Sunday 11 June 2017

A fabulous month in Bucharest Romania!

Having spent close to a year in Thailand, Trav and I were feeling ready for a new challenge. So when our friend Miha, who we’d first met over three years ago on the island of Utila in the Caribbean and then again more recently on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand, asked us if we would be interested in helping her out with the initial set up a new dive centre in Bucharest Romania - we thought about it for a little while - and then happily accepted!

Our friendship spans the world. Miha and I first met in the Caribbean.
This is us catching up in Koh Tao Thailand.

Miha is a highly qualified diver – a PADI Staff Instructor – like Trav. She is also an astute business woman and she had identified a growing appetite for scuba diving in Romania (her home country).

Miha’s plan was to teach diving courses in confined water (pool training) in Bucharest and then to offer open water training (to complete PADI dive qualifications) in various high-end beach resorts in Greece and elsewhere. Being able to help out a friend as well as enjoy some diving in Europe, we agreed to fly to Bucharest. I’d never been to Eastern Europe before and I knew nothing of Bucharest – even confusing it with Budapest initially – but all that changed at the beginning of April this year when, after visiting our son and his wife and our grandson in South Korea, we flew on from Kuala Lumpur to London and then to Bucharest Romania.

Romania is a breathtakingly beautiful country. In many ways, its landscape reminded me of south west Scotland, with its lush farmland and rolling hills. Old town Bucharest is a beautiful city with ancient buildings and a rich history. It has a Parisian feel too with many pavement cafes and its own ‘Arch of Triumph’.

It soon struck me how affordable it is to live there and I estimated the cost of living and of goods to be around half that of the UK. With low cost flights from the UK to Bucharest – and a hot and sunny summertime climate - and a flight time of just an hour or so, it is a truly amazing getaway destination for Brits. From the moment we arrived, I started snapping photos of the breathtakingly beautiful city.

To get over our jet-lag and catch up on sleep, we checked into the Intercontinental Hotel for our first few nights. The Intercon is the tallest building in Bucharest and, from the top floor lounge, the city-scape, especially at sunset, looked magical. Here we met up with Miha again. It was so lovely to catch up with her and to discuss our exciting plans together.

Bucharest Old Town at sundown as viewed the Intercontinental Hotel

The Intercontinental Hotel is the tallest building in Bucharest

Meeting up with Miha again in Bucharest

Fun lift selfies!

Trav and Miha discuss business in the boardroom!

Miha so generously shared her home, her family, and her country with us!

Then we moved into our new home – a generously proportioned house that Miha was renting just outside the city close to the airport. Trav and I had a large bedroom with an en-suite bathroom downstairs and Miha had the same upstairs. The large living room and outside balcony area was a great space for entertaining and for study/classroom work. There was also a kitchen downstairs and a spare room for all the dive gear. At the front of the house there was a busy highway and at the back open farmland.

Our spacious new home just outside the city

The sitting room and outside balcony were great spaces to entertain and train/study

At the front of the house there was a busy highway and at the back open farmland

Some of the most memorable times we had in Romania were when Miha generously introduced us to her family and we were invited to parties with Romanian food and traditional dancing! We were also invited to spent a weekend in the countryside with more of Miha’s wonderful family, who generously shared their Easter lunch with us on their apple farm. In contrast to city life in Bucharest, they have an idyllic and timelessly wonderful rural lifestyle, with hens and goats and acres of rolling fields filled with apple trees.

Above: pictures of us at a family party with traditional Romanian food and dancing!

Above: Photos of our amazing Easter weekend in the Romanian countryside with Miha's family

Country life: Romany with their horse and traditional wooden cart

We stopped at the side of the road to chat to this man and his wife and to buy smoked cheese from him. The most delicious smoked cheese I've ever tasted.

In Bucharest, we met lots of Miha’s good friends, who we now consider to be our good friends too. Special love and thanks to Ana and Claud and to Roxana and Kookie for their kindness and hospitality.

Evening drinks on the terrace with Claud and Ana at Roxana's and Kooki's house

A party at Roxana and Kooki's house

Me and Miha

Ana and Claud
Me and Roxanna

One day, while Miha and Trav were busy with diving business, my lovely new friends Anna and Claud, who were also our first dive trainees, took me to Mogosoaia Castle, a beautiful Brancovesc style palace with an ancient chapel. It was an amazing day and the weather was so sunny and perfect - as you can see from the photographs.

Photos above are from Mogosoaia Castle

Photos above of pool training sessions with PADi Open Water Trainees Ana and Claud and Theo

Also during our time in Romania, we did a trip into nearby Transylvania and got to visit Bram castle – otherwise known as Castle Dracula! I absolutely loved this trip – a big tick off the bucket list for sure!

The beautiful countryside of Transylvania

On the way back from Transylvania, we also got to stop off at the equally famous and historic Pele Castle.

Sadly, a month after being in Romania, we heard news from family in the UK that Trav’s dad had become gravely ill. Although he had been ill for quite some time, it still came as a shock when it had only been three months since the death of Trav's mum in mid-January. Trav returned to England to be with his dad during his last days. He then returned to Bucharest after his father had passed away and, just a few days later, with our work in Romania done, Trav and I said a fond farewell to Miha and to our new friends and we returned to the UK to be with the family and to prepare for the funeral.

Sadly, Trav's mum and dad both died within three months of each other.

Again, we were grateful to our best friend Dina, who once again so generously offered to share her home with us for what would be another month back in the UK. The silver lining in the dark cloud of our bereavement was that we got to spend time with our UK based sons Ben and Iain, and with Dina, and with my own mum and our much-missed family in the UK.

You can find out more about Miha's dive center by clicking this link to her website Blue Rides Planet and her Facebook Page.

Next time here on the blog, I’ll be chatting about our month reconnecting with family and friends. I’ll also be sharing my newsy lunch with writer friends in Edinburgh attending the Scottish Romantic Novelist’s Association and my big trip to London to attend the Romantic Novelist’s Association Summer Party.

Love, Janice xx