The good

Two more cats!

What a wonderful and happy day it is today!! Matilda (the stray cat that roams around my mom and dad’s yard for a few good months now) came this morning at their doorstep with a most precious gift – her kitten!!

I literally cried with joy when my mom called this morning! A few days ago we were sure that Matilda is pregnant again and that she abandoned her cubs or that her babies got killed. How wrong we were!

As mentioned in the previous posts, we are not sure where she gave birth or to how many kittens, but we know for a fact that she got a rough time and a ugly bite from one of the other stray male cats.

Now we can declare that Matilda is officially part of the family, because today she was brave enough to truly trust us ; she marched right into the house, with her baby tailing after her, as soon as the door was open!

We welcome them with our arms open , and since she is a mommy and she is so protective of her kitten, Matilda and the little one were put in a separate room just to make sure that Arielle won’t cause any drama .

The good

Rain drops

Soft and dense rain embracing the nature for the last two days. The sound of rain soothes me and it is one of my most favorite sounds. Honestly, it feels more like autumn than summer.

This weekend I had time to sort out all of my photography and noticed how many I have made and how few I have posted on my Instagram! Now it’s time to sort out all the photos that I have made with my phone…

In between

Introducing the cats

A while back I was posting about the stray cat that eventually got ,sort of , adopted by my parents. (Matilda’s story right –Here– ).

Matilda got really docile and allows us to pet her. She still comes every day for food and she spends part of her time in our garden or sleeping on the chair that is at the front door. She refuses to get inside the house, not that Arielle would ever accept that , but overall she got familiar with the place and considers it as her own territory. Also she gave birth but we don’t know where. She didn’t choose the barn where my dad prepared a place for her, or the place that my mom made . At this point we aren’t even sure if her kittens are still alive. Matilda comes and goes.

A couple of days ago she got into a big fight with 3 other stray cats and one of them managed to bite her pretty bad. Mom wasn’t able to catch her and take her to the vet , she is yet too wild and will scratch and bite if you try to pick her up. Mom wants to take her to the vet to spay her…but this task remains impossible at the moment. We are not giving up on the idea ! The good part is that mom picked up some medicine for Matilda’s wound and allows my mom to take care of it.

After we were done hiking and picking up spruce buds we went back at my parents for lunch. Since it was a sunny day we decided to take our orange boy with us so he can enjoy some sunshine too. I knew that the first meeting between Arielle and James will be interesting , but for sure I did not expected what followed !

Of course, Arielle wasn’t pleased to meet her new little brother ! Lots of hissing, cat arguments and PLENTY of drama!

I know it’s all about territory and what not, but slowly the hissing stoped and our boy got adventurous and started to explore the surrounding, under Arielle’s careful observation. I sure didn’t expected to see James being so fascinated by the outdoors, all the sounds, wind, sun , grass and flowers, considering that 6 months ago he was also picked up from the streets!

And of course, James tried to stay away from Arielle’s gaze as much as possible. We also didn’t allowed any physical contact between them .

At one point he was sunbathing right in front of Arielle ,but James was so focused on her (and Arielle on him, and the rest of us on them both) that he didn’t noticed Matilda. We didn’t noticed Matilda bolting in out of nowhere. She approached James from behind and tried to headbutt him. Rub her head on his. It all happened so fast!

James was caught off guard, jumped and hissed back at her. And from there all hell broke loose. Matilda is one feisty cat! The good thing was that both my husband and dad jumped in and managed to break the cat fight. We weren’t expecting Matilda to show up, and we definitely didn’t expected such reactions from neither of them! I mean, both James and Matilda are extremely friendly with other animals. More friendly than Arielle. Matilda first befriended our two dogs , before allowing us to pet her or come anywhere near Arielle. But I do believe that her outburst and violent reaction to James’ hissing was because of her last altercation with the other stray cats. My heart breaks for this little girl, to be honest .

The good news is that none of the cats were hurt. I managed to lift up James by the collar and my folks were fast to jump in and grab the other cat. I had to take James inside the house in order for him to calm down , just enough so we could put him in the cage and drive him back home.

The sad part is that at one point I was hoping to find fosters or people willing to adopt the kittens, catch Matilda, spay her and bring her over to our apartment so James wouldn’t feel so lonely anymore. Bad idea for now, but I’m not giving up on her!

The good

Mushrooms and spruce buds

The place that feels like HOME!

Hello, June!! You quickly came but it’s nice having you! Nice having a bit of sunshine after two rainy weeks . Nice being in the forest again!

When I hike I don’t always hike with something in mind. But the nature always gives something to me so I don’t leave empty handed. The forest always offers small treats to whomever visits; for some people these small treats are ignored or insignificant, but for me these are small precious treasures.

Pleurotus or Oyster Mushroom

So today I was treated with a hand full of Oyster mushrooms,and two more types of eatable shrooms that I sadly don’t know the name of in English.

What I really came for today was spruce buds for tea and syrup, and it turned out to be a productive day. I usually make a big quantity of syrup that will last for an entire year and I make for both my parents and in-laws too. So this is just part one from the spruce buds operation . Tomorrow is another day dedicated to this natural healing gem Hoping to collect more tomorrow.

Cooking

Lamb stew with chanterelles mushrooms

Today I made lamb stew with chanterelles mushrooms that I’ve picked up from the forest last autumn. The lamb was bought from a local farmer, everything else is from the garden. I also made lamb broth/soup but that’s for another post, maybe.

I’m not good when it comes to write down recipes. When I cook I usually add ingredients…by eye. I only measure the exact quantities when it comes to baking. But then again this is not a cooking blog. I just wanted to share this with everyone out there.

Roughly I used 1 yellow onion, 4 green onions, 4 medium carrots, 2 medium potatoes, root celery (about half of it from a medium sized one), one big parsnip, 4 garlic cloves. Chop everything in chunky pieces. You will also need about 300gr lamb meat, cut in cubes. About 100-150g chanterelles mushrooms. You will also need 3 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, one bay leaf, rosemary, dill, 1 cup of wine, 2-3 cups of water and 70g tomato sauce.

The good

A new addition to the family?

Arielle is not pleased with this new company !

This homeless kitten is visiting my parents for the last two months or so. She comes every morning and meows in the garden, she knows that my mom arrives with food when she calls.

Our Siamese doesn’t like it one bit! 😹

We believe that the cat is already pregnant, so this means more kittens! My dad made a special place for her into the barn, from hay and wool , a place for her to sleep and just in case she will give birth. My mom named her Matilda and my folks are willing to adopt her, but the cat is pretty wild and still doesn’t trust nobody.

Arielle seems to be very jealous, still they made contact today and rubbed noses for the first time, without Arielle clawing Matilda’s eyes out!

Arielle’s face says it all!

I can’t wait to see how she’ll react when she’ll meet our ginger boy for the first time tomorrow!

In between

Thankful for my dad

Today I’m more thankful than ever. Yesterday morning a terrible accident happened at my dad’s working place. He was working with 2 other people, regreening a formal coal mine. They were preparing to demolish a 164 feet pillar, pillar that was supposed to be taken down with dynamite today…sadly the pillar unexpectedly collapsed. From the 3 workers only one managed to run into the right direction, the other two were caught under the remains.

The drivers who were working on the dump truck and excavator jumped off their machines but weren’t so lucky…they would had had better chances to survive if they remained inside the cars. Their cabins were almost intact. The one who managed to run into the right direction was my father. I cannot even begin to tell how many thanks I give to God !

My dad had a few scratches but had serious breakdown from the shock. Even so he refused to go home and helped the rescue team. A rescue team made out of 40 people dug for the rest of the day, the entire night and until today around noon. They found the two corpses…

My heart breaks for the two men…one was 41 years old, the other one was 31 years old. You know why this tragedy brings shivers on my spine? Because the 31 year old was my husband’s good friend and it was his first day at work. A week ago my father suggested to my husband if he wants to work on the dump truck and he refused. I could have lost my father too. I could have lost both my father and husband!

I pray that their souls rest peacefully .

The good

Birthday ,Super Pink Moon and Easter

Wanted to write a few quick notes because today it is a special day. It is my mom’s birthday and we just arrived back from her place . We had a lovely small family reunion. The weather was perfect, a sunny and warm spring day, so we had lunch out in the garden. I’m sorry that I didn’t got the time to home bake a cake for her birthday as I usually do . Instead I ordered her favorite chocolate cake!

I also bought a pot with pink roses, they are among her favorite flowers. I always buy my mom flowers in a pot, like me, she prefers flowerpots over fresh cut flowers. She prefers planting them in the garden rather than throwing them away afterwards .

Magnolia.

And speaking of her garden ; God, how I missed staying under the sunshine!! Being locked down surely isn’t doing any good for a human being! I sunbathed for hours!

Mirabelle plum.

The mirabelle plum and magnolia tree are in full bloom, as well as all the seasonal flowers!

Husband installing the telescope and checking the star maps.

And speaking of being locked down with all this virus madness; 3 days ago we snuck out and went to my parents and installed our telescope into the garden to watch the Super Pink full moon!

The Super Pink Full Moon of 2020

And what a magical scene it was!

That’s about it for now. I’d like to wish everyone a blessed and Happy Eater to those who celebrates. May your house and life be filled with light and many blessings!! I only get to celebrate Easter next weekend, as I belong on the Christian Orthodox part , but I know that many people celebrate this weekend.

Happy Easter!!
Travel with me

Visiting Dracula’s Castle and the REAL fortress of Vlad the Impaler

One of the reasons why I started a blog is because I have so, so many wonderful traveling stories that I want to share! There are so many lovely places that are just waiting to be discovered . Some are famous, some are less famous, and some are completely unknown.

Today I am going to write about our trip at the Bran Castle. I think everyone heard about Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula (unless you were living under a rock all these time). We took so many photos that three entire days were needed just to sort them out and decide which ones to post here! Sure, I will not post every single secret and details about what’s inside the castle, a trace of mystery must remain, just to spark your curiosity.

The real Dracula’s Castle

I will not insist with any historical facts or fictions that revolves around the character Dracula and the place. However, I do believe that it is important for everyone to know that the Bran Castle has nothing to do with Vlad Tepes ! The Bran Castle never belonged to Vlad the Impaler! So why is the Bran Castle associated with Dracula? The only reason is because the castle resembles Bram Stoker’s descriptions . And people started to come here in waves from all over the world, so the locals turned the castle into an attraction for the tourists. So where is Vlad’s castle then? Vlad’s only castle is located at about 100 km southwest of Bran, a heavily fortified citadel , called the Poenari Castle. The Poenari Castle is also open for visits but the access is very difficult. One must climb no less than 1.480 stairs . Because of the difficult access and the misinformation, the Poenari Castle is a ruin , as of these days. Sad, isn’t it? But don’t let this piece of truth trick you into believing that Vlad the Impaler’s existence and all of his horrors are fake news too. He was real and cruel, all right.

So, to make myself clear – this post is about Dracula’s Castle, the fictional character , and not about the Castle of the voivod Vlad III Dracula.

The real Queen of the Bran castle

The Bran castle was a gift from the people of Brasov to Queen Marie of Romania, and later her daughter Ileana resided in this castle.

17th August 2019

The Bran Castle is located at about 30 km from Brasov, Romania. I didn’t knew how popular this place was until we got there. At 6 AM the locals were already starting to place their souvenirs and goods on the stands. The August sun was slowly rising but the morning was chill. Surprisingly by 7:30 AM the line was already forming. We drank a coffee at one of the pubs, stroll a bit through the stands, bought a few souvenirs and got in line .By 7 AM the place was already getting crowded.

All kinds of souvenirs : from magnets, postcards, t-shirts and mugs with Dracula to handcrafted pottery, jewelry, carved wooden statues and clothing items. And of course lots of local street food and drinks.

There was also a horror house for your entertainment. We didn’t got in as we were in a hurry to get in line. I think it is worth to mention that there were 3 kinds of tickets available for purchase at the entrance : the basic one (9 euro for adults), The Torture Chamber -where Vlad’s torture instruments are held, plus explanations in details of the instruments and torture methods (2 euros, no kids allowed) and The Time Tunnel ( 5 euros). So you pay 16 euros for the entire deal. The last two were optional but I strongly recommend you to buy all 3 tickets. Worth it.

The line was getting bigger and bigger.

The line in front of us.

And bigger!

The line behind us.

So many people from all over the world! I think I’ve heard all the languages available on this Earth in one day!

After almost 3 hours of waiting in line we were finally inside the castle.

Views from inside the castle

A fountain where people tend to throw in coins and make a wish.

The interior

The music Room and Library of Queen Marie of Romania
The living Room
The Living Room when Queen Marie was the owner of the castle. Before that this room was King Ferdinand I of Romania’s room.
The Armour Room
The Bidermaier Hall
Traditional gown that belonged to Princess Ileana of Romania
Gorgeous white gown that belonged to Princess Ileana of Romania
The Crown and rod of Ferdinand I of Romania

The Torture Chamber

The Torture Chamber all equipped . Vlad’s favorite method and instrument is also included here. Everything is here !! Think Fifty shades of Grey, medieval version.
We got out of the castle 4 hours later and yes, more people were in line, waiting for their turn to enter the castle.

The Time Tunnel

I will not post any photos from the tunnel , I don’t want to spoil things for everyone. But if you have a ticket you get to exit the castle through the Time Tunnel. It is an interactive tunnel with lots of surprises! I recommend you to take that exit….who knows? You might be lucky enough to meet the count himself! And the final stop – from the tunnel you enter the souvenir shop Oculus.

If you don’t have a ticket for the Time Tunnel you can still reach the Oculus gift shop from the back yard.

And yes, more people in line! Crazy, right?
Entrance to Oculus

The village

But , wait! There is more to visit! There is a small village right at the foot of the castle. You can’t really get inside the houses, the doors are locked but the windows were all open so the tourists can take a peek and photos.

Small picturesque houses filled with old rustic traditions and items that belonged to the local farmers.

I sadly I don’t have a clue what this monument is. I’m sure it represents something but there were no signs with information or anyone around that could enlighten us. But it was a blessing to take a break from all the fun and enjoy the warm sun! It is quite cold in the castle.

Stella Maris Chapel

About 1-2 km from the Bran Castle sits this beautiful chapel that was build for Queen Marie in 1929.

The heart of Queen Marie

And our final stop is this place above the hill, not far from the chapel.

In this marble coffin sat the heart of Queen Marie for 27 years after her death.The golden casket is no longer in this marble coffin . Now the heart can be found in the Royal Chapel at the Pelisor Castle.

The souvenirs

These are all the souvenirs I have left. The rest of them I gave them to friends and relatives. A book with all medieval castles and fortifications from Romania (11 euros) and a bat (11 euros) that I got from the inside the gift shop (Oculus). A bat was a must! Post cards and magnets (price range from 1 euro to 3 euros each) are from the outside stands.

I so wanted to get a fancy t-shirt or two , with Dracula, all kind of cool designs, but the prices were crazy! Here is a hint : t-shirt prices varies from 30 euros to 38 in Oculus, 21 euros outside at the stands and – if you’re willing to visit the Rasnov fortress, which is not too far- the exact same shirts , same prints, costs about 10 euros! And, no. I still didn’t got the t-shirt. Instead I drank a Turkish coffee and ate lots of yummies from the stands.

The conclusion

The Bran Castle surely improved a lot since my first visit back in 2001.