Lodge Visit to Romania

May 2013

Blog by Alan Wyer

The Romania Adventure.

I use the word adventure advisedly for no-one could envisage the experiences that would occur on and between the 3rd and 10th May 2013. We were exposed to the cultural diversity of a fledgling democratic country emerging from an oppressive and revolutionary past and seeking now to establish its credibility within a 21st century world.
The week was divided into three parts :- Friday (arrival) and Saturday in Bucharest; Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday travelling to, in and around, then back from Transylvania; returning to Bucharest on Thursday and depart at various times on Friday.

Our arrival and welcome address at the Novotel Hotel in the centre of Bucharest was in complete contrast to the atmosphere of our Welcome Gala Dinner at the Jaristea Restaurant. It was a step back in time, to the 1920's. (and it wasn't a themed pub either). This was our first opportunity to sample the mysteries of organised Romanian cuisine - typically plates bearing cheeses, meats, limp salads or bowls of pickled vegetables, with lamb served in various forms, all served at indeterminate times and in random order.
Being able to choose our lunch-time snacks ensured a measure of sanity.

Saturday May 4th

Saturday being a public holiday, Bucharest was deserted and allowed us to wander at leisure through the empty streets, being careful to correctly observe the pedestrian lights lest the stray (race)car should hurtle past. Sorin, our English-speaking guide, filling our ears and hearts with the historic significance of the personages and architecture we came across. This was to be the pattern throughout our visit. After lunch the afternoon coach took us to a couple of palaces (Mogosoaia and Stirbei) and a stroll round Herastrau Park.

Sunday May 5th

Sunday found us heading north through the southern flat plains towards the mountains of Transylvania. It was quite unusual to see mountains rise so abruptly after travelling many miles of unbroken level land. A visit to and lunch at Peles Castle in the hills of Sanaia broke our journey to the 4* Piatra Mare Hotel. Although parts of this latter establishment were lavish there were elements throughout the stay there which dimmed the stars somewhat.

Monday May 6th

Monday started with a trip to Rasnov Fortress. Built on the very top of a hill by the locals to provide shelter and defense against the invaders from the north. It was one heck of climb but the view of the surrounding countryside against the backdrop of the snow-covered mountains was well worth the effort. Bran Castle, the home of the Dracula Legend was the next stop. The tourism hype was a distraction, but hearing about links to the activities of Vlad the Impaler gave some understanding of what inspired Bram Stoker to write the novel in the first place.

Tuesday May 7th

Tuesday saw us returning to the flat lands just south of Transylvania to view the impressive walls of Prejmer Fortress, a high, thick stone ring guarding the simple but beautiful church. Then back to Brasov in time for a guided tour of the Black Church. After lunch we returned to the hotel to prepare for our Masonic which consisted of a demonstration of their elaborate opening and closing ceremonies and a series of presentations and speeches in between. The meeting was followed by a combined dinner with our Ladies.

Wednesday May 8th

Today we are scheduled to return to Bucharest via Curtea de Arges and a visit to Basarab Church, 14th century edific build in stages by the Basarab dynasty. Changes of plan during the day altered the schedule and the church visit became over-extended resulting in a late lunch (nearly 90 minutes waiting for a pizza). Our late arrival meant we were unable to visit an art exhibition to which we had been invited. Many of us took solace by having dinner at the Military Club nearby.

Thursday May 9th

The morning highlight of Thursday was the visit to Parliament House, a grandiouse pile of 1,000 rooms built by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Second only in size to the Pentagon its main high-ceilinged marbled rooms with lavish chandeliers being renamed to blot out he existence of the country's executed Leader. The Masonic meeting in the evening followed by a Gala Dinner with our Ladies created an much more happy tone. The Third Degree Ceremony we witnessed was an education in itself - diferent to anything any had witnessed before. I must get an English translation !!

Throughout the whole trip our hosts made all efforts to ensure our expectationes were met. Our guide, Sorin, was at pains to explain the lengthy history and recent upheavals which he and his counrtymen were anxious to put in context in their bid to become full partners in a modern world. The tortuous routes through the Transylvanian mountains on poor roads did lengthen the journey time somewhat. These however ensured we saw the changing face of the countryside and its peoples and were rewarded with some spectacular views of snow-covered mountains, sun-lit woods and meadows. It will take more than one visit for anyone to uncover the true character and friendliness of this country and about fifty years to learn to speak their language !! I, for one, will be quite happy to return in the near future.

 

Alan Wyer
May 2013