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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Finding out about Romania via home #1

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK in order to reduce our impact on climate change. Ever since I read Dracula I've been intrigued by what Romania might be like, so here's how I'm finding out. Words by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Duolingo Romanian and books - starting the Romania discovery.
The thing about travel is that it takes time, costs more than the budget and stops me working. But I love to travel and I want to see the world... As regular readers of this blog will know I've found a way to see the sights without leaving home much by seeking out what's here in the UK that links to somewhere else. During 2018 I want to ramp up my travel knowledge and find out more about Romania. If that means one day I'll visit (via train) so much the better, but I doubt it will be this year that I see the painted monasteries, agrarian society in action, salt mines, Danube Delta or the famous Palace of the Parliament.

Besides finding out more is going to be easy because all I know so far is that Dracula is a fun read and Nadia Comāneci was the first gymnast to get a perfect 10 score (in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal).

New Year's resolutions are tricky because they are so tempting to break. But this year I did download Duolingo's learn Romanian and have been reasonably diligent plodding through the lessons. I've got form with Duolingo - I like the way it is quick to use, mixes listening, writing and games and has a clear structure. I've managed to get through the whole of the French Duolingo. Duolingo declared me 54% fluent in French which is a fair estimate as I do understand about half of what's said to me. As for replying, oh my...

I've always been a big admirer of anyone who can speak more than one language.Now, I know that's not hard, especially if you have a mother tongue and a different education language and you start as a child, and/or you have years to improve. But I found language at secondary school much harder. It was fun at primary school and gave me a French and Latin base. Fortunately this has turned out to be very useful when it comes to Romanian, which like French is a Romance language. For years I thought this meant it had a sort of frisky frisson (well French has a particular accent), but at last I've realised that it means it has its roots in Latin.

About a week after writing this I've now discovered from a hairdresser (Polish) that Romania has some good music festivals which are also well attended by mosquitoes and that Romanian sounds Italian. The next day I had my first conversation (I don't think we can grace it with that word conversation actually) with a Romanian Big Issue seller. All I could think of was "I am woman". She thought I was clearly mad, hoping I'd buy the mag or just move on swiftly. However I enjoyed our "chat" and it was fantastic to at last have a chance to hear - and speak - Romanian.

Besides the language learning I'm going to get cultural. On my list will be books, films and a lightbulb in my brain which will either switch on when it notices something about Romania or will oblige me to ask "have you ever been to Romania' when embroiled in a conversation I'm not really sure I want to be having and isn't about work.

Romanian books to read
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker isn't really Romanian, but it does give a bit of a hint about Transylvania. Under Communism the stories of vampires disappeared. Now they are back again and it seems Romanians have conflicted feelings about Count Dracula and the rest of the world's obsession for Transyvlanian weird stuff. Searching for Dracula in Romania by Catalin Gruia looks like dealing with these issues.
  • Herta Müller has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her best known work are novels about the poor treatment of Germans in Communist Romania, eg, The Hunger Angel (2009) but I'm also thinking of reading Passport which explores Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu as does The Fox Was Ever the Hunter.   
  • Judging by the internet most Romanians are poets...
Famous Romanians
  • Nelly Miricioiu - opera singer (born 1952) who has starred worldwide, including Salzburg and London.
  • Nadia Comāneci - gymnast
  • Nicolāe Paulescu - discovered insulin
  • Mihai Eminescu - 19th century national poet
  • Romanian gypsies - who've suffered terrible racism especially in the 20th an 21st centuries.
Next steps - besides reading
The plan is to visit a Romanian restaurant/coffee shop - Restaurant Noroc at 147-149 Green Lanes, N13 by the North Circular open from midday to 9pm. Not sure what to expect, but I do know that Romania is the world's ninth largest producer of wine, an exciting fact for a wine lover. Expect a Romanian recipe soon.

Over to you
What do you know about Romania? Where in the UK can I learn more about this place and its history? Have you visited? Any tips?





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