So I had a hard time getting to sleep last night. The neighborhood is quiet and dark, so that’s not the problem. No, I miss my Brian!! And apparently this ring he put on my finger has turned me into…horror of horrors…one of THOSE girls- and I have wedding stuff on the brain! ARGH!! That is NOT who I am!! 🙄 So I went to sleep about midnight and was up at 6- working, blogging, and waiting for Brian to land in LA. Poor guy- 2.5 hours late getting in. And he has to go to work in the morning. How he does it and just keeps going, I’ll never know…
This Romania trip is mainly about classes. A class on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in Europe! So I’m planning on scouring Romania in search of all things mythical and creepy!! Scouring means transportation, and in my case, that will be one rental car. But before I go get that, I have to do the two quick things I wanted to see here in Bucharest. Luckily, they were in easy walking distance. I put the Zlătari Church into google maps. Only 6/10 of a mile! Off I headed. I saw a bank along the way, and figured it would be wise to pull some cash out so I had some Romanian currency. Went through the process, and the message came back that they would not accept my card! Ugh!! I hoped this wasn’t a Romanian thing… I strolled through Old Town, while the westernized looking restaurants and bars were stocking up for the day. The buildings were quite lovely! I managed to find another bank, and they took my card. Whew!!
Rounded the corner to the church. Honestly, I was expecting one of those massive Western European concoctions. I was quite shocked by how small it was! I went in, and the word “wow” involuntary came out of my mouth. This wasn’t a touristy cathedral with tourists running around with cameras. People were in here worshiping. Not a full on service, but individuals. No tourists. #awkward So why am I in Zlătari Church? Magic, of course!! 🙂 So there was this guy named Cyprian back in the 200s, and he was a powerful sorcerer. People came to him whenever they needed some magical “help” in life. Obviously Christians shouldn’t be practicing sorcery or using the services of a sorcerer. But that worked out, because Cyprian and the people seeking him out were pagans. Well, a pagan fell in love with a Christian woman named Justina. No god fearing Christian would want a pagan for a husband, so he did what any sane man would do- convert. Just kidding!! He went to Cyprian to have a spell put on her! Imagine Cyprian’s surprise when Justina’s Jesus magic beat out his pagan magic!! He was so impressed, that he converted (not kidding this time, he really did!). And not just converted, but became a bishop! The Romans were kinda over the Christians, who ended up getting the short end of the stick. Cyprian and Justina were both tortured and killed. Jump ahead a bit, and they wound up as saints. Cyprian is the patron saint of necromancers- which seems a little weird, but whatever floats Catholic boats… But because there isn’t much historical evidence for their existence, they were removed from the list o’ saints in 2001. Well, a lot of Catholics, especially of the Eastern Orthodox flavor, still believe in the power of Cyprian. And his arm is in the Zlătari Church. Which is why I’m here. 🙂
The original plan was to tell the story while videoing in the church. However, I wasn’t going to be disrespectful to the worshippers (I felt bad enough snapping pics). I did watch one woman come in and lay her arm over the glass in the same position as Cyprian’s. Why? Well, worshipers believe that he can counteract any magic being done against them. 🤔
Next up, Vlad III’s palace. You may know Vlad from such things as being the basis for Dracula. You may also know him by his more interesting name, Vlad the Impaler. On the way, I stumbled across another small, beautiful church. I was standing outside, taking pictures through the fence, when a young lady in her early 20’s walked up and in perfect English informed me that I could go inside and it was beautiful! She showed me the entrance. So kind! And the first English I’ve heard in 24 hours other than “kitchen”! 😉 And she was right. It was beautiful inside. And I had it all to myself, other than the attendant at the door. The churches here are arty and intricate- not that over the top gaudy style you see in Western Europe a lot. They’re darker, more dimly lit. I like them. There was information inside in English (same in the Zlătari Church). Turns out this church is the Stavropoleos Monastery of 1724.
A few more corners, and I was facing the ruins of Curtea Veche- Vlad’s home, or “princely court” that he built in 1459. Apparently they were excavated in the 1950s, but not much has been done with them. Restoration is in progress, and apparently has been for a long time with no end in sight. 🙁 There is a bust of Vlad though, holding court over his ruins.
Right next to the ruins is another church, St. Anthony’s, the oldest in Bucharest dating back to 1559. Again, quite beautiful and no tourists, just worshipers. There’s some piece of a saint in here as well (I assume St. Anthony).
Back out on the streets to head back to the room. Turned a corner and hey! I recognized this street! It’s where Carrefour is! Bananas….take two! Went in, got my bananas, had them weighed by a lady, checked the Dr. Pepper aisle and took all 4 of the restocked Dr. Pepper Zeros (I now have enough for 1 a day for the entire trip!!), and checked out. The cashier spoke French to me! So strange! I said I speak English, and he spoke English to me. Came back, got my stuff together, and decided to take an Uber to the car rental place instead of navigating a bus with luggage. Door to door for like $4.50. No brainer. Got my car through Autonom, and even though I was like an hour and a half early, they got all of my stuff together and out the door really fast. Buckle up, Romania! I’m behind the wheel!!
I put the Snagov Monastery into google maps and headed off down the road. The driving here is really easy, and there are like a zillion radio stations and ALWAYS something fun to sing on at least one of them! It was just a little over 30 minutes to the monastery, most of it on a main highway, and then turning off into rural countryside. I found the parking lot sign, and headed off walking in the direction of the arrow. Imagine my amazement when I reached a long, wide bridge!! And from that, kids were jumping off into the lake below! I walked across. One of the boys just kept smiling at me, and then jumps right as I reached him. As I crossed the bridge on to the island, there was a small, brown speckled pony happily munching grass along the path. And ahead, a building with a large arch. I walked through that, and there was the monastery. Again, small by western standards, but imposing none-the-less. First, I walked around the grounds a bit. There was a wildness to it- grass that hadn’t been mowed. Weeds blooming. Birds chirping. It really was peaceful and relaxing.
When I finished walking the grounds, I headed into the monastery. It cost 24 lei ($6) to come in and be able to take pictures. Small price to pay! Because I was here for a reason…yes, I’m still hot on the trail of Vlad! The church was built in 1521- almost 500 years ago- and is just amazing inside! Vlad contributed a lot of money to build the monastery, and this is the place where legend says his remains are. Remains or not, there is a tomb dedicated to him with a plaque and a burning candle. Someone dig that thing up, order an Ancestry.com DNA kit, and let’s solve the mystery!!
As I walked back across the bridge, I ended up behind a group of people. Bringing up the rear of the group was a little old hunched over lady. She started talking to me in Romanian, and I finally told her I only speak English. That didn’t dissuade her.😀 She communicated to me that the 4 people up ahead where her grown children. We “talked” about how hot the weather was. And as we looked out over the lake, she said, “Very nice”. So this lady has two English words…I have one Romanian word (I learned that pui is chicken at the grocery store!). She wins, but I’m getting there!!
Put in Hotel Valahia in the gps, and headed toward Targoviste- my stop for the night. It gave me a few different routes, and I chose one that didn’t go through main towns. Driving the back roads of Romania, with fields of huge yellow sunflowers and corn on either side of me, and impossibly baby blue sky, with white clouds lit up by the sun….damn. Passing little old ladies with kerchiefs on their heads just like you’d imagine, men driving horse carts, it was all just so picturesque and perfect. I did pass 3 churches that I am KICKING myself for not stopping and getting pics of. I don’t know….I just felt weird about pulling over and snapping pics. This didn’t feel anything like “tourist territory”.
Got to the hotel, checked in. For $25 a night, it is not bad at all! A little dated, but hell, so am I! 😉 Oh, and it includes breakfast in the morning. I’m glad. I’ll need a big one because I have a ton of adventures planned!!