Friday, November 22, 2013

Guests in the Afternoon

 The traditions of Moldova run deep through the centuries, the people are known for their hospitality and generous spirit.

Should you happen to be the guest of folks in any village in Moldova in the summer time, you would be invited to sit under the grape vine pergola with fresh hand embroidered linens on the table.

 A large bowl with new honey in honeycombs, freshly baked bread would be placed in the middle with the invitation to partake.

Small clay pitchers are filled with sweet white wine..
.Grasa de Cotnari.

Polizu Manor

 Cotnari Winery    

Cotnari is situated in the north east of Romania, in the province of Moldova where it enjoys a particular micro-climate with the vineyards protected from the easterly winds by the hills. 

 The Grapes
The blend which is Cotnari has stayed the same for nearly 500 years: 
30% Grasa, 30% Feteasca Alba, 20% Tamaioasa and 20% Francusa, all Romanian varieties, all vinified separately and aged separately, then blended at the time of bottling. 

Grasa has a great affinity to the noble rot (Botrytis), while Tamaioasa adds the luscious aroma. Both grapes are harvested late in the autumn, when the sugar accumulation is very high.

Color-Golden yellow with a greenish tint.

Nose-Freshly baked bread, honey and apricot. 

Taste-Rich, complex sweet fruit, balanced by a lively acidity.
Serve well chilled as an aperitif or after a meal with a rich desert.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Castles, Legends and More Fortifications

Poienari Fortress

Cutting South through the Fagaras Mountains we come upon another Dracula residence, this time a real one, documented in history named Poienari Fortress on top of Cetatuia Mountain.

Vlad Tepes fortified it in the XV century to keep the Ottoman hoards from coming across the mountains in Transylvania. 

To reach it, one must clime 1480 steps through a dense forest. It was named "eagle's nest of ancient heroes", due to the battles won there recorded in history.

Nearby in Arefu village a majestic lake Vidraru, rich in rainbow trout reflects the summer blue sky and the rich green surrounding forests.

Hiding on the side of on hill is VALEA CU PESTI chalet.


During the Communist era, the villa was one of Ceausescu's private retreats. 
My father used to bring me in the summer time for trout fishing, great treat at the time, as we were the only ones there and the kitchen staff. 

These were "gifts" from some of his business associates in high ranking places.
Since the Revolution things have changed...thank God.

Today, the villa is a privately owned enterprise, great restaurant and comfortable room
s in a piece of heaven on Lake Vidraru.

One of the delicious ways the kitchen prepared our catch in the 1960's was



Quantities will depend on how many portions are made and how large are the trout

fresh trout, cleaned
olive oil

heavy cream
bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper

Potato salad

small redskin potatoes
chicken or vegetable stock
red onion cut julienne
boiled eggs
kalamata pitted olives
apple cider vinegar
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh dill chopped
head of Romaine lettuce

  • season trout with salt, pepper and sweet paprika inside and out, set aside.
  • beat softened butter with heavy cream to create a "batter" like consistency.
  • place a good amount of bread crumbs on a large platter.
  • dip the trout in the butter-cream mixture and in bread crumbs. Repeat the process so the crust will be thick.
  • in a large saute pan add enough olive oil to cover the bottom, heat for few minutes and place the trout on one side cooking for 8 minutes, turn with spatula and cook for 5 minutes more, or until golden brown.
Serve hot with a bowl of heavy cream to drizzle if needed and accompanied by 


  • wash the baby redskin potatoes, boil in stock until the fork penetrates them easily. Set aside to cool, when ready cut in slices and place in a large bowl.
  • cut boiled eggs in julienne, add to the potatoes, the red onion, olives, dill salt and pepper to taste.
  • cut Romaine lettuce in julienne and add to bowl ingredients. 
  • In a small bowl beat 2 parts of olive oil with 1 part apple cider vinegar to make a vinaigrette, add to the salad mixture and toss gently.

There was always a bottle of FETEASCA ALBA wine chilled that was brought with the meal.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Romanian Royals


English translation of the article Parfumul Reginei Maria in Nr. 404 13-20 March, 2000 Formula AS Magazine
Formula AS - Societate


Queen Marie's Perfume

For years the Hohenzollerns' castle at Sinaia has been invaded by a bizarre violet aroma. Communist authorities took "sturdy" actions against it, but could not contain it.
Romanian castles are well-known for their "quietude". They are not haunted, they are not paths for phantoms, like most of the Scottish castles, English, Norman, or Russian, for that matter. 

Hohenzollern kings, their families, almost all lead quiet lives, more than that, they were never "bloody". Those kinds of excesses would have loaded with negative energy the place, and would have produced strange apparitions, no doubt. 

Nevertheless, Peles castle, the summer residence of Carol I is a "clean" castle: no strong, sensational or out-of-place stories during the old king's life, and no spirits of phantoms were ever noticed. 

However, not too long ago, a Formula As team charged with finding paranormal facts, heard about some mysterious apparitions in the little palace named "Pelisor", situated in the same, let's say it, "valley of kings" at Sinaia. 

These apparitions—extremely rare—are, as a matter of fact, almost angelic-like, benign, one could say..."The Saint Queen" sends us signs from the past.
The information we received in Bucharest was pretty clear: "At Pelisor, from time to time, in certain rooms, one could smell, without any explanation, the Queen Marie's perfume".

Here we are, on our way to finding a ghost-perfume!



Queen Marie, as she has been described, seemed quite capable of offering this kind of after-death surprises: temperamental, dynamic, eccentric, preoccupied to stage her own funeral—she instructed that violet be worn at her funeral; also, she wanted that her heart be separated from the body and buried at Balcic (residence now in Bulgaria). 

Plus, the last years of her life were darkened by her conflicts with Carol II, her ill-tempered son. These conflicts went on until she even got shot in the middle of a violent argument between the king and prince Nicolae.

The queen has always been extremely and heartily attached to Pelisor, where a couple of rooms she decorated, having herself a refined taste and artistic education. 

One could imagine that the queen's spirit would be afflicted by the Bolsheviks boots stepping in her beloved castle.

First surprize when we arrived at Sinaia: here nobody knew anything about these so-called exotic apparitions of the queen. 

Mr. Popa, the Peles complex director, declared firmly, maybe a little too firmly: "At Pelisor there are no such fantastic apparitions."

The reality of the matter is that all the museum personnel are extremely competent, but the majority are really young. And among the veterans still in function, nobody is able to know, from personal experience, absolutely everything that happened before 1960-1965 in all three castles—Peles, Pelisor, Foisor. So, we continued our investigations on our own.

An old maid at Pelisor gave us a hint: there is still living in Sinaia a very old guard, Gyuri, who was in service at the castle even before 1938, when the queen-mother Maria died.

After 1948 the communists kept him there, because the old man was honest, skilled, and he knew how to go about everything in the palace, and...he wasn't a drinker.

We found the old Gyuri in a nice house built with stone: he's over 90 years old, still tall and upright, alert, blue eyes and no glasses—he says not by reason of coquetry, he doesn't need them! 

He is sociable and we befriended easily, he even served me a homemade brandy from juniper leaves. Then I popped the burning question.

-What do you know, Gyuri, it is true what they say, that at Pelisor we can feel the presence of the queen Maria's spirit with a smell of her perfume?

He looked at me with a long eye, then he started, with a light archaic and original accent:

-Well, young man, there is, and there isn't.
-How come?
-Well, all of these happened exactly the way you heard them and, maybe even today they happen, isn't that true? 

The communists wouldn't allow us to speak about this kind of thing. And now all is forgotten. And that is because all began after 1948, when they came. 
Up until 1963, when I retired, I often smelled, and others too, the out-of-this-world perfume of our saint queen. 

OK? So, you see, her soul would have stayed still ten years, or so, after her death, but in 1948, when her nephew King Michael was forced to abdicate, maybe her soul had rebelled. 
And with her perfume she wanted to remind us, from time to time, of a wonderful world that existed and could not be buried with red shovels (a.k.a. Bolsheviks, translator's note).
First Apparition
The first story of the queen's perfume happened right after King Michael was forced to leave. 

I will never forget: it was King's birthday, May 10th, 1948, and it so happened that I was on duty that afternoon.

The communists kept me, for I knew everything, I knew how to go about in the palace, and they needed trusty guards, serious about their job, as they began an inventory of the things. 

I continued to serve in the palace, even though I had been the head of the valets, and my father was, in the past, sergeant of the corps of "Vanatori de Munte" (the section of the military defending and fighting in the mountains, t.n.) and decorated with "Military Virtue" in World War I. 

You're asking about our people? We all are from Cluj area and everyone has a genuine honesty, coming from other times, of the Empire (Austrian-Hungarian, t.n.) and our dear emperor.


 - What really happened that day of May 10th, 1948?

- Do you know Pelisor?


The question seemed legitimate, and I think it is the place to describe in short the little palace for our readers, so they could understand better the following facts. 

Built intentionally with numerous rooms, small and private (about 70 rooms in all), the little Pelisor gives rather an impression of a luxurious hotel, than of a castle. 

This was the express desire of King Carol I, who wanted to erect at Sinaia a swiss-styled "chalet", a "cottage", and not so much of a true castle: "In the same city you cannot have, and there should not be two royal castles", Carol I used to say. (Sinaia has also the big castle of Peles, summer residence of the royals of Romania, t.n.)

Everything we are about to relate in this article is linked to the most important wing of Pelisor, the right one, where the key-apartments, storied on three levels are: king's apartment on the first level, queen's apartment on the second, and the overwhelming, stunning Gold Salon on the third. 

This Gold Salon, as we are going to see later on, is at the origin of all paranormal activity that we are about to describe.

- As I was saying, I was at the third level, making my rounds, - old Gyuri continued. 

It was a warm day, so I told myself that it would be pleasant to open the windows a little bit in the Gold Salon and let the air refresh the room... I opened the door, and, right away I realized that something was not right: the entire salon was filled with a strong perfume of violets, coming from the walls, the floor, from everywhere. 

I instantly recognized it: it was the same perfume queen-mother Marie received as a present, in a gold bottle, encrusted with diamonds and sapphires , from the same maharajah who gave King Carol II a carved furniture set for his salon, in tekazi wood, now exposed at Peles. 

The queen loved a lot this perfume, and she used it only on occasions, but I knew it, because I told you, it was unique, it was different from other perfumes—it was of violets of India, that was their name.

I looked around—no sign of any flower, any violet for that matter, as at Sinaia they appear much later, being colder than in other places.

Then old Gyuri continued, saying that the perfume's eruption became stronger—it was like its source was the very center of the golden vaulted ceiling.

The flow was irresistible, and, at the same time it had a bizarre behavior one could not explain: from the Golden Salon, all of the sudden, it spurt underneath, in queen's apartment on the second floor, then the perfume traveled directly to king's apartment on first floor. 

Very strange, to say the least, none of the neighboring rooms of king Ferdinand's apartment seemed to have been "touched" by the perfume, nor the halls. The smell propagated only vertically. 

Now the trouble began: there was someone important (politically, t.n.) on the first floor, sent from Bucarest to transfer possession of the castle. 

When he smelled the strong perfume, and, most of all, when he realized the strangeness of its apparition—a perfume stuck in three rooms, one on top of each other, and which wouldn't pass on the room next door, with the door open, he almost lost his mind. He got so scared, that he started to yell, calling his armed gards; but how can someone shoot a perfume, even with Kalashnikov guns?

We searched the whole palace, but...nothing.

- Then they called on me and two other guards, and they instructed us not to tell anyone about what happened, or we would see the prison of Gherla (a dreaded and famous prison, t.n.). 

They even didn't report anything in Bucharest, for they would have been fired, on grounds of mysticism!
The Second Apparition
Old Gyuri didn't witness the second apparition, but, even if they tried to cover it in zero degree of silence, it transpired eventually, and word got out about these mysterious happenings.

- A big shot from Bucharest came at Sinaia one day - continued the old guard. 

It was Chivu Stoica, I guess, or even Dej (the president in office at the time, t.n.), I could never tell, that was always a big state secret. It was the year of 1950 or so, and they wanted to know about the fate of the treasures and inventories of the palaces taken from the "rotten monarchy". 

They used to care a lot about others' "estates"!


As I was saying, explained to me the old guard, it was a special day; the feast day of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, year of 1950, the patronymic day of King Michael. 

It seemed as if the exotic apparitions at Pelisor have a certain rule: they would make their presence felt at precise dates, usually important dates for the Romanian royals. 

The perfume erupted, as it was its "usual", with equal power as before, and unexpectedly. 

The boss from Bucharest was in the work room of King Ferdinand's apartment, first level (in the splendid office with the secession style desk, fir-wooded polished walls of soothing green color).

The first person noticing the perfume was, with her specific feminine sensibility, the lady who was accompanying the mysterious communist leader.

- What is with this violet perfume, dear, because it's not mine!?—the red aristocrat would reproach firmly.

- Well? It's not mine either, the comrade tried to exculpate himself.

Then they realized that the perfume appeared unnaturally. When they checked the Big Salon and the king's bedroom and it was no special smell in neither one of them, with the doors open, the two comrades froze! 

In vain would they alert militia and all the guards. One could not fight the air.


 A Sequence of Apparitions and a Cat-Witness
Whoever the leader involved in the related events was- either Chivu Stoica, or Gheorghiu-Dej - he ordered that guard be tripled in militia and security, they made their rounds on the Pelisor halls, and rummaged systematically all the rooms for a year. 

That was perfume's "golden age"! 

It was as the perfume wanted to play with its followers, like Poltergeist. And as elves-poltergeist would "work" with chaotic and mysterious sounds and stones, queen's perfume seemed to play the whole year of 1954 hide-and-seek with the guards: it was appearing, one could scent its presence in the second floor room, at the same time in the third floor, then suddenly it was disappearing, unnaturally, or appearing all of the sudden in a room above, in the attic, in an opposite corner, etc. 

Militia and guards were loosing their minds. A sergeant even turned gray in one night.

It was about the same night when a big, beautiful half-breed Siberian cat, owned by a guard, sensed too, without a doubt, the strange apparition: poor animal all ruffled, bloodshot eyes! 

You know, usually, animals don't lie and are not wrong! 

After that the cat changed its behavior drastically: from nice and friendly , it became a labile and wild cat, whom no one could touch anymore... It seemed that after that memorable year, the perfume's apparitions almost ceased.

Remarkable was—as we were saying—the silence and oblivion induced about these events by the authorities.
A Perfume That Could Foretell

Then I asked my interlocutor if he knew of any special significance, or sign of prediction that those ghostlike apparitions of queen Marie's perfume could have had.

After a long reflection he remembered. 

The last two apparitions, almost unnoticeable though, took place, one, very short before Petru Groza's death—the Romanian monarchy's "killer", and the second one, even more discreet, in a room in the attic, one week before Gheorghiu-Dej's death (the country's leader at the time). 

In that time period, Pelisor was already "The Writers' House of Creation", but, except for a former old Gyuri's co-worker, who felt the apparitions before that too, nobody sensed anything.