Array ( [total] => 14 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5267] => Array ( [iID] => 5267 [tTitle] => Oslo, I am disappoint [tSlug] => oslo-i-am-disappoint [iTime] => 1312668000 [iUpdate] => 1312668000 [tDescription] => Sadly, Oslo is currently the world's most expensive city. At the same time, Oslo is also the fastest growing European city, though this is due to immigration, currently a quarter of the population being immigrants, with some predictions saying that in 20 years time, it will be half. The largest immigrant populations are Pakistani, Somali, Swede and Pole. Walking around the inner city, roughly the town's shopping district, it actually feels like 75% of the population are immigrants. It's a pity that the city isn't very attractive, rather drab and also rather messy and dirty. A jumble of buildings, though some, thankfully, are nice enough. Service related to the flight from Katowice to Oslo can improve on its levels of comfort. Katowice airport is an hour from town, but worse was boarding being called ("please go to the gate now") half an hour before they actually started the boarding procedure. Because the gate was down a ramp, meaning you couldn't see the gate from the departure hall, all passengers ended up being stuck in a small space, unable to move, waiting for the gate to open. At the gate an old fashioned eastern European, very staunch, lady, was policing bag size, picking out passengers and having them check both weight and size of their carry on. Luckily, I slipped through. Though my bag wasn't too heavy, 10kg is allowed, the shape of the backpack, like most, doesn't fit the prescribed size. Going through the security check in Katowice, both toothpaste and deodorant were confiscated, even though I got through security with them when flying from Eindhoven. Sure, rules are rules, and I understand that 125ml of toothpaste can be terribly dangerous. Later, exchanging money in town, the chain of currency exchange offices called Forex, filled with what seemed Somalians and Ethiopians, charge a fixed and criminal six euros for changing money. And I had to hand over my ID for registration. This behavior, and the rather strict border control when entering the country, reeks of the trappings of totalitarianism. WTF is up with this shit? On the upside, Oslo truly is a cashless society. All payments can be done by card. All payments. Norway is outside of the EU (but inside Schengen), so alcohol could be had cheap atKatowice airport, full bottles of Zubrowka going for a mere 6 euros. As in Oslo a pint of beer can cost double that, stocking up before going is the thing to do. And the savings are more than needed. A mediocre hot dog and half a liter of water, at a Seven Eleven, set me back nearly six euros. A whopper junior is only marginally less than that. Toothpaste (a small tube, in case airport security want to get it from me again), deodorant (small), water and a roll, at a regular supermarket, set me back nearly twelve euros. It seems that the cost of shopping in Sierra Leone has met it's match. Norway only beats it on choice. Boarding the plane, my passport wasn't checked once. This means that flying on someone else's ticket is possible. Additionally, the only thing that really matters, if at all, is that the name of the boarding card matches the name in your passport. However, with web checkins, this is easily adjusted on the original with very little computer skills. Just as long as the barcode is intact, the scan of the boarding card will work fine, whether the name on the card matches the name it was booked for or not. In Oslo, plenty of the city's museums used to be free, up till only a few months ago. No mean feat, as those that weren't free charged 8 to 15 euros a piece. Free, it seems, doesn't exist anymore. The museum that hosts Munch's Scream now costs about 7 euros, though you get to see three more museums at that price, though all used to be free. Thankfully, it's more than worth it, though two of the four can be skipped. Other formerly free museums now charge about the same price. The Kon-Tiki museum, highlighting Thor Heyerdahl's journey from Peru to Easter Island, never was free, but upped it's price to just under ten euros. The Munch museum, which also has a version of the scream, now charges 13 euros. I'm staying in one of the very few budget options in town, which still comes in at some 30 euros per night for a bed in an eight bedded dorm. The place, Anker hostel, is so busy with backpackers and whatnot arriving and leaving, it feels more like a factory. Though the place is clean and staff are friendly, the hostel also feels remarkably run down. Cashing in 250 euros per room per night, I'm a bit surprised. Not sure if it is the rains, or simply the prohibitive cost of going out on the town, the reception area of the hostel is busy with guests hanging out from the early morning till the evening. And with everyone tapping away on their iPhone or laptop because of the free but mediocre wifi, it's also eerily quiet. Sadly, though August is the festival season in Oslo, as opposed to eastern Europe, where in august most venues shut down, the rains aren't inviting. Building a house with Habitat in 2000 in Beius, Romania, we fraternized with some of the locals. One of them moved to Norway and she has been asking me for close to ten years when I'd finally visit, me saying it will happen at some point. It's happening now, but, as luck would have it, she's on holiday in Romania. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3084 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1110 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462102394 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 41 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 59.9167 [fLongitude] => 10.7577 [tLocation] => Anker hostel [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110807 ) [5260] => Array ( [iID] => 5260 [tTitle] => When in Romania [tSlug] => when-in-romania [iTime] => 1311112800 [iUpdate] => 1311112800 [tDescription] => Getting in or out of Chisinau presents you with limited choices. Though there are occasional long distance trains, going to and coming from as far away as Berlin and Moscow, but these only typically run about once a week. There is a daily night train between the Moldovan capital and Bucharest, but busses are significantly more common. So, skipping Bucharest to save time which would allow me to potentially participate in a pubquiz in Budapest on Thursday, I took a bus to Brasov, just under two hundred kilometers north of Bucharest. Brasov, its name deriving from the Turkic for "white water", once in the domain of the Hungarians, is firmly in the heart of Transylvania. The city isn't very big, only counting some 300.000 peeps as it's inhabitants, and the old town of the city is embedded between two scissoring steep cliff faces, which rise up hundreds of meters above the old city. The town itself is actually a tad boring, feeling like a remote Austrian or south German town. And it's also horribly touristy, the whole year through, thanks to the nearby ski slopes and the also nearby home of Vlad the Impaler, more colloquially known as Dracula. You can even visit the man's castle, though he had several. Apparently, a country has to take pride in one's serial killers. More interesting is the castle's history before Vlad associated himself with it, if only briefly. A castle was first built by the Teutonic knights in the early 13th century, this one was destroyed by the advancing Mongols in 1242. Consider how close the Mongols came to conquering the world. Not because they were defeated, but because the generals were called back to select a successor to the great khan Ogedei, the third son of Chinggis Khan. Talk about a case of being saved by the bell. The rebuilt Bran castle, put together by the Saxons and allowed for by the ruling Hungarian king was then first used in the defense against the Ottomans in 1378, after which a back and forth took place for a while, which included the short term ownership of Vlad III, in 1459, the individual on which Dracula was modeled. Now, the building is a museum with a host of materials from the Romanian queen Mary and, actually, not really worth visiting. Sure, the setting is nice, but Vlad the Impaler is only a minor side story, and the disneyfication in the village of Bran is second to none. No sweet transvestites were encountered. Onwards Even the Romanian train network now deploys time-differentiated pricing in the style of Ryanair. Want to travel tomorrow to Budapest? You'll pay up to twice as much as if you had booked a week in advance. Is that reasonable? A public service run by the government shouldn't try to take advantage of it's subjects in a market where competition is not possible. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2474 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1101 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462210729 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 6 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 45.515 [fLongitude] => 25.3672 [tLocation] => Bran castle [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110720 ) [5259] => Array ( [iID] => 5259 [tTitle] => Transnistria, the little country that isn't [tSlug] => transnistria-the-little-country-that-isnt [iTime] => 1310940000 [iUpdate] => 1310940000 [tDescription] => It's amazing that a Chisinau and Vladivostok, some 7500 kilometers apart, as the crow flies, were once part of the same country. Chisinau has a decidedly more European, if eastern feel to it than Vladivostok, but the nearby Tiraspol could just as easily be any larger city anywhere in Siberia. The government building is still called house of the Soviet, a few Lenin statues still stand and the hammer and sickle can be seen all over the place, including in the country's flag. When the Soviet Union broke up, the Moldovan region east of the Dniester, Nistra, river had quite a few Russians living there, mostly related to the Soviets' strong military presence. The Transnistrians fought to stay independent, afraid that the new country, with its strong ties to the region of Moldavia across the border in Romania, would seek to reunite with it's western neighbor. So far, Moldova is still Moldova, on the edge of the European union and supposedly the poorest country in Europe, though that's hard to tell from the many cafes and restaurants lining the city's streets. But, the breakaway province also believes it's a country, even though it's only recognized as such by two other entities, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and they are not even countries themselves. I found Tiraspol nice and friendly enough, if very small and quiet. It's easy to walk to the edge of town and, while walking, I bumped into several of the locals with whom i shared my bus into the country. And it seems the Transnistrian officials are no longer hassling tourists. Up to a few years ago, crossing into the wannabe country would be frought with difficulties and the need of paying multiple bribes. Now, a successful policy change made crossing a total breeze. To the extent where it's almost meaningless. On the Ukrainian side, the guards briefly looked at our passports, there is freedom of travel between the two republics. Later, leaving Moldovia, on the Romanian side, the Moldovans checked the passports and tapped every part of the bus with a screwdriver, but did not check the luggage, while the Romanians didn't check the bus, but did check the luggage in the hold, very briefly, but did not check the luggage which remained in the bus. A Moldovan family on the bus was extremely fidgety until after the Moldovan checkpoint. It reminded me of a crossing from Lithuania to Poland by bus a good number of years ago, where nearly everyone was smuggling stuff, taped to their person. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2440 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1099 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461977826 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.8367 [fLongitude] => 29.6109 [tLocation] => Monument to Suvorov [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20110718 ) [476] => Array ( [iID] => 476 [tTitle] => Train trip to Istanbul [tSlug] => train-trip-to-istanbul [iTime] => 1161468000 [iUpdate] => 1161468000 [tDescription] => I tried getting a plane ticket from Budapest to Istanbul, but prices were too high. And anyway, travelling overland also has a poetic ring to it. When boarding, the conductor showed his surprise at someone actually showing up on the train. He made it clear it would be a long ride, that we would arrive the day after tomorrow, I hope. Many seem to share the conductor's sentiment, as there will be only two passengers in the carriage, the only one going to journey from Budapest to Istanbul. Other parts of the train only go to the border, two carriages continue to Greece. That's the Trans-Balkan-Express. The train -can- only be operated at a loss. I expect this remnant of Soviet hegemony will disappear in the next few years. Some years ago, when travelling by train from Poland to Russia, every station was filled with hawkers selling anything from boiled eggs to fried bread. Here, no one appears to be interested in selling anything. The signs at the Romanian train stations are brand new. Next year, this, too, will most likely be European Union. In Videle, Romania, we had to wait for quite a while, when I realized how funny, in an annoying way, it would be if the one carriage I'm staying in would be left, forgotten, in the middle of this country, with only stray dogs to keep me company. Then I looked out the window and saw my carriage was the only one left at the train station. We stood still for four hours. Istanbul is like a woman's private parts: moist and warm. Sweating like a dog, I struggled to the hostel I booked online, to find it's the exact same one we stayed at three years before. I chose this one because it offers wi-fi access in the lobby. Upon arriving, I mentioned this to the guy at reception. "Of course we have wi-fi". Most hostels now offer wi-fi access. I'm getting old. Proof is also the many hostel dwellers whom I consider too young to even start picking their own noses. 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[tSlug] => off-again [iTime] => 963698400 [iUpdate] => 963698400 [tDescription] => It wasn't very surprising that the next day most men had a very hard time getting out of bed, most not getting out before 12 in the afternoon, just in time to get their plane. Two of the guys, Jacobs and Slump were able to get out of bed a bit earlier and we had brunch at a small cafe next to the hotel. Very cheap and surprisingly good. What was even more surprising was the ban on smoking in the restaurant. In Romania, that's nearly a contradiction in terms. Some time later, I bumped into two other Veti and had a coffee in the same cafe again. This time, some old guy in the same cafe noticed some of our T-shirts, advertising Habitat for Humanity. He had to come over, continuously explaining that 'this' would become big business and that we just had to go in business together. He gave me his e-mail address and I even emailed him, after I got back. Haven't heard from him since. Bouk was the only one leaving Bucharest late in the day, on another plane. We had planned to do some more site seeing in the city but had missed each other in the morning. However, he didn't expect me still being close to the hotel and when he gave me a call to find out where I was, it turned out that he was in a cab, driving northwards. Why north? I had mentioned the previous day that I was going to visit Ceaucescu's former residence and that's in the north of town. We met up some time later, visited Ceaucescu's residence, were kicked out by police and went to his grave instead. A treat, since you also get the graves of his wife and their son in one go. What else could you want? After putting Slockers on the bus to the airport, I wondered if, now that I was alone again, I would interact more with locals. I did. Not only did I talk with a Pakistani at my hotel, when I picked up my luggage, a very nice girl also started talking with me about the (beautiful, at least according to her) Black Sea, when she saw my backpack when I was on my way to the train station. That evening, I had a very nice dinner in a very nice restaurant. With granite columns and very nicely decorated wooden sculptures, it resembled a church. The folk dancing and music made it even better. I expected high prices but it was dirt cheap. I started talking to a German girl, working for Hotel Palace Berlin, who had also fallen in love with Eastern Europe. Sadly, I had to leave too early to catch my train to Sofia, leaving the same evening. I had gotten my ticket earlier in the day, but only now, after close inspection of the ticket, did I notice I hadn't any reservations for a sleeper. It seemed I was traveling to Sofia on a regular passenger train. Not only that, shortly after arriving in my cabin, two youngsters joined me. Hendrik and Stella turned out to be two Interrailers from Holland, studying at Utrecht university, on their first major trip abroad. The worst wasn't them being Dutch, it was only there being two couches for three people in our compartment. Thief in the night Clearly, Hendrik and Stella were a bit young, their 'first time abroad' easily showing. As specially Hendrik, with an air of "I've seen it all, I know what it's about" wasn't particularly open to the different cultures they had come across. Nevertheless, both Hendrik and Stella were very friendly and, together with Wayne, who we met in the hotel we stayed in, in Sofia, we 'did' Sofia and visited the Rila monastery in the south of Bulgaria. During the night, traveling by train from Bucharest to Sofia, I nearly got pickpocketed. Since Hendrik, Stella and myself were sharing a compartment, there was room for no-one to actually lay down and get some sleep. Instead, I offered to find an empty compartment, found one and went to sleep. I awoke to someone banging loudly on the compartment door with a heavy club. Apparently it was difficult to wake me up, judging from the stance this custom control officer was taking. Five minutes later, it was border patrol and I was allowed to go back to sleep again. Then, I was already sleeping again, I somehow felt a small hand reaching for my pocket, the one were I was keeping my wallet. I opened my eyes and quickly sat up. Still groggy from sleep, I was looking, wide eyed, in the scared-to-death eyes of a 10 year old. Both frozen in action, the boy audibly swallowing. He gained his composure sooner than I did, opened the compartment door and quickly ran off. I went back to sleep. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2544 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 678 [iOldID] => 1061 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462136180 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 16 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 44.4464 [fLongitude] => 26.0742 [tLocation] => Train station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000716 ) [687] => Array ( [iID] => 687 [tTitle] => Fountains a plenty [tSlug] => fountains-a-plenty [iTime] => 963612000 [iUpdate] => 963612000 [tDescription] => Bucharest isn't the most beautiful city you'll ever encounter. It's mainly huge, gray and in bad shape. The House of the People being the only really interesting landmark. The House of the People, built by Ceaucescu in honor of, well, himself is the second largest building in the world, coming in second only after the Pentagon! The building is absurd. Not so much from the outside, where its just a big ugly building, as it is from the inside. Granite everywhere, unbelievably large chandeliers and carpets, rooms the size of soccer fields and so on. The building was (somewhat) finished in 1984 as the centerpiece of 'Ceausima', Ceaucescu's civic center. To accommodate the monstrous building, twelve churches, three monasteries, two synagogues and 7000 homes were bulldozed. When the first post-communist parliament moved in, the building was renamed 'the Parliament Palace'. However, locals still call it 'it' or the 'thing'. At times, 25000 people were working on the palace at the same time. It's a Monster. However, it's also very impressive. When, some years ago, Michael Jackson gave a concert in Bucharest, he stood on one of the building's balconies, saying 'hi' to the crowds that had gathered: 'Hello Budapest'. Needless to say, Michael isn't really popular in Bucharest. We staid in the same hotel the group had staid in when coming in to Romania. Easy and affordable it was right in the center of town. Close to all the nightclubs we would undoubtedly visit in the evening. Half the group decided to take a nap first, when arriving at the hotel. The other half, myself included, did some sight seeing around town. Not that there's really much to see besides following the trail of the 1989 revolution. The city's atmosphere isn't bad though, relaxing, and with the sun shining, you can find a terrace on most street corners. Another Ceaucescu legacy is the whole city being littered with water fountains. Our two groups met at the House of the People. We had agreed to meet at 1300hours, at the front entrance of the House of the People. After waiting for twenty minutes, we decided to try and find the main entrance, where only a few minutes later we were able to join on a tour of the building. Leaving the tour, we bumped into the second group. Zwan, being part of that group had had quite a hard time getting from one place to the next, his knee still being injured from the game of soccer. They had tried to be in time but Zwan just made it impossible. When we met up with them again when they exited the tour, Taas had arranged an evening date with the guide; a very quiet Romanian girl going by the name of Monica. Last I heard, they're still in contact with one another and planning to go to Spain together... It's a girl thing The evening was good. We had dinner at a place called 'Bistro Atheneau', serving good, Italian style food for very reasonable prices. We had something of a feast. Already during dinner, Taas had to leave us for meeting Monica. After dinner, we took a cab to Disco Club Maxx. After Maxx, we went to the Flamenco. Maxx, way out on the outskirts of town, Flamenco in the city center, the two couldn't be much further apart, not just geographically. Club Maxx is frequented by students, the music played includes a lot of Spanish rhythms, (very good) cocktails start at $1 and there's an atmosphere of people going wild. Flamenco is frequented by whores and pimps (and us apparently), the music played is mainly house, a beer is no cheaper than $3 and almost everyone is trying to make a living. However, it is easy to dance with a girl at the Flamenco. But only for one dance and one dance only. After one dance, the girls always ask if you would like a bit more besides dancing. One, two and sometimes three pimps standing behind them, making sure she's not ripping off anyone, them particularly. When I walked home from the Flamenco, three separate youngsters, each one about 20 years old, asked me if I was looking for a girl. The next day I learned that Taas actually had a very, ehm, close evening with Monica. Enjoying the stars and each other on one of the city's many outdoor benches. Romanian girls, possibly even more so than Hungarian girls, know how to dress. The two discos we visited being perfect examples. Sure, at the Flamenco, most girls were dressed in see-through body stockings (or variations thereof) with high heels, moving like eels on the dance floor. But at the Maxx it wasn't much different, and here most visitors were students. But also the streets deliver an astounding portrait of Romanian beauty. Then again, Romanians are awkward. Most of the Romanian guys we spoke claim to have multiple girlfriends. Meaning that most girls must have multiple boyfriends too. And for these well dressed ladies, the only objective really seems to be to take home a man, ASAP. Which brings me to another point; What does your SO do what you don't know about? When Amalia, back in Beius, mentioned that Art looked very nice, I first asked for her hand to check whether she was married. She wasn't wearing a ring, and when I looked in her eyes, they confirmed the electricity she radiated when I took her hand. That, in addition to an earlier remark by her that I should get a girl in Romania made me not want to go any further. However, when I called Art over, she first started blushing but immediately mentioned that she was already taken. Which didn't seem much of a problem when she met up with Art again the next evening. Similar stories seem to be valid for Kelly and Monica as well, although all non-single Veti on the trip seemed to act very chastely. 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[tSlug] => the-roof-the-roof [iTime] => 963525600 [iUpdate] => 963525600 [tDescription] => Friday, by far, was the most difficult day of the week. Some of the guys had only gone to bed at 5:00am, getting up at 8 again. Building went terribly slow. However, a human chain we formed at the end of the day to get all 1400 tiles on the roof, and that made quite a difference. We even convinced Habitat into us painting a number of tiles red to make VETO appear in huge letters on the roof. Not that the house was completely finished. Just the walls and the roof were standing and all windows still had to be fitted. Still, all that was already planned to happen at a specific later time. We were just needed to make the house waterproof. Although you could easily argue that a house with holes for windows isn't really waterproof. After being finished, some speeches followed, the most emotional, by far, being the speech by the future owner of the house, whom had also helped in building the thing during the week. Occasinally, his pregnant wife would come and visit us to see how we were doing. During lunch on Friday, we had one pizza left, since Marco was staying at home because of his strained ankle. I went round with the pizza and also stopped by the couple, future-to-be owners of the house. The guy didn't want the pizza but urged his wife to have some. First only one slice, but when I also offered a second slice, her husband also pressed her to eat the second slice. Everyone had planned to leave on Friday evening. About half the group would take a train from Oradea to Bucharest, the other half would go in the opposite direction, to Budapest and then on to the Netherlands. Just before taking off, the same lady who had made us the typical Romanian sandwhiches earlier in the week, now cooked us dinner. Truly truly wonderful stuff, filling everyone to the brim. In addition, she also made everyone a good lunch packet of sandwiches for on the road. Again, the amount of butter occasionally surpassed the amount of bread in the sandwiches. Saying goodbye to Emil and the owners of the house, leaving our poker table and an unused coverall as tokens of our appreciation, we left a tiring but very interesting and fulfilling week behind us. We were driven to Oradea in two shifts, the Bucharest group going first. Our train was some 50 minutes late. But when it finally arrived I located my cabin and was sleeping in less then 10 minutes. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3393 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 672 [iOldID] => 1059 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462135212 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 12 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.6323 [fLongitude] => 22.3508 [tLocation] => Accomodation [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000714 ) [685] => Array ( [iID] => 685 [tTitle] => Live! [tSlug] => live [iTime] => 963439200 [iUpdate] => 963439200 [tDescription] => On Thursday, we had hoped to visit the local Penguin factory. We were out of luck since no one at the factory dared to take a decision whether we were allowed to visit or not. The owner was out of town and only returned on Thursday afternoon. Penguin, together with Polar and Johnny's Castle Whiskey are some of the more well known local brands of liquor, all produced by the same distillery in Beius. Our nights in Beius had been positively influenced by the use of these infamous drinks. In stead we had dinner at a reasonable restaurant in town, the Principessa (some saying the only restaurant in town), and ate cow's stomach which, surprisingly, not everyone found very palatable. What was considered even worse, though, were the cheese, ehm, rolls that were served as desserts. Two of these things could stuff a cow, how could they expect us to eat these as dessert!? Just before dinner, Art and I had gone live on the local radio station Sonyvest. Earlier in the week, we bumped into one of the station's DJs, a very nice girl called Ramona, who invited us over. When we did stop by on Thursday evening however, we were welcomed by Bogdan. A friendly guy, but no Ramona! Bogdan asked us to come up with something of a playlist for his show. He was very much into classic rock and I tried a little bit to cater to that. Art, totally oblivious to it all, selected recent dance tracks and house music. I believe Bogdan wasn't all that disappointed by us leaving later on. By then, luckily, Ramona had stopped by, unfortunately only to say hi. During the show, Art and myself told of one of the games we played at the building site, naming a number of actors from the same movie, where others then had to guess the name of the movie. Only briefly explaining it, Bogdan interrupted quickly: 'Ah, we play that game for ages, it is called Mima!' When we stopped by on Friday morning once more, he didn't invite us to go on air again. Probably being very reluctant of having to play the music we then would choose for the show. After dinner at the Principessa, we went dancing in one of Beius' three (!) discos, the Nicholas. Music maestro The disco we went to after dinner, the Nicholas, was quite good. It was a cinema-turned-club, where many of the seats in the arena had been left, making for a very awkard set up that allowed almost everyone in the club to look at everyone else. Surprisingly, almost everyone was dressed very well. Considering Beius is a very, very small town, I found this remarkable. On the other hand, to the local youngsters, clubbing the night away in Nicholas might be the only way to escape from Beius a little. The music was a strange combination of Romanian Europop, Turkish beats and mainstream house. Not all that bad and luckily not being played at a very high sound level. Meanwhile, Data was turned down by a former miss Beius, our Chinese Wing Chun champion Wong was scored by a blond dance-Goddess, Taas snogged Habitat's representative for Eastern Europe and Art came closer and closer to finally getting close with Amalia. One of the carpenters also working on the house introduced Jimbo and myself to two girls dancing away the night. Both were quite young, but only the blond Goddess spoke some English. The other girl, some 6ft2 tall, could only be viewed from a distance, looking up. Jimbo and I briefly talked to the Goddess (just like the radio DJ she was called Ramona), but from the moment Wong joined the discussion, she only had eyes for the Chinese, totally ignoring us in the process, although at the end of the evening, they had only exchanged addresses. Art, on the other hand, had a very successful evening. Although it all ended at Amalia's front door. When Art finally came home at 5:00am, he told me that she was still living with her parents, making it impossible for them to enter the house. In stead they did some of their stuff right in front of the main entrance to the house. Art, seeing the light once, Amalia a grand 5 times. When Art finally came home, the smile on his face almost fell off it. Part of our group went home after Nicholas closed. Some, however, went to some private bar at an undisclosed location somewhere in Beius. Among them Taas and Kelly, Habitat's representative for Eastern Europe. What exactly happened is a mystery to most of us, although they definitely had a snog. Taas's first in over six years! Go Taas! Practice he needed, and on Saturday we pushed him into going out with our tour guide of the House of the People in Bucharest. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2451 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 675 [iOldID] => 1058 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462007235 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 16 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.6639 [fLongitude] => 22.3491 [tLocation] => Principessa restaurant [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000713 ) [684] => Array ( [iID] => 684 [tTitle] => Rematch [tSlug] => rematch [iTime] => 963352800 [iUpdate] => 963352800 [tDescription] => The soccer rematch with the Romanians was set for Wednesday evening. Claudio, one of the Romanians, picked us up, after we had discussed tactics and approaches for our game of soccer. Claudio, driving a van, able to hold nine people, planned to drive twice to Beius' soccer stadium where we were to play. We felt that the 17 of us should be able to fit in. Since a friend of Claudio's had also come along, we were 19, in a van suited for 9. It was cosy. Just before the match I told Claudio that, given our poor performance earlier on, the Romanians were bound to defeat us some 6-0. Claudio jokingly (or was he?) replied that they would be kind and, allow us at least one point. We lost 6-1. Marco wasn't the only one to get hurt during the match. The cow, sharing the soccer field with us, once or twice was on the receiving end of a football coming his way and Zwan injured his knee, although he still managed to hop around afterwards. Marco had a very relaxing week, having to stay home. Zwan could still do some jobs at the site, while seated. Art scores again Because we lost the soccer game, we had to pay the beer afterwards. Surprisingly, most of the team didn't show up, although Emil, who hadn't played soccer, did, as was his (ex-) girlfriend Andrea and a cousin of his (ex-)girlfriend, Amalia. Marco was going to make dinner first, but, because of his sprained ankle, wasn't really in the mood anymore. Additionally, we had forgotten to pick up the meat during the day which we ordered the day before, so we went vegetarian for a night. Luckily, Slockers and Stevie took it on themselves to fill our tummies that evening. When Claudio appeared, again with his van, he wanted to know if we were still coming. We came and had a couple of beers with him, Emil, and the two girls. I talked quite a bit with Amalia, a dark, tall and reasonable handsome lady, owner of a small supermarket in Beius. She spoke good English and later called me, apparently since I talked so much, a 'sticky boy'. I enjoyed myself quite a bit, but when she asked where the handsome young man across the table came from, Art, I immediately gave up my position to Art. I mean, he had to compensate for the midget from earlier in the week. I called Art over and gave him a seat between the two girls. Art slowly became more and more relaxed, although Amalia didn't really help him (Art already considered Andrea to be lost to Emil and therefore out of his league). Later I asked Amalia what she thought of Art: 'He is very nice, but only a boy'. Well, later in the week, she did have a good time with this 'boy'. Meanwhile, we were off to a strip club. Stripped During our evening drink after playing soccer, we learned that in Beius, a city of only some 15000 men, women and children, they also had a strip club. No choice. So with about ten guys, we visited Strip Club Tequila. The place was VERY tacky. No bigger then a large bathroom, the place held two tables and a tiny stage. In a very small attached room you could pick up your drinks at a bar. Later, we learned that just that week, three girls had been fired. We were stuck with the only girl remaining. However, she did a whole three shows for us, her last performance on our table. Everyone in the group slipped the occasional dollar bill in her panties. The only thing she actually wore and Taas even slipped her a $10 bill! That is to say, he gave it to Art, who was to slip it in her panties. After she danced on our table and Data found out she had, well, moist female genitals, she sat at our table to talk a bit (and probably hoping for more than just a chit-chat). I turned down her request for a cocktail when asked what she wanted to drink. She could have a soda or a beer. She settled for some orange juice. Alejandro, a Romanian guy who had joined us when drinking earlier in the evening, had also come with us to the strip joint. He was very much chatting her up, touching her arms and hands all the time, whispering in her ear, in short, he was courting her. Alejandro sitting on her left, Art on her right. It was obvious she was more interested in Art, who had also danced a little bit with here, when she was performing on stage. Probably she could smell the dollars in her pants and figured that, between Alejandro and Art, she would have the best chances of getting more greenbacks from Art. We pushed Art for making an appointment with the girl after closing time. He did make the appointment, but failed to pick her up. When talking to her, she made remarks, like saying that the juice in her glass (the orange juice) wasn't her juice, that she needed bananas to enjoy herself and that, after her boyfriend had confessed in cheating on her, she had tied him to the bed, made him terribly horny and then left him laying there. What a lady. Cave On Tuesday evening, we visited the Bear Cave, close to Beius. Since I've had my share of caves over the years, I didn't find it particularly interesting, although it wasn't all that bad. The cave got its name when its discoverers who, somewhere last century stumbled on the opening of the cave and found a large bunch of Bear's skeletons. One of which can still be seen at the end of the tour. I found the other tourists more interesting. Then again, that wasn't really surprising, since they were a bunch of young Italian girls. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2352 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 674 [iOldID] => 1057 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462108313 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 32 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.6511 [fLongitude] => 22.295 [tLocation] => Habitat site [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000712 ) [683] => Array ( [iID] => 683 [tTitle] => Building plans [tSlug] => building-plans [iTime] => 963266400 [iUpdate] => 963266400 [tDescription] => And so we built a house. Up front, everyone had doubts about whether it was in fact smart to let a bunch of stupid Dutch technical engineers help in building the house. Clearly, your average carpenter or workman would be a much better choice than anyone of us. It turned out to be less bad as expected. The only problem being that we simply were with too many people. The two or so Romanians on site who were able to do something of a bit of project management just weren't enough. It took a bit of time for the whole team to work reasonably smoothly. By the end of the week, we had succeeded reasonably well. Although by then, almost all the time, half of the our group would be taking a nap somewhere on some remote part of the building area. We spent the first day mainly building 18 'triangles' of wood, which were going to support the roof. Considering the house was only going to be some 8 meters long, 18 of these things seemed just a tad on the safe side. Just a hint as to how confused management was; we were going so fast that, by the time we had built 18, it became clear that two had to be redone because they needed to be slightly different. The Romanians just couldn't keep up. The first day was hard. Not because it was physically a challenge, but because the outside temperature was higher than our body temperature. Cooling down was a real problem and already some of us were shedding the coveralls everyone was wearing. Resulting in sunburn for those who did. More hands Lunch was always a surprise. On Monday and Friday we had pizza that more resembled circular slices of leather topped of with pure fat. If you held the pizza at an angle, the fat would just run of. On Tuesday and Thursday we had home-made sandwiches, made by the mom of one of the Romanian workers. The amount of butter generally surpassed the amount of bread in the sandwiches. I have blocked our Wednesday lunch. Shortly after Monday midnight, going on Tuesday, Marco and Joost, who both had been stuck in Vienna because of Marco's expired passport, arrived. They had managed to get a temporary passport for Marco at the Dutch embassy in Vienna on Monday morning and had come straight to Beius. However, as if to punish Marco even more, on Wednesday evening, during a game of soccer with a bunch of Romanians, he strained his ankle, making it impossible for him to even walk. On Thursday, when I went to the doctor with him and Emil, our guide, it turned out that he had a small crack in his ankle bone. On Monday and Tuesday, during lunch, some of us played soccer against some of the Romanians. We always lost humiliatingly and, after finally getting a 6-2 lead in the fourth game but loosing 6-7, we demanded a rematch. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2627 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 674 [iOldID] => 1056 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462037280 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 17 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.6511 [fLongitude] => 22.295 [tLocation] => Habitat site [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000711 ) [682] => Array ( [iID] => 682 [tTitle] => He shoots, he scores [tSlug] => he-shoots-he-scores [iTime] => 963180000 [iUpdate] => 963180000 [tDescription] => Art met the girl in some obscure pool place in Beius. Reportedly, he had been drinking a lot, something he felt inclined to point out on several occasions. Not only was she under 1m50cm, she was also missing several teeth. Still, it must have been interesting since not many girls are able to give a French kiss without opening their jaws. I wasn't there when it happened, but it wasn't difficult to sense something had happened when he stepped in the bedroom after coming home (we shared a room). We talked extensively on women, relationships and commitment. Art, only a couple of years younger than myself, and I suppose quite a looker, unfortunately had been a little bit less lucky with women, mainly because of his shyness. Art is a friendly dude but occasionally worries too much. Strangely enough, he always seems to get himself in some sort of hopeless situation whenever he comes close to pulling a girl. This girl worked at the pub-come-pool place were he met her. Several locals pointed out that if the owner would find them kissing, he would not only beat Art up but she would also lose her job. I suppose Art made a good choice in not extending the relationships. My talk with Art made me realize how much I already was missing my girlfriend. I had seen her less then a week ago but already I was missing her hugs, the touch of her hands, the way her skin feels, the look in her eyes, the smile on her face, her purring when pleased... [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2381 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 673 [iOldID] => 1055 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461976247 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 12 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.65 [fLongitude] => 22.35 [tLocation] => Some pool place [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000710 ) [681] => Array ( [iID] => 681 [tTitle] => Cold [tSlug] => cold [iTime] => 963093600 [iUpdate] => 963093600 [tDescription] => Considering Romania was suffering from a heatwave, the 17 degrees Celsius outside temperature felt rather cold. Fausto's, a very nice restaurant slash snack bar, serving very good Italian pannini, was a welcome breakfast place however. After trying to come to terms with the sights Oradea had to show us, a no-longer-used synagogue, a ruin of a fortress-now-an-art-school, a larger than live vulva and 'the black vulture', and after meeting with some English speaking local women, both of whom were widows, who tried to make really good friends with Art and myself, we arranged for being picked up by Emil, our Habitat contact in Romania. That, as it turned out, meant waiting in the rain for three hours. I had called Emil to make an appointment for being picked up. A blue van was going to pick us up next to the church on Oradea's main square. No bus showed up for several hours. However, since I had already started to grow familiar with the more, say, Mediterranean style of life in Romania, I wasn't really worried. Still, waiting in the rain does make you feel rather irritated and when I called Emil again I learned, not only that he wasn't allowed by his phone operator to call abroad (I was using my own Dutch mobile), but, in stead of a blue van, they were sending a white van. In addition, we ourselves found out there was another church around the corner. There we finally found our van. The trip to Beius was as bad as it gets. Not that the van was in bad condition, but the road was terrible. Potholes everywhere, no asphalt, dogs, heavy rain. All in all, it was a pain. This trip, although a little bit shaky, also made it the perfect time for a nap. Some two hours later, we arrived at our destination. Beius, Romania. Coming to work We didn't stay in a Habitat-built house, but at a regular farmer's who, in his spare time, had built a fairly big private dwelling. Both he and his wife spoke very good French, so we were able to communicate fairly well. Remarkably, when we filled up the house, first our bunch coming from Budapest, then later the rest coming in from Bucharest, the two owners slept in the basement. Right next to where we had our evening drinks, regularly changing into late-night drinks. I guess they both slept a lot during the day. Mind you, not that we had to pity the couple; they were receiving, for Romanian standards, very good money for us being there. We were all happily surprised when hearing that, besides a youngest son of 17, the couple had two older daughters. Sadly enough, we never got to meet them. Very convenient, since already on Monday evening, Art scored one of the locals. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2448 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 672 [iOldID] => 1054 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462041097 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 14 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 46.6323 [fLongitude] => 22.3508 [tLocation] => Accomodation [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000709 ) [680] => Array ( [iID] => 680 [tTitle] => Not my problem [tSlug] => not-my-problem [iTime] => 963007200 [iUpdate] => 963007200 [tDescription] => And then it was Saturday. Seven friends of mine were coming into Budapest today, after which we would travel on to Oradea, where we would be picked up and driven to Beius for building 'our' house. Of course it had to happen. Some hours before the group was to arrive, I got a call from Joost, saying that one of the other guys, Marco, was traveling on an expired passport. He wasn't allowed to enter Hungary. Ironically, he was also the only guy who actually had gotten a visa for Romania upfront. Paying a lot of money for it at the Romanian embassy in The Hague. Yes, it was pretty stupid of him to travel on an expired passport. It was, however, equally stupid that the Romanian embassy didn't mention that they issued a visa on a passport that wasn't allowed to travel in to Romania in the first place. Marco his passport was already expired when entering! The whole procedure for getting Marco to Romania was going to be a hard one. I called the Dutch embassy in Hungary (on a Saturday) and after being forwarded a number of times, I was told Marco could just as well return to Holland. According to the person I spoke to, at most, he would be able to get a temporary passport that could take him back to the Netherlands, where he then would need to get a new passport. This turned out not to be the case. On Monday Marco was issued a valid passport at the Dutch embassy in Vienna, after which he and Joost were able to finally travel to Beius. Meanwhile, the other five were about to arrive at the Western Train Station in Budapest. I had taken up position there to watch them arrive. And indeed, right on time, 5 youngsters, all wearing blue coveralls and carrying a large round poker table were coming out of the train station. Them, having played poker all night on the trains from Rotterdam to Budapest, were in need for some good food to compensate for the alcohol they had consumed the previous night. We had a couple of palacsinta's (pancakes), some beers and picked up our train tickets onwards. Ready to go. Border patrol The Romanian phrasebook I got to make myself heard in Romanian isn't very good. I expected a little bit more from this Berlitz guide, but it doesn't deliver. The book was printed in 1998. In 1994, the Romanian spelling rules changed significantly. During the communist regime, a lot of the spelling was changed, to make Romanian, which is a Romance language, like Italian or French, look more like a Slavic language. In 1994, these changes were changed back, but 4 years after these changes, the Berlitz guide still didn't reflect these changes. Knowing this, its not surprising that the background information in the guide is also totally outdated. The train ride to Oradea was uneventful. The border control being the only interesting part. We were checked some 5 times, were we also had to hand over our passports. When one of the later patrols asked for our passports, which we already had handed over, we started to worry. One of the border patrols recognized our Habitat-arranged visa papers and even knew some of the contacts we had been talking with. We had an easy passing and arrived in Oradea at around 11pm. Can you fit this? We arrived in Oradea about an hour later as planned. The train station is located quite a bit out of town and we had to be at the hotel before 11:30 to not be locked out so we had no choice but to take a cab. Remember we were carrying this poker table. A bit of haggling got us two cabs at $1 per person, including the table. Not bad at all and we arrived in time. More of a problem was that paying anything in Romania in anything but Romanian Lei is forbidden and we only had dollars. And we had to pay the hotel before we were allowed to leave for a night on the town. After an extensive discussion, we were allowed to pay in dollars. "But please, don't tell anyone else." The rooms were huge, HUGE. Really. Like, three beds in a 4 by 15 meter room, with a bathroom the size of a small living room. A pity, though that everything in the city closed at 1am, even on a Saturday. Data, Lance and I waited in the courtyard, 'inside' the hotel, were there was a terrace, Hogo, Kees and Art felt it necessary to take a shower first. Only really big smiles and friendliness helped to convince our waitress to keep on serving until some time after 1am. After a cash machine almost ate my bank card, we did find a late night bar were beer was served. True, the neon lights inside the bar weren't particularly making the place very cozy, but at least we could complain about that while drinking! And we did have something to talk about: After we were finally kicked out of the courtyard, in search of another place to get a drink, we walked into some sort of hall, next to an all night Internet cafe (were they sold no coffee), and literally got beaten out of the place. This thin but VERY angry bodyguard started shouting at us, hitting some of us in the face, before pushing us out. I received one blow and very much considered hitting the guy back. I don't really like getting punched, but I looked at his face, at his shouting mouth, into his eyes and figured that if I would hit him back, I could probably expect a knife between my ribs. I accepted being pushed out of the place. Later, we learned that, in fact, national television had just been airing the national lottery from there. Indeed, a very large truck, stuffed with electronics, very thick wires coming out all over the place, was standing outside. Then, 4am, it seemed like the right time for a nap. Stumbling back to the hotel, we were happy to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a nice day, Romania was suffering from a heat wave. Coming from icy Holland, we were looking forward to the heat. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2788 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 79 [iOldID] => 1053 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462182375 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 9 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 47.5111 [fLongitude] => 19.0594 [tLocation] => Nyugati train station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000708 ) [677] => Array ( [iID] => 677 [tTitle] => It's raining, man [tSlug] => its-raining-man [iTime] => 962748000 [iUpdate] => 962748000 [tDescription] => The core part of the trip was going to be a week in Beius, Romania to build a house there. You read that right. My fraternity and Habitat for Humanity had teamed up to work at one of the Habitat sites in Romania. In Beius, already some 20 houses had been built over the past couple of years and some 40 more were still scheduled to be built. We were going to use our magical powers to create one of those 40 houses there. Mind you, not that it was easy to motivate my, ehm, friends, for going to Beius. Of the 38 people of my fraternity, only 20 commited to going. And last minute, three even bowed out, leaving only 17. Great. For now, however, I was on my way to Budapest. We only were going to start our creative process the next monday but I wanted to visit a good friend of mine whom I met when studying in Budapest a couple of years before. About half the team was going to fly to Bucarest and take a train from there to Beius. Myself and the rest of the group were traveling overland, but I left first. I was going to hitchhike, and since it's no fun to spend a night on the autobahn, I left early. It had been some time since I last hitchhiked and although it can be pretty tiresome and downright annoying, it still has something of a romantic ring to it. So I wasn't too bothered. Hitchhiking in Holland is almost impossible if not a terribly slow process. So for the first leg of my journey I took the train to Arnhem. Then, starting the adventure at the border with Germany. Waking up with a headache for lack of sleep, I hastened to get to the train station in time. I only barely managed and if it weren't for me having to change trains in Utrecht, I would have gotten an aditional 90 minutes of sleep. Now, however, I was destined to watch it raining cats and dogs. Only hoping that Budapest would bring nicer weather. Baby steps Arnhem isn't a very exciting town. And at 7:30am with a continuous drizzle it's downright appalling. I arrived under rainy skies, but since it was still too early, no shops were open to get myself an umbrella. I was going to fight nature. Luckily, I was wearing a cap so most of the rain went by reasonably unnoticed. I wasn't wearing the cap as a fashion statement though. The day before, I had shaved my head completely bald. And drivers have a general dislike for taking bald hitchhikers with them. The cap was a necessity. The walk to the nearest ramp onto the highway wasn't bad. I was able to take a bus halfway and walk the rest. The actual spot, however, was terrible. One very big roundabout, with almost no place for cars to stop, with cars going in all directions and drivers looking at you as if you're mad for taking up space on their precious highway. My only chance was to be picked up by a German car, but not many Germans left Arnhem at 8:00am for Germany. Still, the third German car that passed, stopped. I had my first ride. Into Germany. The guy was very friendly and had hitchhiked extensively when he was younger, mostly in New Zealand, but also in Germany and France and he was now living in Muenchen. Good news, I thought, expecting a ride to Muenchen. Wrong. The guy was flying from Duesseldorf to Muenchen, after spending a week in the Netherlands for his job. We had such an animated discussion, that I didn't notice passing the gas station where I needed to get off. As a result, I had to get off at a very basic parking next to the autobahn. Not a good thing at all. Afraid of already being stuck so early in the day I asked every driver that stopped there to take me with him to the next parking, since the next gas station was too far away for comfort. That is, some 60km, but in the 'Ruhrgebied', that's like the other side of the world. I was lucky. A guy in a pickup was so kind as to drive me to the next parking. Jammed My next two rides were from two friendly, but not talkative men. The first, driving a pickup truck, the second, an old van. However, the objective wasn't, to meet new people, but to get out of the Ruhrgebied quickly. This, to my surprise, went fairly smoothly. I arrived at another gas station soon. Hordes of Dutch, traveling south to Austria, Switzerland and Italy were stopping to chill, so finding a ride here wouldn't be much of a problem. After only a couple of minutes I got a ride from two Dutch men. I was luckier than I thought. Not only did they share one of their raw herrings, a typically Dutch treat, we also talked a bit before setting off. And there I learned they weren't going in the right direction at all! I said good-bye, took my backpack out of the car, forgot my hitchhiker's guide to Europe and went out in search for a car going in the right direction. A Dutch couple, working at the University of Twente, were willing to take me with them and were going in the right direction. I did have to convince them, though. Mostly because they didn't have any room in their car. Not that it was small. In fact, it was a huge Volvo. But it was packed to the brim, camping gear all around, heaps of books, bicycles on the back of the car. So there wasn't any room anymore for anyone to sit absolutely anywhere. Willing to put my legs around my neck, if necessary, they made some room for me and I was settled for a couple of hours, reasonably comfortably. Although I did get a bad leg cramp later on for sitting in such a tight spot. It being the first week of summer holidays in Germany, the roads were packed. The Dutch couple, claiming to be traffic-jam spotters, were very adept in avoiding the traffic jams along the way. They were going to Switzerland and they didn't really mind if they would enter the country either East or West. Me, however, I did mind a lot in which direction we were going as long as I ended up in Austria. The result being that although we 'did' quite a distance in a short time, I wasn't really moving towards my destination. Still, the weather was clearing, the temperature was getting warmer. By now, it wasn't that bad anymore if my trip would take me a bit longer as planned. When I got out of the car, we were close to Heidelberg. Wrong way It's rare to get a ride from someone who isn't (or hasn't been) a traveler himself. But close to Heidelberg it actually did happen to me. A stereotypical German, working for Mercedes, driving a, you've guessed it, gave me a ride. A pity with people that don't travel much is that, generally, they don't have a good sense of direction and distance. I was trying to get back on the main road through Passau to Vienna. Because of traffic jams earlier on I was forced to take a more southern route and this guy was going in the right direction, directly east. At least, that was what he thought. He did go east, for a while, but then he took a turn southwards, some 150km earlier than what he had pointed out on the map. I felt fucked but tried to remain calm. What could I do? Getting off at the first gas station, since the Mercedes-man was leaving the autobahn soon after, I was picked up after another 30 minutes or so. This time by, seemingly, an older hippy, driving an old van, towing a very old car, who constantly talked about some Danish Lama, Ole Nydahl. I mean, really, this guy couldn't stop talking about Buddhism. Not that I really minded. He was very friendly and really went out of his way to drop me off on the right side of Stuttgart, towards Austria. The fact that the van did an average 60km/h didn't really bother me. It was hard to get a ride from Stuttgart. Not that people weren't willing to take me with them. They were going in the wrong direction. Almost everyone went south. As were the couple that gave me the next ride. Still, they were going a bit to the east first, passing the next gas station. Before we actually took off, I had been waiting for close to an hour. This wasn't promising, I still had a very long way to go. Lucky Baba The wait paid off. I halted a really big bad ass car, with only one person (although huge) in it. The car had Bulgarian license plates. I got lucky, more by being pushy then by the friendliness of the driver. He let me hitch a ride with him and it turned out that he was actually going to Bulgaria. I got along as far as Budapest. The guy's plan was to stop for the night some kilometers short of Budapest. Although it was getting pretty late, I was happy I could convince him to drive on, and sleep in Budapest. We arrived at the hostel I had made reservations by cell phone, just a couple of minutes before 2am. I paid for his nights stay, which seemed fair, considering the man drove me almost 850km, but he only staid a couple of hours. At 6am, he was up again, leaving for the final leg of his trip. Although it was quite hard to talk to the man, his English knowledge was very basic, I learned that he was working for a shipping company on the border between Bulgaria and Romania and that he had been in Germany to visit several ports. An interesting story that he told was, of a girl in his village, some 25 years old, who had been taken in by police for questioning, who would only be let out on charge of a really high bail. After the girl called him, using the police phone, he went in and freed the girl, using, undoubtedly, his ancient Bulgarian techniques of persuasion... [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2724 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 561 [iOldID] => 1050 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461760006 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 51.9228 [fLongitude] => 4.45848 [tLocation] => Woongroep Buitensporig [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20000705 ) ) ) Keyword: Romania ::