Home Sweet Home!

After having spent 9 months in beautiful Romania I finally arrived home a month ago to start in a new position with my old company. The original plan was I would stay a year but there were some changes and I was offered this new position and asked to come home earlier. No matter how much I loved Romania and Bucharest I was happy to return to my family and the doggy friends!!!

So after settling in and arranging this and that I’m finally back to “normal”, the time spent in Romania seems like a wonderful dream now. Sometimes I have the feeling that I never left home.

It was wonderful to spend the holidays with my family and be out again in the Hungarian Puszta and hills. We didn’t make too big fuss about it this year as the kids had to study hard for their exams. So we had a quiet Christmas time and an even quieter New Year’s Eve. But we had a wonderful guest!!! As we knew we couldn’t travel anywhere because of the exams, we took care of a baby Border Collie, Skipper, whose owners had left for a 3 weeks holiday. Though he is only 6 months old, he is already bigger than our two old doggy friends!

He has enormous energy so we took him along to our Christmas and New Year’s walks. Our Christmas Walk took us into the Hungarian Puszta in wonderful weather. Everyone enjoyed the walk but I think it was Skipper who enjoyed it the most! He was running up and down and I could hardly catch him with the camera, he was moving so fast! The Puszta was beautiful, fortunately we had some leftover of snow, I just love when it’s white, which was only part of the case now.

On our way I spotted a huge black bird sitting on the top of a tree in the distance. I just couldn’t believe how the thin branches could hold this huge bird!!! This picture was taken with full zoom.

Then at home I enlarged the picture and I realized it was not one but two birds!! One of them I could recognize myself, it was a magpie. For the other one, I had to ask for the help of Istvan: he told me it was a common buzzard! They are really common in Hungary, a lot of them can be seen sitting on poles along motorways.

But it wasn’t only Skipper who was a happy boy during the walk, Gulyas enjoyed it as well, only in a different way!

 

We took another walk to end the year in a nice way: we went to our favourite mountain area called Börzsöny to take a wonderful ridge walk in an equally wonderful weather. It was kind of hard for me in the beginning to get back into shape, I had to realize I got lazy in Romania! So while the kids and the dogs were having a great time, I was trying to keep up the pace, huffing like a steam engine! But it was worth it, I let the pictures tell the rest!

 

Bucovina

Bucovina is a territory in the North-Eastern part of Romania and it’s famous for its painted monasteries that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage. I wanted to go and see them a long time ago but to do this long drive (460 km from Bucharest) alone wasn’t very appealing. So I convinced Judit to come with me; it was an easy job!

The painted monasteries were built mostly in the 15th-16th centuries and they exhibit a unique architecture and painting style both on the inner and the outer walls. It’s amazing how well some of the outside paintings were preserved withstanding the weather for all those centuries.

Humor Monastery (1530-1535)

The paintings show scenes from the Bible and they are like comic strips telling stories.

Stories on the walls of Voronet Monastery
Heaven and Hell: the angels and devils fight for the souls

The outside walls were painted because after a while the congregation was too large to fit into the church for the services. Even today, people stay and pray outside during the service. The dome of the church was built in a unique way as well to give the church special acoustic qualities so the sermon could be heard outside as well. Today the special acoustics is helped by loudspeakers!

The Monastery of Voronet (1488) is one of the most beautiful ones!

Voronet Monastery

Outside the monastery we met some nice doggies but they were very lazy!

Lazy but very cute dogs – stray dogs are all over the country

The Bucovinian landscape is also very beautiful, too bad we didn’t have more time to take some walks!

When we stopped to take pictures of the landscape a friendly face was watching us.

We also stopped in Suceava, the main city of the area. It once was the capital of Moldova. Today it is the capital of the county of the same name. It has a nice village museum showing how peasants lived in the old days.

Judit on the veranda of a Bucovinian peasant house

Holiday With Doggies – Part 2,
Dolomites and Venice

It’s not only Terry and Bernie who fancied the Dolomites this summer. Jenna, Gábor, Gulyás, Nudli and Dalma also went there but for them, it was the very first time in their lives!
We didn’t have many days of nice weather but I think we used it well. We had time for some nice walks and slacklining.

We also did some cragging near Passo Falzarego

Jenna in a nice route near the road towards Passo Falzerego

And some multi pitch climbing on Cinque Torri. While Mum (Dalma) was watching the doggies Jenna and Gabor went on a nice climb on Torre Inglese.
Here you see Gabor starting up

The view from top. Bad weather is coming in
Happy couple on the top
Waiting at the chairlift bar, Mum amused herself with taking pictures of the towers

When the weather turned bad and we didn’t want to spend another night at the Cortina campsite in the pouring rain we all moved down to Venice. Here we spent a lovely afternoon and evening just escaping the rain before we started our long journey back home.

St Mark’s Square with some low hanging clouds

Jenna and Gulyás in the sunset
Dinner!
Full Moon in Venice

All of us were sick and tired of the long drive in the car but the doggies who traveled like kings!

Gulyás has no problems with traveling

Nudli enjoying the trip

Holiday With Doggies – Part 1, Arco

This summer I planned our holiday to Lake Como (Lecco) with the kids. The kids, on the other hand, planned a holiday to Lake Garda (Arco) with me. Jenna did her climbing course there two years ago and she got to like the place very much.

Besides, she wanted to buy new rock shoes in Vertical Spirit where we remembered there was great variety and friendly prices.
She picked a nice colour 5.10, she says they hold her even when she thinks she steps on air. (The colour wasn’t a dliberate choice though!!!)

Jenna has new rock shoes!

So this is how it happened that we chose Arco as our first destination and somehow got stuck there!

Some say the rock is polished around Arco but if you are willing to drive a bit you can find really great places that are not so frequented as everyone stays near Arco. And the walk-ins are really short too!
Most of the great areas are north of Arco, around Ponte Arche. The first day we went to Molveno S. Antonio, which is just above a lake and has some neat little sports routes. Gabor fell in love with the first route he could see which was a funny 6a+ called 4×4. The funny part about it was that there were some extra holds (of rock) screwed on the rock! Even funnier is that Jenna never used them so I have really no idea why they had to be put on …

Gabor in 4×4 – he seemed to welcome the extra screwed-on hold!

Croz de la Niere is another nice crag we visited North of Arco. Here we proved that it is not only the English who can be crazy enough to climb in the full noon sunshine. Needless to say we had the entire crag to ourselves!

Driving home the GPS took us to some really exposed, steep, extra narrow and winding forest road and we all agreed that driving there was scarier than any lead climbing the two had done that day! Indeed, my adrenaline level was the highest here during our entire holiday!!! And in the end it proved to be the wrong way so I had to turn around and do the whole thing downwards as well!

Massone is a large sports climbing area with many sectors very near to Arco so it was more frequented and also quite polished. But this didn’t stop Jenna from declaring it her favourite place as the routes were really great. We even met a Russian group so I could practice my Russian which I had to learn in school in the good old communist era, and also some Polish climbers! Ha-ha, the place was really “Polished”!!!

“Polished” rock

This Polish guy soloed up his way in a 5a route climbing like a cat to carry up the rope for his little boy. Unfortunately, the picture was taken only when he was already being lowered down.

Jenna in one of the nice routes at Massone
Even pigeons like the Massone crag

One day, after a huge thunderstorm we visited Riva del Garda a really beautiful town in the Northern corner of lake Garda.

Dalma trying to pose for a nice picture with Nudli but she pulls her out of balance

Romantic walk in Riva del Garda

Another area we liked very much – and were totally alone at the crag was Spormaggiore. It was closer to Trento and we visited it on our way to the Dolomites so it is really the beginning of another story.

Jenna in a fine crack route at Spormaggiore

Weekend Without Plans

Once I work in Romania for a year I have the chance to travel around the country. But traveling here is not easy because of the legendary bad infrastructure. So for last weekend I did not make any travel plans, on the contrary, I planned to stay home and just do nothing. But already on Friday evening the map somehow got in front of me (it must have creeped there very quietly) and I was thinking about where to go. But I could not decide. There are so many nice places to see, Romania is full of mostly unspoiled (due to the lack of infrastructure, so it has its upsides) nature, hills, and historical sights. So I was at a loss. And then I remembered a Hungarian movie about 1956 where the family decided to emigrate but they could not decide where. So they got the map in front of them and the husband randomly pointed at a place with his eyes closed. (Of course, it was Mongolia!) So I did the same thing. I used only the map of Romania so I was relatively safe. I pointed at a nice mountain area, called Retezat which has peaks well over 2000 metres, its highest peak is over 2400.
The only problem is that it’s 400 km from Bucharest, a 6 hour drive. So I got accommodation in a nearby town where some famous Hungarian kings lived. You might have heard of King Mathias. Huneodara (Vajdahunyad is the Hungarian name) used to be part of the Hungarian kingdom and it has a beautiful gothic castle which was rebuilt by János (John) Hunyadi in the 15th century, later by his son Mátyás (Mathias) and many others. The original was built in the 13th century but not much of it can be noticed in its current form. It is much bigger and nicer than the Dracula castle.

The Castle of Vajdahunyad

It was very nice walking through this old building, it is fairly nicely renovated, especially the prison. Too bad I could not photograph the sounds they played, next to a description of all the most cruel torture methods of the Middle Ages (like cutting off a limb for stealing a hen), they tried to make it more lifelike with playing horroristic screams. It was rather funny than scary.

The scary prison
Funny gargoyles

For the next day I planned a nice hike up to Lake Bucura that is in the Retezat mountains, 2000 metres high. The only problem with my plans this weekend was that I never got to realize them … so I drove all the way to the start of my approximately 10 hours hike quite early, it was only 40 km but took more than an hour. It was when I stopped the car that I realized that I had left my phone in the hotel. So I had to go back for it … It just did not make sense to start the hike 2.5 hours later because I would have never made it in daylight. So again, I had to change plans. I picked a nice lake on my way home, I would drive there, walk around a bit, take it easy. Well, by now you can imagine that I ended up elsewhere … I just missed the road to the lake.

I ended up in the Godeanu Mountains driving all the way into the woods on a very scenic road. When the road became a dirt road I decided not to risk ruining the car and I got out for a nice walk, looking at some peaks ove 2000 metres on my way. This time I did not have a chance to climb them but maybe one day when I plan something else …

Retezat Mountains from the distance. This time I didn’t hike there
Iorgovanu Peak (2014m) which I could see all the way when walking in the Godeanu Mountains

I wonder if there’s any climbing here, this peak looks quite tempting.

And here comes the obligatory dog picture, he was the keeper of the Hunyadi Castle.

Three Weekends – Three Styles

The past month we’ve had a lot of snow which is always fun!

Dog agility course covered by snow

Three weeks ago it was bright with unbelievably blue sky and beautiful landscape. So we enjoyed our walk in the hills of Northern Hungary where we climbed up to the highest peak of the country (1014 m)

The sun painted shadows on the canvas of snow

The next weekend brought heavy snowfalls with slippery motorways and poor visibility. But this didn’t deter us from driving 150k to the hills again. The landscape was quite different but equally enjoyable, tho extremely cold, around minus 10-15°C during the day with strong winds.

Visiting the Hermit Caves

Another weekend came and the snow was still here. This time we preferred running in the white Hungarian Puszta!

Flat as a pancake
Family team

Summer Is (Still) Here!

The weather was not only nice to the English this weekend but also to the Hungarian. So we used one of the last summer weekends and went out to have some fun at a Hungarian limestone quarry I posted on a few months earlier.

Our team consisted of Istvan (you know him from my Wales post mainly), Ildi (me and Terry had the honour to climb with her in France this summer), Évi (she was there on our Paklenica ‘joint meet’), Jenna and Gabor. Oh, and Gulyas, our Best Friend, of course!

Here you can see our small team (minus photographer) at the crag.

From left to right: Gabor, Jenna, Istvan, Gulyas, Ildi, Evi

And here’s our hero of the day, Istvan, who so nicely carried up the ropes for us into some really hard routes. His best achievement was a VII+ route, which was the hardest of his life. But now it became an expectation. We all tried it afterwards top rope and then we could even more appreciate his achievement. A truly magnificient climber he is!

Istvan, the hero of the day in the crux of the VII+ route

We all had a great time, I myself have aching muscles everywhere in my body, even in my legs which means I’m finally using them properly. But fingers and arms are no exception!

I was amazed how much everyone has improved during this season. Gabor was now leading VI+ routes without any problems, and Jenna’s technique is something I have always admired but now I truly envy her!

Jenna showing her superb technique with Istvan telling her where the holds are supposed to be

Even I felt the routes were easier than what they had felt when I was here this spring! So looks like I’m improving as well!!! (Too bad I could not practice more on the fine English rocks but maybe next time.)

Dalma hanging onto tiny holds
Gulyas the watchdog makes sure no one touches our gear