Thursday, July 22, 2010

Europe Trip 2010!

Last night we got back from a 5 week trip to Europe, and I'm feeling so good after a night's sleep in my own bed! It was the family vacation that Matt's dad wanted us to have to meet his relatives in Italy, and we also had a chance to do some detouring while we were there.

Paris was lovely as always! After almost missing the plane to Europe (Matt's mum has a talent for being late for everything) we arrived at our Paris apartment in the central 7eme district. Matt and I had been before but this time we had a solid 5 days to look around. We managed to see:
  • The Eiffel tower - First time we went to the top, the view was amazing at night! Worth the 3h wait for sure
  • The Louvre - We took it a bit slower and saw heaps more this time
  • Musee D'Orsay - Van Gogh's galore, our favourite artist
  • Musee Rodin - The most fun museum, we spent a lot of time eating icecream in the gardens
  • Musee L'Orangerie - The Monet rooms were breathtaking
  • Versailles - The hall of mirrors was beautiful, but the gardens were the highlight
  • Notre Damme - I guess church can be fun!
Obligatory Eiffel Tour Shot

Geneva is a wonderful city that felt like home, probably because we stayed with Yvonne (my cousin) and Stefan! It was so great to finally visit Yvonne and see where she's been living for the past 3 years :) We were happy to just hang out with Yvy and Stef, but managed to see the Jet of Geneva, Saleve Mountain, Saint-Pierre's Cathedral, and even ate some horse (it's a common cut of meat there, ick).


Matt and I spent one night in Rome in the Oxford Hotel before heading off to Calabria. It was a nice break, and prepared us for the loooong stay with family to come!

This was the purpose and heart of the trip, which is where we met a whole lot of family from Matt's dad's side. We stayed with Matt's Nonna's brother in Girifalco, but spent a lot of time visiting Caraffa di Catanzaro.

It was really nice to meet so many people that looked like Matt! Unfortunately almost no one spoke english, but this was an opportunity for everyone to learn a bit of Italian, and we all did pretty well. By the end of it we were understanding almost everything and managing to put some words together ourselves.

As well as meeting family, we did some things around Calabria. My highlights are:
  • Eating a mountain strawberry (a fragolina)
  • Seeing "Comi alley", where all the Comi family houses were and where Matt's dad grew up
  • Feeding a reindeer
  • Tropea beach
We had a nice time, but got a bit bored, and got a lot fatter. They eat like maniacs there! I packed on 4kg so I have my work set out for me for the next couple of months :(

City Lights

At this point in the trip, I took a detour and went to Romania while Matt and the rest of his family went to Northern Italy. I stayed in a beautiful pre-communist era house with my dad's friend Mitica and his family, and spent some time in the city where my dad grew up.

Entry Stairwell

Mitica used to be a tour bus driver, and his son Catalin is studying tourism at uni, so I had a pretty good set of guides! We did a lot of sight seeing around Bucharest (the obligatory stuff including the Village Museum and Casa Poporului), and they took me to the most wonderful places where I really got to see the beauty of Romania:
  • Brasov - "Probably the best place in the world" as is written on umbrellas all around the city, and they're "probably" right! It was a stunning city which was right near Bran Castle, the (fake) Dracula's castle where Vlad Tepes apparently spent some time (but probably not).
  • Sinaia - The place where Peles castle is. Peles was the most beautiful rich place I've ever seen. It was extremely well preserved, and the riches were mind boggling. I also had a taste of mountain raspberries!
  • Snagov - The island on Snagov Serpentine lake is where Vlad Tepes's remains are said to be. We had to row there on a crappy little row boat we hired from a gypsy, and I strengthened my arm muscles by rowing all the way back.
  • Comana - Where I met my grandparents (from my dad's side) for the first time in my life! It was such an amazing experience. Our family in Perth is so small, and it was very strange to meet other people that looked like me. For the record, I look exactly like my grandma :) I also met my dad's brother Cristi, who laughs exactly like Tati.
Bucharest was an amazing place, and all the bad stuff I'd heard about it was really wrong (even the stray dogs were so cute!). Family stuff aside, it's really a place I'd love to go back and spend some more time.

Saying Bye

The largest city in Transylvania, and where my Mina grew up. Here I met some more family on my mum's side including Mina's brother Silvi (he's hilarious and a little bit insane) and my cousin Vlad (I have a cousin that's not Yvonne or Simona!). Until Matt arrived in Cluj, I spent some time with Mina and Licia (my mum's cousin) and took it easy for a little while. Cluj is lovely, but it's small so I spent a lot of time at the apartment and at the Mall.

Japanese Garden

When Matt arrived, we took a trip to Turda to see a beautiful salt mine. It was extraordinary, and not just because I'm obsessed with salt. I don't know what you think of when you hear the word salt mine, but I was certainly surprised! It was a beautiful 13 story cavern carved out of salt, with walls made of swirling grey patterns, and a salt lake with row boats at the bottom. Isn't salt wonderful?

We took another day trip to Lita; a quaint small town where everyone knows their neighbours, and is the place where Mina grew up. We had a barbeque at Mina's cousin's house, complete with plenty of visinata and tuica, the national moonshine of Romania.

As well as meeting with family, my highlight of Cluj was going to an underground "club", Janis. The club was a converted wine cellar filled with candle lit tables and red spot lights. The music was pretty awful, but the place was amazing, and my god do Transylvanians know how to drink! We gave up at around 2am and left blind drunk, but Vlad and his friends went on until about 5am. Needless to mention none of us could stomach any visinata the next day at lunch!

New Suit

Back at Home
So now we're back at home (after 35h of travel!), and I'm back at work on Monday, but I'm actually looking forward to it! Being away for 5 weeks really makes you appreciate being at home, especially your own bed :)

I've feel like I've got a lot more stuff in perspective now, and I really appreciate how my family (and Matt's family) came to be where they are now. It was very strange to see the places where my family grew up, and meet the family that is still there now. I've always been proud of being an Australian with Romanian blood, and it's so great to know where that blood came from!