The travel journal of two European volunteers
We are all from Brașov!
Perhaps this title seems very dashing, especially when it’s written by people who are living in Bucharest only for 9 months, but we strongly believe that Romania keeps always a small piece of Brasov in her heart.
There is no doubt that we are all from Brasov! Who wouldn’t want to be? We are part of its medieval spirit, its essence and its mountain, its people and its wonderful places. Here the opportunity to exchange personal stories is completely amazing.
Meeting local people was more than a piece of cake! In every new place we have visited, there was a local willing to share with us „secrets” for the city or even offer us a drink while chating.
You can be a complete stranger, coming from another country which does not exist on “google” maps. No matter what, the city will grab you as its own prey, a prey that will fall surrounded in a sweet and fatal hug of a 811 years old vampire.
Just a small walk through the narrow and picturesque alleys it is enough to make you feel the dynamic of this city. Trust and safety are two words that the air of the city brings for you naturally!
We do not know how to start.. you will meet there all of your expectations. If you feel like having a delicious hot chocolate, you’ll find the best place „kafe” while walking to Casterului street just, near Poarta Schei. Also, if you are a lover of big, cheap and delicious dishes you shouldn’t miss „Jamaica”, located in the heart of the city. An enormous menu with a lot of pages that can satisfy even the most demanding clients.
In a very strange way.. you will feel like home. Dashing words, for dashing visitors. Somehow you have the magic impression that everything is there and waiting you.
Brașov can make your mind travel in the distant past while watching a magnificent view from the citadel over the hill. Or.. if you are strong enough to climb 200 stairs, you could try to enjoy fresh air from the Turnul Alb, at the foot of Tampa Mountain.
The old revolutionary “City of Lenin”, citadel of the working class for centuries, holds within a spirit of gratitude and kindness that you can rarely see.
Maybe the city is cold at times, but its personality burns like the heart of a mountain.
Antonio Loarces Hernández
Looking for medieval city? There is always Sibiu!
Close your eyes; take a map of Transylvania in front of you and pick a city! You will absolutely pick Sibiu by accident. It’s definitely not a coincidence. It can be considered more like a destiny.
Sibiu was build by Germans in the 12th century and it was considered as the largest and wealthiest of the seven citadels. While you are walking to this city, you can totally feel confused by the pleasant sensation of being in another country… the sensation to be in Marienplatz, the ground zero of Munich, the awesome Bavarian capital.
Beautiful, with a historic ambiance, full of squares, narrow streets, small and sweet shops, rainy weather… there are some phrases-impressions which can defiantly describe our experience there.
Nowhere in Romania exists such a wide pedestrian area like these one in Sibiu. The city breathes happiness!
The locals have forgotten the dark days in the late eighties; the personality and the nightlife of Sibiu its worthy; its one of the most occidental cities around the world.
The amazing aesthetic of its buildings attracts hundreds of tourists every year. You can observe this very well by looking the typical Japanese people taking photos with their cameras around the neck.
In Piața Mare and in Piața Mică, the youth ambient is everywhere, because this is the attitude; not another number in your passport and we can assure that they have this kind of attitude.
Continue walking a lot, over and over again, not only through the centre, we found out the Dumbrava forest. Walking and breathing fresh air we kept making circles to the largest open air village museum in Romania. In the “ASTRA” museum you can find houses and workshops that can give you the idea of a traditional Romanian folk culture. Absolutely amazing feeling, like an old movie, a costume drama!!
Antonio Loarces Hernández
Winter is already there
It’s January, cold and our journey very long.
Our home? Bucharest.
Our destination? Iași!
It can be said that every month we live another travelling adventure in this country.
Historical city if we consider that it was constituted the first capital of the Principality of Moldavia from 1564 to 1859.
It’s well known as The Cultural Capital of Romania, Iași consists a symbol in Romanian history. It is still referred to as The Moldavian Capital; Iași is the main economic and business centre of the Moldavian region of Romania.
The city prides itself with publishing the first Romanian newspaper; you will find there a small, cute and traditional building to confess its history.
Proud enough also about establishing the first Romanian university. A beautiful and imposing building that stimulates everybody’s curiosity to get inside and have a look. Nowadays, Iasi has five universities.
Our curiosity visiting the city started there,in front of the famous University building. We took the tram and in a very few minutes we were in the main square, Piața Unirii. There we found the famous Hotel Unirea and its last floor is open to the public. For us, it was the ideal place to admire the view of the whole city while we enjoyed a drink. But you can also enjoy a delicious meal.
Thereafter, the tour continues by walking throught the big street ”Stefan Cel Mare”. You don’t know where to look; right or left it doesn’t really matter because eitherwise you admire a road full of life and history. Among other things you could see old churches, magazines, cafeterias, restaurants, pasrty shops and a lot of places that locals spend their time.
The big contrast appears when you turn your head and see the new “Palace”, the Palas mall, the biggest in eastern Europe!
Beside this, while walking a bit more you realise that the social and cultural life of Iași revolves also the oldest Theatre in Romania (Vasile Alecsandri National Theatre), the Moldova State Philharmonic, the Opera House, the Tătărași Athenaeum, the oldest and largest in Romania Botanical Garden, the oldest Library, the Central University Library, the high quality cultural centres and festivals, memorial houses.
Now is the time of the night life! We had the opportunity to meet nice people from there. Everybody knows that the best way to discover nice places in the any city is defiantly hanging out with locals.
Knowing this, we contacted an old friend of us, who hosted us during two days; also he made us a great night tour around the city by car. His company was really amazing and now we could say that we know the different behaviours between people from the capitals; in this case Bucharest and people outside Bucharest.
In the first night, we were discovering the city by ourselves; they already had the Christmas lights so the city was shining during the night.
We wanted to “taste” the real life of Iasi, so we tried some restaurants with typical Romanian food. We also grab some drinks in some pubs where the people and prizes were really nice to us!
One of the main reasons to travel to Iași was an appointment with a famous tattoo artist of the city. At 10:00 in the morning, we met with “Castor” in his place, we felt like we were home, he showed us his home which is also his tattoo shop and after we could enjoy his job and 21 years of experiences in our skin…!! He had booked all of the day for us, so after getting to know “Castor Ink”, we went to visit the city with him, another interesting walking in the city because we could enjoy the point of view of a citizen.
That night, we meet with him and his friends in a typical beer store; we had a very informing conversation about life in Romania, we were sharing experiences, jokes and also some homemade drinks, (which actually the Romanians are very big fans of them) and finally learning which are the most “magical” places that we have to visit in the country.
Summarizing, Iași and locals opened their gates and hearts and they hug us like a family.
A very big thank you to all of them for doing this EVS a great experience.
Next step… who knows?
Antonio Loarces Hernández
“Pro vita”- the priest of the mud nr. 2
At the beginning of March, we had a free week after of an intensive week in a youth exchange. What could we do? After 4 months doing the same activities in the same places, the monotony started to cover us. We were thinking… Why not to discover other NGOS? And like in a movie this opportunity felt from the sky.
Talking about organizations in Romania, their actions and their target group, we were lucky to meet an orthodox priest and discovered an organization with a very interested role, named “Pro vita”. It’s an apolitical, non-profit and non-governmental organization. Their general mission is to protect the dignity of human life, and in particular that of born and unborn children. Giving more details, we could say that they recognize the right of the unborn child to be protected even in the womb of theirs mothers and, most importantly, they recognize the right to be born.
Major emphasis is on supporting the education of these children and any of their skills and talents. The children of this association have now a full educational cycle system from kindergarten to high school.
Our intentions were only to know about their work and after to write an article about them, but nothing was as we thought. The journey started in Bucharest; we met with the priest in the metro station of Pacii (Militari).
Before leaving Bucharest, we were in a factory to pick up tiling for the floor of some building of our destination. These materials were what rested from a new supermarket and they where donated to the association. Like the priest told us, “The River carries a lot of garbage. You must know how to distinguish what is worth to stay and what not”.
This sentence reminded us one movie that is called “Mud”, we were talking about this and he told us that, some years ago, a journalist wrote an article about Pro vita and his father, called “The Priest of the mud”. Of course, the curiosity invaded us, and we asked about the title, the answer couldn’t be more hopeful, he interrupted us and he said: “you will see why!!”
After this funny conversation, he drove us to Vălenii de Munte, his home. There we met his home, his family and some of his friends. We felt very lucky to stay with his family two wonderful days; they are amazing people with an amazing family, beautiful and unbelievable children. We shared good food, nice conversations and different experiences.
The next morning, “we started to work”, we were visiting all of the places that they have built or they are building to help people without means. Their main camp is located in Screzii Valley. There, are living 120 people (older women and men) and 80 orphan children. Furthermore, over 330 people are under the care of this association in the villages Plopului Valley and Valley Screzii.
Pro vita has built more than 90 houses in different villages where poor people can live a normal life. They have an orphanage, houses with people with disabilities, farms, and little factories of wood, where they can make some money from selling doors, furniture and also handmade wood sculptures.
They have developed also a dropout prevention program by supporting materially and financially support to families who could not support children in schools. They are working in some schools, where they are trying to involve to youngsters in the education system; also they make some workshops with adults about languages and healthy life style.
In the middle of the day, while we were in Valea Plopului, a little village near the mountains and we found the right time to ask finally the priest why they used the name “The priest of the Mud” for his father. He started to laugh, and he told us: “Come with me”. We went all together behind the orphanage, exactly in a farm with animals and some crops and he said: “Where are you now?” Our answer was immediate, “in the mud!!!” Everywhere was full of mud, and he told us that this is the result when is raining here. It was pretty clear for us that they were able to build something “nice” from the “mud”.
Is almost impossible to describe all of the feelings that we felt these days, it was amazing to “test” the goodness and kindness of people who haven’t anything, only a smiley face and energy to try to survive.
Antonio Loarces Hernández
Between Cluj and… Napoca
Just finished the Middle-Term volunteering training and … now what? That’s all? No more opportunities to increase our knowledge? We are not going to meet more volunteers? We will not share more experiences? We will not learn more about volunteering? And the most important question: after EVS, what we can do?
Our chance was more near that we already though, in front of us, in Bușteni. Sometimes, in your educational process you have the luck to meet people that really love education and dream how to change the world using the most essential thing: develop yourself and your education.
So, we met Sonia, a trainer who is of course a volunteer and loves education, from Cluj-Napoca. As you see, looking for an adventure, we end up in Cluj-Napoca. The reason was a seminar dedicated to EVS volunteers organized by her. “Once a volunteer, always a volunteer”, was some of her words. She gave us the opportunity to work for ourselves, dream our future and take the risk to try to realize it.
Is not a special feeling when you feel lost and defiantly every volunteer feel this in the final of his/her project. All of us arrived to Cluj thinking and searching for “the” answer, and for sure we found there something interesting.
All of us should know about the importance of education, but for sure we didn’t know the possibilities that the whole system could offer us. During the seminar, we could discover that we weren’t well informed to know what we can do in this field (education), but this weekend came as the responsible “person” to help us open our eyes!
Starting with the first day: the motivation was all over the room! You could see a table full of colorful papers, markers, banners and chairs with smiley faces. We were speaking about opportunities through Erasmus + project (Key Action 1, Key Action 2 & Key Action 3), mobility projects like seminars, youth exchanges, training courses and social work.
Like in every seminar we should start to think about how much we know about education, what is our general opinion and for sure what we should do to change some characteristics and actually, we designed something great about what education is for us, which are her values and how we can be part of the educational process of the new generations.
We had very good ideas, even utopian sometimes, but the first thing that our trainer told us “Don’t stop to dream” so why not? We were discussing about new methods, dynamics and how to apply them in the tight “skirt” of the system.
In the room were “flying” some new methods like, why we try to impose the student, the old way and the subjects that we consider the best. They should choose what they want to learn and how. Also, we discussed if the education must be public or private and how the government of any country use education to control the citizens, and to grind out our motivations.
Another issue we discussed about was what a good educator should have and everybody was open to give his/her point of view. Among the words we wrote was the word adaptability, flexibility, open mind, respect to the cultural diversity and team working. We tried to frame all of these ideas in the present European context.
A big thank you to Sonia,
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”