I celebrated by going to the opera with friends. We saw a production of "La Boheme", which was quite enjoyable. The male lead, Rodolfo, was exceptionally strong and received lots of "Bravo"s at the curtain call. This was my first visit to the Bucharest National Opera, but it certainly won't be my last. I took the picture below from my seat, front row center balcony, which cost me all of 25 lei (about $7)! It is a lovely building. The second picture is an architectural detail I liked.
And then on Sunday, I was up bright and early to join a Meet-Up (http://www.meetup.com) group for a mountain hike. The trip was well organized and communicated and we had almost 40 people there (which was too many - we definitely wound up spending a fair amount of time in wait mode). I had purchased new hiking boots, new snow pants, and even a new backpack for the occasion - all of which I will use again! I was plenty warm, especially going up hill!
We carpooled to Predeal, about an hour and a half north of Bucharest. We began the hike by riding a chair lift to the top of one mountain...
And were rewarded with this view at the top:
I am in this group shot - I am the white hat in the center back. You will have to take my word for it, because I am completely unrecognizable otherwise!
From the location above we walked to a second ski lodge, down and up. It was fun to pass this horse-drawn sleigh that was there to ferry folks to the chalet.
Notice that I have definitely gotten warm: my hat is off, my mittens are off, my jacket is unzipped, and my scarf is loose! The temperature throughout the day was below 0 C. (upper 20's F) But look at the awesome scenery! And the gorgeous blue sky, sunshiny day!
At the point I took the picture below, I was walking alone - in between sub-groups. I was enjoying the extreme tranquility. It was so very quiet. I loved the play of the sunlight through the trees.
My favorite two parts of the hike were the very beginning - because of the incredible views, repeated below - and the section through the woods which was from the beginning section to the third and final chalet, pictured last.
We then went down the mountain from the third chalet to the base of the ski lift. Unfortunately this part was often very steep and because of the snow was also slippery. Some folks had brought snow shovels (plastic things intended for riding on) and went down that way. Others of us slowly picked our way down with sore feet and knees (at least by the time I finished).
We all gathered then for supper at a restaurant in Predeal and shared stories of the day's adventures, before returning to Bucharest. I was especially grateful for some folks who provided additional social support, especially at the end. I have never before done this kind of winter hike and I was definitely slow by the end of the day. All in all I am very glad I did it and am already looking forward to the next opportunity!