Home ~ is it a feeling or a place?

When we examine mental souvenirs of time and places, bonds formed and love shared, the definition of home becomes clear.  Or does it?

For me, Los Angeles has been home for the past 24 years. It’s where midsummer night moments led to love, to marriage. Where my house is my place of zen. Where work and family keep me happy and busy.

When I visit Romania, that’s also home. I belonged there for the first 22 years of my life. It’s human nature, I think, to continually belong to the place we grow from.

Bucharest, Old town

So, onward traveler

After we bid farewell to Berlin, our next stop was Bucharest (Bucuresti), Romania.  Like no place in Europe, Romania took no time to connect. I instantly felt at home. Every nuance of the language was clear, every subtle gesture hinting at or replacing dialogue. Perfectly clear. Here, I could recall childhood memories, reclaim old stomping grounds. Luxuriate in an endless supply of affection.

Strangely, perhaps, but customarily, one of our first stops was a cemetery. We made our way down endless pathways to graves shaded by willow trees. Paid our respects to departed loved ones. Lit candles. Cried. There’s something cathartic about standing in silence near a grave under a willow tree. Almost peaceful.

A terrace dinner with family and friends followed. We recalled old times over seafood and spirits. Told stories. Caught up on life events. Expressed surprise at time’s handy work on us all. It could’ve been called the terrace of joy and tears of laughter.

Next on the agenda were Old Town Bucharest, the city center, the People’s Palace (built by the former dictator as his quarters, and thankfully never becoming that). We drove through historic neighborhoods, through streets of long ago, past old schools and playgrounds once frequented with childhood friends.

So many memories, ever vivid and heartwarming.

Bucharest is a much improved city in my eyes, but local opinion differs. As an EU member, Romania is riding the wave of change, one I’d consider helpful for this once communist nation ruled by a dictator. But change is never easy.

Given Romania’s geographic and strategic location (E. Europe & Black Sea), limiting the influence of larger powers has always been a uniting fight. A conversation starter. Well, past and present are worlds apart. While arguing politics comes naturally to older Romanians, the post-Revolution, younger folks, are writing the story of a modern, technologically savvy generation, interested mostly in the future. Maybe better that way, although sometimes I wonder.

Through changes good and bad, the warm, fun and welcoming spirit endures in this land unrecognizable at times, yet wildly familiar.

The land of many castles. Of wooden churches and eastern orthodox tradition coexisting in harmony with western philosophies. Where contrary to rumor, Count Dracula is not a vampire but a national hero. A land once isolated, now open to innovation.

So many conversations in Bucharest begin with … remember when?

Yes, I remember …

… my grandmother’s stories that sort my ancestry going back several generations. I’ll never wonder about that all-important piece of information regarding my lineage: Where do I come from?

Yes, Bucharest feels like home. Yet when visiting, I often refer to Los Angels as home. And one aspect never changes: as happy as I am to visit Romania, I’m thrilled to return to L.A.

So, home, I ask: is it a feeling or a place?

My ties to both Romania and the US run deep. Maybe that makes me a globalized mutt with love for Mexican food and homemade plum brandy.

Speaking of which, here’s to life and travels and the sense of belonging. To home, wherever that may be.

Images: skyscraperpage; happytowonder; euandiromaniatopics

15 responses to “Bucharest

  1. I think home is both. It’s nice you get to revisit the stomping grounds of your youth and still feel at home there. Why does home have to be one place?

    • Thanks Liz for reading, commenting, and helping me notice a typo in the text. :)
      Good question. It certainly isn’t just one place for many people. And it could be just that for others.

  2. Lovely post, Silvia. Bucharest looks like it’s a beautiful city, redolent with old world charm. I’m so glad Romania is open to the West now. For most of my life I was especially curious about Romania, which, for me at least, seemed darkly hidden behind the Iron Curtain. All most of us in the West imagined about Romania, I think, was that Count Dracula lived there in a dark and damp castle deep in the middle of a dense forest. I’m happy to learn he’s a national hero.

    Returning to your roots must have filled you with, as you say, tears of joy. Do you still remember the language fluently? You moved to L.A. at about the time I left after living there for nearly 30 years. I returned to Delaware and my Philadelphia & Delaware roots. It’s good to come home, but I would be thrilled to return to L.A. — and, for sure, the abundance of Mexican food.

    Thanks for telling us this story of your roots and of your travels through Europe. I hope you plan to put these stories into a book. They are truly fascinating, and I love seeing the photos.


    • Thank you, Carol. Yes, I remember the language and speak fluently. Recalling certain words takes time, and sometimes I have to go around the exact meaning, but that’s rare. I think everyone saw/sees Romania the way you described, down to Dracula and the damp forest. :) Rightfully so, in regards to the Iron Curtain, given the long isolation and politics. It’s a very different place today, even for me. And I have regular contact in some form or fashion. Yes, nice to return. And L.A. is great, so come. :)
      Glad you enjoyed the post. Many thanks.

      • Re recalling the language, Silvia, I sometimes have that problem with English. 😊 When I do come to L.A., I will be sure and look you up. I’ll let you know in advance. Presently, though, I have no immediate plans to travel out there.

  3. Yes, home is both a feeling and a place as if the place doesn’t feel right it can’t be home. I grew up with acreage and surrounded by a forest and the lake. Whenever I am in a similar environment, I feel “at home.”

    It looks like you had a marvelous trip that brought back many wonderful memories for you. AND…. Welcome Home!! <3

  4. Lovely post Silvia thank you …. You pose important questions about place and home in a beautifully written piece. Your roots are clearly deep, in both places – both places deeply felt and honoured is my first response. In my instance we lived in many many places as I was growing up so it is something I think about from time to time, and wonder how it must be to have lived long in one place.

    Your photographs are lovely! Thank you for inviting us in to Bucuresti, Romania … It always has had an aura of mystique to me, possibly also because of Count Dracula. But politically as well … and that dictator. –

    Welcome home!

  5. What a wonderful post, Sylvia. I feel the same way about Prague, even though I lived there only one year – but it was an intense, learning year. I loved being able to relate. I now actually have three ‘homes’ – Chapel Hill/Durham, Plymouth MA, and Prague. That feeling of a comfortable, welcoming warm slipper I have in all three. Thanks for the introduction to Bucharest!

  6. Hi Silvia – home was here when I was in Johannesburg, yet home was Jo’burg as that was where I lived … and so it goes – now I’m here on the south coast – yet home feels like Cornwall …the county I most closely associate with, yet have never lived there. So I feel the draws you feel to place and place … and those wonderful memories you have going back centuries of Romanian life … those are the ones to remember and find out more about … cheers Hilary

  7. Oh, lovely. It’s both. Home is where you are loved.

I welcome your thoughts.

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