Tag Archive for Romania

Valentine’s Day all around the world

It’s that time of the year again! For many people, St Valentine’s day can feel monotonous and commercial, all fluffy pink love hearts and cherubs, and teenagers sending each other Justin Bieber themed E-cards! However, outside of the UK and the US, there are still places where the festival of love is celebrated in more traditional, unique and frankly bizarre ways! So if you’re looking for inspiration for new ways to mark the ‘day of lovers’, then read on…

In Brazil, Valentine’s day is not traditionally celebrated on February 14th, since the nation is still in the throes of the Rio Carnival. Instead, they celebrate the “Dia dos Namoradas”, otherwise known as the “Day of Lovers” on June 12th, on this day a feast and parties are held to celebrate the patron saint of romance and matchmaking.

If your approach to St Valentines day mirrors Brazil’s work hard, party harder ethic, then you should check out our Brazil Trek and Kayak Challenge! This is one of our most unique and varied challenge – the combined elements of rainforest trekking and sea kayaking make this a very tough challenge! But on the completion of your challenge in Rio, you will definitely have reason to celebrate! And of course, what better place to celebrate with your Valentine than underneath a Rio sunset?

Romanians also don’t traditionally celebrate Valentine’s Day, they instead celebrate “Dragobete”, a more earthy rural festival on February 24th that denotes a celebration of lovers, spring and new life. It’s a day when traditionally “birds get betrothed” i.e. Start building their nests’, girls collect snow to melt for magic potions and children sing songs of spring. It is also said that if during a couple’s dance, one lover steps over the foot of another, then that lover will play the dominant role in the relationship! So if you’re planning on going out clubbing this evening to celebrate St Valentines, take note!

If you find these medieval notions of magic potions and rural living romantic, then you should defiantly check out our Trek Transylvania, where you and your beloved one could journey through rugged landscapes in a tough challenge that culminates in a visit to the enigmatic Dracula’s Castle.

China celebrates two Valentine’s Days, the first being the 14th of February St Valentines Day that we all know and love (or hate!). The second day of celebration of love is a little more unusual and falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. This day – known as “Qi Xi” or “Magpie Festival” comes from a Chinese legend over 2000 years old – and is the ultimate story of star crossed lovers! Like all folk tales, there are many variations of the Qixi Festival legend, but the basic story is usually the same: Niulang – a cow herder, and Zhinv – a weaver girl who is also the daughter of the Goddess of Heavan, meet on earth and get married. When the Goddess discovers this she orders her daughter back to heaven. The cowherd followed her there and in anger the Goddess cuts a river into the sky – the Milky Way, thus separating the two lovers. But once a year, all the magpies of the world fly up to the Milky Way to bridge the river and allow the two lovers to meet.

To celebrate this day, lovers visit the Temple of the Matchmaker and pray for love, happiness, and marriage. Singles also visit the temple to ask for luck in love. It is also traditional for young girls to carve melons and offer up fruit to the deities on this day.

If legends of star crossed lovers inspire you, then take a look at our Great Wall Discovery Challenge, where you and your lover will have to overcome 1000s of steps to reach your destiny.

In Scandinavia, couples here will exchange “lover’s cards” on February 14, and like us, indulge in the commercial St Valentines day. But they do have a poetic and quirky card tradition known as the “gaekkebrev”, whereby the man sending this special card will write a rhyme for the lady to whom he’s sending it, but instead of writing his name he will sign off with a dot for each letter of his name. The puzzle is then for the lady receiving the card to guess the name of the sender. If she can guess correctly, her prize will be an Easter egg at Easter. But if she doesn’t guess, she owes the sender an Easter egg instead!

If this puzzling addition to Valentine’s Day brings out your competitive side, then check out our Dog Sledding Challenge in Sweden, where you’ll need to figure out how to successfully drive your own team of huskies, mushing over 200kms through beautiful, frozen landscapes. And as our Swedish Ground handler Jordana puts it “What could be more romantic than cuddling together on reindeer pelts by open fire whilst hearing the sleddogs howl to the northern lights and full moon!”

So there really is 100 different words and ways to say “I love you!”

Here at charity challenge, we think there is nothing more romantic or love affirming than taking on a challenge of a lifetime together – supporting each other up the mountains, sleeping together under the stars, taking in the most beautiful views in the world! You can see the top 5 list of Charity Challenges most romantic challenges here.

To see the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

Tales from the Trek Transylvania, By Charity Challenge bookings Manager Carmel

As the Bookings Manager at Charity Challenge, I am usually busy helping to coordinate the bookings in the office and spend most my time in envy of our freelance leaders who get to meet inspirational Challengers and experience the treks first-hand. Not this August though, when I was lucky enough to take part on one of our best and toughest European challenges in the so-called ‘Transylvanian Alps’ of Romania.

Romania isn’t an area of the world I had visited before, although I’ve heard some really great things about the country, so I really had no idea what to expect from the challenge other than it was going to be tough… and when my group of 7 got through Heathrow airport and onto the plane with only a few slightly worrying bag searches (Ewen’s rogue tarot cards seemed to have caused a disturbance), I knew that it was going to be a good week.

I think our EU challenges have a reputation for being slightly easier than others, but this is a total misconception. On our overseas challenges there are always days factored in to acclimatize and overcome jetlag, whereas in Transylvania you enjoy 4 solid days of trekking sandwiched in between tiring flights and sightseeing. The first day after touching down in Bucharest, where we met our infamous guide Ion, who was to become one of the heroes of the challenge, the group was taken immediately to the bus and we enjoyed a sightseeing tour of the beautiful Transylvanian city of Brasov, which still retains many of the 14th Century architectural features as well as the slightly bizarre ‘Hollywood’ inspired sign, set high up in the mountains surrounding the town.

This challenge is made up of 4 days, of which two are sort of a warm-up and cool-down day but will be long, hilly and extremely beautiful, and the other two are very tough, with difficult ascents and descents throughout the day.  One of the great things about the challenge is that you barely see anyone else on the trails at all. In fact the first and the third days were a real opportunity to see the shepherd huts and rural villages that make the culture of this area of Romania so unique in relation to the rest of the country. Although we didn’t see many people, we certainly saw a lot of sheep – I’m always going to remember Adriana being split from the group by a herd of sheep and running through them, arms flailing, while the rest of the group took a break to laugh at her situation! (we were concerned, of course).

Although you do need a certain level of fitness to complete the challenge, it was a testament to the group that we had so many people of different ages, backgrounds, injuries (I’m thinking of you Vicki!) and everyone managed to push themselves out of their comfort zone and get a lot out of the challenge. Which is basically our aim! After 3 hours of uphill struggle on day two of the challenge, Andrew, who has the Brecon Beacons on his back doorstep as a training ground, said that it’s ‘probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done’. And Kevin, who had already booked a place to climb Machu Picchu next year, was glad that he had taken on Transylvania in preparation for the dizzy heights (pardon the altitude pun) of the Andes. But the great thing about this challenge, without a doubt (aside from the scenery!), is the help and support you will get from the guiding team in country throughout. Despite a discovery of a fear of heights at the top of the narrow and steep ridge, Xanthe got past it and to the summit with the help of one of our amazing mountain guides, Florin, who helped her through the rough patch without having to look down. Meanwhile Ion was helping to push and pull Vicki up the scrambling section as she had her hand in a cast. Massive respect to her for completing that part with only one hand – I’m still impressed and not sure how she managed it! The scrambling day is the last day and after reaching the summit of 1800m we were rewarded for our efforts with lunch and a fantastic view over Transylvania, stretching from the Bucegi massive to the section of Pietra Crailui that we had just ascended.

I mentioned something earlier about Ion being a hero… well after Katie had taken the descents so hard on her knees over the week, it was impossible for her to go on for the last 90mins of the trek. Ion carried her (sometimes literally) down the hill, beating the rest of the group, before returning to help the rest of us. He then drove us home, served us all dinner and left in the morning at 5.30am to take part in a mountain biking competition with Florin. And, digressing from the trek a little, he ended up withdrawing from the competition in order to help an ambulance find an injured competitor. What a guy.

So with thanks to the brilliant guides, and lots of spectacular photos to take home, I said goodbye to the group at Heathrow airport. Through our struggles, successes and overdose on cheese (three meals a day!) we’ve all had some interesting bonding moments and I hope that they take away some great memories of Transylvania.

Noroc! (Cheers)

If you’ve been inspired by Carmel’s adventure, you can find out more about our Trek Transylvania here. You can find out more information about all our amazing challenges on our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all our challenge news, please subscribe to this blog. You can also enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.

The Hidden Gems Challenge Series – Trek Translyvania

Here at Charity Challenge, we are proud that our challenge portfolio includes the most iconic, classic and spectacular of treks from the adventure travel business, – namely “the Kilimanjaro Summit Climb”, “Trek to Machu Picchu” and the “Great Wall Discovery”, all quite rightly on half the nation’s bucket lists!

But we don’t stop at that. We also offer an entire range of more niche short haul challenges for those who struggle to pull themselves away from their day to day commitments at home, at work and (more often than not!) their footie team. These challenges includes treks such as our Etna Volcanic Adventure, and our Icelandic Lava Trek.

These treks aren’t always so high on people’s radars, but the way we see it, adventure travel is not just about fulfilling your lives’ ambitions, but finding yourself in a place you’d never have expected you’d ever be and finding out new things about yourself… And absolutely loving it! The challenges in our portfolio that are able to deliver this unique, and sometimes unexpected, amazing experience are what we refer to as our “Hidden Gem Challenges.”

Unfortunately, these Hidden Gems can be a little overshadowed by their aforementioned more famous sibling challenges. Which is a bit of a shame, as these short haul challenges provide just as big a thrill, and are a perfect fit for people who can’t afford to spend too long away from home and/or are perhaps taking their first step into the world of trekking and looking for something a little bit different. So, to celebrate these challenges, we have decided to write a special blog series, putting them firmly into the limelight. First up is an invigorating challenge that takes place in the borderland of European civilization – the Trek Transylvania.

There is a rustic and olde world feel to Trek Transylvania that is unique among our challenges. The trek takes place in Romania’s wild Transylvanian Alps, a quiet and sparsely populated region of the country. The first point of call when you touch down in Romania is Brasov city – a beautiful medieval city, which you pass through on your way to Bran Village, which acts as the home hub of this challenge.

The scenery around Bran is serene and rugged, pastoral, with atmospheric rocky ledges and specular mountain views. But, as our Transylvania Trekkers quickly find out, the trekking experience itself is anything but serene, Those picturesque rocky ledges are in actual fact rigidly sharp, uncompromising and frankly a bit of a nightmare to scramble over! The terrain is varied and unyielding, barely trodden and can be challenging to navigate. There are steep up-hills, perilous slopes, with the grassy landscape seeming to stretch on into infinity!

But intertwined are glimpses of Romania’s rich pastoral culture, as trekkers have the opportunity to talk with locals, sleep in small mountain villages and taste traditional food.

And of course, a trip to Transylvania would of course not be complete without a visit to the 14th century Romanian icon – Dracula’s Castle! A site loved by vampire lovers and vampire slayers alike, this beautiful castle was fabulously renovated in the 19th century by the royal family of Romania, but it is best known by Bram Stoker’s infamous novel of the same name.

So, in summary, Trek Transylvania is an ideal challenge for country enthusiasts, culture vultures, trekking heroes, people wanting to escape the city, vampire lovers and people after an ultimate, alternate and absolutely once in a lifetime challenge. The feedback that we get from our Transylvania Trekkers always speaks for itself!

I had the most amazing experience in Romania. The scenery was absolutely beautiful and the trek was challenging but so much fun.” ‘Chloe Fox’

it was the Challenge of a lifetime.’ Ilana Epstein

An exhilarating life changing  experience.’ Tanya Richards

Fall into those categories and inspired by the feedback? Then check out our Trek Transylvania challenge itinerary and departure dates here!

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Some inspiration for the Charity Challenge Photo Competition -New pics fresh from Trek Transylvania!

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