Oct 28

Marasesti Mausoleum

The Marasesti Mausoleum has been constructed in celebration of the 1917 glorious battle of Marasesti and commemorates the heroes that have fought in the National Unification War. The shrine has been erected in the exact place where the conflagration took place, on what is now the national road that connects Focsani and Adjud cities.

Romania is a country that prides itself with many mausoleums which have been constructed so as to honor various heroes or landmark historical events, but among all of these, the Marasesti Mausoleum stands out due to its imposing stature. The impressive architecture and grandeur has made the monument renowned in all of Europe.


In order to better comprehend the impact that this battle had on the country’s past, it is worth mentioning that the outcome of this battle wrote the history of Romania and it is safe to say that it also determined its present. In the First World War, the enemies were steadily but surely advancing on Romanian territory, but their advancement came to a hold the moment they planned to enter Moldova by passing through Marasesti. There, the Romanian army was waiting, prepared to crush anyone who attempted to go past it. The battle of Marasesti lasted for one month, between 21st of July and 21st of August 1917, and its denouement consisted in a glorious victory for the Romanians.


The total number of casualties (in what concerns the Romanian army) was 21.480, of which 480 were officers, while the remaining majority consisted of soldiers. It is to these brave individuals to whom the monument is dedicated. The mausoleum has 154 individual crypts and 9 collective ones spread throughout the 18 floors where the heroes who have sacrificed their life for their country have find their eternal sleep. It is no wonder that on the main façade, on its most upper part, the following words are inscribed: ‘Praise for the national heroes.’



The initiative to construct such a masterpiece worthy of our fallen soldiers was taken by the National Orthodox Society of Women who has presented the idea in front of the Congress in the summer of 1919.

The architects in charge of the project were George Cristinel and Constantin Pompeiu who have designed the plans and have seen the mausoleum come into being throughout its 15 years of construction (between 1923-1938). The construction of the mausoleum occurred in several stages, but what is noteworthy is the summer of 1924 when the earthly remains have been deposited within the finished crypts.



In august, the relics of General Eremia Grigorescu, the commander-in-chief of the 1st Romanian Army during the Battles of Marasesti, were deposited in their rightful place, in an individual crypt, in honor of him leading his army towards victory.

The Mausoleum was inaugurated in the presence of King Carol II on the 18th of September 1938.

Jul 19

The Romanian Carpathians (Muntii Carpati – Romania)

The Carpathian Mountains extend over 1500 km and traverse a number of European states: Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro. The focus of this article is the mountainous system which is comprised within the Romanian borders and which represents by far the lengthiest section of the Carpathians.

This can only mean one thing: Romania has been endowed with a beautiful mountainous environment which consists of tall peaks, straits, meadows together with the flora and fauna characteristic for mountainous regions.



The Romanian Carpathians are divided in three groups which are named based on their geographical position. Thus we have the Eastern, Southern and Western Groups: the Oriental, the Meridional and the Occidental Carpathians. The tallest peak located in Romania is Moldoveanu which measures 2544 m and is situated in the southern group, in Fagarasi Mountains, in close vicinity of the second highest peak, Negoiu (2535 m).

The entire mountainous region has a high touristic potential but unfortunately only parts of it are accurately exploited, so to speak. The exploitation part refers solely to the proper arrangement in terms of accommodation facilities and transportation services, such as cable tramways. By no means is there implied that massive human intervention should be allowed such as destroying the forests in order to make room for all sorts of buildings or the such.



In fact, the intrusion into the surrounding environment should be as minimum as possible. The only reason for which these areas should be visited is so as to allow people to explore nature, but not to make alterations to the setting.

The Carpathians have different types of relief characteristics which make the landscape truly impressive. Thus tourists can admire mountainous peaks, depressions, valleys, each characterized by a specific type of vegetation.

There are numerous species of plant and animal life living in the area: brown bears, wolves, lynxes, and 1350 different species of plants. Many of the specimens found here are protected by law as they are on the verge of extinction.



Each period of the year leaves its mark on the Carpathian area. In June, the slopes of the mountains are covered with rose bay flowers, creating a beautiful visual effect.  July and August are the months when the meadows seem to be overtaken by an explosion of colors as a multitude of plants are in bloom at this time: the yellow and spotted gentian, the little lily of the valley, or the bird’s eye plant. In the fall, the slopes are covered by the Michaelmas daisy and the swallow wort gentia.

Due to the variety of wildlife and plant life found in the Carpathians, the state has decided to create several national parks where the species would be protected.



Romania is home to one of the largest wolf and bear population on the European continent, and this is mainly found in the lower slopes, where the wild animals can find both food and shelter. These regions are almost in their entirety hidden by thick forests. At a smaller altitude, tourists will find oak and beech trees, a landscape which is best admired in spring and autumn – when the trees are covered in leaves or when they change their coloration. As one climbs higher and higher, the scenery changes. Thus forests of beech, spruce, and fir present themselves. At certain altitudes there are forests made up of a single type of tree whereas other times the species of trees are intermingled.

As it has been mentioned previously, thousands of wolves and brown bears dwell in the Carpathian forests so it is no surprise that the howl of a wolf can break the silence of the night or that bear tracks are spotted every now and then. In fact, many have even had their own encounter with bears, even if from afar (which is probably better).

Jul 04

Transalpina – closer to the sky (Transalpina – mai aproape de cer)

What is it about Transalpina that entice people so much? This is a question with an obvious answer: the remoteness surrounding it. At present there are a handful of regions in the world where one can feel liberated from the constrains of the modern life. The Transalpina offers precisely this: freedom. Just imagine driving without a target and having nature as your companion. It is the perfect trip – at least for some people.

But what might baffle some is the reason for which this region has not been exploited to the fullest, as it usually occurs with places that have a touristic potential. In reality, the Transalpina Road is not constructed so as to allow all types of vehicles to traverse it, or at least part of it. The road dates from the Roman time, but even to this very day, it has not been properly constructed.



Only a small portion of the road is opened for circulation, whereas the rest of it has been left to chance. There is a project on the way whose purpose is to rehabilitate Transalpina, and this has actually been the subject of heated debates. Transalpina is renowned for the fact that it traverses the Parang Mountains but does not interfere in any way with the natural environment. Building an actual road and posting circulation signs will only be a marker of the fact that people have ‘tamed’ nature once more.

But if we were to analyze the matter thoroughly, we would reach an obvious conclusion: there is no win-win situation. People want to visit this paradisical area, where they can literally walk along the clouds (because Transalpina reaches an impressive altitude – surpassing the Transfagarasan in its highest point), but this is impossible as the path is not appropriately paved, thus making it unsafe for specific vehicles.



On the other hand, if the project initiated for the rehabilitation of Transalpina attains its goal, tourists can venture in this region and can discover the beauty of the natural environment once more. And this is quite an opportunity in the era of technology, when everything is mechanized. But there is a downside to this as well.



If the region becomes known for the tourist attraction it is then thousands of people will come from all over the world. It might be a great idea for the development of the Romanian tourism, but this will bring about further investments in the area, meaning that accomodations, resorts or the like will be constructed. So the natural landscape will be severely affected, Transalpina thus losing its most important characteristic – its wilderness.



The question remains: should we deprive people of experiencing nature to the fullest by banning access to Transalpina, or should be allow life to follow its course even if this means losing one of the few areas in the country which have not been subjected to massive transformation in the hands of man?

May 21

The National Bank of Romania (BNR – Banca Nationala a Romaniei)

The National Bank of Romania was formed in 1880 but for a given period of time it had performed its activity in various rented spaces situated on Lady Street. So it made it its main preoccupation to build an edifice of its own where it could operate.

The site chosen for the construction of the NBR Palace was located right in the heart of what was back then the commercial center of the town. Today, this area is known as the historical center, as remnants of past edifices can still be found here.



The construction work took from 1884 to 1890 and the result was a neoclassic edifice, constructed after the plans developed by the French architects Cassien Bernard and Albert Galleron. But the project underwent some alterations under Nicolae Cerchez, who had a double specialization in engineering and architecture.

The project had to be thoroughly considered as the edifice had to comprise special sections, as are needed in a bank: the space designated for the public relations department, the offices of the bank clerks, the director and all the other officials of the institution, the treasury room, the technical department, as well as all the other annexes necessary in a bank.



The space had to be adequately divided so that the movement inside the bank (the flow of clients) would not be detrimental to the effectiveness of the business (in terms of security measurements and valuable asset protection). After the construction work was completed, the site – the intersection of several streets (Lady Street, Smardan Street, Lipscani and Victoria’s Path) – had been transformed into a real financial center as several other banks had made offices in this location.

The 1900s brought about an idea: to create the Museum of the National Bank of Romania. The plan was put into effect, in as much as on the 3rd of May 1997, the Museum came into being. The museum is found on the ground floor of the National Bank Palace and it is organized as follows: there are 2 lateral naves, 2 alveolar rooms and an armored room.



As it is probably obvious, the museum revolves around a single theme: the evolution of the Romanian monetary system – how it had changed throughout time. Likewise, the museum also presents briefly the history of the National Bank (how it came into being, the founders and the way in which it had been transformed in time).

All this information is revealed through the impressive collection of currency and the documents found within the museum. These consist of coins which have belonged to ancient Greek colonies (which were located in Left Pont), to the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Geto-Dacians, as well as other foreign currencies which used to circulate in the Romanian territories.



But the largest collection, and the one which carries the most importance for the Romanian population, is the one comprising the Romanian monetary issues, together with medals, banknotes, official documents and other type of valuable assets.

In the side naves there are 10 enormous exhibitions in which one can admire different types of coins and banknotes, in a chronological order. There are also 8 panels on which there are several papers displayed (maps, drawings, and texts) all relevant in determining the evolution of the coinage system.

The Marble House of the National Bank consists of several pillars and on them, tourists can admire a great collection of coins and medals, all made out of gold, which reflect the currency which was used in various historical times (from the ancient time to the present day).



One of the Alveolar Rooms is the Gallery of Governors where various portraits of the governors of the National Bank, as well as different documents (both originals and copies), and photographs which capture different stages of the bank’s activity, are found. These again are displayed in chronological order so that visitors can accurately depict which were the coins used at particular times.

But besides the actual coins and banknotes, there are also molds on display – so you can actually see how the coinage has been done with the help of these patterns – and some of the publications of the National Bank. These publications are either those currently issued under the name of the N.B.R. or they date back from the interwar period.

The architecture of the edifice is impressive and due to this design, the Palace has been declared a protected monument.

May 07

Scarisoara Cave (Pestera Scarisoara)

Scarisoara Cave is located in the western Romanian Carpathian Mountains, more precisely in the Apuseni Mountains. What makes this cave so unique is the fact that is the largest glaciar cave found on the Romanian territory. In fact, these is only one other glacier in the whole world which surpasses the one found inside Scarisoara Cave in terms of size and this one is located in Slovakia.



The exact year when the cave was discovered remains unknown, but the first documentary evidence of Scarisoara dates from 1863 when the geographer Adolt Schmididi, of Austrian descent, explored the cave and mapped the site so as to help further discoveries.



Scarisoara Cave is found at a 1150 m altitude and measures 750 m in length and 110 m in depth. But not all the surface of the cave is available for visitation (only 250 m is accessible for tourists). The cave is so renowned due to the glacier it holds within its walls which dates from 3.000 years ago and which occupies a space of 5.500 sq. meters, with an ice layer ranging from 26 to 37m in width.

The entrance resembles a tube-like orifice which measures 50 m in diameter and tourists can reach this entrance “door” by descending on a steel ladder.



Scarisoara Cave is divided into several regions, each bearing a specific name. Upon entering the cave, you will find the Big Hall, which is followed by the Church. This section is actually the most representative one as tourists mainly come to Scarisoara Cave to gaze on the impressive natural décor of this room which consists of more than 100 ice stalagmites.

Moving forward, you will come across a gallery which stretches over 70 m and which leads toward two sections: the Great Reservation and the Small Reservation.  But unfortunately, this area is not opened for touristic purposes. Access within these sectors is permissible only to knowledgeable people who investigate the area in order to reach a scientific discovery and only if the “Emil Racovita” Institute of Speleology permits it.



The cave also consists of sectors which have no trace of ice within them such as the Cathedral and the Sanziana Palace. Scarisoara cave goes as deep as 105 m and it is at this depth that the Maxim Pop Gallery is located.


The cave dates from the Ice Age, which took place approximately 20,000 years ago, when a thick layer of ice covered the North American and Eurasia continents. Many are impressed by the fact that the ice has maintained itself within the cave throughout this time, but the explanation is quite simple.



The ice which covered the earth at the time, took hold of the cave as well and this managed to remained as such due to the fact that the cave consists of a singular opening which is “conveniently” located in the upper part of the cave. This opening favors the formation of air currents which directly impact the atmosphere within the cave, thus maintaining the ice in its solid state.

A change occurs in the summer time, as the temperature goes up, reaching 1 degree Celsius. This determines the ice encountered in the Big Hall to melt down but this does not mean that it disappears completely. Only a few centimeters are lost from the thick layer of ice.

Entrance to the cave - http://www.travelgirls.ro



According to legend, the cave was the home of an ancient dragon, named Solomat, which had the habit of kidnapping a beautiful girl from nearby community and lock her in an ice palace, deep within its cave. The kidnapping is said to have occurred in the New Year’s Eve or during the annual festival, the Girls’ Fare that was organized in the city of Gaina.

Visitation hours

Scarisoara Cave can be visited only if accompanied by a guide who will show the tourists their way through the cave and there is a toll which needs to be covered upon entering the cave.

The tours consists of organized groups of 20, up to 50 individuals, which can get access to Scarisoara according to the following program: 9:00 a.m.; 10:20 a.m.; 11:40 a.m.; 1:00 p.m.; 2:30 p.m.; 3:40 p.m.; 5:00 p.m.

Apr 26

The Old Court Church (Biserica Domneasca din Curtea Veche)


The Old Court Church is located in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, and it is the oldest house of worship located in this town. The church was erected by the ruler Mircea Ciobanul (Mircea the Shepard) and Ms. Chiajna in 1559. After the death of Mircea Ciobanu, the task of looking after the church (meaning undertaking the painting and decoration work) was conducted by his son, Petru the Young.



The dedication day of the church is the Feast of the Annunciation, but a second dedication day was instituted after a fire which occurred in 1847 – the patron of the church was St. Antonie the Great. In fact, this shift can be considered as a way to commemorate St. Anton Church which was destroyed in that fire.


The Old Court Church is a true architectural gem from the feudal era as it contains an impressive number of vestiges, of immense value. Some of the most important treasures of the church are the iconographic representation of the Holy Trinity at the Mamvri Oaktree dating from the reign of Stephan Cantacuzino, from 1715, which is part of the church altar, and a vessel meant to hold the Eucharist bread which had been donated by St. Constantin Brancoveanu.



But other objects dating from the end of the 18th century and from the entire 19th century are contained within the walls of the church. There are also frescos dating from the time of Stephan Cantacuzino, which have been preserved in their original state, with a few exceptions. However, the frescoes which were altered as a result of the passage of time have been renovated.

Additions to the church were conducted in the subsequent years, as follows: the entrance door made out of stone in 1715 and the interior painting between 1847 and 1853. The artists behind the interior decoration were C. Lecca and Misu Popp.



Tourist attractions

The Old Court Church, now declared a national monument, had been constructed so as to serve the religious purposes of the Old Court. This court was the first of its kind on the territory of Bucharest and consisted of a palace, a church, houses with ballrooms, stables and gardens.

Two major calamities, the 1718 fire and the 1787 earthquake, have effectively ruined the royal court. At present the ruins of the palace has been transformed into a protected architectural site.

In its perimeter, there is also a museum, where tourists can admire the remnants of past times. So if you ever visit the Old Court Church, make sure you check the other attractions that are found in close proximity of this edifice.