The Casino is the most iconic building in Constanta. recently it was bought by an investor who intends to renovate it. For some reason that appears to be related to the upcoming renovations, they opened up the interior of the Casino for tours. It is quite ramshackled now, but I could tell that is must have been quite spectacular in its glory days.
|Angelina, Josi, and me by the grand staircase inside the Casino.|
|One of the three classrooms in which I teach the Money Sense program|
|Alina, me, and Deliana at the Money Sense Train the Trainers program in Bucuresti|
I returned home to Constanta late Sunday and then left on Tuesday afternoon for Bucuresti again. This time, I was only staying for the night to take a really early flight on Wednesday to Sofia, Bulgaria with the other ETAs from Romania, to the ETA conference for most of Eastern Europe. ETAs were there from Estonia and all the countries directly south, down in a straight line to Bulgaria. The conference ended on Friday and we returned to Romania on Saturday. Sunday morning I returned to Constanta. My trip to Sofia was not without its speed bumps. Since Bulgaria is on a different currency, all the ETAs planned on getting Bulgarian leva from the ATM at the airport. Brilliant plan, right? You'd think so, but our plan had some flaws. Two out of five of us got money from the ATM, then it was my turn in line and neither my US debit card nor my Romanian debit card worked at the ATM. The two Romanian ETAs behind me tried to withdraw cash, too. None of them were successful. Then, a worker comes out of the currency exchange office located adjacent to the ATM, telling us that the ATM is empty. That's right, the ATM ran out of money. Luckily, the two people in our groups who had successfully withdrawn money from the bank had enough money for the two taxis we needed to get to the hotel.
At the hotel, I tried another ATM. Again, my US debit card didn't work! I tried my Romanian debit card and was successful in making a withdrawal, but it was the end of the month, and I didn't have very much money left in the account. I ended up running out of money by the end of the trip, but Jessica, the ETA in Timisoara, lent me some money, which I repaid to her in Romanian lei. Of course, I was still able to buy way too many souvenirs and now have many mementos of my trip. Also, after an hour online at the hotel, my internet cut out and simply would not come back. I tried every troubleshooting option I could find online, and it wouldn't work!
|A view of southern Sofia out my hotel window.|
|St. Alexander Nevsky Bulgarian Orthodox Church, built on the highest point in Sofia.|
|Some traditional Bulgarian musicians. Just after this picture, in the middle of the song, on of the musicians fired off blanks from a pistol. It was really alarming!|
|Me and Jessica, the ETA in Timisoara, at a traditionally Bulgarian themed restaurant|
|One of the dancers who entertained us during our meal|
|The Romanian ETAs|
When I returned to Romania, my US debit card worked just fine, and my internet connected without any problems at the hotel in Bucuresti. I have no idea why either didn't work in Bulgaria (my bank says they did not block my debit card), but I sure am glad they worked just fine!
The following week was pretty standard: I taught four classes at the university, seven for Money Sense (the eighth session conflicts with my classes at the university), attended several hours of Romanian class, and spent some time with friends.
|The American Corner, decorated for my Thanksgiving activity|
|My students, plus a guest at the Thanksgiving Activity on the 25th|
On Thursday, November 24th, the real Thanksgiving, all the American Fulbrighters were taken on a trip around Bucuresti. Our first stop was Mogosoaia Palace. After visiting Peles Castle, I was expecting something a bit more grand, but it was still lovely to visit, with a modern museum collection. For me, the highlight of the Palace was the original mosaic flooring, which was especially notable as it was constructed of two levels of clear glass, with gold leaf in between them. The floor was a bit dirty, but when you looked at it in the right light, it shone, and I felt rather guilty about walking on it during the tour, especially since someone was hard at work restoring the floor where some tiles had come loose. After lunch at Mogosoaia, not far beyond the city, we continued onward.
Our next stop was the National Museum of Art, which is located in the old royal palace in Bucuresti's Revolution Square. Since it had been damaged in the Anti-communist revolution in 1989, the palace has very little of the original decorations or features from its days as the royal residence. Still, the renovations were quite lavish, and I was pleasantly surprised at how refined the museum is. The grand staircase is still intact. It was amazingly impressive, and I felt like Cinderella as I descended three stories, as the staircase split and rejoined at every level. We went to exhibits for Romanian artists and for some of the classical masters. I definitely enjoyed it, although it was too much at once, and I got very fatigued by the end.
We next grabbed drinks and snacks at a cafe, then went to an orchestral concert at the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Roman) concert hall. I wish I could have taken pictures inside, because it was breathtakingly beautiful! Not only did it have a beautifully painted dome ceiling, the architecture was unexpected but very elegant and lovely. If you get a chance, visit this site to see pictures of it. Romanian Athenaeum
|This is the building where Ceausescu was holed up when the Revolution began in 1989. The obelisk impaling the cage is a memorial to the Revolution.|
|My stuffed, roasted chicken|
|Camille, Angelina, and our Thanksgiving dinner|
|My plate loaded up with Thanksgiving dinner.|