Author: Katya

What to Eat in Romania: 11 Dishes to Try

What to Eat in Romania: 11 Dishes to Try

When we went to Romania for Easter, I wanted to try as many local specialities as I could.  Romania is obsessed with pork, so majority of dishes on my list are pork-based. One of our guides made a joke : “What is the best vegetable […]

Online Development Classes with Role Models

Online Development Classes with Role Models

Lockdown conditions are affecting so many aspects of our daily lives and, frankly, staying at home and homeschooling two kids has been challenging in the last two months. My older daughter Letitia does her homework and gets out for a daily walk or a bike […]

Essential Tips for Visiting Peles Castle

Essential Tips for Visiting Peles Castle

Peles Castle is, without a doubt, a jewel  among Romanian attractions. It is consistently ranked as one of the top  places  in Romania.

Peles Castle is a mesmerizing, beautiful place, where each room has been worked on by the best craftsmen at the time. You will be able to see different styles like Gothic, Italian, Moorish, Turkish all within the space of a couple of rooms.

Peles Castle is located in Sinaia, which is a small town approximately 1.5 hours train ride from Bucharest. If you are thinking about your itinerary in Romania, Peles Castle is definitely worth a look – whether you choose to visit it on a day trip from Bucharest or make an overnight stop in Sinaia. 

I want to share my top tips with you on visiting Peles Castle, so you are able to get most of your visit. 

1.Try visiting the castle on a weekday and if you can time your visit either early in the morning or in the second half of the day. 

We arrived around 10am and we did not really stand in the queue for tickets, but we had to wait for about 20 minutes for our guided tour to start. For guided tours, the  preference is given  to orgnaised groups, rather than individual tourists, so it is very likely that you will have to wait a little bit for your tour to start.

When we finished our castle tour, it was around 11.30am and there was already quite a queue for the ticket office. As many tour groups arrive in the morning, it might also be better to time your visit in the second half of the day or during lunchtime when everyone is eating.

2.Extend your visit with second floor private apartments

The castle can only be seen as part of guided tour, so you will not be able to walk around  on your own inside.  There are two types of tickets :  either formal apartments on the first floor or you can decide to visit first and second floor, where private quarters are located. At the end of first floor tour, the guide will ask if anyone has tickets for the second floor, and  will take you upstairs if you have purchased the extended ticket.

Judging from our group, noone went to the second floor, so if you want some peace and quiet – I suggest paying a bit more for the privilege. 

3. Taking pictures 

You can not take pictures inside unless you pay a fee at the ticket office. 

Outside there is plenty of space to take lots of fantastic pictures. It does get crowded, but try and be inventive with your positioning. 

4.Keep your eyes peeled to spot the treasures.

The castle is stuffed to the gills with excellent examples of craftsmanship, whether it is wood carvings, Murano glass or paintings. You have to keep your eyes peeled, as there are so many objects in each room . It is literally like a jewel box full of treasures. 

Watch out for Klimt decorations in the theater hall, which later was turned into a cinema.

5. Maximise your sightseeing

I suggest to combine your visit to Peles Castle with  Pelisor Castle, where Ferdinand and Marie, Romanian monarchs lived for a number of years at the beginning of the 20th century.

Pelisor Castle is smaller, and it is not  as popular as Peles Castle, so you are likely to be one of the few visitors. I sometimes find that going to smaller attractions is more rewarding, as there are no  crowds, there is no need to rush and there is an opportunity to feel the atmosphere.

If one castle is enough for the day, you can have a break for lunch or picnic and then visit Sinaia Monastery, it is only 15 minutes walk from Peles Castle.  It is an equally historical place, where you  can discover more about iconography and Orthodox religion. 

In terms of lunchtime options,  there are a couple of cafes just next to Peles Castle, or alternatively bring the picnic, as there are plenty of spaces to have one. 

Escape to the Country in Bucharest: Village Museum

Escape to the Country in Bucharest: Village Museum

If you are visiting Bucharest and want to learn about traditional culture in Romania, I recommend going to “Dimitrie Gusti” National Village Museum. The museum has a great collection of buildings, lovingly restored and rebuilt on site from all over Romania,  with a time span […]

Hiking in Romania with Kids

Hiking in Romania with Kids

Do you take your kids on hiking trips? I started slowly introducing little hiking adventures when we go on holiday, especially if a local landscape can offer good views.  For my son Luca it is still not possible to walk for long periods of time, […]

Must-do Experience in Bucharest: Ferestroika

Must-do Experience in Bucharest: Ferestroika

Time is passing and with time we are losing certain practices, experiences and things we used to enjoy. Would not it be great to go into a time machine to see how people used to live in the past and experience their way of life? This is exactly what happened to us when we visited Ferestroika, an interactive museum dedicated to life in Romania during communist years.

I grew up during Communism myself and I was curious to see if a museum visit would match up with the past reality. I am happy to say that the founders of the Ferestroika  did an amazing job in creating something , which is an absolute delight to discover! It took me straight back to my childhood. 

 The idea of Ferestroika  came from one of the museum founders.  The flat of her grandfather was standing empty. Instead of taking everything to the landfill and refurbishing the place in a more modern fashion, she had an idea to preserve the flat as a time capsule.  Visitors to Ferestroika are now able to see what it is like to live in Romania in the 80s. The museum tells the story of  ordinary people: their joys, struggles, fears and achievements.

You have a feeling that the owners just stepped out for a second, and will be coming back in a minute. It was so real, even the smells were reminiscent of the past.

The museum is small and your visit can be booked online. Due to the size of the flat, the experience will be  intimate , as only a few people are allowed on the tour. Small group tours only add to the enjoyment and offer an opportunity  to explore all the aspects at your own pace.

In fact, when we started the tour our helpful tour guide Alexandru asked us whether we wanted to explore the flat ourselves and then ask questions. Another options is that the guide tells you about each room.  We chose second option, as Alexandru currently doing his PhD at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of History.  He has a great knowledge about the period as well as such subjects as propaganda and history of communism.

We explored 4 rooms in total: kitchen, children room, parents bedroom and a living room.  You can also see storage area, little hallway and bathroom.

My absolute favorite places were kitchen, kids room and a living room. Throughout the tour you will also have an opportunity to taste certain things, but I will leave it to you to experience!

In the kitchen we heard the story of how ordinary Romanians would lead their daily lives,  their struggles with rationed food and monthly cards. I have to say, I did not realise that their lives were that hard due to rationing, constant surveillance and propaganda. External debt and leadership ambitions for the country meant that ordinary people had to work hard and sacrifice everything. Despite this, there was not enough of day to day necessities, like food, electricity or gas. Quite a stark contrast compared to our age of overindulgence.

The museum is a great hands-on history lesson for kids, as it offers a time machine journey into the 80s. When we did not have as many toys as we  wanted. When  TV was  only showing  a limited programme of cartoons in black and white and you did not have a choice of which cartoons to watch.

Kids room also offers  a great insight into daily chidren’s life, their activities at school and in their free time.  My daughter loved looking at homework books, discovering why bananas were kept on top of the cupboard in old papers and what it was like to be a pioneer.

The real attraction of Ferestroika is that it is based on a story of a real family. who used to live in the flat for many years. There are many personal objects on display and Alexandru was happy to share object’s stories and where they came from. Letitia also loved the fact that it was a no rule museum. You can touch everything, there were no “No Access” areas. She tried the military hat on, made a video on the old camera and tried weighing the bag with an old fashioned scales. For kids one of the best way to learn is by handling objects and hearing their stories. 

Ferestroika also offers an opportunity for the overnight stay.  If you fancy spending the night at the museum, you can book it here. Alternatively, they are working with local chefs and food enthusiasts to host communist style dinners. If you book this experience,  you will have a museum tour and get to experience the time through its dishes. I will definitely be going for that next time!

Personally, Ferestroika is a must do activity in Bucharest. You will hardly experience something similar in a conventional museum.  Actual stories of the real family make the whole visit more relatable and close to your heart. If you only have time for one museum in Bucharest, make it Ferestroika!

Disclaimer: Our visit was hosted by Ferestroika, but all opinions are my own.

Day Trip to Brasov and Bran Castle with Visit Transilvania Travel

Day Trip to Brasov and Bran Castle with Visit Transilvania Travel

Second part of our trip to Romania was based around the town of Sinaia.  This winter I wanted to introduce my daughter to skiing. The location of Sinaia is great, as it is only 1.5 hours on the train from Bucharest and the town itself […]

8 Must Visit Places on Bucharest Walking Tour

8 Must Visit Places on Bucharest Walking Tour

I love walkable cities. Walking is the best way to get underneath the skin of a megapolis and get to know local culture. Bucharest City Centre is pleasantly walkable and as a bonus, it is  peppered with lots of small coffee shops. If you get […]

5 Tips For Choosing a City Break Hotel and Where to Stay in Bucharest

5 Tips For Choosing a City Break Hotel and Where to Stay in Bucharest

I have been on so many city  breaks, I lost count. City breaks are easy to organise: you literally  need to book a flight and a hotel, and you are free to roam once you arrive.

When I am exploring a new city, there are 5 essential tips that I always follow when I choose my hotel. 

1. Location, Location, Location

I cannot emphasize enough how crucial a location is when it comes to city breaks. Usually, you are exploring a new city over the weekend or maybe 3-4 days. You don’t want to spend time travelling miles from  your hotel to the main city area, where major attractions are situated.

When I went to Bucharest for a winter break with my daughter, Hotel New Era definitely fulfilled this criteria. It is located right in the middle of the Old Town,  short walking distance from the airport bus stop and a metro link, if you wish to explore further.

At lunchtime or for dinner we would just walk out and decide where would go for a meal.  Location of New Era Hotel was super convenient and meant that my daughter was not  too tired walking from all the walking around. Children’s feet get tired way quicker than adult ones!

2. Fuel for the Day

I always look for rates which already include breakfast at a hotel. If you want to see many sites on your city break , it means you don’t have much time to linger. And it is essential to eat something before you go on long city walks, or  to a museum. Otherwise you are going to end up with a headache and in a foul mood.

I have tried a couple of times to book a hotel without breakfast and it did not really work for me. It meant that my whole family was grumpy, as we had to leave a hotel in a search of a cafe .  Then a lot of time will be spent ordering, eating and siting about instead of exploring the city.

New Era Hotel has breakfast included in your room rate and what a breakfast it is! Apart from the usual eggs-bacon-toast situation, there is plenty of baked goodies, Romanian specialities, fresh vegetables, salads and yogurts with toppings. Here we had another problem- could not stop eating!

3. Size Matters

When you are travelling with family size of the room is important. When 2 adults and 2 children are squeezed into a 10 square meter room with luggage and children paraphernalia, you will be going crazy in no time! As a result,  I am now carefully checking room sizes when I book a hotel, the larger it is the better. This is particularly important if you are staying in a hotel for a few days.  You want to be able to unpack and have a comfortable and relaxing environment after your days of exploration.

At New Era Hotel you will be pleasantly surprised with room sizes. They also have family size rooms, which is a big tick in my family-friendly criteria book. Bathrooms are clean. large and tidy. 

4.Warm or Cool Room depending on the Season

Comfortable room temperature is something that we might take for granted in a hotel, especially so in winter months.  Try going  on a city break to a usually warm country,  like Spain or Italy,  and you might be surprised that there are no radiators in your hotel room or they are not functioning properly.

Coming from Russia, I am obsessed about being warm in winter months , so while it was not very cold in Bucharest during our visit, New Era Hotel came out as a winner. It was toasty warm  with central heating and we could also make a cup of coffee or tea for that extra cosy feeling.

5.Friendly staff and communication

If you are emailing potential hotel before your arrival and they are not replying- these are the warning signs that they do not care about their customers. Or if you are reading reviews and a lot of people mention that the staff is not friendly, again this would be an alarm bell for me.

When you are in the new city, you will have plenty of questions about places to eat,  directions or, god forbid,  might need medical assistance. I think it is better if you are staying somewhere, where people are happy to help and offer a best solution for your trouble.   They are locals, they speak the language and they know everything there is to know about the city. So make yourself a favour and stay away from people who do not care.

We felt all the love in the New Era Hotel as staff was friendly, helpful and cheery whenever we had any questions. It is a 24 hour reception, so all your needs will be taken care of , no matter what time of the day it is. 

I hope these tips come handy when you are booking your next city break and if you are travelling to Bucharest, definitely consider New Era Hotel as it ticked all the boxes for us!

Disclaimer: We were hosted by New Era Hotel but all opinions are my own. 

British Leeks: Great Recipe for Colder Months

British Leeks: Great Recipe for Colder Months

When I buy leeks in the supermarket, I usually cook potato and leek soup. However, this winter I am challenging myself in trying different recipes with vegetables to expand my cooking range.  On the 1st of March, United Kingdom celebrates St David’ s Day. St […]