Note: This article was first featured over at Expat Magazine at Expat.com titled “5 Ways to Document Your Expat Adventures.” – You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I LOVE talking about expat living. Not a traveling digital nomad, but a ‘we found a county and stayed put’ type of digital expat. Before I moved, I had this jumbled mix of what I loved writing about and I had a hard time narrowing it down to one specific area. But over the last 4 years of living in Turkey, my 2nd time to move abroad, and writing last weeks article about culture shock, I think I have found (one of) my niche!!
Even more than chatting about expat living, I love sharing the ways I have documented our expat adventures. *Spoiler* The most interesting way is through our FunkTravels Podcast and FollowingTheFunks YouTube channel! In the midst of moving, traveling, and adjusting to another culture, documenting our memories can be the one thing that is thrown to the wayside. It also becomes one of the biggest regrets of those when they journey onward to the next phase of life.
Ok, we are ready to move on! Here is the article:
I woke up one morning and had completely forgotten where I was. You know how a really deep, good sleep can disorient you? Something in the room made me think I was in Turkey on a cool fall morning, maybe how the sunlight streamed in through the windows just so or the smell of the crisp morning air coming in through the open window. Of course, I quickly realized that I was no longer living in Turkey, but instead, I was in my bed in the States.
It’s funny to remember that now because currently my husband and I now live in Turkey once again. The smells and sounds of the neighborhoods are ingrained into my memory and I know… this is our lovely Turkey. It is strange how our senses can spark the littlest memories about a place.
Sometimes I get completely transported back to the places I have visited, whether I want it or not, remembering the tiniest details that I didn’t realize I had forgotten – like the taste of butter, removing shoes at the door, or the certain fruity smell of a pipe from a hookah.
Over the last ten years, I’ve spent 5 of those as an expat; both single and married. I love being reminded of the journey and adventures we’ve had this year on our latest expat experience. I know that when we are back in our home country, I will enjoy looking back through the ways that I have documented our time abroad as well as sharing those memories with others.
Here are 5 ways I have used to document the adventures of our up-and-down, never-dull, fun, frustrating, and wonderful expat life.
1. KEEP A SIMPLE JOURNAL:
Keeping a journal has been proven to help people reflect and process change, but it’s mostly just a great place to hold memories. Keep a running list of things you love about the culture and place you live. Write stories of when someone helped you, a kind gesture on the street, or laughs of the neighborhood children after school. Journals are easy to take with you and write in at any time!
2. START A WEBSITE:
This is probably the most popular choice. It can be a digital journal option for you and a great way to include your photos. If you are super tech-savvy, vlogs are growing in popularity. If you enjoy writing as a creative outlet, a website is a great way to share your expat lives with others and find an online community as well.
3. START A PODCAST:
Audio series are a great way to share your stories with others! My husband and I enjoy listening to them together on road trips, while working, or on any lengthy public transportation rides! So when moving to Turkey together this time, we decided to share our expat journey with others via podcast! (Update: Via 50 episodes of our podcast we shared our move from the USA through our 2nd year living in Turkey – so January 2016 to spring of 2018. We now still published blog post like this and have ‘continued’ our podcast via our newer brand of FollowingTheFunks YouTube channel.)
4. CREATE A PHOTO BOOK:
Maybe writing isn’t your thing, but creating a photo timeline of your journey is! Photo books are one of my favorite ways to remember a trip, experience, or even an entire year. There are many websites to help you create beautiful digital photo books of your travels. Or if you enjoy crafty projects, make a photo book from scratch.
5. ORGANIZE AND PRINT THOSE PICTURES:
If possible, just taking time to organize your pictures is a way to document your expat life! Perhaps there isn’t time to do all the other things mentioned above! No problem, do what works for you! And when all else fails, just print those pictures! These days it is so easy to never go out and print photos. So every month gather your favorite photos and print them! Then move the old photos over to a photo album, and hang up your newly printed pictures! (Update: I have just gotten the hang of this and got a ton of photo books done!)
Those are just a few of the many ways you can document your expat journey! Overall, the main goal is to just do something! It doesn’t have to be perfect (which if I am honest, is very hard for me), but you just have to start!
Now to you:
Have you used any of the ways above to document your story?
How have you documented your expat adventures?
What tips do you have for others who want to start documenting their expat life?
Note: This article was first featured first on the Expat Women in Turkey website. You can see all my published works on my portfolio page.
Spring is gorgeous here. The sun shines and the weather is just the right temperature. Recently, I went out for a few errands and just basked in the rays of sunlight peeking through as I weaved in and out of the shadows made from my neighborhood buildings and trees. In a split second, I went from gloriously praising MY lovely city to cursing the stinky rules of THEIR culture. Because, for the almost 1 millionth time, I barely missed stepping on fresh dog poop in the middle of the sidewalk….
Eight months ago (Update: now 4 years!) my husband and I moved from a small town in the midwest of the United States to Izmir, a busy apartment city of 4 million people. We moved from one set of cultural rules to another – spoken and unspoken. An unspoken one in America, you pick up your dog’s poop and throw it away (or take them to a dog park) and here in Turkey, leaving poop everywhere is totally acceptable. Amazing how one little thing can spark a moment of anger stemming from culture shock.
(Update: I have since come to learn that this is NOT a norm and street dog are a major culprit here with this issue. ALSO, I would like to point out just how amazing clean these major cities are kept!)
But this isn’t the first time I have moved internationally. Before marrying my sweet man, I spent 2 years in Turkey and 1.5 more years in Afghanistan. From my experience, the first few months can be hard because you have to adjust everything about your life. Other people seem to have a little honeymoon phase (maybe 2-4 months) before the frustrations hit them full-on.
Throughout these journeys, I have found a few ways to counteract culture shock:
1. KEEP A JOURNAL:
Keeping a journal has been proven to help people reflect and process change. However, many people end up using a journal to vent about things they don’t like or make them angry. While there is nothing wrong with that, I suggest using your journal another way. Keep a running list of things you love about the culture and place you live – especially in the beginning while the ‘honeymoon’ stage is still happening. Write stories of when someone helped you, a kind gesture on the street, or laughs of the neighborhood children after school.
2. BE A TOURIST FOR A DAY:
My best way to counteract the frustration of living in another country is to get out and explore. Sometimes it is easy to fall into the routine of work, eat, sleep and repeat. Make a list of places, festivals, and events to explore in your city then make a plan and go! It can seem intimidating, but the more you try new things, the easier it becomes to explore.
3. MAKE YOUR COMFORT FOOD:
While I promise you it won’t be the same, it’s definitely worth the effort! The first time I moved to Istanbul, I basically had to learn to cook my comfort food from scratch. But when I mastered my first banana bread recipe, it became a go-to for times I felt like everything I ate was foreign.
Sometimes moving to a new city can stop our daily routines. Maybe you exercised before moving, but now are lacking motivation. One of the best things I did my first year abroad was pay (way too much money, mind you) for a gym membership. It gave me a reason to get out of my house, interact with others, and meet new people.
5. MEET YOUR NEIGHBORS:
You may think “why would I meet new people when people are the cause of my culture shock?!” Believe me, it is the best advice others gave me when I was feeling frustrated. Creating deeper relationships with locals (or even other expats) helps you understand the culture more. Perhaps cultural frustration can be resolved by learning more about why people do the things that they do. Also, connecting with other people helps you notice individuals behind “those Turks” or “those Americans” or “those… insert people group here“. Grace and open-mindedness help you move past culture shock into an area of understanding and appreciation for another’s home country.
These are just a few ways I have found helpful to avoid and break through the culture shock in the 3 countries I have called home in the last 10 years.
Remember that you are not alone and there is always someone to talk to! So instead of withdrawing, maybe consider doing the exact opposite and see how it goes!
Which one sounds most appealing to you?
If you have moved abroad, what has helped you overcome culture shock?
As you arrive in Braşov, you’ll see the town’s name boldly announced in white letters, perched high on the hilltop. Brașov lies in the center of Romania’s Transylvania region in the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Vampire Count Dracula fame. Later, during medieval times, Braşov was occupied by the Saxons, who turned the city into a walled citadel for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those same medieval stone walls.
For centuries, the city’s central Romanian location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Braşov’s name means “Crown City” in both German and Latin. Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.
Here is your ultimate guide for visiting Brasov, Romania:
History, Architecture, and Culture
Braşov offers a diverse number of gothic, baroque, and renaissance architectural styles. Architecture, crepe stands, and cafes line Braşov’s wide pedestrian-only boulevard. Visitors will find themselves looking up, entranced by the artistic architecture all around them.
The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet harmonious, Gothic-style Black Church peeks out from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the beautiful Council Square of Piata Sfatului and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului. Here, you can relax at an outdoor cafe while you soak up the ambiance that reflects Braşov’s heart and soul.
Built from 1383 to 1480, the Black Church earned its name after the smoke from a 1689 fire darkened its walls. Although the largest Gothic church in Eastern Europe may not be as striking as some Western European cathedrals, its gothic architecture and the Anatolian Carpets that adorn the walls reflect the crossing point of the cultures and influences from the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and the Saxons.
Built in 1559, Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate, is one of the oldest portals in town. Complete with a drawbridge, and four corner towers, Catherine’s Gate was once the only entrance into the northern part of the fortress.
Catherine’s Gate survived fires in 1689 and 1759 , but an earthquake in 1738 damaged its walls. Closed up and used for storage, the gate was finally restored to its original state between 1971-1973, and is undeniably the city’s most beautiful gate.
Due to repeated raids by the Turks, Braşov’s residents fortified their city in the late 1400s, building thick stone walls with strong bastions, two outer watch towers, and a Citadel. On the opposite side to Braşov’s mountaintop sign, you can visit the striking white tower and newly renovated black tower which is, ironically, also constructed of white stone. In 1599 the Black tower was destroyed by fire from a lightning strike, which blackened its walls, hence its name. Today, this pyramid-shaped glass roof tower is no longer black and houses a museum. Both towers can be toured and provide magical panoramic views over the city.
The free Braşov walking tour is ideal for history lovers. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history including Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe. The tour covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter, and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate.
Offered daily at 18:00, the tour is held in all weather. The guides are personable and used stories and humor to captivate us as she explained the history of Braşov. It meets at the Piata Sfatului, the Town Hall Square, next to the fountains. While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, which we felt was well worth it.
Strada Sforii, also known as “Rope” and “Skinny” Street, is claimed to be Eastern Europe’s narrowest street. It’s one of Braşov’s most interesting tourist attractions and was originally used as an access route by firefighters. Found between Cerbului Street and Poarta Schei Street, this 13th-century alleyway is 53 inches at its widest point and just 44 inches at its most narrow point. Most visitors miss Strada Sforii, and never get to explore its narrow, winding path. Look for the tiny sign marking the entrance to the street.
Just outside Braşov, towering mountains clad with thick forest cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Braşov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei/ person (€3.7) you can purchase a round trip ticket, that offers marvelous views of the city. If you like hiking, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one-way ticket in either direction. Make sure you stop to admire the view of downtown Braşov. The Black Church and square can easily be spotted from above.
Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities are plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy to find.
While Bran Castle is best known as Count Dracula’s castle, this wood and stone fortress had an essential role in protecting the Hungarian king from Ottoman and Tartar invasions. Built in 1378, the castle served both protective and commercial purposes. In 1836, Bran became the official border and in 1920, the Braşov Town council donated Bran Castle to Queen Maria of Great Romania, who lived there with the royal family until 1947. Since then, the Castle has been converted into a museum.
Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly. Lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way, the village of Bran also offers tempting strolls along the street.
The 14th-century Rasnov Fortress, on a rocky hilltop in the Carpathian Mountains, 650 ft above the town of Rasnov, was recently restored. It’s a quick day trip from Braşov’s historic center. For decades, this perfectly positioned citadel provided refuge for inhabitants of the area.
For 12 lei adult admission fee (€2.5), you get access to the maze-like inner rooms of the fortifications, a museum, a school, hundred-year-old stone houses, a skeleton buried beneath a glass floor, a few so-called secret passages, and sweeping views of the countryside.
For Festival Goers
Braşov offers many festivals throughout the year. The Beer Festival, Etnovember, and the Junii Feast, are a few that are well worth scheduling your travels to Romania around.
The Beer Festival in Braşov is a smaller version of Oktoberfest, held in the fall. You can enjoy the beers and ales from several local beer companies in the dozens of tents. Taste Romanian grilled sausages (called mici) and other traditional foods, while enjoying local and national bands and artists.
A cross between the words ‘ethnic’ and ‘November’, the intercultural festival ‘Etnovember’ reflects both the cultural traditions of the communities present. Since 1998, all ethnic groups from Braşov, Romanian, Hungarian, Jewish, Gypsy, German and Greek communities gather to celebrate their diversity and support friendship, tolerance, respect, and understanding. The three-day festival offers a wide range of art forms including dance, music, painting, photography, and design. If you want to see the heart of the Romanian people, visit Braşov during this time.
The Junii Braşovului festival (‘The Feast of the Youth’) is an ancient tradition dating back to 1728, celebrating the start of spring, the renewing of nature, and the beginning of new life. On the first Sunday after Easter, or the new year of the ancestors of the Romanians, the seven “Junii” (young men) groups from the Schei, the old district of Braşov, ride on horses from the mountains and ride around Braşov. Dressed in unique costumes, they carry mace batons, scepters, and flags, parading in front of the St. Nicholas church. In true Romanian spirit, where traditions live on, with dancing, games, and barbecuing, the festival has multiplied and an occasion to be marked on all Braşovians’ calendars.
From Bucharest to Braşov, stop about 1 hour outside of Braşov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and take a break from the car. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of cornmeal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.
In Braşov, grab a pastry from one of the many window stalls and find a table in the middle of the boulevard on the main street of Strada Republicii. For a wonderful brunch experience, choose from sweet or savory crepes at the laid-back La Republique. Lunch or dinner at the stylish but still kid-friendly pizzeria, Trattoria Pocol. For an afternoon snack, the adorable bakery near the Black Church, La Vatra Ardealului, will wake you up with their strong cappuccinos and delightful tiramisu, cakes, or chocolate truffles.
Who Visits Braşov?
Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourist hot spots. It offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.
The rich history and sights in Romania’s soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region make a perfect week-long getaway. Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights.
How to Get There
With Romania’s 20 million people nicely spread over 240,000 square kilometers, the country is perfect for a road trip meets city type of adventure. Serviced by most major airlines, Bucharest airport makes an easy starting point. Sibiu International Airport or Aeroportul Braşov-Ghimbav airports near Braşov are closer options to consider.
After landing, rent a car, purchase a sim card with data, and head north for your 2.5-hour drive to Braşov. Romanian roads are easy to navigate and sim cards help with GPS directions, and finding restaurants.
During the return from Braşov to Bucharest, explore the well-maintained Peles Castle, and eat lunch in the nearby city of Sinaia which provided a cozy half-way stop.
Because flexibility is important for travel, rent a car via your favorite car rental website. Most car rental companies provide a free shuttle from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away from the airport. If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.
Where to Stay
Hotels are easy and plentiful to find. Below are a couple of hotels to consider for your time in Romania:
Kronhaus Bed and Breakfast in Braşov
Conacul Ambient in Cristian
Rem’s Pension in Rasnov
Conacul Bratescu in Bran
If your group is large or you are traveling with children consider opting for a more family style lodging through private apartment rental.
When to Go
For sunshine and warmer weather, the summer months are generally drier and good for walks, but don’t be surprised if you are caught in a rainstorm or two in June. Fall time creates an autumn color tour for travelers as the trees and ground are splashed with orange, yellow, and red leaves. While winter weather can be inclement, holiday time in Romania invites guests to celebrate with locals still wearing traditional clothes while caroling, admire traditionally decorated wooden houses, and enjoy homemade sausages.
Most shops and hotels will take credit cards but many restaurants, bars and smaller shops and outlets will only accept cash.
Most people speak English, but a translation app is handy for rural areas that don’t have English menus.
Purchase sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5).
Download a maps app to help you navigate the city.
Take comfortable shoes. The best way to see all the cozy nooks in Braşov is by walking or cycling.
Pack for all weathers as even the summer weather can be unpredictable.
Currency: Leu ( plural Lei — pronunciation “lay” — abbreviations: Lei or RON )
Quick Note: This article was first featured first in the Lale Magazine – Reminiscing Romantic Romania (pg.46-49)– Direct LinkYou can see all my published works on my portfolio page.
Bucharest, once known as the little Paris of Romania, set an example for its outlying villages, like Braşov. Following suit, they look like small Parisian villages with their crepe stands and cafes making a boulevard down main street. Often overlooked on the regular European tourist trail, Romania remains an eminently worthy travel destination in its own right. Romania is a great country for those who’ve seen all the major European cities and want to get away from the overcrowded tourists hot spots. I found that Romania offers plenty of tourist attractions without the craziness of tourist groups, lines, and prices.
My husband and I met up with some of our expat friends in Romania for a 5-day reunion. Our traveling group consisted of 4 adults and 2 babies. Our friends, coming from Dubai, wanted to escape the boiling, brown desert for cooler green, lush forests. We just wanted to enjoy some European foods not readily available in Izmir and more reasonably priced than Paris or London, for example. And we both hoped to escape our towering apartments for a few hours via a road trip through the mountainous central area of Romania.
Romania’s 20 million people are spread over 240,000 square kilometers, perfect for a road trip meets city type adventure. After meeting our friends at Bucharest international airport, we picked up our rental car, purchased sim cards with 3G data for 40 lei (€8.5), and headed north on the 2.5-hour drive to Braşov. The Romanian roads are easy to navigate and having a sim card helped with GPS directions and finding restaurants.
Lying in the center of the renowned Carpathian Mountains of Dracula fame, Brașov is a city in Romania’s Transylvania region. Established by the Teutonic Knights in 1211, and later occupied by the Saxons, Brasov was a walled citadel during the medieval times, for protection against invaders. Today the city is still surrounded by those medieval Saxon stone walls.
For centuries, the city’s central location has given it a strong political influence in the region, especially during the Ottoman Empire dynasty, while also providing a trading doorway into western Europe. Brasov’s German and Latin names mean “Crown City”. Its coat of arms bears a crown with oak roots, and can be seen on walls and buildings throughout the city.
The city center is lined with romantic cobblestone roads. The inelegant looking, yet stunning, Gothic-style Black Church (named for the fire that turned its walls black) peeks from behind colorful baroque houses that shield the Council Square of Piaţa Sfatului, and the former town hall, Casa Sfatului.
Just beyond the city, towering mountains clad with thick forests cover the countryside. One of our favorite tourist activities in Brasov was riding the gondola to the top of Mount Tampa. For 17 lei a person (€3.7), you can purchase a roundtrip ticket, and it’s a great way to see panoramic views of the city. Or if you like hiking, and the weather permits, 10 lei (€2) will get you a one way ticket either direction.
For the history lovers, the free Braşov walking tour is ideal. This interesting two-hour tour covers 800 years of the city’s history. You’ll hear stories about the citadel and Dracula while walking through one of the narrowest streets in Eastern Europe. The tours covers the history of the Black Church, the Council Square, Rope Street, St. Nicholas Church, the Citadel’s Walls, the Schei Quarter and Ecaterina’s (Catherine’s) Gate. The tour runs daily at 18:00 in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Piata Sfatului (the Town Hall Square next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, the guides work from tips. We suggest tipping at least €5 per person, and we felt it was well worth it.
Braşov is a unique location. Even with its small-town, quiet feel in the middle of the mountains, restaurants and activities remains plentiful. Braşov offers much to explore within, and around, the city. The nearby city of Bran is home to Bran Castle, a.k.a. the famous Dracula’s Castle! A quick 30-minute drive from Braşov, the castle is easy enough to find.
Castle tickets are 30 lei (€8) per adult. The uphill walk to the castle takes 10 minutes. While the attraction is kid-friendly, the castle itself with its many stairs and turns is not stroller friendly. The village of Bran offers tempting strolls along the streets, lined with local shopping goods and souvenirs, and plenty of places to eat along the way. Other surrounding villages offer the same atmosphere usually with fortified churches or castles.
Three days are sufficient to explore all that Braşov has to offer, but if you want to see more of Transylvania, you can easily add a few more nights! On our return from Braşov to Bucharest, we found the well-maintained Peles Castle, and the nearby city Sinaia, provided a cozy half-way stop.
Bucharest started from a humble beginning; founded by a shepherd in the Transylvania area named Bucur, or joy. The area was name after the shepherd and the river named after his wife, Dambovita.
From these humble beginnings grew a thriving city. Ironically enough, the Ottomans officially wrote about Bucharest when their dynasty was under occupation by Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Dracula, of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire novel. Bucharest, by now the nation’s capital city, was an important stop along the Silk Road. Living in Turkey gives me an instant connection to Romania’s long forgotten history.
In the 1900s, Bucharest earned the name of “Little Paris” for its European architecture and tree-lined boulevards. But since then, World War II, earthquakes, and 45 years of communist rule, have taken their toll on the city’s former majestic beauty.
However, today you can still find plenty of these majestic buildings and architecture like major boulevards, the Palace of the Parliament, and the Transfagarasan, considered by many to be the most beautiful road in Europe.
Nowadays, 25 years after the Romanian revolution against the Communism, Bucharest is once again starting to resemble its former title of “Little Paris” as an urban location, full of culture and life.
A visit to Bucharest will never leave you bored. It offers more than 50 museums, 12 theaters, 29 sites, and one Arc de Triumph. While I can’t vouch for any of the museums, I can tell you that the walking only area around Old Town provides plenty of walking-only historical sites, lined with international food options.
The same company, Bucharest Walkabout Tours, offers free Bucharest walking tour of the Old Town. The two-hour tour covers a 500-year span of history, with stories about the life and times of Vlad the Impaler through to the 1989 Revolution, and how that has affected modern-day Romania.
You’ll also hear about Romania under the “Golden Era” of communism. This tour runs daily at 10:30 am and 18:00 pm, in all weather (sun, rain or snow!). It meets at the Unirii Square Park in front of the Clock (next to the fountains). While the tour is ‘free’, these guides also work from tips.
Since 1692, Calea Victoriei has been one of Bucharest’s most famous streets. Lined with fine houses, palaces, churches, and hotels, you’ll also find upmarket shops and museums along its length.
From the Brancovenesque houses at the northern end to the art-deco, 1920s apartment blocks further south, the vast number of architectural styles is an impressive sight. Several major attractions are found on Calea Victoriei including the monument to the revolution called Piata Revolutiei, the eloquent French architecture of the Atheneum and Athenee Palace Hilton hotel, and the National Museum of Art (once the Former Royal Palace). The Former Central Committee Building and the Revolution Memorial—which locals call ‘an olive on a stick’—are also found along the Calea Victoriei. If you start your walking tour at the northern end, and explore the full length of the street, you can then end up relaxing in one of the cafes of Old Town.
Our days were filled with strolling past buildings of Belarus architecture, and resting on benches along shaded tree-lined boulevards lined with fountains. Bucharest’s mammoth Palace of Parliament is the second largest building in the world. Once a symbol of Ceauceșcu’s utilitarian rule, the building is today a testament to Romanian history, and the country’s recovery from his iron rule.
The Palace of the Parliament, known by the locals as ‘Ceauceșcu’s Palace’, with 1,100 rooms and 12 stories, can be seen from space. Its construction took 13 years to finish! Depending on what you want to see, tickets can be purchased to see a certain number of chambers, the basement, and the main balcony. Ticket prices range between 25-45 lei (€5-10). For children and students (with student ID card) entrance is free.
If you want to see more than the Old Town and the Palace of Parliament, the popular Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour sells 24-hour tickets and covers a 10-mile route. This bus also takes you past the 27meter high Arc de Triumph and the 462-acre Herăstrău Park, built around a natural lake.
Be sure to visit the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum, Bucharest’s largest, open-air museum which showcases the diversity and charm of Romanian traditional village architecture. It boasts 300 houses, farms, windmills, and churches imported from all regions of Romania. Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tickets for adults are 25 lei (€5), children (age 7-14) are 10 lei (€2) and children under 7 travel free.
My favorite part about Romania is that neither Bucharest nor Braşov made us feel rushed. Instead, our first visit to Romania made us feel like we lived there like the locals, and not like tourists. Travel should always feel like that.
The rich history and sights in Romania’s capital city of Bucharest and the soon-to-be major tourist destination of Braşov in the Transylvania region made for a perfect week-long getaway.
From Bucharest to Brasov, we stopped about 1 hour outside of Brasov in a little railroad town of Posada for supper and let the children take a break from the car seats. Enjoy a traditional Romanian dish such as cabbage rolls or smoked sausages with a side of corn meal with salty cheese and sour cream at the restaurant called Cernica.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Istanbul, Pegasus Airlines has direct flights to Bucharest via the Sabiha Gokcen Airport at around $150 roundtrip. As we live in Izmir, we has a short 1.5 hour layover between our Izmir to Istanbul then Istanbul to Bucharest airports. Turkish Airlines has a few more locations available besides Bucharest in Romania via Cluj-Napoca and Constanta.
IN COUNTRY TRANSPORTATION:
Because we wanted flexibility in our travels, our group decided to rent a car via the Pegasus’s car rental section of their website. The free shuttle provided by the car rental company took us from the airport to their company only 5 minutes away. If driving in another country is not your cup of tea, taxis, buses, and even trains between cities are easy to use and inexpensive as well.
WHERE TO STAY:
Because our group was 6 people (4 adults and 2 kids) we opted for a more family-style lodging and stayed in Airbnb apartment-style housing. Before deciding to go the Airbnb route, below are a couple of hotels we had looked at booking:
Hotel Coroana in Braşov
Chic Apartments in nearby Sibiu
Sarah & David Studios in Bucharest
WHERE TO EAT:
La Republique – Laidback breakfast crepes in the town center
Trattoria Pocol – Stylish pizzeria but still kid-friendly
La Vatra Ardealului – Bakery near the Black Church
Cernica – Dinner stop on our way up to Braşov
Caru’ Cu Bere – Romanian food for lunch in Old Town
Emilia Cremeria – Personal favorite ice cream shop in Old Town
Chinese Garden – Chinese Food
El Toritos -Mexican food we ordered online and they delivered!
NOMADasaurus featured my article titled Beginner’s Guide To Backpacking In Cyprus. The article covers the highlights of our time in Cyprus and what cities and sites you should see. The article covers sites in and near Paphos and the navigating the divided capital of Nicosia. There is an in-depth guide for the country info and all the where to stay, eat, and when to go!
NOMADasaurus is Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog. Travel writers and photographers Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem aim “to inspire people to seek out new adventures and meaningful travel experiences.”
Cyprus wins major historical points. By legend, this 9,250 km island is the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. However, the modern enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants rivals ancient Greek mythology with its continued reconciliation efforts today.
In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus twice and after the 2nd invasion, both parties established the ceasefire which is known as the Green Line.
Both sides effectively partitioned the United Nations troops patrolled this “Green Line” dividing the two parts: the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots.
Both Turkish and Greek people were moved hastily to their matching nationality’s side and until 2008, the border remained closed due to the Turkish occupation of the north side of the island.
Neither the United States nor any country, other than Turkey, recognizes the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.
Sprinkled with castles, churches, monasteries, mosaics, white-sand beaches along the blue seas, Cyprus is also a land for romantics.