From Bradatel to the last parking place there are about 2 hours by car. Not that the parking place is far away but try and take into consideration all the unforseen events that can happen on the road: storm, mud, fallen trees. From the parking place the only access is by foot: 3 hours until Bucura lake.

Don’t allow me to cut your wings.

This is one of the few places where you can whitness the greatness of the mountain in the most real sense of the word is Retezat National Park. This is one of the Romania’s most valued treasures, a place of astonishing beauty, a place where the devine touches the humble humanity and rewards the Earth with a green deep dark forest.

They grey peaks reveals themselves among the clouds somethimes vailed in mist and the landscape whispers one single word: “kneel”. You see, the moment you find yourself alone on track you understand you are at the mercy of the elements. The mountains is too old and wise to know mercy. You will or you will not make it.

Fortunately, the track is made for groups and only if you are an extreme adventures or a very stupid human being you will find yourself alone, far from the marked path, in the forests of the Retzat Mountains. Don’t be! Don’t be the one who makes the first page, please.

While on your way you might spot a strange green hidden pyramid, that might just be a strange mountain or a very old story I know nothing about. Follow the path, it is safe. Enjoy the green pyramid.

The path leads to the Mecca of the Retezat National Park and that is the Bucura Lake. When you see it you know what you are seeing. At the edge of the lake you will find many tents, many people, a cabin of the Salvamont where you will receive assistance and help if needed and … you will know the cold. Because as I have previously said, it is forbidden to have a fire.

Ok then, are you ready for this adventure ? Believe me when I say this to you: until the end of your trip you will hear the mountains whispers.
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ClujNapoca, moving in

I am writing the present article for all the foreigners out there waiting on stand by, unsure, having no clue what to expect. Maybe you wish to study, maybe you have found your dream job, maybe you are just passing by. It doesn’t matter, the point is you will be in Cluj soon. So I will try to help you make an idea about this amazing city.

Cluj Napoca could be the friendliest city in Romania. It doesn’t mean you will not meet a lot of less educated people, it just means the majority are very nice. Regardless the season of your arrival you will notice the people are young and always smiling.

The main problem in Cluj is the rent. This is a big universitary centre and there is always a high demand for apartments. Once the owners noticed they can make an easy living out of it the prices went up. So if you are looking for a cheap rental you should try to find something in the Manastur area, Grigorescu, maybe Gheorgheni.

You will find a room for aprox. 110eur in a shared apartment. If you prefer to live alone you will find a studio for aprox. 180eur and as you are getting closer to the city center the prices go up to 150eur/room in a shared apartment and 300 – 350eur for a studio. Do not forget about the deposit. This is a tax that equals the 1 month rent, you pay it once and you will receive the money back from the owner at your departure. There are 0 chances to negotiate your way out of it. And if you need to hire an agency to find you a place to stay you can add another 50% commission. So yes, the rent is expensive.

There are a few groups on Facebook where it will be much easier for you to find a cheaper alternative. And there is always the local newspaper to get you out of trouble.

If you don’t have a job you have to know the offer is generous, however your income may vary between 1000ron/month for entry level and 4000ron or more/month if you are a very good professional in your domain. This is extremely subjective depending on who are you working for.

Now let’s get to the fun part. I love this city with all my heart. The people are open minded and friendly. The city IQ is going up and you will make friends easily if you’re the social type. And if you are not, no problem as there are so many perfect places to visit alone. I will not extend my article to infinite by covering them all, you know the drill, Google is your best friend.

The nightlife is amazing and as each bar has its own specific you will not be bored soon. There is a place in Cluj Napoca for every taste, for every style. Nobody will be left behind.

Very soon I will cover the topic of the most interesting locations in Cluj Napoca. In the meantime I will share with you a few secrets.

There is a non stop supermarket right in the city center, it is called Sora. If hunger strikes at 4 a.m. you know what to do.

If you find yourself by some strange reason awake at 6 a.m. in the city center you can drink your coffee at Panemar. They are the first to open. Just ask another weirdo to guide you on how to get there.

Always buy tickets when taking the bus. The transport company is obsessed and their employees never rest. You don’t want to pay 50 times more the cost of a lousy ticket.

If some wacko appears from out of nowhere offering you a little book like it is for free, do not take it! Just say firmly and polite: “NU!”

You can eat very cheap and tasty food at the restaurant called “Mesele vesele”.

In Cluj you can shoot a gun, swim, relax in your hammock in Summer in Parcul Mare, enjoy a rugby game, play airsoft, camp near the forest, buy antiques, visit museums and the beautiful Botanical Garden.

If you have any other questions I will be glad to help.

Enjoy Cluj ! You will learn to love it

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Bucharest, the streets of Cotroceni

My dear Frodo, it is time for you to know that not all Bucharest is a geometrical communist looking place if you ever lived under this impression. The Romanian Capital is hiding amazing places and I will not tell you the story of the most popular because you can just Google for Piata Victoriei, Strada Lipscani, Parcul Cismigiu etc. and you will find information. I will not write about the countless museums, monuments and events you will find daily in Bucharest.

My story is about streets and houses.

The neighborhood I recommend you to visit is called Cotroceni. Not quite downtown I must say, but within walking distance in a summer day, if you feel brave enough.

It is a silent place with narrow streets and old houses going up and down until they meet the crowded boulevards. But Cotroceni is not crowded at all. The trees are casting their shadows along the sidewalks and the falling leaves make everything look like a sad poetry in autumn. I can only imagine the pleasure of living in one of those houses, getting comfortable and warm, close to the window and waiting to rain.

Walking down the alleys you wild be confronted with your inner demons. This place is inducing a suspicious silence. Step after step in this quiet labyrinth you might find your answers.

Stop. Smell. Inhale deeply. You have just touched the heart of Bucharest. And you are now rewarded with infinite peace.

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