Paltinis: when nature becomes your friend

travel to Paltinis

Maria at the top of Batrana Peak near Paltinis, Romania.

The day we decided to move to Sibiu we were happy with the idea of being closer to nature. During our first weekend we had to chose between arranging our home and going and explore the forest, Dumbrava, that starts near the center of the Sibiu. For us it was not a difficult question. Right after breakfast we packed some food and diapers, of course, we dressed our baby in warm clothing, and put on a big smile as we made our way to the forest. We followed the same routine the following week and it was not long until we became excited to see more. We had heard about a place called Paltinis about 45 minutes outside of Sibiu in the mountains. A daily bus service from the city provides easy access to this area. It was during the first weekend of February we decided to go and explore Romania’s highest mountain resort.

When we got off the bus we realized that we hadn’t looked at a map to identify hiking trails that we would want to explore, or even where they started. “Oh, well”, we said, “we will find something!”. With that we started walking randomly off the road where the bus had dropped us off. Within a 100m we saw a sign that was pointing towards a trail carved through the forest. With the plan to turn back if it would be too difficult to hike or if it became uncomfortable for our baby, we decided to follow it in to the unknown forest. It was beautiful and the trees protected us from the bitter cold wind of winter in the mountains. We had no idea where the trail was leading but it did not seem to matter. After a steady decline the path started to climb up. We were excited hoping for a panoramic view of the mountains and valleys and we were not disappointed!

We arrived at an altitude where the forest abruptly changed in to a serene, white mountain face with a steep climb up. At that moment our phone rang. It was our family calling to congratulate us on our first wedding anniversary. I felt that discovering this trail and the serenity we found here was the gift we received from Paltinis. Since then we catch bus number 22 almost every Sunday when the weather is favourable. We have met some wonderful people who live or work in Paltinis and they are always thrilled to see our little one in the fresh mountain air. As we find and explore more trails we are always reminded of how blessed we are.

The weather is getting warmer and we are able to go further with the baby. On our last visit we decided to climb all the way up to a mountain peak, which only Urooj had climbed alone earlier this year . I am talking about the Batrana peak that sits at over 1910 meters altitude. The tough hike up is worth the effort and the wonderful view of the Cindrel range well deserved. After arriving at the peak we enjoyed a little picnic and while looking out at the beautiful landscape around us, we realized it was our baby’s six month anniversary! I felt as if it was a gift for my daughter to be up there experiencing that soothing energy of the mountains on a warm sunny day. Truly nature is a living being, I feel with its own heart and will and a lot to offer to us.

Carpathian Mountains from Paltinis

Paltinis offers access to incredible views of the Carpathians and life in Transylvania.

 

Paltinis has witnessed many beautiful memories. For Romanians, Paltinis is the proof that culture can survive in the most harshest of environments. In the ’70s the philosopher Constantin Noica ran a school here inspired by the Platonic academy. For almost ten years people participated at seminars and open discussions about fundamental texts and modern philosophy. During the communist years when the regime had imprisoned the freedom to think, in times when the right to express your ideas was actually a dream, Noica led what he called, “resistance through culture” right there in Paltinis.

If this place would be a person it would be a kind, welcoming, generous, and loyal one. It would be a friend that always makes you feel you are special. But then again, these hills are alive and so what stops me from considering them my friends?

Poem: Glorious Promise

Fagaras Mountains, Sibiu

A view of the Făgăraș Mountains as seen from Sibiu, Romania. Photo by Urooj Qureshi. View full-size.


As I descend
I may not be visible
Believe it
I am still there.

Before I go
I want you to know
You are king
With a shining crown.

Your surface may be getting cold
You life getting dark
So take these rays
Warm your heart.

As I descend
I promise you friend
I’ll be back
To illuminate your glory.

Sleep now
Be calm
It’s a sun’s promise
To a mighty mountain.

Poem by Urooj Qureshi

13 Jan, 2014 – This poem was inspired while observing the last rays of the sun illuminate the peaks of the Făgăraș mountains (seen in the photo, above) during sunset in Sibiu, Romania.

BBC Travel Pioneer

BBC Travel is on the hunt for Travel Pioneers! This is a wonderful opportunity for people who are mad about travel and in living their dream are touching the lives of people around the world. BBC defines them as “people who are changing the way we think about the world“.

BBC Travel is inviting people (like you!) to nominate a traveler who you feel is doing something truly innovative and inspiring. They are looking for people who are either experiencing the world in a new way or helping others do so. There’s no limit on what the individuals might be doing – it could be something physical, educational, or organizational. The criteria is that the nominee is thinking about travel in a fresh way, and that their project or expedition is a reflection of that.

Nomination Process

To nominate, send a short email (no more than 250 words) to travel@bbc.com, telling BBC:

  • Who you nominate?
  • What is the nominee doing or planning on doing?
  • Why you believe it’s going to change the travel sphere?

Do you think I’m a Travel Pioneer?

Travel PioneerI am honoured by all the emails and Facebook messages I have recieved from people who wish to nominate me as a Travel Pioneer. A few people have asked me to compile some points that to help them in composing their nomination letters. As promised, here they are:

  • On June 3, 2012, Urooj Qureshi gave up the comforts of a well paying job, family, and home in Canada to experience more of the world.
  • He started his world tour learning more about Canada and it’s vast natural landscape.
  • On June 20, 2012, Urooj started on the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) walking 850 kilometers from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago, Spain.
  • Urooj has enjoyed the hospitality and cultural treats offered by locals from the villages of Portugal to the Berbers of the Sahara. Since 2012, his journey has taken him through Canada, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Uganda, Kenya, all the way to Pakistan.
  • Community building and serving humanity is an opportunity that travel presents to Urooj. Since setting out on his journey, he has:
    • Founded a social enterprise – The Lotus Project –  improving access to quality education and skills development in Pakistan.
    • Volunteered with NGO’s working to improve the quality of life and education for youth in Uganda and Kenya.
    • Helped raise awareness for environmental hazards and social impact of the Rosia Montana Gold Mining project in Romania.
  • Urooj is a travel writer and photographer who inspires people from around the world to explore the world their way and offers guidance and useful tips for budget travel and survival skills.
  • Urooj’s first journey was when he was just 15 days old. Since he has lived in and explored over 38 countries.

 

BBC Travel Pioneer website:
http://www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20131030-do-you-know-a-travel-pioneer

The Rosia Montana Issue

Rosia Montana

Tăul Mare in the Romanian Carpathian mountains. Photo by Alexandra Dodu

As I look out the window of the train I see the stunning views of the Carpathian mountains in Romania. What I see reminds me of Canada. The spectacular Transylvanian landscape takes me back to Gatineau Park and the rolling hills of Quebec and Ontario. When the train stops at small town stations I feel as if I have arrived in small town Canada. Whenever the train crosses the two lane highways and dirt tracks cutting through acres of farmland, I remember driving through our country roads. From personal encounters, I know the people here are warm, welcoming people who will gladly share the best they have with a complete stranger. Yep, looking out from the window of the train I can easily mistake this picturesque land to be Canada.

Even at this level not everything is the same though. There are differences that may not be as apparent to you and me but to only a handful of our fellow countrymen. They see these differences as opportunity to exploit the land and use methods to destroy its ecosystem by means not acceptable by Canada itself. Over the past year I have been hearing of statements saying that “Canadians want to destroy the Carpathians to mine for gold”. More recently when the when demonstrations broke out in Romania against the Romanian government passing a bill to allow mining in Rosia Montana, I finally took the time to learn more about what’s going on and the alleged “Canadian” involvement in the destruction of environment.

Gabriel Resources Ltd. is a Canadian TSX-listed (GBU.TSX) company, headquartered in the United Kingdom. Under the banner of Rosia Montana Gold Corporation S.A. which holds mining rights in Romania has been seeking permission to build an open cast mine. The project, as presented, would require heavy use of toxic cyanide, spoil mountain peaks, and completely annihilate the cultural and archeological heritage of the region. In Canada cyanide is considered a hazardous substance and is firmly regulated. In Romania, regulation is not that simple and the best of example of that was a major cyanide spill in Baia Mures in Romania that caused considerable damage to the environment. Moreover, the site marked for mining is protected under the national legal system and was declared as the rural area with the richest heritage in Romania. Imagine a foreign company with the rights to dig up Halifax to for oil and demolishishing historic sites such as Pier 21 and the Citadel were a part of the deal. Does not sound right to me but this what may happen in Rosia Montana for a royalty of 20% paid to the Romanian government for their cooperation and displacing citizens from a region with history dating back to the 2nd century.

Traditions in Rosia Montana

People preserve centuries old culture and practices in throughout the Carpathians in Eastern Europe. Photo by Lorin Niculae

We Canadians pride ourselves in being the friendliest nation on the planet. For our contributions to international humanitarian efforts, for protecting human rights and freedoms, and for welcoming from people around the world. Yet, it seems, that the narrative about Canadia is changing to one that does not meet the represent Canadian citizens. The Roşia Montană issue is one that Romanians need to resolve on their own by engaging their leadership to make the right choice. But as a Canadian I feel uneasy about how generations of Romanians will remember us if this project goes through.

I don’t know what we, Canadians, can do to support the case to protect Rosia Montana. Nor do I know how we can create policies to so that companies bearing the Canadian flag adhere to the same standards when conducting business around the world, as we expect them to in Canada. For my part I feel that I can atleast share this story with you as you ought to know how we are being represented at times around the world.

Note to Romanians – Canadians are not their multinational companies working around the world. Many of us are just as concerned about the environmental, cultural, and archeological hazards that the Rosia Montana project proposes and we’re here to offer you our support however we can.

How can we help?

Links & Resources:

Travel Tips for Backpackers

Backpacking danes

Two Danish backpackers in front of the Vienna State Opera in July 2005.

Now that the internet made it possible to view the different marvelous places on our planet, it can be easily said that among the items in everyone’s bucket list is to travel. Since not everyone can afford extravagant travel packages (which includes posh hotels), the trend is more inclined to backpacking. Aside from staying within a budget, backpacking offers convenience as well, because you are free to move about without the hassle of luggage. It’s also a way to appreciate nature more, and to meet new and exciting people.

For those of you who are thinking about backpacking in the near future, here are a few tips to make your trip fun and memorable:

Plan ahead 

Of course, once you get to the city you plan to go to, you can avoid the tour guides and explore the place by yourself. However, you have to do a little research while you’re home; check ideal spots and reviews on TripAdvisor before booking a flight via dialaflight.com. This way, you can prepare for weather conditions, usual market prices, and hostel options.

Pack light 

The very essence of backpacking is, literally, carrying a backpack with all your holiday essentials. Pack items that are multi-functional, according to IndependentTraveler.com. It will be impractical to bring along swimsuits in every color, or different sweaters to match your mood. This way, you can also avoid baggage fees at airports.

Walk 

Since you’re in an unfamiliar land, you won’t know whether taking a cab will actually be the easiest way to go to a tourist attraction. Besides, you’d want to save up your cab fare for something more important, such as souvenirs or gastronomic adventures. Aside from physical exercise, walking is also a way of discovering interesting places which are sometimes missed by maps.