Holidays With Crys: Road Trips and Weddings

Hello again

I have just got back from the first of my planned trips over the next few months. This year I have promised to attend two weddings and a birthday in three different countries, and the first of these was a wedding in Romania. After a 26 hour drive across 4 countries, I was planning to post about the whole experience before diving into bed, only to find out that I was completely cut off from internet access. Oh well.

The road trip itself was exhausting and uneventful. Although I was hoping that we could turn it into a similar road trip as the last time I went down to visit my boyfriend’s family, he had far too much to squeeze into his two week visit to afford to dawdle, so we simply drove straight through. We managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep, then got in the car and drove to Bucharest for a massive, no holds barred Romanian wedding.

Having only been to one Irish wedding as an adult, I was curious to see for myself how the Romanian one would differ both from it and from what little I have gathered from movies and television.

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Home Sweet Rome

Yesterday, I anxiously took a flight to come back to Rome for Xmas. I’m only staying one week, I’ll be back before New Years, and yet I had never wanted to go home less than I did this time around. I’m so busy, I said. I’ll have to work from home, I said. It’s just too stressful, I said.

And then I stepped off the plane into a balmy 18°C. One look at the cobble-stoned streets of my neighborhood and I sighed. There’s nothing for it, this place will always be home for me.

Sure, I have to work and squeeze an enormous number of things to do in the short time that I am here. But I can also take small breaks, amble around the streets of my childhood for a bit of shopping, buying clothes that are made in Italy sold in boutiques that are owned by Romans who are stubbornly and valiantly hanging on to their stores in a center which is being steadily overrun by massive chains and mafia run tourist trap restaurants. It is amazing how effortlessly I hit my 10,000 step fitbit goal, which I struggle with so much in Germany even when I bike my 10km to and from work.

Coming back is always stressful and wonderful and nostalgic and never enough time for me to get sick of it and ever want to leave. I think it will always be my home, no matter where I end up settling in life. And that thought always makes me so sad, so I’ll leave it at that.

Holidays With Crys: Hello Dublin Here I Come

Man I am properly spoiling myself this year, aren’t I? Despite the fact that I have not managed to visit anywhere new in almost 3 years, I am taking a couple days off to visit my old Irish stomping grounds for a wedding.

I’m going to be honest, I did not love living in Dublin. I was there for 5 years, and despite the fact that I was trading in an excellent chance for a good PhD position for a long shot hope of one in Italy, I left the country as soon as I was able. However, I also made some good friends there that I would love to see again. Given the fact that I have very limited holiday time, and not living in the same countries as my family means that 90% of that is taken up visiting them, going back to Dublin was nowhere near the top of my priority list. But one of my closest friends is getting married, so now I have the perfect excuse to go back.

So, I’m on my way to the airport for a 48 hour, whirlwind flashback to my college years. Next stop Trinity College, Bray, Temple Bar, across the country to Clare, and then back again. Get the whiskey ready, this is going to be my first wedding as an adult, and what better way to pop my wedding party cherry than at an Irish one!

I have a feeling it’s going to get intense.

Holidays With Crys: Castles of Transylvania

I made it back to Germany! I actually got back Sunday night, and by Monday morning was thrown back into the deep end at work. I finally managed to carve out a couple of hours to dedicate to posting again, and so I wanted to start with the best part of my Romanian two-week holiday, which happened to be the trip home.

We decided that, from now on, we’re going to treat any future visits to Romania as mini road trips. For our first trip back we decided to stop in Transylvania, where there are two castles a mere 50km away from each other. One is Peleş, in Sinaia, and the other is the world famous Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle.

It was pretty cool to do this castle road trip, as both of these castles were very cool to see, and could not be more different from each other.

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Holiday Cooking With Crys: Never Mind

So, remember how I told you all that there was little to do here besides cook? Well, scratch that, it looks like my great plans for spending my days making complicated but delicious food things is yet another example of my getting on everyone’s nerves. Given the fact that this house has exactly three kitchens, I thought I could shut myself up in one of them, make food and clean up after myself without getting in anybody’s way and also contributing to the meals, thereby making myself somewhat useful. Turns out I was wrong, and I’m just being annoying. My boyfriend’s mother’s hints to the effect were none too subtle: after she squirreled through my suitcase when we were in the city, found the jars I brought to make preserves, decided she liked them and that they were hers now, took the olive oil I brought to marinate grilled eggplant and used it to cook with, threw away the whey I had put aside to make ricotta over my splutters of “nu! wait!” and three times “forgot” to put aside 3 liters of milk from the evening milking before dumping a cup of rennet in it, I decided to give up completely. Good thing there’s internet here!

It’s a pity, too. On my list was fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pizza made with that mozzarella and canoli made with that ricotta, grilled and marinated spicy eggplant, funghi trifolati, a new cake I’ve invented and made exactly once but that turned out to be pretty awesome breakfast fare, which I am now calling crostata di leche asada, strudel, fresh pasta, pomodori al riso, ice cream, and anything else anyone felt a fancy to. Oh well. If any of you want to know how to make any of the aforementioned things, I’ll be happy to indulge in a little food porn and make a post about it anyway. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot more netflix and internet surfing than I thought I would be for the rest of the week.

I suppose laying in bed with a laptop perched on my knees for a week was my teenager’s idea of a heavenly holiday. I’ll be fulfilling that dream at last!

Holiday Cooking With Crys: Alici Marinate

Not that I’m complaining, but while my boyfriend keeps working on his parent’s house, there really isn’t much to do here in the countryside in Romania. We’ve unfortunately arrived too late to pick the fruit and too early to pick the grapes for wine, and the last time I helped him do “manly things” like digging holes or mixing cement, I caused such a stir in the town that his father was teased for weeks afterwards. So, not wanting to be the cause for embarrassment, one of the only things I can do here is cook. So, time for some time consuming yet delicious recipes everyone! Today, I made an Italian favorite, alici marinate.

Alici marinate are marinated anchovies. Depending on how you prepare them, they can keep for several months, and make for a great on-the-go lunch. Anchovies are, in my opinion, a very odd sort of fish. I love them when they are fresh or marinated, I cannot stand them when they are preserved in salt, which happens to be their most famous form. In fact, salted anchovies are one of the two only kinds of fish that I hate and cannot eat even to be polite. In Italy, anchovies even have two names: when they are fresh or marinated they are alici, and when they are salted they are acciughe.

Aaanyway, if you want to know how to make some killer alici marinate, recipe and pictures below the fold.

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Holidays With Crys: Perchè Perchè?

Perchè perchè?                                                            Why why?

La domenica mi lasci sempre sola                          On Sundays you always leave me alone

Per andare a vedere la partita della Roma?        To go and see the Roma match

Perchè, Perchè!                                                            Because, Because!

Tifo Roma tifo Roma alè alè!                                   I root for Roma I root for Roma!

 

Tonight, my father is treating me to something I haven’t had the pleasure of doing in a very, very long time. I’m off to watch a Roma match at the Stadio Olimpico. Things have changed a lot since I last went, The diehard fans are protesting the new restrictions and limitations which makes it almost impossible to buy tickets, and they’ve put up ridiculous plasitc dividers in the Curva Sud so that the fans look like penned cattle. We didn’t get tickets for the Curva Sud though, as if the hardcore fans decide to boycott this game too we’re not going to be scabs and walk into the Curva by ourselves, but we’ve got tickets for the sides.

Roma – Porto, qualifying game for the Champions League. I’m a little too excited about this.

If any of you out there are football fans following the Champions League, feel free to use this comments section as an open thread of discussion again.

In the meantime, I’m going to get myself an unofficial Roma scarf, hold it high over my head and sing the Roma anthem with everyone else.

This is what that looks like

 

And if we win, we will thank them, and sing Grazie Roma

 

 

The lyrics are beautiful, about love and unity and passion. If any of you are interested in them, I’ll post the translations below the fold. I know some of you like to read Italian, so you might like to see if you got them right, though I warn you they are in Roman dialect!

 

Holidays With Crys: We Have One More Year

My whole life, I have been going to the beach in Fregene, a small seaside town outside of Rome. In the 40s, this area was nothing but swamp. In the 60s it was abandonded beach, and the Italian government allowed for a sort of stewardship of Italy’s beaches to take place. People who were willing to pay a very healthy yearly fee to the government were allowed to claim a section of beach, take care of it, clean it, and sell food or rent sunbeds to people who wished to visit it. That is how Italy’s beach clubs were born and, as they got more popular, people started building restaurants, bars, pools, houses, and even hotels on or near the beach. Those restaurants got passed down the generations, or sold to others, and some have become vertiable institutions of the seaside towns. There was no Fregene before Mastino, or Glauco, or Cigno, and Cigno in particular is sought out by people living all around Rome for having some truly excellent fish. I spent my childhood summers there, I worked and met my current boyfriend there, and Fregene itself would not be what it is without those historical beach clubs and restaurants.

But soon, those beach clubs will be no more. Despite the fact that those owners have continued to pay the yearly government fee, and if they don’t their property can and will be seized, the EU has decreed that passing down those restaurants across the generations is illegal. The Italian government tried to extend their stay by four years, at least to allow people who just bought a beach club to make back their investment, but the EU courts have declared that to be illegal too. It has now been decided that all of them, both the old institutions and the newly purchased clubs, will have to tear down everything that has been built, houses and restaurants alike at their own cost, and return the beaches as they found them 50 years ago. Then, the beaches will go up for auction. Anyone with the money and an idea will be able to petition the government with their plans and take stewardship of their piece of beach for a certain number of years, and then tear everything down again, vacate it again, and allow for someone else with a better idea to take their place.

So, who the Hell will have the money to go through all of this? Certainly not the current owners of the beach clubs, especially after they have to pay to tear down their own restaurants. One group is the mafia, who have in recent years invaded the legitimate restaurant business market in Italy (more on that later). The second (and this is the EU’s real intention) is the foreigners, the Germans and the French and the Dutch, who according to the EU should all be allowed in on that Italian beaches action. As my father said thank god for Brexit, as this current situation would have caused the anti-EU muttering going on now to turn into a request for some serious action, if it wasn’t for the clear Brexit consequences fresh in everyone’s minds.

My point is: are the seaside restaurants in Italy something you always wanted to try? Have you always wanted to experience the traditional Italian beach clubs? You have one year left. 2017 is the last year which is guaranteed to those restaurant owners. After that, any year could be the one that they force them to tear it all down, pack up and go… well, not home, but somewhere else. I also find them forcing everyone to tear everything down as a giant waste of time and resources, but no one cares about my opinion.

So, if the Italian seaside dinner and beach lounging was on your bucket list, make it a priority in 2017, cause you might not get a second chance. As for me, I’ll keep coming back here so long as it remains Fregene, but I’ll start looking into other seaside destinations for the future. I’m thinking Greece, perhaps.

Holidays With Crys – Two Kinds of Big Cities

When I came back from Berlin, everyone asked me about it, and I couldn’t shut up prattling on about how much I loved it. There is just too much cool all wrapped up in that city, and yet at the same time it is very green, and has very little chaos as far as big cities go. While I know that some people don’t like big cities in general, and therefore unsurprisingly don’t feel that they could live there, I was surprised to find that some of my other friends who are very metropolitan people also didn’t care much for Berlin. After some discussion, I realized the discrepancy, and why Berlin snatched my heart the same way that Rome did, but that Milan never could.

There are really two kinds of big cities. The posh kind, and the urban kind*.

 

*for the American readers amongst you, it has recently come to my attention that “urban” has now become a weird synonym for “black” there. Please note that this is not the way I am using this word at all. My use of the word has nothing to do with race, but rather it is the only word in the English language that I find comparable to the Italian word popolare. When I use it, I mean it as it’s original meaning, and I am disregarding the new strangely racist meaning that has been pinned to it.

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Holidays With Crys: Naturkundemuseum

On our second day in Berlin, we decided to wander Berlin Mitte and try to see a few art exhibits and museums. We found some very, very elegant parts, gorgeous in their own right, and some cooler parts of the neighborhood as well. We had little luck with the art exhibits: one was torn down, one was closed, and one needed to be booked well in advance because it was in an old bunker, so they do not let visitors wander it on their own lest they get lost. We ended up in Berlin’s Natural History Museum almost by accident. Little did I know that I had just stumbled into the best Natural History Museum I have ever been in. The world’s largest fully assembled Brachiosaurus skeleton in the world greeted us at the entrance, and I stopped in my tracks, feeling a little emotional.

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