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Wednesday, September 25: Day 156 – Gap Year

When I woke up this morning, I decided to check the scores of the St. Louis Cardinal baseball team, beloved by my family for five generations. When they make the post season, any family members that are available attend the games!! (I won’t be able to go this year!)

These are the last few games of the season and the division title is on the line. The Cards have been hot. Anyway, when I wake up, I didn’t get a score but was surprised to learn that it was the 19th inning so I got to see the end of a game!! Sadly they lost!

Rob and I debated the term vacation. Are we on vacation? I don’t think so. I learned that the word vacation comes from the wealthy “vacating” the city for the summer. They often spent time in their summer homes. No, that’s not it.

In the recent past vacation has meant leaving work behind and traveling to a location with the family and having a respite from daily chores. Getting closer.

Today, in the age of digital communications, vacations are being redefined as many take their work with them. No, although we need our cell phones to make travel possible.

After learning about previously unknown terms such as mancations, staycations, and bleisure, we have decided that we are taking a gap year. Of course, it isn’t between high school and college or between college and a job, but it is between work and retirement. It is a transitional gap year for us nonetheless.

Next, I learned about something called The Grand Tour. This tour was done by Brits upon turning 18-21 in order to complete or at least further their knowledge of culture, art, music, etc. I guess that we are doing this late in life. (Rob is 65. I asked him how it feels to check the box “over 65” which now lumps him into the same category with my 95-year-old father!!)

We learned about a British man named Patrick Leigh Fermor who went on the longest gap year in history. He started in Holland at the age of 18 and went on foot to Istanbul. He later wrote a trilogy of his rich adventures: A Time of Gifts (1977), Between the Woods and the Water (1986), and The Broken Road (2013). The latter was not completed at the time of his death in 2011 even though his 6-year journey ended in 1939 when he returned home and enlisted in WWII. He lived until age 96. (By the way, I want to read these books as it pertains to the area in which we are currently traveling.)

Well, now that we have confirmed our gap year, we decided to walk up the hill of Brașov called Tâmpa. There is a cable car built in the communist era, but we like to hike so we packed a picnic lunch with sandwiches, chips, peanuts, apples and walked to the nearby trail entrance. What is this I see?

Bears!!! And our backpacks are loaded for bear…I mean, we are walking picnic baskets!!!

Rob said that we could go by cable car instead. Phew!!! Here is a picture of Rob behind the Brașov sign.

And here is the view!

Our walkabout city tour was given by Smaranda. She lived through the communist times and its dramatic conclusion. She lived in the countryside where life was more bearable because you could live off the land and trade with neighbors.

During those years, Brașov was an industrial center for communism, but it collapsed when communism did.

There are three provinces in Romania: Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania. At the end of WWII, the country of Romania resulted in the shape of a fish leaping out of the Black Sea. Romania has been a country since 1918: 101 years.

Brașov has been known by other names throughout history depending on which nation was in power and has a complicated history like all European cities!!!

Council Square is really more of a triangle but is surrounded by colorful buildings. There are brown plaques on old buildings indicating their historical value. On one end is the Council Hall that was built in 1420, but is now a history museum.

It housed all of the commerce records. In the marketplace there was a 20% tax for everything sold.

In the middle of the square was the Pillar of Inequity. This is where the sentence of the criminals were carried out.

When people were married, they would parade around the square.

During Communism it was used as a parking lot because they didn’t want people to congregate. This was funny since very few people had cars.

The fortification of Brașov started with city walls and gates.

Later bastions and towers were added. Each tower was built, maintained, and defended a guild. For example, the rope makers would all man a tower when there was a threat of attack!!!

In 1559, Katrina’s Gate was built to collect taxes and is the only one remaining.

The Saxons were inside and the Romanians lived outside the city. Romanians had to pay a tax to enter and go to the market. There were gates on four sides.

In the old part of the city where the Romanians lived is the highest concentration of crosses in the country. “God is watching” has two meanings.

The four spires surrounding a large spire of the gate indicated that if one committed a crime in this city, decapitation could be the sentence. Commoners were either hung or axed. Noblemen got an upgrade; a sharp sword.

The last execution in Romania was in 1989, Nicolae Ceaușescu, the last communist president. He and his wife were killed by firing squad…on television…on Christmas Day!

Our tour was almost over and I asked Smaranda about bears. She said not to worry because they are on the other side the mountain.

Hasn’t she heard of the following song lyrics?

The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain
The bear went over the mountain, to see what he could see.
And all that he could see, and all that he could see
Was the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain
The other side of the mountain, was all that he could see.

…and ME!!!!

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