February 25, 2019

Belgium - Behind the scenes of Binche Carnival

As the Carnival Season is fast approaching, I want to show you a town that lives on the Carnival all year around. That is possible because I'm talking about the town of Binche from Wallonia region in Belgium. The Carnival and all the manifestations that take place on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday after Ash Wednesday are declared a UNESCO, Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

The town of Binche is the home of the famous Gilles, they are clown-like characters dressed in a vibrant costume, wax masks and wooden clogs. On their heads they wear large hats adorned with ostrich plumes. They throw oranges spreading good luck among the spectators of the carnival, though giving back the orange to a gilles is considered an insult.

We happened to arrive in Binche way after the carnival, but could still feel its influence. 

Besides the statue depicting the famous Gilles, the shops were selling carnival clothes and memorabilia, I think it was a carnival themes pub or restaurant and we were lucky enough to see the Gilles rehearsal, very close to this statue. 

Otherwise the town is a typical Walloon town, with a big square close to the town hall, with small houses tucked one against another on large streets, with some sort of a castle or at least fortifications. It was a sunny clear day which made the rocky walls even more impressive.

If you live in Luxembourg or around I do recommend you check Binche out. I would also like to go there during the carnival, but I don't really like crowded places so... Close to Luxembourg you can see the Gilles at the carnival of Arlon, they sometimes are part of the carnival throwing oranges, sometimes they are a no show. I guess my lack of information is due to the fact that people form Arlon are only now, timidly starting to use social media and if they do, it is always in French. As I do speak French only when I have to (so in Arlon) I guess Facebook or Instagram don't bring closer to me these sort of information. But if you are passionate about the carnival and you want to see the Gilles in Arlon, search their news in French and for sure you will have the answer.

That being said, I hope you loved reading this post as much as I loved putting it together! Big changes are coming your way. I am working on migrating the English content to another blog, that is why I've been absent lately from this one. But have no fear, is still strong and I intend on keeping it for as long as I can :) If you fancy keeping in contact with me, drop a line at on Facebook. 

February 8, 2019

Austria - Vienna - Weltmuseum

Yes folks it's another ethnographic museum. Surprised? I think it is one of my pleasures whenever I travel to check these museums and so far I've come to a conclusion. Big museums such as the ones in London, Berlin, Geneva or Amsterdam and now this one in Vienna, host objects that have little to do with those specific countries and more with the ones they once ruled.

I am saying this, compared to the ethnographic museums in Budapest, Bucharest, Ljubljana, Riga, Krakow, Split and who knows how many others, where they exhibit bits and pieces from their way of life, their culture and their costumes. It somehow makes you wonder if there isn't a connection between this and the fact that UK, Germany, Nederlands and Austria have lost their celebrations costumes?

Bear with my logic for a moment. In Romania and all the countries around there are two types of costumes, the everyday one (casual) and the one for celebrations. The national costumes evolved from the celebrations ones, which were more decorated, made from more expensive fabrics and so on. In the countries around where I live now, Nederlands, France, Germany, Belgium and UK, the national costume evolved from the working costume, the everyday one.

Is it possible that they were so into conquering other cultures that they lost their own?

I know it's a harsh conclusion, but I would really, really want to see the Austrian way of life exhibited in Vienna and not, possibly, at a rural museum somewhere outside Vienna. And I do know what Weltmuseum means, in case you want to hold on to that.

Nevertheless, I've liked the museum. It is big and it takes a while to visit, but it is interesting. I will post just pictures of textiles as I was more drawn to those, but I did see a lot more objects :)

This is an intriguing piece, it is described as "sarong" from Malaysia and to me "sarong" is a traditional form of a skirt, but this one is very similar to "fota", a Romanian skirt, particularly with the ones from Muscel region. 

To keep in touch with my adventures, please follow me on Instagram. The feed is on the right part of your screens if you read this post on a desktop, if not you can find me by searching @mademoiselle.ralu on Instagram.


February 4, 2019

Romania - Bucharest - The Minovici Folk Art Museum

Despite spending almost eight years in Bucharest, years in which I had a big interest in what we call "arta populara", folk art, I have never ever visited this museum until a few months ago. I knew it reopened in 2017, but I have no idea when it closed for restoration.

As it happened I've visited the museum on my five hours layover in Bucharest so if you happen to have the same, know that you have plenty of time to visit this museum as you will not exactly go inside Bucharest's terrific traffic. The museum is close to Miorița Fountain in the northern part of Bucharest.

If you are Romanian you might have heard of Mina Minovici, he was the founder of forensic research in Romania and the Institute of Forensic Medicine bears his name. Well the Folk Art Museum belonged to Nicolae Minovici, Mina's brother. He was a scientist in his own right and he worked close with his brother.

Although constructed in 1906, the museum first functioned as a private institution (his country home) and the objects were gathered between 1900 to 1941. So a lot of things to see, among others Romanian folk costumes, ceramics, common every day objects or glass painted icons.
I've liked the whole museum and I have to admit that if it were up to me I would have decorated my house in the same way :) but I do not live alone, so...
On the ground floor I've liked the fireplace with ceramic bricks painted with my beloved carnation pattern. Carnation and dark blue... I was smitten. I want one in my house :)
Also on the ground level they have a small collection of peasant attire, from which I've liked this one from Botosani, I think. I would have liked more explanation about those costumes, but that was just me.
Besides costumes the museum has a large collection of ceramic and apparently those are the oldest Saxon plates in Romania.
I've liked Nicolae Minovici's style of decorating the house. Seems that he came to this house when he wanted to get out of the hassle and bussle of Bucharest, to relax and reflect, but to me especially this place spoke about a time best kept forgotten in the past, when young city man would profit from not so well read or cultivated young peasant women. Which gets me to wonder if his real interest in peasant life and folk culture was not a little twisted and he would not profit from his position. We have a saying in Romanian "despre morti numai de bine", speak only in good terms about dead people, well I would not speak well about Nicolae Minovici so let's leave it like that.
Moving on, I liked this room a lot, even with its abundance of objects. For a minimalist, this room must look like hell, but I really liked it. Of course peasant houses would rarely look like that, but apparently Minovici was a collector and the house looks now exactly as it would look like during his life.
I was really impressed about the shapes of the ceramic jugs or plates in Minovici's collection. I've visited this museum after the one in Piatra Neamț so this particular shape made an impression on me.
I must have been a little bit critical about the museum, but know that I've liked it and would warmly recommend you visit it if you are also interested in peasant art. I think the entrance fee is minuscule so you have no reason not to visit.
I hope you loved reading this post as much as I loved putting it together! Also, if you fancy keeping in contact with me, drop a line at on Facebook.

February 1, 2019

UK- Scotland - Edinburgh Castle

You know me, I have visited my fair share of castles. I've visited castles in Luxembourg, Germany, France, Belgium, Nederland, Romania, Ireland, Austria...well I've visited a lot of castles. And even if I'm not an expert in this field, at least aesthetically I can form an opinion. 

And when you see Edinburgh Castle from Princess Street, it does make an impression. And now let's face it, what is there to visit in Edinburgh, but the castle? So I think, the people who take care of the castle are cashing on that aspect, cause for me 20 pounds to visit a garrison is too much. I am sorry, I've tried not to be so focused on the price, as with the Guinness Storehouse, you pay 15 euro and that's it, but I can't.

Somehow it doesn't offer as much for the price you pay, and 20 pounds is just the entrance, 5 pounds for an audio-guide??? And then multiply that with two, so almost 50 pounds for two people, it's a lot. Even one of the most famous castles all over the world, the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, has 13 euros as an entrance fee. You see my point, there?

I think that line of thought stopped me from enjoying the castle, cause indeed if you want you can spent a whole day inside, the castle has a lot of rooms and attractions. So if you don't mind the price, enjoy our photos.

To see what else I've visited in Edinburgh please follow me on Instagram. The feed is on the right part of your screens if you read this post on a desktop, if not you can find me by searching @mademoiselle.ralu on Instagram.