Romanian swimming – 28 June – 8 July 2010

After the months of travel, in countries all around the world, my first real incident has happened on my first full day back here in the US.  Walking home alone after visiting with some friends, I was held up at gunpoint and had my wallet stolen.  Couldn’t believe it.  But, all in all, lost about 20 bucks and my ID; everything else can be replaced for free. The one thing that really gets me is abroad I was questioned many times about the US’s right to bear arms policy.  I am and have always been a advocate and regular gun user, so I’ve supported this right.  I don’t think that this incident will change my opinion, but it sure does irk me.   I’ll have word today about the status of the case, so hopefully they’ll have some good news.

Well folks, looks like this post is going to be a long one!  Lots of pictures from Romania!  I also got to thinking, being back in the states, I only have one or two more ‘traveling’ posts to get finished (well maybe three or four).  I reckon that the updates will, as they already have been, fewer and farther in between.  In an effort to save everyone time, I have thought about putting together and email list, where I could shoot out an email to anyone interested in knowing when the blog has been updated.  If you would like to get on that list, just email me at wheretowillie@gmail.com and I’ll compile everyone together in a group.

Okay, incidents and rambling aside, back to Romania, land of the soups.  I arrived in Romania to meet a good mate of mine from Alabama on the 28th of June.  Alin has been in Tuscaloosa since 2005, swimming for the University of Alabama swimming team.  Last year he finished up his degree and has moved back to his hometown of Baia Mare, Romania.  The town is located about two and a half hours north of Cluj, up near the Ukraine / Hungary border.  I am calling it the land of the soups because they are a staple of the diet, at least at Alin’s household.  We had more than half a dozen different kinds, all delicious in their own way.  Their is another staple of Romania culture, and that is adding a bit of Coke to red wine, or soda water to white wine.  Now I didn’t try the latter, but the sugar and carbonation did add a fun and different taste to a red.

The first day in Romania, Alin’s father and sister took me out to visit an area where they can collect fresh water from a spring.  It comes out of the ground (and a faucet for filling bottles) cold and clean, the way you expect water to taste.  It reminded me of being home on the farm and drinking water straight from the garden hose on a hot summer day.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

The scene of the crime, American football / rugby field at lake Apa.  Oh yeah!  I remembered that I was supposed to tell the topless beach story.  Almost forgot.  So I wouldn’t call myself shy by a long shot, but the first time you are introduced to a girl while she is topless and you are in a speedo is a learning experience.  Maybe learning is the wrong word there, but I’m going to go with that.  One thing I noticed while driving to and from this spot was the city signs.  Upon entering city limits, your sign would simply say the town name; but upon exiting the sign would be exactly the same, but for a block red line diagonally thru the sign, as to say “not this town anymore.”

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The label of this beer bottle gave me a smile.   Ursus: “King of beers in Romania”  I wonder if “in Romania” was added on later in the beer’s life, or was it first conceived with the notion of “as long as we get Romania it will be ok?”

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

The site of a massive cathedral being built in Baia Mare.  I would say the two major religions in Romania would be Romanian Orthodox (quite similar to Greek Orthodox) and Catholic.

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This was the site of a prior mayor of the town.  There is actually a sign on the front of the building with the description, but my Romanian got a bit rusty after I left, so I’m no help there.  I do enjoy the VW van in the drive, as it sets up the scene in an interesting way.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

Wait, is that light yellow and red at the same time?

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Two different kinds of ketchup, spicy and sweet.  The standard way to eat pizza is with ketchup as well, but spicy or sweet is up to you.  It wasn’t too bad, but not really for me.

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Alin and I about to enjoy some enormous pizzas.  I made it halfway thru before having to throw in the towel.  It was the first pie I’ve ever had to have peas and corn on it, but I won’t lie, it complimented it well.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

As a spicy connoisseur, I ordered some peppers off the menu.  They were pretty warm.

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Andra and I in on of the plazas that were spread out throughout the town.  A gathering and socializing place, consistently having a large group of people.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

The group at a lookout point over the town.  Amazing views, and a spiritual place, with beautiful landscaping and gardens as you climb the hill.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

The monastery at this location was one built traditionally, without the aid of any metal.  That includes nails.  As you see here, wooden pegs are holding this particular joint together.

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Another view back towards town.  The tower on the left side was previously used to vent a harmful gas that was being released by the factory at its base.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

I thought this was a pretty cool shot.  Moments later, a wedding photographer came up with a bride and groom, and started getting some shots here as well.  I should charge them for using my locations.

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Captured in the moment, Andra and Alin leaving the same area as the photo above.  These next few pictures were all taking in what’s called “The Old Downtown” presumably because it used to be the downtown.  I’ll confirm that one, though.  The building’s in this historic district are all hundreds of years old.  There also terraces surrounding the square, from the restaurants, cafe’s and shops.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

A view back towards the center of the square, and a couple of the terraces lining the far edge.

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The tower shown here was built sometime in the mid 14th century, and is called Stephen’s Tower, as it used to be the bell tower for St. Stephen’s church.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

Back in the Old Downtown square, posing with a couple of statues.

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Making our way towards dinner, stopping for a photo opportunity with Alin and his sister Alina in front of the Baia Mare dam, providing water for the city.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

As a traditional entrance to a home is concerned, this intricately hand carved wooden one is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  The details and effort that would be required to craft something like this would take months.  They have begun to receive popularity in other countries, and the crafters are able to sell them for a pretty high price point.

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If you haven’t seen the show “Destroyed in seconds” on the Discovery Channel, you should check it out.  It’s all about things that end in total destruction.  The scene of the newest episode, Willie’s desert plate at the restaurant.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

I like signs in other languages.  I think this one is pretty self explanatory: “Access over here!”

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Right before I could get a photo Dracula closed the door on his way in to make a withdrawal.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

One of the horse drawn carriages I talked about in an earlier post.

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This would be a pretty standard view of the city center.  As I said before, a large portion of the population lives in these apartment complexes.  This particular road has recently been refinished, but a big problem in Romania is the funding for infrastructure.  Driving is an active process because of the degrading quality of the roads, and extreme swings of temperature from summer to winter don’t help the situation.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

Here you’ll see another view of the rows of apartment buildings in the background.

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After spending a lot of time in the city, we made a trip out to the village where Alin’s grandparents live.  In front of their house you can see the large wooden barrels used in the fermentation process for making horinca.  They lived on a fairly traditional style farmhouse, and had a few dairy cows, pigs, and chickens running around.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

The grandfather’s workshop.  A little rudimentary by today’s standards, but I reckon that he could make anything that he needed with the tools that he had.

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Alin and I exploring the village monestary, with portraits and stories painted by a famous local artist.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

Back to the farm, a view of the barns and the iconic hay stacks that dotted the landscape.

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Inside for a few rounds of grandpa’s horinca, and some appetizers and soups!

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Alin, Alex, and I after a good day at the pool.  This was my last day in Romania, and the team should have finished their competitions last week.  I’ll find out the results.

Romanian swimming - 28 June - 8 July 2010

Wait we are riding in that?  Oh it’s a full flight, of 30 passengers.  Wonderful!  I love little planes like this.  I spent about half of the one hour flight with the camera stuck in the window taking pictures of the blades.  A fun little episode happened on this flight.  I’ll play it out for you.

Stewardess: Chocholate or peanuts?

Willie: Ooooo that’s going to be a tough one…

Stewardess: I can give you both?

Willie: That would be perfect!

Stewardess:  Exit, towards rear of plane

Two minutes go by

Stewardess: Would you like an orange juice?

Willie: Please.

Stewardess: You can have two.

Willie: Even better.

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Well it only took me two weeks to finally get this post up.  My apologies, it’s been a bit hectic finishing up the trip and re-acclimating myself to being home.  I have begun working on some of the photos that I took along this trip, and hope to be updating my Flikr (which is linked at the top of the page) with a couple of new photos each day.  I have finished my first from Mexico, and one from Peru, which I will be uploading this afternoon.  Check back to see some of those! I think if I get a good following for the blog update, I’ll end up posting them here as well, and give the story behind the shot or the area.  We’ll see what the interest is.

-wtw