Once in a mall, while I was buying a new pair of shoes for an upcoming trip abroad, my little brother asked me a trivial question about why girls love buying expensive footwear.
At first I was so dumbfounded by his straightforwardness that it took a minute for me to answer.
Not to generalize, but shoes bring out the best features of one’s body. It helps level up confidence and self-esteem in everything we do. As for me, shoes are a talisman that opens opportunities to seize the world and be whoever I want to be. They lend beauty and glamor (despite any pain felt) with every step. They create a perfect definition of a strong woman who is determined to get what she deserves.
True enough, with this philosophy in mind, I have travelled to different places inside and outside the country. And now, I’m headed to Romania, a country bordered by Bulgaria to the south, Hungary and Siberia to the west, Ukraine to the north and the Black Sea to the east. A Unitary Semi-Presidential Republic, Romania proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. However, the declaration of the Romanian People’s Republic happened only on December 1947. The name Romania comes from the Latin word “Romanus” translated into the English language as “Citizen of Rome”.
Gladiators and Wedges
The capital city and financial center of Romania, Bucharest is affectionately known among the locals as “Little Paris” because of its highly developed and intricately designed infrastructures. First mentioned in the year 1459, the name București is said to have originated from the Romanian word bucurie which means “happiness”. First among the many attractions in the city is the Palace of the Parliament, built during the years 1984 to 1997. It is known as the People’s Palace and serves as the seat of the Romanian government. Standing in the Spirii Hill, it is considered as the second largest and the most expensive building in the world. It contains 12 floors with over 1,100 rooms and five underground levels still in use as of today. The landmark’s most distinct and well-visited portion is the National Museum of Contemporary Art, situated at the west wing and open for general viewing. The Palace of the Parliament also includes the Museum and Park of Totalitarianism and Socialist Realism. Another landmark travellers will definitely love is the University of Bucharest, established in 1864 by order of Prince Alexandru Loan Cuza. Unknown to many tourists, the university was a converted institute of the former Saint Sava Academy founded in 1694. From an academy that only taught French, Italian and Latin, the institution became bigger as more courses were offered. At present, the edifice is considered as the second oldest contemporary university in Romania. Visitors of the area should take the opportunity to see the Statue of Ion Luca Caragiale, a Romanian playwright and writer known for his works about politics, morals and manners, as well as literary criticisms. The must-visit sites also include the Arcul de Triumf, a 27-meter Triumphal Arch built to commemorate the heroes of war, and the Romanian Athenaeum, opened in 1888 to serve as venue for a variety of performances showcasing Romania’s rich culture.
Sneakers and Slip-ons
Aside from Bucharest, another city worth visiting is the Constanța City. Established in 600 BC, the metropolitan lies along the coast of the Black Sea and is considered as one of the oldest cities in Romania. The area was also once called as Tomis.
Put on your sneakers and slip-ons and head to the different landmarks of the city. Beginning with the Ovid’s square, take a picture of the Statue of Ovid, designed in honor of Publius Ovidius Naso, a Roman Poet exiled in the city by Emperor Augustus. Near the Statue is the Museum of National History.
Part of the city’s charm are the 26-foot tall Genoese Lighthouse, constructed in 1860 to commemorate the trading success of the Genoese merchants; the Casa Cu Lei ,whose pre-Romantic and Genoese styles are enhanced by the four sculptured lions sitting on top of its columns; and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul built during the years 1883 to 1885 by architect Ion Mincu.
Last but not the least is the Grand Casino, situated along the banks of the Black Sea. Ordered to be constructed by King Carol I, the Art Nouveau edifice was opened for public use in 1910. However, the structure was closed in 1990 and was never opened again. Although it lays abandoned up until today, the Grand Casino is still a building worth seeing.
Mary Janes and Flip-flops
Hop on a cab and drive your way to Brasov City. Offering a majestic view of the Southern Carpathians, the metropolis was first known as Corona, meaning “crown”. It was also briefly called Stalin City during the year 1950 to 1960 in honor of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Always the first stop is the Brasov Council Square, which is popular for its rich stories of antiquity. The well-loved stories include the pillory, rumored to have been used as public humiliation and punishment for witches. Walking around the square, one can also find the Council House, the old town’s Black Church, the pristine sceneries offered by the Tâmpa Hill, and the Strada Sforii or the String Street, famous for being the narrowest street found in the metropolis Let your flip-flops lead you to the street of Muresenilor, once known as the Manastirii Street. The elaborately designed houses surrounding the area are a sight to behold. Many historians believe that during the Middle Ages, the street served as a significant route for merchants and travellers who came to the city from the Romanian Land.
Stilettos and Pumps
Like other states surrounding Romania, castles and fortresses are part of the country’s appeal. Three of the most popular are the Corvin Castle, the Peleș Castle, and the Bran Castle. Located in Hunedoara County, the palace of Corvin’s has stood prominently since 1446, when Hungary’s regent-governor John Hunyadi ordered a fortress to be built. The edifice comprises of the Diet Hall which serves as a reception area and the Knight’s Hall that hosts grand feasts. Other features of the castle include the defensive tower of Buzdugan, prison towers like the Drummer’s Tower, the Deserted Tower, the Capistrano Tower, and the White Bastion, which served as a storage room during Hunyadi’s reign. According to many historians, Corvin Castle served as a prison for Vlad III. Also known as Vlad the Impaler, Vlad III is said to have been the inspiration of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A 30-meter deep well is located in the castle’s yard and is said to have been dug by twelve Turkish prisoners. According to legend, these prisoners were promised liberty if they reached water. Another castle associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the Bran Castle. Also known as Dracula’s Castle, the medieval fortress was built in Brasov City on 1377. Part of many historical accounts, the castle served as the royal residence of Queen Marie in the year 1920. As of today, the castle offers guided tours. It is now a museum showcasing Queen Marie’s immense collection of furniture. An adjacent museum displays a traditional Romanian village filled with barns and cottages. Tourists will also enjoy visiting the Peleș Castle, situated in the Carpathian Mountains of Prahova County. Guided tours will bring guests to the Honor Hall, the Grand Armory that houses over a thousand weaponries, the Florentine Room where a grand marble fireplace stands, and the Turkish Parlor once used as a smoking area.
Follow the Shoes
When one enters my room, the first thing they will see is my varied collection of shoes. Above them is a framed quote I found once while surfing the net: “Cinderella, proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life”. I know that shoe shopping is sometimes considered as a woman’s whim. But whatever others think, shoes form a bigger part of my life. It gives me so much pleasure to know that my shoes have gone to different places with me. Each pair carries a set of stories they alone can tell.
And now, I suggest you to put on your favorite pair of shoes and travel to the land known as Romania. Walk into the country’s beautiful buildings and discover stories only Romania can give.