Invitation to "my wagon"

A short train trip  to the mountains on a regular Saturday winter  morning.

Gorgeous walk, sunny weather, delicious food and perfect company.

The trip back home with a slower train..

The long walks take their toll on me and when I sit down and with the warm air hugging me I deeply relax.

I am looking through the wagon and encounter a variety of  fellow travellers.

And I have my phone in my pocket for the rest of the trip while I take time to look at everybody.

Bring to paint a picture of their stories in my mind.

Snowboarders, fathers left in a boy’s getaway with their baby boys, elder people heading back to their homes, an Indian speaking English with a delicate redhaired woman  that proved  to be his wife.

I’m melting in my seat, and outside the shades of the sky are rapidly changing, like in a kaleidoscope.

I close  my eyes for a second and the swing of the train rings back  memories from me being a baby swung in my mum’s loving arms.

I feel warms and protected and I open my eyes grateful for the amazing day I am having.

It seems waves of mixed relaxation and sleep gently sweeps our wagon and the sounds are lullabies for my ears.

The snowboarders swish silently their gloves and coats to fit better without disturbing anyone.

The fathers with  the getaway are softly speaking to their boys trying to put them down to sleep before they do. Luckily the boys fall asleep in each others arms, and the parents are silently giggle in content.

The elders put down their glasses in their pockets and rest their eyes and I can almost sense their eyelashes fluttering down, in the same rhythm of their heartbeats.

The Indian chit chats  with his enchanting lady as softly as everybody else, while her gaze is caressing his  warm brown skin.  The’ve had the same amazing day, I can feel it..

And the train makes its way into the night while  the little boys sleeping in front  of me are snoring gently like kittens purrring.

Luckily my trip is almost ending, and I won’t join the little fellows in a deep nap myself.

Never thought that  one hour train trip after an amazing day could be so soothing.

Grateful for this day, and for the people with good vibes from train 3088, wagon 03.

When in Brasov: Goodfood

The morning was all about the king: the chimney king from “Goodfood”.

Below I will show you what happens when ordinary encounters a playful idea.

Let me explain: it’s not about a regular icecream, nor a regular ice cone.

The cone is a tiny chimney cake.

For the ones of you less familiar, according wikipedia:  chimney cake, also known as “Kürtőskalács (Hungarian: [ˈkyrtøːʃkɒlaːt͡ʃ]  sometimes transliterated kurtosh kalach) is a spit cake specific to Transylvania, Hungary and especially popular in the Hungarian-speaking regions of Romania, more predominantly the Székely Land.”

Here they are, tiny, freshly out of the oven and sprinkled with nuts, or pistachio or coconut.

The location is rather small but everything comfy that you could have ever dreamed of.

The lady from serving was so incredible nice and welcoming…

Asked for the chimney king as you may have seen above, and it contained:the chimney cake sprinkled with crunchy nuts and filled with  home made vanilla ice cream, brownies bits.

All these topped with chocolate sauce and salted caramel.

The nice lady told us about the vanilla ice cream being freshly made this morning, and we can actually see the tasty vanilla seeds that found a home in the creaminess of the milk.

It really is a different experience which I highly recommend to you all whenever you visit Brasov.

And I dare say whenever because they a lovely selection: from appetiser like chimneys filled with rucola and tomatoes, or filled  with warm mac&cheese , to strudel  and cinnamon topped with home made whipped cream.

And if these seem too rich for your taste.. do try the gin& tonic chimney, or the Aperol one…

Good ideas, good food, good mood..

Fast or slow in Brasov?

As told you in the previous post, I’m spending the end of the year in magical Brasov.

Exploring the streets at night here is for the fast one and for the slow one.

The old city centre decorated in millions of lights, and animated by the dedicated artists embraced by the waves of tourists that keep on arriving.

For us, Romanians, this a familiar image of our winter traditions, and if you’re not from here you might enjoy it very much.

We are well cherished and appreciated by tourists, like you, and it’s a delight for us to initiate them in all our Romanian delightful bits and pieces.

This one from the photo it’s a mix of ancient traditions, “hardcore”drums and rivers of energy from these people that seem restless.

All this flood the famous Republicii street, and night is suddenly transformed into day.

At least until people harnessed by a terrible hunger to the amazing culinary locations prepared just for them.

An then, with warmth running through the veins and a comfy full belly, they slowly fill in the tiny streets, fulfilled with happiness and peace.

They will arrive at their hotels, hostels, air b&b’s and slowly fall asleep in this world of winter wonderland.

Enjoy and be magic this evening my friends.

Reporting from Brasov with love,

Andreea

A glimpse of wintery Brasov

Arrived in Brasov early in the morning to be honest.

So early that cars were still sleeping from last night, covered in a sheer blanket of fresh snow.

I completely forgot how cold the “mountains cold” really was it but I was bitten by it without hesitation.

A slow beautiful day without any plans.. just BEING here: Brasov, and taking photos in Piata Sfatului and surroundings.

It’s amazing how through so much technology the magic of a Christmas tree is a crowd gatherer and enchanter.

From the smallest to the eldest, everybody was taking in the scent and the light.

Warming up with hot chocolate, warm apple juice with rum or mulled wine..

Everything seems possible in this mix of cold snowflakes on the cheeks and spicy hot sips down through thirsty throats.

Next days will be spent in long fresh walks, lots of photos and hopefully lots of goodies to be discovered.

Wishing you the most peaceful winter evening here.

The Ferrari Museum: An Experience

How amazing can it be that after working as a driver for an automotive company, then founding your own, and writing history with it.

That is just what Enzo Ferrari did, after working for Alfa Romeo.

But I need to confess that I found myself in Modena mostly for the balsamnic vinegar, cheese and other Italian delicacies.

Yet being there I was enchanted by Modena town and his people, for whom rush was not a way of living.

And yet, Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena, and in my opinion he invented the “fast” concept, by his automobiles.

The museum has not the clasic shape one thinks when referring to a museum: it looks like a soap bubble.

Entering the museum from 40 celsius is an experience to be remebered: you feel like you’re in the purest air and then you see it and understand: Ferrari welcomes you .

Inside there are so many informative displays, articles, pieces of history to create in the visitor the most accurate mental photo of what and how this story developed.

The tiny models, of wooden cars that challenges mentalities, so carefully crafted put a candid smile on my face.

A film about Ferrari’s craftmanship played, projected on the ceiling and Icould see the man who did it all possible, and for whom all was possible: Enzo.

The film is so full of energy, and so expressive, that no matter the part of the world you’re from you will understand it all by feeing it all.

It’s a powerful lesson about having a dream, a goal, and working hard towards his completion.

The museum also exemplifies the powerful connection Enzo’s cars had and have with the femimine symbols of each era: “ROSSO& ROSSA: women and ferraris- the untold story”.

Cars designed and given to succesful ladies all over the world: elegance, flowing shapes, ambition.

While visiting I found out that this was the Modena wing of the Ferrari museum, and that another wing was the one from Maranello, dedicated as you guessed: to the Formulas cars.

There was no doubt that I had to be there too, so there i went.

I was still driven by Enzo’s energy and I wanted more, just like a Formula 1 driver acceleartes more and more his Ferrari engine.

I could feel the passion people had when drawing the sketches, then building the prototypes and then… setting them free in the world.

I can tell you I was feeling overwhelmed: feeling history unfolding around me by each car I saw.

This is me trying to tell you that it’s worth visiting, having the experinece.

As for me, next time I am on Modena soil I will revisit for sure, to deepen into the experinece.

Transylvania: The Corvin Castle

Tranylvania (in Romania) is like this huge magnet for tourists from all over the world.

If not for for its myths then for its medieval castles and wonderful traditions.

And today I am taking you with me through The Corvins Castle/ Hunyadi Castle.

The most well preserved medieval castle from Transylvania, built in the 14th century in a full gothic architecture.

And we will stop here with the theory because the last thing I said was “gothic architecture”.

But not only the architecture was gothic.

It can easily be used as a set for “The beauty and the beast” story.

I will show you, in photos why I sensed it as being a castle of contrasts: the rich and the poor, the good and the bad.

It was not hard imagining fine banquest being held here, with all the honors and intrigues.

And in the mornings, how the high class ladies enjoyed zooming the suroundings from the insides of the thick walled castle, keeping them safe from the outward world..

Long afternoons used for choosing the outfits for the evening to come: selecting from the finest silks, to sweeten up some bitter realities .

Because just below, on abrupt stairs, and dark hallways, things were far less glamorous and much more cruel.

In their own castle, whom to protect them for evil, from cold hearted people?

Life was not easy in medieval ages, people were not easy in their manners or in their ways in attaining different pursuits.

No matter how many candles burnt out to bring light to the dark ages, there were places where light never reached.

Not always people was patient enough in finding how their peers acted, so no surprise that in the hidden black rooms a painful truth was born: torture.

Looking at these could not ask myself: how to produce tools with wich to inflict pain on other people?

Masks to be heated in fire and applied to the prisoners’s faces, or to screw their eyes inwards.

This is not imagination, yet it was other people’s nightmare and reality.

Dozens of torture methods, one meaner and more horrifying than the other.

Forcing people to confess their sins, or worse.. things they were not guilty at all just confessing whatever for gaining freedom.

It’s mindblowing when you study their expressions and try to relive these glimpses of history.

It’s revolting to see faces of authority who perhaps could have stopped it , and yet they chose the other way around.

Trust me: this is a castle to be seen. Not all enveloped in milk and honey, fairies and princes.

A true castle, giving us the ultimate universal history lesson.

A lesson about people, humanity and the lack of it.

A “not to do” history lesson, which to make us appreciate our health, our rights, our freedom.

This is a reminder that we should always be pro peace and not anti war, standing up for both ourselves and for the weak ones who can not see the light just yet.

The Corvin Castle will imbue into yourself, like a living entity.

You will leave from there richer than you entered, ready to overflow with humanity onto the others.

The Magic Turda Salt Mine

30 something Celsius and in Cluj , Romania… let’s cool off by delving in the “A”mazing Turda salt mine.

Amazing with capital “A”, because look:

A salt mine that produced salt since Middle Ages, closed and 1932 and reopened exclusively for tourism in 2010.

Ok, totally agree.. for that Wikipedia exists, here numbers are just for fun.

Let me take you down with me.

What do you prefer? The modern elevator, or climbing down the 13 floors?

Ok, I took the elevator and felt how I was sliding slowly down into the heart of Transylvania.

It’s breathtaking what these people managed to do in tons of salt, dozens of meters below the surface of the earth.

The heat and noise of summer were left somewhere up and here it was a totally different world.

A pure, salty air transporting me back in the time when people worked here most of their years for a living and when this was a job:

A time when people appreciated seeing the daylight each time they returned back to the civilization.

Nowadays, thousands of tourists can choose to unwind by visiting galleries, the underground salt lake or even bowling, pool, minigolf, or different sports.

I visited some galleries then enjoyed a peaceful tour with the 20 meters Big Wheel :

It’s incredible the patterns that salt designed across thousands of years, and these wet salty ceilings and walls hosting us and purifying the air that bathed us.

Let me zoom you into some salt that look like true cauliflower:

After 8 minutes, back down… and realized I need to show you the “salt waterfall”, because perhaps you’ve never seen it, right?

Look:

And deep down… the salt lake… pitck black and 8 meters deep… would you dare sailing a bit down there?

I’ve heard is very cold 🙂

I bet that by now you managed to cool off a bit and that perhaps a visit to the souvenir shop would be a nice idea.

Now… do I need to say that even the guys from Google visited, mapped and shoot for Street View and agreed that the salt mine is a wonderful place to visit?

I highly recommend you to both cool off in summers an warm up in winters in the Turda salt mine.

Visiting Istanbul: not ordinary tea and coffee

If you are like me, you just can’t say no to a steaming cup of tea or to a cup of fresh coffee.

And if you are in Istanbul, you will see they developed a splendid craftsmanship around the pottery that serves both brews.

At art level.

Delicate yet strong enough to face the hot liquids from the summer hot days till the snowy December nights.

Don’t get fooled by their apparent frailty.

If tea is what steams up your soul and you want to buy some, head over the Egyptian bazaar (part of the grand bazaar).

Please do not even consider those sad tea bags we are used with in our rushed lives.

What bout these?

Mountains of teas arranged in such a harmony that create a delight for your eyes and enchant your nostrils.

For those of you who prefer single plant teas… behold 🙂 rose buds, linden, apple, pomegranate, mint, of course the black tea, and so many others.

But just for the love of it and for senses to be totally swept of their feet, tea blends are also present.

Be honest: aren’t you just a bit curious what’s the deal with this “love tea”?

Should I even mention you can take that and spice it up a bit more perhaps with 2 slices of dehydrated coconut slices, or blood oranges? Just to add a glimpse of summer in your concoction.

I was explaining you in a shopping related post about their merchants: their skills combined with a special gift of sensing what people want and need.

That was not an exaggeration. You will find yourself entering in a such a shop for curiosity and there the “treasure unfolds” before your eyes.

And of course, the vendor will try to offer you his best supplies. And by offering I mean he will prepare you a glass of fresh tea.

There, in the store. He will catch the glimpse of satisfaction from your eyes that will confirm him which is your favorite flavor.

Who cares outside is burning hot and perhaps you are too? The tea is there to comfort you, and you will not leave empty handed, that’s for sure.

Tea is more than a tradition and a ritual in Istanbul.

Perhaps you know the special tea glasses, perhaps you heard about Turkish people enjoying tea while socializing, after meals, and pretty much each time they have the chance.

It’s lovely seeing the small colored tulip glasses flying up and down the streets, from hand to hand, putting a smile on everyone’s face.

I did not come home without a kilo from 2 of their tea blends and without a gorgeous set of glasses.

And, each evening, before retiring to the living room, I brew some fresh tea, pour it in the glasses and enjoy it… like I learned from them: in totally peace and gratefulness.

That’s the lesson I learned from Turkish tea: being in the moment, grateful, in peace and creating an unique moment.

Ok, coffee lovers, haven’t forgot about you, I got your back also.

I enjoy coffee, in all forms, and to be honest espresso in Italy is my favorite coffee strength, creaminess and quality wise.

Turkish coffee: that’s not just a different story, but this tiny cup is a story by itself.

From the tiny cups in which it is served, to the pinch of cardamom that spices it up, to the sand where it’s traditionally prepared in.

You can enjoy it along a nargila (hookah) or just plain, in small sips, but only after a couple of minutes after they brought it to you.

This is a great tip, trust me (just after it being poured in the cup, coffee grains float around, and they need some minutes to.. relax on the bottom of the glass).

Please for your comfort, don’t skip this step. Otherwise you will get annoyed (perhaps), and start the experience from an unfair position.

You enjoyed your coffee and to complete it, fresh water is always a perfect end to it.

I imagined that in this point it doesn’t surprise you that even the glasses for water are so “not ordinary”.

Why everything so tiny, little, minuscule? Well I asked myself this question over and over again.

And this is what I learned from this: we cherish more all that is amazing and that comes in the smallest quantities.

Now that you know, I am so curious what would you try first when visiting Istanbul.

It’s it coffee or tea?

Visiting Istanbul: flavors of the Turkish cuisine

Once upon a time, there were no shortcuts. Not even in the kitchen.

Once upon a time spices were valued as gold, treated equally and traded across seas and lands.

And Istanbul was in the heart of it.

Lets nor forget the Grand bazaar of Istanbul, surviving the test of time.

As Wikipedia teaches us: “The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops on a total area of 30,700 m², attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.”

People was taught since the dawn of time to shop for the best, the most fresh and most fragrant of ingredients.

No wonder that a delicious cuisine emerged from this love for produce, and love for family, as I told you about in a previous post.

Stepping out of the bazaar, with spices still tickling your nostrils, you are at least hungry if not famished.

And oh my dear reader: you could spend an entire season here and you will not have time to eat in all the restaurants or try all the street food.

Lots of food, dishes, people cooking it and people inviting you for tasting it.

This lady for example: was not frying pies for her family, but for me and you.. in the entrance of a little traditional restaurant.

A part of her energy and soul were there, in her fluffy pies.. just remember that not everyone could do that and still smile after a serious 8 hours embraced by the heat of a pan in the middle of summer.

Appreciating her for doing something I am not willing to do too soon. Grateful for such people.

And if a pie was not what you craved for, perhaps a Shish kebab could satisfy your lunch appetite .

The tenderness of the lamb, well marinated and barbecued are beyond my words.

And again… not sure about lamb? Perfect.

Let your steps take you in such a cozy traditional restaurant and order a plate for 2 or 4 people of their mixes kebab selection.

Me for example, found on my mixed plate: lamb, beef, chicken (no pork… yet, who cares in stage, right?), roasted vegetables, couscous, fresh spiced white onion, fresh parsley for freshness.

And… between these mouthfuls, do sneak in a spoon of fresh yoghurt, to comfort your tongue from all the spicy meats.

Ok, ok… no more kebabs. Maybe you’d like some comfort food since you’re not at home.

That my dear, has underneath the shreds of beef some serious layers of fresh, white, stringy cheese, called “dil peyniri”.

When it melts it’s almost therapeutic I’d say. if you are tired, stressed or in mood for nothing, go for it.

And for us to finish this post “lightly” I invite you in the port, to a sandwich made with fresh fish.

And those boats you’re seeing… those are not the fishing boats.

Those are boats are just for preparing in front of you these sandwiches so that you can feel the smell, to feel the boat floating underneath your she’s while your meal is cooking.

Istanbul is a city to be felt with all your senses and with all your heart: because he will treat you the same way

Visiting Istanbul: a maze of shops

I was telling you in a previous post about the estimated number of mosques from Istanbul.

Yet, no matter how hard I tried finding such an estimation for the number of shops from Istanbul, that I could not find.

Strange for me having an entire post shops related for someone who does not find a pleasure in shopping but a necessity.

And still, I am , because you must be warned: shopping is insane here.

A shop for everyone, a scent for everyone… no, let me rectify: hundreds even thousands.

This might give you an example. Can you pick just one? Be honest…

First time when you arrive is almost exhausting: the number of shops with at least the same number of vendors… can you imagine?

And the Turkish vendors are not your usual vendors.

No sir, Istanbul s tradition of selling is in their DNA.

From the smallest shop to the biggest one, never too aggressive.. just in a perfect balance.

And you will find even in the shopping section a blend of modern and traditional, just as I will exemplify below.

Here you will find this tiny, colored, crowded street, with hundreds of shops.

It won’t matter that you probably aren’t looking for anything special on it.

You got on it from curiosity and you will be trapped by its charm.

How would you advertise your products if you would own a shop? Definitely not on the ground.

Just tilt your head back here for a second:

That is creativity and thinking out of the box, in the heat of the street.

Can you feel this streets pace? Can you handle it? If they can, you can, and you move to the next one and so on.

Ok, getting you out off there because perhaps you are a tad fancier and these are not your crowds. Istanbul has that covered also.

Fancy enough?

And if everybody is taking photo after photo, and since marketing pays off.. why not having an Instagram ready display?

I must confess: that’s a delicious trap my dear reader.

While you’re be focusing your camera , your brain will understand from the lavishing sweets that you NEED to have that sweet tooth sorted out.

And without any shred of remorse you will go in and let yourself carried away by strings of caramel, syrupy cakes and roasted pistachio.

That was also a spoiler for the next posts in which I’ll cover Turkish food, sweets, teas, coffees and.. cats.