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In October 2016 we flew from southern England to Romania.

Romania is a big country by European standards and not one to see by public transport if time is limited.  So to travel beyond Bucharest we hired a car and drove northwest to Brașov and on to Sighisiora, before looping southwest to Sibiu (European capital of culture 2007) and southeast through the Transylvanian Alps to Curtea de Arges on our way back to Bucharest. 

Driving in Romania was interesting.  There are some quite good motorways once out of the suburbs of Bucharest, where traffic lights are interminable trams rumble noisily, trolley-busses stop and start and progress can be slow.  In the countryside road surfaces are variable and the roads mostly narrow. This does not slow the locals who seem to ignore speed limits making it necessary to keep up to avoid holding up traffic. 

Initially the TomTom (GPS navigation device) that we now carry with us from OZ, thought we were still in England.  When it asked if we wanted to avoid ferries I answered 'yes' and was told there was no available route to Bucharest - where I was standing at the time.  Not until I asked for the nearest petrol station did it relocate itself.  I thought it was an amusing TomTom idiosyncrasy.  From then on it was invaluable.

 

Romania map 1Locating Romania

 

 

Visiting Romania

We saw no signs advertising lions in Romania, like those pointing to Longleat during our recent sojourn in Southern England, but our guide-book represented the local bears as being just as dangerous.

The next most dangerous thing in Romania is Dracula, who is represented in all the tourist areas in myth and legend.  That he was the imaginary character of Abraham 'Bram' Stoker, an Irishman writing a novel in the British Library in London, is immaterial to the tourist potential of the story.  To give the fictional story some semblance of real world plausibility Dracula is said to be based on the real life 15th century Romanian aristocrat and soldier Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia,  a member of the House of Drăculești and therefore known as Vlad Drăculea. 

Vlad III was better known as Vlad the Impaler for mounting his captured enemies vertically on a spike up through their body.  This was at the time of the Crusades when such behaviour was not unusual and Vlad, a Christian knight, had much vaunted success against the Ottoman Turks, according to graphic recreations, skewering quite a few.  But there is nothing whatever to associate him with the drinking of blood - unless it was at mass.

Romania is a big country and the circular 'tourist' route we took was largely within the picturesque Transylvanian region that also happens to be the wealthiest and best educated part of the Country. 

Much of Transylvania seems 'first world' with well tended houses and well-dressed healthy-looking people going about their business. Yet at regular intervals this image is contradicted by poor local farmers out on the roads with carts and other horse-drawn vehicles, occasionally tipped over in a ditch. 

 

Romania Romania
Romania Romania
Traffic hazards Romanian style

 

But these farmers are fortunate compared to the people who walk for miles.  These very poor people are in contrast to the generally late model German and French cars sharing the road with them.

Romania has one of the fastest economic growth rates in Europe (off a low base) and low rates of unemployment, yet the new wealth is evidently quite uneven in this once communist country. 

Some villages, are obviously poor and decrepit with no evident services like electricity.   Şaroş pe Târnave, in the pictures below, is a paradise compared to others we saw but didn't approach. 

 

Romania Romania
Romania Romania

Şaroş pe Târnave - Romania

 

Wealthier villages in this region closely line the roads in a side-by-side distinctive Romanian style, each with a large door or carriage entrance giving into an internal courtyard.

Farming seems to be efficient. Large fields of corn are commonplace but we also saw hops being grown on a large scale. Houses on larger rural properties are well-appointed, evidently prosperous, an Audi or BMW parked alongside modern tractors and farming equipment.

 

 

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Travel

Denmark

 

 

  

 

 

In the seventies I spent some time travelling around Denmark visiting geographically diverse relatives but in a couple of days there was no time to repeat that, so this was to be a quick trip to two places that I remembered as standing out in 1970's: Copenhagen and Roskilde.

An increasing number of Danes are my progressively distant cousins by virtue of my great aunt marrying a Dane, thus contributing my mother's grandparent's DNA to the extended family in Denmark.  As a result, these Danes are my children's cousins too.

Denmark is a relatively small but wealthy country in which people share a common language and thus similar values, like an enthusiasm for subsidising wind power and shunning nuclear energy, except as an import from Germany, Sweden and France. 

They also like all things cultural and historical and to judge by the museums and cultural activities many take pride in the Danish Vikings who were amongst those who contributed to my aforementioned DNA, way back.  My Danish great uncle liked to listen to Geordies on the buses in Newcastle speaking Tyneside, as he discovered many words in common with Danish thanks to those Danes who had settled in the Tyne valley.

Nevertheless, compared to Australia or the US or even many other European countries, Denmark is remarkably monocultural. A social scientist I listened to last year made the point that the sense of community, that a single language and culture confers, creates a sense of extended family.  This allows the Scandinavian countries to maintain very generous social welfare, supported by some of the highest tax rates in the world, yet to be sufficiently productive and hence consumptive per capita, to maintain among the highest material standards of living in the world. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

A Secret Agent

A crime fiction...

Chapter 1

 

 

 - news flash -

Body in River

Monday

 

The body of a man was found floating in the Iguazú river this morning by a tourist boat.  Mary (name withheld) said it was terrible. "We were just approaching the falls when the body appeared bobbing in the foam directly in front of us.  We almost ran over it.  The driver swerved and circled back and the crew pulled him in. The poor man must have fallen - or perhaps he jumped?"

The body was discovered near the Brazilian side but was taken back to Argentina. Police are investigating and have not yet released details of the man's identity...

 

Iguazú Herald

 

Everywhere we look there is falling water. Down the track to the right is a lookout to the other side of the gorge, in Brazil, where the cliff faces are covered by maybe a kilometre of falling curtains in white windswept water. Here and there the curtains hang in gaps or are pushed aside by clumps of trees and bushes, like stagehands peeking out into a theatre before the performance.  

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Opinions and Philosophy

The Origin of Life - according to God

 

 

 

Back in April 2013 I had another visit from our neighbourhood Jehovah's Witnesses,  a pretty young woman and her husband, recently married.   Like Daniel (mentioned elsewhere on this website) before them, they had brought copies of The Watchtower and Awake; which I agreed to read if they were prepared to read my paper: The Prospect of Eternal Life.

I keep a couple of copies of The Prospect of Eternal Life for just such occasions and have also given a copy to the local Anglican minister and to various other active proselytisers in the area; with similar conditions.  Of course I know it will not change their position but I do like to have the debate and amazingly so do they; it beats the usual reception they get; and they get some practice in trying to convert un-believers. 

When the couple asked my position I quickly summarised that in The Prospect of Eternal Life

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