I am from the very north of Sweden and was born 100 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Usually, Christmas is very dear and special to me, as celebrating it up there is quite a magical thing to do! When I was a kid I honestly thought Santa lived up in the mountains surrounded the town where I lived in as a child. I usually don’t want to travel around Christmas as I think it is so cozy in Sweden, but last year, an occasion arose, to go to Romania over Christmas and I took it! It was very special to me!
I arrived at the airport late and my friends came to pick me up and we started our Christmas trip, driving straight to Bucovina. It was cold outside, Bucharest was dressed in its finest Christmas cape, glittering in the late night. We stayed to pick up coffee and we drove until we got to Poiana Negri, close to Vatra Dornei. The moment you leave Bucharest usually feels like a big adventure for me !!!
The landscape was peaceful in Bucovina and there was snow that framed the whole experience! We arrived early in the morning at the Pensiunea Agroturistica Poiana. We were greeted with hospitality, friendliness and a warm welcome. The place itself is built all in wood. We were offered homemade, delicious visinata upon our arrival and we instantly felt at home. The owners of the pension are producing a lot of their food themselves, they try to help out in their community and they try to create a positive future for the people who live in the same village.
We went up to see a village church and were told the stories about the icons and the paintings. It was magical for me! There I was, out in the Bucovinean countryside, it was indeed very special. Many traditions are kept there and people are often wearing their traditional clothes. We also visited the Village Museum, which is actually the home for a family of 3 generations. The grandfather made and collected item such as wooden things and traditional painted eggs, throughout his life, and the grandmother made tablecloths, blouses ( IA ) and aprons. It was a truly beautiful experience, them showing us the items and telling us the stories behind. Romania to me is so much about the people I meet and the stories they tell. On top of that: the grandmother offered us to stay and eat sarmale … Do I need to say that I was in heaven?
After Poiana Negri, we went to stay the night between the 23-24 December at the Petru Voda Monastery. It was the first time for me to stay overnight at a monastery. I was lucky to be with Romanian friends, as to know how to act around the monastery. The mountain air did good for all of us and I had a feeling that I was in a place where time stood still, where I only wanted to do good. It was inspiring to see how the monks welcomed us with their homemade soup and bread, even more, inspiring to realize their dedication and their acts of kindness.
We ate in silence and appreciated their hospitality and their effort to make food. It was a very serene experience. I have started to appreciate my food more and how it is done, after my 35 trips to Romania. We walked around the monastery area and my friends told me the stories of the people of the monastery, which is a story in itself.
By midnight, we were woken up by the gentle sound of bells which meant that the midnight mass started. Mass in Romania means that you stand up all the time. I am thinking of building stamina, endurance, and a good body position. The experience of mass was as taken from a fairytale. The singing invited me, the smell of myrrh, the gentle lights in the darkness, and even though I didn’t understand everything, my soul connected to the whole experience which was full of love. How I needed the time of silence and meditation too, coming straight from a full-time working life in Sweden. It was such a relief to stop for a moment and just be.
The next day we headed towards our friends in Fagaras, Transylvania. We met up with Elena Daniela Graura at her restaurant Casa Terra and we could enjoy a fantastic meal with the best of natural food! We had small dishes and the best of Romanian food, drink, and desserts. I simply and utterly love everything that she put on the table!!! She makes the food with a big heart and you can tell when you eat the food. Pure joy! We stayed in the Fagaras area for a few days and spent a lovely time with the Bucium community. I had, for a long time, wished to listen to colinde - live - and that was one of the purposes for the coming to Bucium. We were received, as always, with warmth, love, and hospitality. I feel at home in Bucium, because of the people living there. I felt so much at home that I sometimes even dream about living there, maybe starting a school in the area! One evening we went to church and listened to colinde (Christmas carols) and we were completely absorbed by the community feeling there. The setting was amazing, Transylvanian Bucium, in winter, people arriving, dressed in their traditional clothes, friendliness, smiles, music, singing … it was truly unforgettable!
I had a wonderful time and I was happy that I took the chance to travel to Romania during Christmas. I will do it again ;-)