Good wine needs no label… ~ Hungarian Proverb
If you are travelling in the blind man's country, close one eye... ~ Romanian Proverb
A gentle word opens an iron gate… ~ Bulgarian Proverb
Jo napot, Buna Ziua and Zdraveite people!
Our old mate Wanderlust has awoken and stirred again. It never does sleep for long. 😊
We are filled to bursting with the sheer pleasure of travelling to new places! Uncharacteristically, our destination this year was determined largely by chance and circumstance… 2017 had nearly left the building and for various reasons we still hadn’t decided on a travel destination for 2018. Hoping to travel in the early part of the year before work commitments ramped up, we put our heads together and unanimously decided on a location, only to have work contract dates conspire against us – not just once, but twice! Feeling deflated, we kept scouring our deadlines looking to find a large enough space between them to allow an overseas trip. Finally spotting a few free weeks in June, we leapt forth and booked a trip to Eastern Europe.
Our trip will start in Hungary, and then take in Romania and Bulgaria. Over the centuries – as empires rose and fell, wars were won and lost, and waves of migrants came and went – this Eastern Balkan region has been altered, transformed and reinvented many times over.
Neither of us knew very much about this part of the world, so we’ve been reading up on geographies, histories, politics, pop cultures, and of course the food.
It was also the perfect excuse to repeatedly raid the Eastern European cake stall at a local market… 😊
Here’s a quick snapshot of Hungary: A central European country, the population is just under 10 million, the capital is Budapest, the currency is the Hungarian Forint (HUF) and the language spoken is Hungarian (a Uralic language). Mostly flat, Hungary is rich in rivers, lakes and hot springs. It sits in the Carpathian Basin and is landlocked with seven land borders (Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia)! It has been ruled by many ancient powers over the centuries including the Celts, Romans, West Slavs, Gepids and Avars. More recently, it was part of the Ottoman Empire, then the Austro–Hungarian Empire, and lastly the Eastern Bloc (until its collapse in 1989).
A quick snapshot of Romania: An Eastern European country, the population is just over 22 million, the capital is Bucharest, the currency is the Romanian Leu (RON) and the language spoken is Romanian (a Romance language). Romania’s terrain
is mountainous with the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvanian Alps occupying a great deal of the land - with a large number of glacial and karstic lakes, rivers and lagoons. It’s bordered by Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria and a stretch of Black Sea coastline on the east. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, and then the Eastern Bloc, Romania’s borders have shifted continuously with territorial unions, changing alliances and lost wars.
Finally a quick snapshot of Bulgaria: Bulgaria is in south-eastern Europe, on the European side of the Europe/Asia split. The population is just over seven million, the capital is Sofia, the currency is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN) and the language spoken is Bulgarian (a Slavic language using the Cyrillic alphabet). The land is marked by plains, rivers, gorges, dense wooded areas, the Balkan Mountains and the Black Sea coastline to the east. The other borders are Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south. Culturally, it has been influenced by many ancient civilisations (Thracians, Greeks, Persians, Celts, Romans, Goths, Alans and Huns), and through more recent dealings with the Turkic Ottomans and the Russians (when it was part of
the Eastern Bloc).
For weeks we’ve been scouring through photographs of the landscapes and cities that are plastered all over Instagram, as well as drooling over the interesting and very unfamiliar Eastern European food. It looks like our waistlines definitely won’t emerge unscathed from this region’s relentless onslaught of scrumptious soups, stews and strudels! Cannot wait! 😊
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We leave tomorrow, but there are still so many things left on our to-do list. Even after so many years of travelling, the seemingly Sisyphean process of getting ready for an overseas holiday never seems to get any more
efficient. Wish us luck with that to-do list!
Let’s get this adventure started! 😊
Ren and Andrew Travel viewing that set the scene for this trip... Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
, directed by F. W. Murnau (1922); Spartacus
, directed by Stanley Kubrick (1960); (for its Thracian/Bulgarian link 😊) Bram Stoker's Dracula
, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1992); 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days
, directed by Cristian Mungiu (2007); The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner
, directed by Stefan Komandarev (2008); The Grand Budapest Hotel
, directed by Wes Anderson (2014); (well, yes 😉) Saul Fia (Son of Saul)
, directed by Laszlo Nemes (2016); Travel Man: 48 hours in Budapest
(2017). Travel reading on this trip... Lonely Planet Guide Budapest and Hungary
; Lonely Planet Guide Romania and Bulgaria
; The Communist Manifesto
by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (Andrew); Between the Woods and the Water
by Partick Leigh Fermor (Andrew); Dracula
by Bram Stoker (Ren); The Porcupine
by Julian Barnes (Ren).
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