Monday, November 25, 2013

Caledonian Ball 2013 - The "Light into Europe. One Team. One Mission" Premiere

Well, I guess it’s been a while. Honestly right now, I feel this horrible need to take a long bath, with candles and some soothing music, because I am exhausted. Ok, lemme say that again. E.X.H.A.U.S.T.E.D. Is it big enough? I should also probably mention that I think I spread a toe. Hahaha It’ swollen and it hurts. Will see what changes occur until tomorrow morning, then will decide whether to see a doctor or not.

By the way this is Sunday evening. Even though I’ll post this on Monday. Unfortunately Monday means work so not enough brain left to handle blog and work at the same time. So... The Caledonian Ball and the big evening. And Mom’s birthday! Yeah... And to top it all off, somehow, the Caly Ball this year was one of the best, most crowded and rich I’ve seen in the past years.

Anyway. Thursday, Cristi and I had completed (almost) the first video. As in we had it all together, the image, the music but we were missing the text. A few key words and sentences here and there to emphasize on the filmed message. But we were happy with it. So I sent it the way it was to Camelia at the charity and midnight that night I got word she loved it. Next morning I heard from her son that in England they loved it as well. More so, they adored it. So I’m feeling positive enough to show it to some more of my trusty people. I mean I only had a day and a half before the ball where the video had to go on. Obviously a 40 minutes long documentary cannot play before 250 something people or they would die of boredom.

The videos are meant for bigger crowds, the documentaries for smaller ones. So I go to work and present my achievement and I get positive feedback on how the video looks but negative feedback on the message and length. Not that the message was unclear, but the video was pointing at the wrong audience. Indeed, my target wasn’t the audience at the Ball, it was the prospective volunteers, parents, teachers who need to be reminded the differences between us and the sight and hearing impaired children and attract them into our projects. It was supposed to be a touchy yet up-lifting and encouraging video. Something that shows you what’s wrong but that there is also a solution, a bridge to help overcome all these differences.  

So now they say – and they are right! – „Mela this is a good chance to make people understand the situation better from a statistically point of view. People need to know that their contributions, especially financially, help indeed and that things are done and bought and so on and so forth”. So, at first, I have to admit, I did not agree to the idea. I, and a dozen more of the people involved in this – have done this job for free. Because we believe in Light into Europe. Because I am in awe to these people’s constant efforts to make a difference. Maybe they can’t change the lives of all the impaired children but sure enough even if 300 of them get better living conditions, I think we’re on to something.

I am thinking everyone thinks like me. That just by witnessing the team’s efforts to change lives for the better is a good and strong enough motivation to make people contribute, from money to their time and attention and involvment into the projects. And I know this is a very idealistic way to look at the world, but it’s the way I’m built to think and it takes a little while for me to process that other people are not on the same page with me. And it’s only normal for that to happen; but Mela had not considered that, as Mela is functioning on a heart – mind mental set not the other way around.

Ok, I say. I’ll come up with a video that shows not only the problems these kids face but also that there is our charity to help them and what the charity has actually accomplished. At least for 2013. My only problem is, I have a day and a half to do it. And the clock is ticking. That afternoon I let Cristi know we have to come up with something totally new by Saturday. I am so agitated and so anxious about it that he felt the need to calm me down, pour soul, bless him – he’s beenh wonderful and extremely patient with me. He knows I am terrible (to not say a bitch!) when it comes to doing things, and doing things as well as I can.

To make a small note here: Cristi and I first met when I had my wedding. He was supposed to do the wedding movie. And for that i sent him two pages of pricise instructions of what and how and when I want everything filmed. That was in 2010. Two weeks after getting my email, he didn’t reply so I figured our colaboration had ended before beginning. Eventually he answered and said he was taken aback by the screenplay I had put together, because no bride had ever asked him that. Nonetheless, he took the challenge, probably thinking that during the actual wedding I will realize my scenario was futile and unrealistic as I would be too busy getting pretty and looking after our guests, that I won’t have the time to stick to the plan. He had witnessed many other weddings and he knew how things went down.

Boy, was he in for a surprise! Haha We filmed absolutely everything, except for one or two scenes. And I’m still in love with that video to the day. So I guess now, that I owe him some of the grey hair he’s grown, he knew what to expect. I have no words to thank this man, seriously. I should stop right here, otherwise I could say thank you for the rest of the blog.

So coming back to the video, I manage to find the music really fast by a pure struck of luck. It’s also cheap so I am able to buy it online. I am BLESSED! It sounds kind of dramatic, but I like it. Makes my hair stand up my arms. Makes me want to get up and do something. I get home from work and from about 8:00PM till 2:00AM the following morning we spend time putting images together, getting the beat right. I’m desperate to get the right words to go with the images. Everything has to connect. Every image and every text has to send out a message, on its own or together. Writing doesn’t come easy. Even if it’s just a few lines. Especially, when it’s just a few lines that you have to make a huge impact. I had to go the doctor that evening as well. And I felt like I was wasting precious time so I took my phone out and plugged my earphones to listen to the music I had chosen. I listen, I visualize, I feel, I write. It’s how it works. So ideas start pouring in and I grab a pen and some stickers from the reception to use as note pads and put the text down. Later on, as I am on the subway on my way home, I continue writing on my IPhone notes. I am so absorbed with the music and the writing that I miss my station and I have to go back a little. Haha. I don’t regret anything!!!

At 2:00PM that night, my eyes gave in and I left Cristi to continue working on his own until like 5:00AM. Next morning I wake up to see the first part of the video, 1:25 minutes. I love what he’s done with the images, the colors, the beat. The text is a bit messed up. But that’s not the main problem. The first part is way too long. Cristi loves it, I love it too. But with a second part waiting to be edited, the video would take too long and the rhythm would be lost. Cristi and I have a back and forth discussion over how much of how little we should keep. I simplify the text to the point where we risk losing the meaing of it all. Eventually I think I won only because I was the director and Cristi accepted my vision of things. But we are keeping his version as well. They are both good, only that for an event such as this, we had to think time-wise. If the first video, which was 3.50 seconds was too long, than this one had to be shorter.

We spend Friday cutting, trimming, adding, modifying images and text. Mom arrives as she’s going to join me for the ball but she has to wait for me to come from work. Then as I go home, Cristi and I are back on Skype sharing screens to work together. And we do so until 3:00AM. By that time, the video is put together, the music stays unchanged, the text is minimized to the last letters and words. Cristi is left to edit the images and the thing all together.

I wake up the next day, confused and agitated, knowing that if something goes wrong there is not enough time left to change things. We have to leave at 4:30PM in order to get to the Intercontinental before everyone else and try to the video on the equipment there, check on the sound, check how it’s heard in the room. Both videos will be played in three different locations: the lobby and two ball rooms upstairs. But only this video will be shown with sound at the beginning of the evening. With everyone’s undivided attention. AH!

At 4:30 Cristi tells me he is exporting the video and we have ten more minutes to wait.  I spend my time putting make up on mom even though she hates it just because I’m too anxious to sit or do nothing. And it’s done. Uploaded to be transferred. Downloading. I sit on the edge of the bed, all dressed up, make up on, my hands literally shaking and I press PLAY, knowing that if I discover something wrong, nothing could be done anymore.

2 minutes and 2 seconds. Longest two minutes EVER! My eyes roll over the images I’ve seen a hundred times, over the text I’ve changed a hundred times. I listen to the song I’ve learnt by heart, note by note. I literally pray with ever frame that nothing is out of place. Nothing ELSE is out of place, because Cristi did worn me that during export one image got deleted for some reason so now two texts come one after another. At the fast pace the song is going no one would even notice that. But I WILL. And I DID. Of course, Cristi is the marvelous professional I know him to be and he immediately finds the fault in the system and corrects the error.

I save both videos on two memory sticks; we jump in a taxi as we are running late. A few more phone calls on various other subjects with Camelia then I finally settle down for 10 minutes while holding the bag to my chest as if all my savings are in there. I look at the memory sticks in my hand. Our entire work, effort and struggle lies hidden in these two small items. It’s absolutely incredible the amount of pain stacking work one could to deliver two minutes of film. I am so afraid I’m going to misplace them or lose them that I cannot trust my inner zipped pocket of my purse to hold them, I have to hold them.

We get there and I literally throw my coat to the side, and plug in the stick in the laptop in the lobby. All goes well. I just have to find one player that can repeat the video continuously. Easy job. Done. Next I run upstairs and there I die. I realize form the number of tables that this year we’re going to have more guests than the usual. I see a stage and a big screen with huge speakers to the side. That wasn’t there last year!!!!! I see people with heavy equipment to the side of the stage: sound, lights. Damn it Mela! You’re screwed now! I thought my hands were shaking but I was wrong. Now I felt crippled with emotions. I am so grateful for that guy copying the video off the stick and onto his laptop because I couldn’t find the damn USB whole with my numb fingers, not in a million years. I go in the back of the room to listen to the sound and see what’s the „burning” point of the son so we don’t overdo it with the volume. The light is dim in the room and the place is crawling with waiters and hotel managers but I do not care. The black screen comes on. The text starts revealing before my eyes. No sound yet. And then, the song comes on. And that first note that convinced me to use this song in the first place, literally swipes me off my feet. It’s so strong it almost makes me take a step back and a new wave of emotion strikes me that I need to fold my arms around my chest to keep steady. It’s the first time I see it on such a big screen with this level of sound and it’s more than I had bargained for. I am marveled and pretty much petrified with a heart racing faster than a wild rabbit. I wish all the people seeing this video actually experienced things this way when they watch it. That kind of „hair raising” feeling. Well, I for one, am grateful to myself for being so in love with my own work. I don’t think it’s self esteem. It’s simply that gut feeling that tells you, you did a good job and you like it, so it’s ok.

Half way through the thing, someone gives me a huge unexpected hug. „You are my hero!” I glimpse back, uprooted from my day dreaming. It’s Mark Platt, the Light into Europe representative in England. I manage to mumble something I don’t remember. I feel stupid and shy when people say things like this to me. I feel people should appreciate my work, not me. That’s also stupid to say, considering I’ve done it, but hahaha... you get my point.

Cristi calls and says he’s fixed the bug and now we have the missing image back in the video. He transfers it again and I download the new version, verify it and give it to the people in charge with the technical part. Now I can relax. Right! I keep busy with greeting people and spending some time with mom, but secretly I watch the clock every 5 minutes knowing the time is coming for me to hit PLAY again and this time it won’t be just me. It will be me and 260 people. Out of which many whom I know, many whom I work with. Many who don’t know I do this kind of work. Usually I don’t care for that, but then again – usually – I don’t go public with stuff I do. I mean it took me many years before I came out with my writing. This entire screenwriting and directing deal is obviously new in my life as it is. So yeah...

6:30PM. People start gathering in the lobby. Eventually 45 minutes later they are coming upstairs. We are running a little late which only contributes to my high level of adrenaline and heart rate. My doctor would be proud of my blood pressure now, coming from a family history where we are a bit above being considered clinically dead!!!

Ok. It’s happening. Mark asks for feedback on how to introduce the video and I do not want him to say my name in there. He gets on stage and I literally lean against the pylon in the middle of the room because my left knee is acting like jelly pudding all of a sudden. I feel stupid twice. Silence falls in the room as Mark steps off the stage and everyone turns to the screen. Lights go off. Only the candles are burning. The black screen comes on. The writing starts to appear and I watch every word unfold as if I see it for the first time. And I swear, my hands are growing cold as I know that first note will come again and I’ll die again, like the total idiot that I am, because it does this thing in my head that I can’t control. And here we go. The song comes on with the same strength but somehow my brain manages to perceive a change in the sound and I realize the volume is lower. My hand automatically goes up and the technical crew sees my signal. Volume is up. Mela is up as well.

Mark comes at my side and hugs me again but I barely pay attention to the man. Such a sweet supportive guy and I’m so distracted right now. These 2 minutes are even longer than the two minutes I spent at home watching it. And then the 2 minutes are done. Black screen again. Lights on. But people keep staring at the screen. My God, it’s like their mesmerized, caught in it. Mark starts applauding behind me. I think I wanted to applaud as well but all I could do was raise my brow in an Ice Age squirrel kind of look: „hehe” right before the nut cracked the ice.

I can eat now. I can breathe now. I can do the raffle tickets now. And as I do, I gather feedback from people. They think it’s amazing. That it’s catchy. One tells me that except for 3 people at her table, the rest had remained staring even after the lights were back on. Other people ask me whether I do PR or something for a living because they thought it was exquisite. I blush as I write this now; imagine how I looked then.

I believe I could’ve done better. I always think there is room for improvement, especially when I have no training in directing and I continue to feel lucky and blessed to have worked with people like Cristi who helped immensely with the technical part. With our Light into Europe team who were on spot, on time, beautiful and warm and patient and understanding and made our work easy.

I know I sound like a kid, talking about exceptional feelings, too strong emotions and an almost breaking into crying kind of attitude. But it’s how I felt. And every time I watch this video, I get the same feeling. Perhaps it’s because I know the struggle behind it, but even more so, because I’ve been with all these people you see in there and know their story, their passion, their problems and can look at the images differently than you can. So I’m left to believe that I have transferred some of this emotion into the video so it rubs off on you. Because this is all that matters at the end of the day.

Before naming all the people who’ve participated in the making of both videos and the documentary, I will just say that in England, people watching the video have started making donations. WOHOO!!! It’s what this effort is all about.

So here are my heroes:

CAST

Stan Platt
Camelia Platt
Light into Europe founders

Andra Stan
 - suffering from progressive sight loss due to neurologic disease -

Anna Kingley
- Guide Dog Program volunteer from Australia -

Professor Florin Barbu
- hearing impaired -

Vali Costiuc
- severe hearing loss due to improper antibiotic treatment -

David Costiuc

Oana Uilacan
- double sight and hearing deficiency -

Andreea Vlad

Claudia Sandu
- sight loss due to deficient treatment in maternity -  

Petruta Constatinescu

Viorel Solomon

Anca Panait

Dan Antim

Lacramioara Pintelei

Petra Pintelei
- severe sight loss -

Camelia Horiceanu
- severe hearing loss -

Sandica Stoicescu
- severe hearing loss -

Razvan Mireuta
- total sight loss -

Stefan Ilioaica
- total sight loss –

Liviu Harasim
- deaf -

Metea Alexandra
- hearing impaired –

Klint and Max
- guide dogs for the blind –

Our two volunteers from Jerusalem and
the “evil gang” from the School for the Hearing Impaired shooting




CAMERA
Cristi Stan

Assistant to Cameraman
Denisa Velicu

Photography
Silviu Pal

Written and Directed
Melania Radutoiu

THANK YOU!

Give yourself a big round of applause ladies and gents. 
You have mine, until my palms go sore.
Because you deserve it!


Link to the video:


Monday, November 11, 2013

Guy Fawkes and his “followers”


This is an article I did recently for Light into Europe, covering the Bonfire night. If you didn't know about this really fun event, read below and prepare for next year because it will be held again in beginning of November. More details on the Light into Europe website and FB page. MUAH and have a great week!
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November 1st and I found myself again at the Crown Plazza Hotel where Light into Europe hosts every year the Bonfire night in the back gardens. And every year I asked myself the same question: why do the British celebrate a bunch of people trying to set the Parliament on fire? It seems that back in the year 1605, a man name Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes and some angry chaps gathered few kegs of gunpowder and set out to blow up Parliament with the hopes of killing King James I. The event has been known as the Gunpowder Plot ever since.

Well, all being said, the Brits of modern days take advantage of this episode in their history to lit up the place with fireworks and bonfires, getting together to share food, drinks and merriment. I am not British, but I surely enjoy the celebration so I do my best to attend. This year, with Halloween barely out of the picture, Stan and Camelia Platt, the founders of the foundation, together with their team of employees and volunteers, thought of bringing both fiery spirits together. Therefore, I was welcomed right from the start by some grinning pumpkin faces watching over the alley leading to where all the fun was happening.



It was cold, but the laughter of the children chasing among the pumpkins and the fire roaring a few feet away, kept the spirits up and the line of guests grew bigger as I was helping with the raffle tickets at the entrance. It was a fairy tale picture. I am not a winter person but people’s faces glowing in the light, holding a cup of hot wine steaming with orange and cinnamon spices, made me want to join the kids and trash the leaves flooding at our feet. More than three hundred guests swarmed around this fire sending tongues of gold into the clear night sky. The smell from the grilled sausages mixed with the vapors of the boiling potatoes made my mouth water, but I did not abandon the auction table. There were more than fifty items waiting for their winners at the end of the evening.



Among the guests I spotted many of the beneficiaries of the foundation: Petra, Razvan and Stefan, three lovely young people with sight disabilities. Klint, Stefan’s guide dog was extra excited with the attention (and food!) he got. Soon, Anca – who had just returned from six months of training in UK – brought her partner, a beautiful black Labrador who would find a home with one of the sight impaired children. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. We sold more tickets than our pockets could take and I was inspired by the number of people attending and the diversity of nationalities. From Italian, Spanish, German, English to American and of course, Romanian. I hope I’m not missing anyone. His Excellency, the British Ambassador Mr. Martin Harris brought along the entire family and he wasn’t the only one. With passing year, I see more and more children attending and what would an outdoor party like this be without the mayhem of little heads with blond/chestnut/red hair curls running around like mad? It keeps the parents alert; the moms at least, who are always such a soothing image to my eyes when they chased them around with plates of food, trying to feed them; if possible! The men on the other hand, played it cool and I saw them clustering under the tall trees with a beer or wine cup in their hands. Hopefully they’re not discussing business!
When I finally joined the crowd, I was too busy to even notice anyone anymore as I had to fill my plate with goodies to indulge in. After a day’s worth of work in the office, a warm meal, the friendly faces and a bear hug from Stan feelt like the right patch for a worker’s broken spirit. I brought mom along and I was happy to see that, despite her lack of English language abilities, she made many friends keeping busy with her newly formed “moms group”. She did take her time to tell me just how much she enjoyed the “mititei”. Uh, I had to find those! Lots of people to serve, but organization has been pin pointed down to the last detail thus food was being served at multiple tables so two minutes later I built a small “mountain” of food in my plate. The chef all dressed up in his fancy white attire, but carefully wrapped in a winter coat to keep him from freezing, smiled elegantly while adding another bon on my already Everest-ian pile. But alas! Mela wanted an apple too! I looked like a late Halloween partier, with my pockets stuffed and a crooked smile on my face. I found my group of volunteers, but before I even took a bite, a cascade of cameras forbade my tummy from welcoming the much needed calories. It took me a little while how to adapt my behavior around children and young people with disabilities so that I am fully aware of their needs. So I put my arms around Petra and Razvan and turn them towards the camera. “Smile!!!” More people jumped in at the last minute and the result was an uneven row of teeth from many smiles, grins and funny faces, smudged a bit by mom’s unprofessional approach of photography. But still such lovely pictures!






In fact, we’re not the only ones doing it. Whole groups get together in what seems to be a big family reunion for a BBQ in November. Volunteers, sponsors, partners, guests, founders, people whom I’ve met at the dance practices for the Caledonian Ball – they’re all there and I was thankful I got to see them and discuss life differently than through emails and work calls.
But all conversations end the moment when the sound of the first fireworks broke behind the line of trees bordering the garden. A dozen flashes went off at the same time trying to capture the amazing festival of lights raining on us in showers of green, red, violet and gold. Every now and then I heard the little ones around me go “Wow!” and only the innocent amazement of a child can be so infectious to make you gaze at fireworks in a different way than you did a minute before. One last thunder, so high above our heads, sent an universe of stars across the garden. A wave of applauds welcomed the last sparks coming down on us while the children ran towards the fences thinking they can catch one of these falling stars. What a night!
At about 9:00PM the crowd was ready to cut the cake. The ladies drew near because there was a competition on, about the weight of the cake and they were all invited to guess. The winner got a nice bottle of Whisky. I wish I came with a more detailed and fascinating name for that drink (something like: a malts 10 years old Jack Daniels special edition etc etc) but I am not good with alcohol. Stay assured though - it was the kind of whiskey any man present that evening would have wanted in his bar! The kids were even more ecstatic considering the sheer size of the sweet British flag on display before their eyes. At the other end of the alley, Eileen and I were preparing the tickets for the silent auction. We were in such a hurry to get them all together and put them up that we almost forgot to add the white ones (there are always different colors to increase the winning chances for the guests!) One of the ladies kindly let us know we’re missing this little detail in our heist and we immediately corrected the mistake. I am touched and humbled by our guests, their fine way to communicate, with their beautiful and warm personalities. It always shows through in moments like these and making me enjoy these kinds of events even more.



His Excellency, Mr. Martin Harris came to the rescue and spent quite some time with us to extract the tickets and pin them on the display board. He was incredibly patient with our numb fingers and stubborn paper pins that would not stick to the board. He shared smiles and kind words to everyone queuing up behind us to learn of the winning tickets. One by one the table emptied and we were delighted to see everyone go home with a little something from the event. I had my eyes on a cook book for Christmas, but I was too busy eating and forgot to chip in the auction and get my tickets. Next time.

And there will be a next time. Next year. You should come; if reading this little story of my experience at the Bonfire night stirred your interest, trust me, it’s not even close to the real thing. Just put down November as a fun month in your calendar because after the Bonfire, there is the Caledonian Ball. Scottish dances. But more about that, in a different story.  Meanwhile, don’t forget to check the website for Light into Europe and their Facebook page to find out what happens in the other 11 months of the year. You’d be amazed to learn the number of events and activities they have in store for you. So I can only hope to see you at one of them so you can tell me your own story with Light into Europe.




Monday, November 4, 2013

Germany. Day 8 and 9. Munich

Good morning Bucharest, good morning Romania! I sound like Larry King right now, with the fine exception that I live on the other side of the ocean and he has his show in the evening haha

Anyway, ladies and gents, it’s Monday, for those of you who have not noticed and despite the bad news this word entails, Mela had some decent rest this weekend and is ready to take the bull by the horns. Hopefully we’re talking about a medium size bull with smaller horns haha.

I have so much work to do and I am faced with the horrible choice of having fun with my colleagues for the following two weekends – or – stay home and work on the trailer and documentary for Light into Europe – and it’s killing me. But sacrifices must be made and, even though, I am making terrible efforts to please everyone, at the end of the day, some things have to have priority. I suck at prioritizing though! HA!

Coming back to the main subject of this blog – namely the two last days of our vacation in Germany – I have to say, I haven’t done all that bad considering we’re only a week away from the end of the actual vacation. So things are still fresh in my mind. I’m really happy and content with having detailed all these adventures, because soon enough I will forget the spicy details. Plus, when I’m 85, I will collect all this info and put it together in a book that will turn in a post-mortem bestseller haha An old granny’s erotic dreams I guess haha No, seriously, my life in about 500 pages, probably in bullet points to be able to cover everything. And it has to happen after I’m gone so I can sit back on cloud no. 9, eating popcorn and watching everyone’s faces going WHAT!?!? When they read the book. And I would die – not that I could anymore at that point haha – laughing, poke God and say “You, my good man, gave me quite a life, but this is precious!”

Well, wasn’t that a complete deviation from the subject? Haha This is what happens when I have enough sleep. My brain is too awake and starts beating around bush with extravagant ideas about itself. And myself. I think sometimes, my brain is an entity of its own and disregards my body or my heart and just comes up with plans it alone understands and when shit hits the fan, my heart and my body summon the brain to a meeting and bitch at it for working them too hard with ideas and plans that are far more advanced than my capabilities right now. Does that make any sense? Forget it! Haha Back to Germany.

DAY 7.

So: we woke up on Saturday morning, with these fine people – Anca and Bernie – and they don’t let us do anything. They arrange the table; continuously apologizing for God knows what we haven’t even took notice of. I tell you, the table looks as if we’re staying at the Ritz, perfect alignment of each item, from plates to cups to knives to napkins and I don’t even bother getting out of my PJs to welcome this amazing feast. So much food on the table, they could feed a horse as we say and with such pleasant company we indulge in a long morning, chatting away memories, new plans and happenings from the year that has just passed away. Useless to say, that the night before, mom and I read some texts in German for Anca’s total amusement. Or we want to believe it was amusing for her. It probably hurt her ears pretty badly and damaged her sense of foreign languages, but mom and I surely built a new muscle in our tongues trying to pronounce things. So Bernie and Anca spend some time with us now explaining the differences in German dialects which we can perceive but not reiterate. It’s fun.

It’s late in the morning when we move out to the S-Bahn and into Munich. It takes about 40 minutes to get there. We jump from the S-Bahn into the tram to go to Nymphenburg castle – and I only know how to spell that ‘cause I took a picture of the damn name haha. The four of us share a partner ticket which allows us to travel for an entire day with whatever means of transportation anywhere in Munich. Awesome! Plus it makes me feel like I’m back in college, all of us chipping in to get one ticket for everyone. It takes a little before we get to the castle, which is actually located in Munich, just in a different district. I wouldn’t have said Munich is so friggin’ big. The scene reminds me a bit of Versailles. Uh, my heart tickles with excitement. Just in case you didn’t know I am a sucker for Versailles – I could go to France just to visit those gardens and stay there for a whole day, experimenting every corner, nook and cranny in that wonder place. My dream is to get Emily, go to Paris, rent two of those old fashioned royal dresses and go to Versailles topretend to be Ladies of the Old together. Hell. I’ll even let people take pictures with me. Because I’m sure they’ll believe I’m part of the staff trying to add a little flavor to the place to sell it better haha. I don’t care (this goes into my granny’s erotic dreams book haha)

As we move in along the artificial channel, we notice that the lake in front of the castle has been drained, which is a pity because there are many swans and seagles, ducks and such other birds that are literally swimming in mud right now and all in all, it creates a rather depressing décor. Still, there are plenty of people going around. The castle is pretty large, beautiful on the outside and spacious on the inside. We go into the shop inside but quickly decide to visit the gardens first and then come back and enter the palace. I always like the gardens more. And as usual, they take my breath away. Plus it is fall, my favorite season and the sun mingling with the golden fiery colors of the forest is breathtaking. We walk along the large alley coming from the palace, around the round fountain in the middle, admiring the statues siding the garden. We pass that and then we end up in the small sinuous path ways hidden from sight and I love those! They are swamped in leaves and I trash my shoes through the sea of orange, yellow and rust of the autumn carpet, just as I did when I was a child. I cannot get enough of the sun so warm on my face, painting a scenery above my head that no camera could really capture. We discover a restaurant among the trees and we sit down to have a coffee and some sweets. Mom is learning how to use my camera (by the end of the week she mastered it pretty well hehe). We have a small discussion trying to figure out the difference between a cup and a mug to then realize a mug was a cup in the restaurant terms so that was fun. Bernie and Anca have a plump cake while mom and I have mango and strawberry cake with café lattes on the side. Thank you Bernie for ordering all that! Haha
The channel
The girls

See what I mean?


The paparazzi following us around hehe
I always make faces like that. I am blind as a bat in the sun, so taking pictures against the light it's always hard for me 
Love love love
Mela and her day dreaming about gardens
Snapping picture of Anca 
Yeah, that little dot right there is mom!
I love this picture. It's so us.
Ok, so this little man had about ten spectators watching him follow that bired until he fell stumbling. He was so adorable, that when he did fell everyone went awwwww... His parents were blushing! haha
Oh wait that's again! I can never make up my mind when it comes to pictures. The colors are so awesome!!! Ah yes, and we look so good hahaha Anca is going to kill me


I wasn't treying to read German just figure out what cake I want from the way it looked haha
uh uh uh ... hot haha. The coffee! The waiter brought spilled all our coffees. Impecable service I'd say!
Us reading German again!
We then move out following the intricate trails of the park deeper into the woods until we decide we have gone far enough so we are on our way back, chatting and taking pictures of the Canadian geese flying above our heads. Anca is a safe and clean environment girl and she is into birds and horses, so any sight of those makes her happy. And there are plenty of these beauties around the garden. People are jogging around us and I cannot find a more beautiful way of spending a Saturday morning than running in the royal gardens like they do. I wish I had a royal garden close to my place! Oh man…

Me love all these pictures!
This is one of my favorites of mom
I could get lost with mom in a forest like this and I wouldn't get bored. She wants to climb everything.
Teaching mom the technicalities hehe
I was discussing with Anca my turmoil with the virus I got on the laptop a few months ago

Just look at that... I could see a 1,000 stories unfolding just on this one path... My mind is messing with me.



One of my other favorites... I have lots haha
From the castle we take the tram back to downtown. Just as side note: as we were moving towards the station we spot some big ass fish – as in really fat ones! – underneath the bridge crossing the channel. And they knew people were there to feed them so they would swim in circles asking for food. And mom’s like “nu are mama ce sa va dea sa papati!” (“Momma has nothing to give you babies!”) I was like, “mom, these piglets don’t need any more feeding!” Soon they won’t be able to go underneath the bridge with the fat on their backs! Seriously! I understand fat storage for winter but this is ridiculous! 
The water pigletts! haha
Bernie did a great job with this picture!
Eventually we arrive in the center of Munich and the crowd is unbelievable. The modern hits us in the face. Yet as we walk the large main street noticing the variety of the folks, we run into many chapels, churches and cathedrals, all so different, yet all so amazing in their own way. We light candles in two of them and take a little tome to grasp on that feeling of peace and fulfillment only the sacred house of God can give you. Quiet, when outside the world is blooming with chit chat, shopping, pictures, laughter and baby cries. We’re back out, we pass the Dome where there is a whole legend going on, of the Devil leaving its foot prints on one of the floor tiles. If I got it correctly from Anca, it seems that if you stand on that tile you can’t see any windows in the cathedral. If you change the angle slightly you see them all. It is is said that devil was trapped there and he burnt his footprints in the stone. I am sure Anca will correct me here if I got something wrong, but it was quiet a story. Good fiction material anyway.


One of the best pics of Mom and Anca on the tram back downtown

To the subway!







The Dome and the devil story inside
We were supposed to meet Eric and Andreea also. I haven’t seen Eric since last summer when we accidentally met in Lipscani. He’s an old and dear friend whom I’ve known since 2008. Now he’s back in Germany and we haven’t seen each other all that often so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he had settled in Munich and we could meet on this occasion. I couldn’t have possibly been there and not get to see him. We stop before a make-up store (of course!) and when we get out: surprise! Eric and Andreea are there and we break into an avalanche of Romanian-English-German words and hugs. I love it when he speaks to mom: “Ce faci mama!?” And mom, so tiny next to Eric gives him the best bear hug she has in store and says “Bine! Ce faci tu? Cand mai veniti la Govora?” Ah, that in turn gets us talking about their weekend over at my grandparents a few years ago where we had so much fun and so everyone plans on a comeback for the sole purpose of checking grandpa’s tuica again haha. They almost camped in my basement to be close to the barrels! Haha

As we walk towards the main square, we keep taking pictures and hugging each other, in such a darling and dorkish fashion that I can’t stop smiling thinking about it. We get in front of thise huge old looking building and Bernie amusingly announces that is the new city hall. A building across from it, which looks much newer is supposed to be the old city hall. I cannot come to understand how the hell this goes because the old city hall looks newer than this beautiful antique, statue covered and intricate sculpture, immense building called the new city hall. We laugh about it for a few minutes. As we take the corner, Eric insists that we go into this famous chocolate/coffee store and we spend another 20 minutes in there, mesmerizing at the delicatessen in there. I work my magic on mom, trying to convince her to get some of that exotic coffee for her. She complains she doesn’t drink much anyway, that’s too big to carry around, that’s too much anyway and so on and so forth. Jesus Christ woman! Can we just get the damn coffee?!?! NO! Argh!!!! So we go out later than everyone else and as we step out, it’s dark so we don’t see the group until I hear a shout from across the street “Hai Romania!” haha It’s Eric! Wop Wop!!! A few pictures later we decide to find some place and have dinner. During our quest, mom and I get lucky and find a place to get our Munich magnets so we’re happy now.

The new city hall
And the little white one with red towers in the back, is the old city hall... what the hell! haha

LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture!

All restaurants are filled and we haunt the place for at least an hour before we find a restaurant that at least offers us a table for drinks at the bar, hoping that one will be available soon so we can have dinner. Eventually, the bartender realizes we mean business and he finds us a spot in the crowd. We sit down and open the menus and it reads Chinese in German to me. I ask Bernie, “So what is this?” “Pork.” “What about this?” “Pork. Ok. “And this?” “Pork.” What am I missing? How many kinds of pork do they have and what’s the difference. He tries to explain and mom is laughing all the way through his documented explanations. Ok, fine. Pork it will be. And then the waiter passes us by with a plate that has salad in it and what appears to be stew and I’m like THERE! I want that! I signal mom towards the guy receiving the plate and I say it in Romanian, as loud as I can to cover the noise around, “Vreau ce mananca nenea ala!” (I want what that guys is having!) and I shamelessly point my finger at the man’s back, unaware of what was coming. He turns towards me, smiles sexily and says (in plain friggin’ Romanian!): “Nenea manaca tocanita de ciuperci!” (The guy is having mushroom stew!) MWUAHAHA! The tables explodes into laughing and I dig a hole underneath it to hide my head like an ostrich. Mother of God! We always met Romanians like this, when we least expected it.

Look at this! I can relive that feeling just by looking at this picture!
Awwww!!! Miss you guys already!

The restaurants looked more like wedding halls and they were all reserved and full

The thing that guy was eating hahaha
When we finally settle down, mom and I have the stew. Bernie as usual, very kind, orders everything for us in a perfect German out of which I only understand “water” haha Eric orders a special entrée so we dig in while waiting for the main course and we’re happy to explore the taste of Bavarian pretzels with salty cheese, red union, fresh cucumbers and lettuce. Everyone’s having beer of course, except for mom and I, who are having wassa or wasse – water! Haha Hours and many pictures later we finally leave the restaurant to go our separate ways. Lots of hugs and promises for future visits, and again many hugs and we finally say good bye to Eric and Andreea.



Za ladies making comments on the Gemini...
The gemini ignoring them with a grin haha
We arrive home very late, take a quick shower and then hit the sack.

DAY 8.

We wake up to the same aroma of Anca’s coffee, the boiled eggs and the wonderful salmon and blue cheese. Bernie and Anca have negotiated with us to also have lunch with them before we leave for the airport. Plus, Anca and I have planned to see the cartoon “Nils Holgersson and the Wild Geese”. If you did not see that, you should!!! Such a wonderful story. I saw it so long ago when I was a child, but unfortunately we did not have the time, eventually, to see it all properly, so I’ll have watxh it again one of these weekends.

Soon after breakfast, we took off to visit the neighborhood. I loved the houses, their unique style, the paintings and garden decorations. I shouldn’t even say more, the pictures can speak for themselves. I am only attaching a few from the many we took. 


This is soo cool! It gives an aura to these houses that anywhere else would not mean much, but here, it's just perfect
A Mela kind of picture hehe
















We return in time for lunch and we have a Bavarian specialty of sausages, pretzels and mustard. Oh yes, and a cheese that’s more of combination between sour cream, blue cheese and “cascaval”, one of those parmesan kind of cheeses. Hmm, delicious! We have some apples and watch Nils Holgersson, but alas, we must go. The time has changed the night before so I check the hour a hundred times to make sure we’re not getting to the airport an hour earlier or God forbidden, an hour later!

It starts to rain; to pour actually and we all nestle inside Bernie’s car as he drives us to the S-Bahn. They decided to travel with us all the way to the airport – completely unnecessary, considering the long way and wasted time – but they are so nice and so concerned with us, they just want to do it and we can’t convince them otherwise. We find our way from the S-Bahn to the Central Station and from there to the airport. We arrive on time, actually a little earlier and we stop in a shop to grab some sweets for my grandparents and that special cheese. We find it and the sweets as well so our shopping in Germany is now officially concluded.

We take one last picture before they leave us at check in and I must admit, I got emotional. They turn around to wave at us one more time and I see mom in tears. Anca and Bernie are really good friends; those kind of people you meet in circumstances where other people would just make formal connections and nothing beyond that. But Bernie is a Gemini like me (we’re actually born on the same day! Haha) so we understand that need for socialization, therefore our friendship built fast throughout the years. As for Anca, she was the fine addition to our friendship and the more I get to know her better, the more I like what I discover. I hope to see them for at least dinner in December if they come around. Or perhaps go to Delta together to see, as Bernie said: “stufaris la stanga, stufaris la dreapta!” haha

Eh, I got emotional all together now. I feel like I’m ending my vacation a second time with this last blog about it. So… this is it. Hope you enjoyed Germany through my eyes and we’ll see you next time, with some other crap that occurs to me haha.

Fortunately, the world is a big mug of inspiration and I sip from it every single day.
Today I had to much sugar in it that’s why I messed up the beginning of this blog so badly haha

MUAH