The July 2017 edition of Radio News, 3BBR FM’s newsletter, is now available to pick up or download.
Here’s the president’s column:
Travels – Christmas and New Year 2017-2018
My report for this newsletter consists mainly of how I spent my time on leave from the station over Christmas and New Year.
In so doing I’d like to thank sincerely the presenters who stood in for me: Ingrid Perri, Gwen Baker and Susan Burton. It was wonderful catching up with our daughters and
their families during our trip.
We departed from Melbourne on the 15th December and spent the first few days staying in an apartment in the old London locality close to a monument which commemorates and marks where the great fire of London broke out. Over the years many stately buildings housing financial and commercial institutions have been built. But now these are being increasingly dominated by modern brazenly bizarre buildings of all shapes and sizes. Quite a transformation is going on. Before we left London we went to the National Ballet production of the Nutcracker Suite at Covent Garden. It was a real treat.
On the 20th we flew out from Luton Airport to Bucharest. Luton is about 50km north of London and driving in fog we worrying whether the departure would be delayed, but thankfully no. After arriving at Bucharest it seemed to take an eternity to get to the hotel. Bucharest traffic is very congested! So we did very little else except travel this day. Bucharest is the capital of Romania. It has many impressive stately buildings and was once called the Paris of the east. But it definitely has a decayed and derelict side to its character reflecting the trials and tribulations that have beset it including wars, dictatorial rule, and a devastating earthquake in 1977. We stayed at the Hilton Athena Palace in Bucharest. This hotel is famous for its history of having quite a guest list of nobility, famous people, celebrities and for accommodating spies and soldiers including Nazis, Russians, Americans, and British. There was so much intrigue that all the rooms were bugged and the employees directed to note and copy documents left in rooms.
Other fleeting impressions of Bucharest included the stunning and absolutely brilliant Christmas lights extending out for vast distances form the centre of the city. The extraordinary semi-permanent traffic gridlock right around the city, and (perhaps because of it) the breathtaking taxi drivers who gave new meaning to the idea of having your heart in your mouth!
After our stay in Bucharest we left for Sibiu – across the plains to the north, through the mountains and into Transylvania. A very spectacular journey along the gorge created by Romania’s longest river which ultimately drains into the Danube. Mind you it took over 6 hours without a stop so things were getting pretty desperate in terms of lavatorial needs.
You need a map to appreciate how the Carpathian Mountains dominate Romania. They are like a giant boomerang shaped range bisecting a pizza shaped Romania. Transylvania is a plateau sitting in the concave side of the mountain range.
Quite likely the name Transylvania conjures up images of gypsies, vampires and grotesque mediaeval practices, but in reality it is a beautiful part of the world, notwithstanding the many signs of rural decay and misguided attempts to industrialise regional areas by the former communist government.
We Arrived in Sibiu just on dark and then to the small village where our accommodation- Casa Ciortea Ana is located. It consisted of traditional rustic Romanian accommodation (which was a bit of a shock after the Hilton!) But lovely and warm inside. And most cons minus the mod. It is a lovely place – very hospitable, slightly austere, generous but basic traditional fare. On the 23/12 it snowed overnight and off and on all day auguring well for a white Christmas. But alas it wasn’t to be. Spent the day with a very pleasant young Romanian man as our driver and Anna as our tour guide highlighting some of the many things of interest in central Sibiu- the old walled Saxon town.
At dinner somewhat of an adjustment was needed to get used to the traditional Romanian cuisine. Cold meats, cheeses, house wine, bread, pickles, etc but some bracing “shots” of strong spirits and lovely green mint tea.
Christmas Eve we went on a trip to Alba Iulia in western Transylvania … with its brilliant example of a walled fort with moat, an imposing church and associated buildings and a museum of ancient Roman archaeological finds. A very cold wind but no snow today. Back to Sibiel then in for dinner with Traditional Romanian Christmas carol singers. Lovely. Christmas Day – no snow and earlier lot just about melted. Never mind still very cold! Some walking around the village streets. Back at Casa Ciortea Ana, before Christmas dinner we had our family Kris Kringle with lots of frivolity and plenty of Romanian style useless gifts. Then in for the endless and randomly arranged courses of traditional Romanian fare.
Next morning we walked up a track to investigate a sighting of large animal tracks (brown bear?). Took photos of various footprints to identify them with the help of Dr Google later. Subsequently we asked the family elder what they were: definitely wolves not bears. Then off to Sibiu for a further round of sightseeing on what turned out to be a beautiful brisk sunny
day. An enchanting place. Back for tea at Casa Ciortea Ana and entertainment by 2 Romanian musicians (sax and keyboard) – very accomplished too, and Romanian folk dancing by the locals and their children in which two of our grandchildren, Rahnya and Tarek joined in. Great fun.
On the 27/12 we bid farewell to Sibiel and commenced our drive to Brasov via the village of Bran (of Vlad the Impaler and Dracula’s castle fame).
(To be continued)