#Bucharest, #Romania: Inspiring #Travel.

It came as a surprise to me to be facing the world’s second-largest building.  As you can imagine it is grand and imposing.  Neo-classically styled it has 12 storeys with 3100 rooms, and it isn’t even finished yet!

I’m not visiting Dubai or the Far East; I’m in Europe.  Built in 1984 the Palace of Parliament is Ceausescu’s most infamous creation.  I’m in awe as I visit Bucharest, the capital of Romania.

romania1

The imposing Ceaușescu built Palace of the Parliament, or People’s Palace in Bucharest.

A stroll around the city provides an endearing mismatch of eras that leaves me wondering what century I’m in.  Modern office buildings sit next to remains of medieval churches, by their side French palaces with baroque facades.  A centre for artisan culture alongside fast living.  It’s no wonder Bucharest earned the nickname, ‘Little Paris’.

I take in the towering ‘Arch Of Triumph’ and the 19th century Roman Athenaeum, this is a city packed with sights.  Some may not appeal to tourists; Stray dogs, beggars, loud traffic, and a tangible element of the underworld.  Put this aside and exercise caution as you would in any city.

With so many sights where to visit next is the question!

With so many sights where to visit next is the question!

From districts haunted by communism to the lively open-air bar scene in the historic centre.  Bucharest is, both architecturally and culturally, an inspiration.

This is my entry into the National Geographic Travel Writing competition.  The brief is to write 200 words on your most inspirational travel experience.  The closing date is January 24th 2014 and there is a fantastic prize up for grabs of an unforgettable trip to Vietnam.  Be lucky!

 

European Union Schemes that provide Free Travel Opportunities.

This post is an introduction to the fact that the EU provides schemes that allow free travel opportunities.  People have often commented that I like my travel, and why not when there is a wonderful world to explore!  But travel can be expensive and luckily for me I have been able to visit Malta, Sicily, and Romania, all courtesy of the European Unions’ funding opportunities that allow us to experience different cultures.

A chance look at a posting on Gumtree first introduced me to these schemes, and like many my first thought was this seems too good to be true.  I had been looking at volunteering experiences for some time and actually couldn’t afford to volunteer!  Many travel companies offer volunteering holidays but the costs can easily mount up, so to be able to travel completely for free AND receive an allowance really got me interested.  This is me in Malta in March 2011, I spent a month there volunteering in a cat sanctuary on an EVS scheme.

Malta Free Travel

As I said this post is an introduction to get you used to the idea as it is really quite shocking to get your head around, (in a good way).  If you are aged 18-30 you should be especially excited as you can enjoy upto 12 months overseas travel through EVS, (European Voluntary Service).  This may be an EU scheme but it doesn’t mean travel is restricted, there are a plethora of opportunities, a personal friend of mine spent 6 months in the Amazon rainforest.

For individuals of all ages there is the Grundtvig scheme which provides an opportunity for non-vocational adult education, normally in the form of workshops lasting one week.  In July 2013 I attended a photography workshop in Romania through Grundtvig, I met fabulous people, ate lovely food, and experienced a culture that without the EU to be honest I don’t think I ever would.  I’m grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity and this is one of the main reasons behind my blog, to be able to share with people this information.  Here I am in Romania with the other workshop participants, its taken at the opening of our photography exhibition which the week worked towards.

Romania 2013

The schemes can be quite complicated, or appear so at first.  But you will generally be supported by a sending and/or hosting organisation so there is really nothing to worry about.  There are other opportunities than just EVS and Grundtvig but I am going to examine everything in further detail for you in individual blog posts.  If you can’t wait and want to start your investigations you will find EVS is part of the Youth In Action programme and Grundtvig part of the Life Long Learning Programme.  However, just to confuse things a little more from 1st January 2014 the old schemes change slightly and merge together to become Erasmus+, the European Union’s budget for 2014-2020 confirmed the budget for this at just under €14.7 billion over seven years.  They are committed to allowing freedom of learning and opportunities for all to experience different cultures, I still have to pinch myself sometimes, isn’t this amazing?!

I would love to know, have any How2bBornLuckiers already engaged in EU schemes?