Yes or No to New Year’s Resolutions?

It’s again the jolly time of the year. The time when we take a step back, enjoy the Christmas joy and reflect on everything around us. Hopefully we all take a moment to be grateful for the wonderful people around us – those who crossed our path year, those who inspired us and those who taught us  a lesson. Another moment to reflect on what we have achieved, the goals we met and all the skills we developed.

It’s all in the mind, whether you decide to look positively at all the great things last year has brought, or focus on the things you failed at. It’s not just a pessimist/optimist battle, but more about how deep you dig in yourself and how aware you are of what each scar signifies.

Each year, we hear around “I will start exercising from January” or “I will try that new diet from Monday”, but how many of us actually keep up with these promises? Why start in January or next week, when we can start today? So many of our promises to ourselves involve radical changes, which are difficult to maintain in the long run. Why not try with small steps, celebrating each improvement and being realistic with our goals?

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I have to admit it, I am making new year’s resolutions every year. I think it is useful to reflect on what you want to achieve, and check them up a couple of times per year. I don’t assume they will come true on January 1st. Changing one’s lifestyle is a continuous process, and I believe that it is important to focus on real, needed and sustainable changes. Losing 3 kg to fit in a dress at a wedding next month is a small and not so sustainable goal. Sure, it’s possible, but it doesn’t bring longtime happiness (except feeling good about the great pictures in that dress).

I prefer goals related to cooking more healthy meals and eating out less. This doesn’t mean I will never eat a pizza again. This means that I am aware that I could make some improvements in this department, and I will try my best in the future. I also had a goal of being able to do Scorpion pose last year. It didn’t happen yet, but it’s not the end of the world. Everything is a journey, and as long as we’re moving forward, things will be fine. One day, I will get there. And if not, I will still benefit from other things I learn on my way.

Next to saving more money or changing the car, inner resolutions are something we should look more into. They are some sort of reality-check, showing us how we perceive ourselves and whom we would like to become. It’s not easy, and it can be discouraging for some, but they are needed in order to understand ourselves better. We can say “I will be more patient”, but if we don’t understand what makes us lose our patience in the first place, what is the point?

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How to understand yourself better?

Often, new year’s resolutions are related to things we wished we did or skills we wished we had. We tend to like and admire in others the qualities we desire for ourselves. Think about what you admire the most in your significant other, or in your closest friends. Is it that they are very detailed-oriented, or great at presentation skills? Maybe a friend always knows exactly the best thing to say in a difficult situation, or one is very fast at making decisions.

The next step is understanding that we cannot all be the same, and we cannot all be great at the same things. Yes, many things can be trained, and you have big chances of improving by asking advice from those who master it and then practicing. However, don’t be discouraged if you will not be the best at all those things, since it’s not humanly possible to excel in everything.

Try to focus on your strengths. They are what make you special. Those are the things you do with ease, and those others admire you for. Maybe you are great at organizing or you speak 4 foreign languages. Well, instead of focusing on what else you can learn, think about how to develop those skills even further, develop a career or a hobby out of them, or help others. This will bring you more satisfaction and self-confidence.

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Best Tricks for Keeping your Resolutions

Be yourself when stating your resolutions! There are common things people wish for, since we are programmed by sociecty to believe this is what we have to do. Even if everybody is aiming to set more aside in their pension account, maybe it’s not what would make you the happiest at this point in your life. Yes, of course it’s useful and needed. But if it’s the last year you can timewise afford to travel the world and discover new cultures, why not starting saving next year? Your reality is different than others’, so set resolutions that fit what you want to do with your life.

Create mini-goals. It is difficult to achieve major changes on the spot, so make sure to split your goals into smaller, achievable ones, that would make you see the progress. Keep track of them and reward yourself everytime a step forward is made.

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s unrealistic to believe that all your new year resolutions will come true. You will definitely make improvements in the areas you want to, but, like mentioned above, it is a continuous process. Be happy and grateful for what you managed to achieve. And if you fail,  at least you have learned a lot in the process and will take it forward in the future.

Bucharest – Eastern Europe’s Unknown Gem

So many guides show you the little wonders of Rome, London or Paris. Some even dare to propose Prague or Budapest, but how many are actually revealing more about Bucharest?

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Located in the Southern part of Romania, this vibrant city has a lot to offer. From good food, to rich history and cheap cocktails, Bucharest can be an amazing city-break destination, while also opening your eyes to a new culture. Romanians are latin, loud and welcoming people, and a trip there will surely create memorable moments.

Here are some information and tricks for a first commer, that would help with organizing your trip. If you’re still not sure, read further – it might convince you that you won’t regret a trip in Eastern Europe’s little Paris.

Why was it called little Paris?

In the flourishing era between 1866 and 1946, Bucharest was developing at a high speed. Many buildings were inspired from French architecture, and long boulevards, like Calea Victoriei, ressembled Champs Elysées.

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                                                                              Source for picture: Florin Stanciu

Although not all these old buildings survived the Communistic times and the earthquake from 1977, some areas of the city still keep this wonderful spirit. What places are best at maintaining it?

Old City Center

Although being a ruin for many years, Bucharest’s old city center is now re-established and offers a wonderful overview on Romanian heritage and history. It is well-designed for foreigners, as it has maps and descriptions in English, guiding you through the little streets and introducing you to traditional and historical buildings. One of the best things to see here is the Stavropoleos Church, dating from 1724. With its beautiful interior garden and old architecture, it is a hidden gem worth seeing. You may have seen dozens of enormous Gothic cathedrals during your trips, but you most likely haven’t experienced yet something as cozy and beautiful as this one.

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The Old City Center is also famous for its restaurants and clubs. Two of these places are worth mentioning, as they offer a glimpse of Romanian tradition and old times. These are Hanu’ lui Manuc, an old inn, and Caru’ cu Bere. The architecture of these places is glorious, the food is traditional and the service exceptional. It’s worth giving them a try!

Another must-see place situated in the Old Town is the Carturesti Carusel Bookstore. Its opening was famous all around the globe, and its architecture is breathtaking. It is a very well-lit building, consisting of thousands of books, CDs, games, traditional souvenirs and gifts. It feels like you’re entering another universe, so make sure you check it out.

Calea Victoriei

Cales Victoriei is warmly recommended, if you feel like taking a nice walk on one of the city’s most beautiful streets, filled with great architecture, expensive shops and several museums. It used to be called the Romanian Champs Elysées. Some beautiful buildings you shouldn’t miss are: George Enescu Museum (Romania’s most famous composer), located in the former Cantacuzino Palace.  Not only is its architecture a great example of Art Nouveau style, but the museum is a cultural landscape, as you can  learn more about the life of Romania’s most famous composer.

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Photo: Nico TrinkhausMemorial of Rebirth | Bucharest, Romania – CC-BY-NC

Moving on, you will also be passing by the Revolution Square. Here you can find an emblematic sculpture, built after the fall of the communism. It is called the Monument of Rebirth, and it celebrates the memorial of those who fell in the revolution in 1989.

This beautiful square also hosts the Atheneum, which is an architectural jewel. On the other side of the street you can find the National Museum of Arts, which used to be the Royal Palace. This is a very big building, hard to miss, hosting both Romanian and foreign art. Make sure to reserve at least half a day to visit it, if you’re interested, as it is very rich and captivating.

This walk would end in Victoria Square, which also hosts a must-see museum: Grigore Antipa – Natural History Museum. One of the most modern museums Romania has, this one shows you nature at its best, from the beginnings until now. It is very interactive, not expensive and surely entertaining, especially if you’re traveling with children.

Let’s go back to tradition

Not very far from Victoria Square, you can find the Peasant Museum, containing arts and crafts, artisanal products and traditional clothing and architecture. If you want to learn even more about the traditional architecture, you can also try the Village Museum, close to Herastrau Park (Bucharest’s green lung).

But one of the best traditional things you will experience here is food. Romanian food is rich in taste, often made with organic ingredients and old recipes, spread over various generations.
The first picture above depicts probably the most traditional thing you can find, ask any Romanian. It’s a plate of sarmalute cu mamaliguta. Sour cabbage rolls, filled with minced meat, rice and spices (sarmale), served together with a corn pourrige (mamaliga). It is traditionally eaten at all special occasions, from Christmas to weddings. And it’s amazing!

The second picture shows a popular desert, called papanasi. These are the Romanian donuts, served with sour cream and jam. Give them a try, especially in the above-mentioned Caru’cu Bere restaurant.

People’s House – The Palace of Parliament

If you are not convinced already, there’s one more famous building to see – the Palace of Parliament. Built during communist times, it is the world’s largest civilian building with an administrative function. It is also the second largest building in the world, after the Pentagon of the US.

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Check timetables to see the schedule of the guided tours – they are available in different languages. This building is breathtaking, especially when enjoyed from the Izvor Park in the twilight.

Some final practical considerations

Public transportation might be tricky, as ticket cashiers tend to close early. There are different cards, some for metro, other (Active Card) valid for above-ground transportation, like buses, trams or trolleys. Buy them beforehand, so you don’t get caught without ticket in the evenings.

Cabs are, of course, available and cheap, but make sure to take trustworthy ones. There are some drivers well-trained at scamming foreigners, but use the accredited ones and you will be safe. Some companies that have been recommended to me are:

  • Speed (+40219477)

  • Pelicanul (+40219665)
  • Taxi Meridian (+40219444)

Tipping is not mandatory in Romanian restaurants, but it is extremely common. A 10% tip is expected, unless the service was terrible.

Finally, relax and enjoy. Romania is an underrated destination, but it has a lot to offer. It is surely to develop over the next years, as more and more tourists begin exploring it.

Yes, it is not as developed as London. The infrastructure is not the best, and not everybody speaks English. But you can learn so much about another culture, you can get to know welcoming and energetic people, see beautiful places and develop as a person. Traveling is a book, and you don’t wanna miss the Romanian page, as there is so much to learn!

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There is also so much more than Bucharest, and if you have more time to spend, you should definitely try a trip in the mountains. There are popular and well established skiing resorts, beautiful scenery to be enjoyed hiking, and old castles to be visited. If this doesn’t convince you, drop by Bran Castle in Transylvania and our friend, Dracula, might give the last push.