ParadiseUK /ˈpær.ə.daɪs/US /ˈper.ə.daɪs/
a place or condition of great happiness where everything is exactly as you would like it to be.
Welcome to Romania!
The city which is not actually a city. With roughly 1600 inhabitants and one single road (barely enough for it to be considered anything other than a small-ish village in many other nations), I wonder if Romania has a special affection for Băile Tușnad, as to consider it the smallest city in the whole country! Despite its size, Băile comes with a few surprises:
- The town is almost engulfed by nature! Located in a valley, everywhere you look there are endless hills covered in thick forest, giving you the purest and freshest air you can breathe;
- Its mineral waters are also proven to have healing properties, especially for those with heart diseases… Whether you seek treatment or not, make sure to spend at least an afternoon in the thermal spa!
- Bears! Yes, you read it right – BEARS! Being a natural sanctuary, don’t be surprised if you come across bears roaming around the town, especially late in the evening, looking for food in the trash cans… Estimates says that there are over 6000 bears wandering in Romanian forests. If you are really eager to go on a late hiking, don’t. Better safe than sorry.
- Every street sign is written in both Romanian and Hungarian… Reasons: only in 1947 this area became, once and for all, part of Romania. Before it was most of the time in the hands of (you guessed it!) Hungary! Nowadays around 90% of Tușnad’s population is Hungarian.
After an horrific train ride from Bucharest, without an assigned seat, hence having me travelling for over 4 hours standing up with other fellow passengers, I arrived pretty strained to the town that would have me for the upcoming week.
Things did get better though.
The cute and charming historical centre is enough to leave you hooked! Look for its heart, Piaţa Sfatului, bustling with locals and tourists alike. Unlike Băile Tușnad, this is an actual city in all its essence, where you can find beautiful medieval buildings alongside an Hollywoodesque sign atop the hill, to remind you that you are indeed in Brașov.
Besides wandering around the city, I also took an afternoon to go to Bran, a small town not far away, which is well-known for one single monument: Dracula’s Castle. Full disclosure: huge disappointment. Too many visitors for such tight quarters, as we basically queuing all the way through various rooms, corridors, stairs and balconies, hoping to feel the presence of Dracula along the way.
Dracula’s father, the Irish writer Bram Stoker (who never actually visited Romania), depicted the character’s castle as “… on the very edge of a terrific precipice… with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm [with] silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.”. In all of Transylvania it is surprisingly the only castle that actually fits his description. A dubious story that ultimately created a perfect tourist trap.
Money was tight and I still had a few more days of adventure, so I decided to resort to hitchhiking as my main way of transportation.
I had read that Romania was a hitchhiker’s paradise. Friendly and curious people willing to give rides without much thinking, meaning less time thumbing up. And not many highways, so cars have to travel through the national roads, making it easier to catch a lift.
With all these things in mind, my hopes were high up there… But things usually never go as you want, right?
I placed myself on the main road heading out of the city, with plenty of space for cars to stop. A sign in one hand and my finger up in the other. Expected it to last a few minutes, half an hour in the worst-case scenario.
I ended up stranded for more than an hour, seemingly invisible to the drivers passing by.
Eventually it paid off. A middle aged university professor on its way home was kind enough to stop for me. We got along easily and conversation happened naturally: politics, economics, psychology… we had enough time to cover it all.
Once I nurtured myself with a bowl of soup at a roadside restaurant, I walked to the intersection with the road heading towards the mountains. Soon I was being driven up the mountains by a couple
Journey distance: 134 km
One of the world’s most famous roads has one of the strangest spellings. Built upon a dream of an egomaniac man, Ceaușescu, construction only lasted fours years (1970-1974), which is quite impressive given the region’s orography.
What as meant to be a fast and reliable way for the military to cross the Carpathian Mountains during the Communist time, ended up becoming an exciting destination on its own. Petrolheads probably have heard about Transfăgărășan from Jeremy Clarkson himself (former host of the British TV series Top Gear), who proclaimed it “the best road in the world”.
I had planned on wild camping at the top of Transfăgărășan, by one of its lakes, but the weather was freezing cold. As I didn’t pack that many warm clothes I thought it would be wiser to go back down and find lodging somewhere. Decided to go to Sibiu. Wrote it on a piece of cardboard and put my thumb up.
Going uphill there was a lot of traffic and people driving by were overly curious and
Journey distance: 154 km
Easily done. I hopped in after making sure that I wouldn’t have to shell out money for it. Three people already in the car,
Took me 5 minutes for a car to stop.
Journey distance: 98 km
At last, I made it to the Romanian capital after taking a short flight from Cluj, which saved me from taking an excruciating train journey.
I was feeling somewhat edgy and decided to document all the things I see with the HUJI camera app. In my humble opinion the photos below perfectly embed the city’s atmosphere. Crazy, hectic, grandiose and
Make sure to visit the Palace of the Parliament.
*no, it’s not a typo on how to spell my name.
In Romanian Viitor means: future, subsequent, time to come, etc.
Source | bab.la
In between flights I had some time to kill and Munich
BLOODY SOIL. Scenes of NSU crimes
“The most oppressive thing about these photographs is that they depict neither the murderers nor their victims. It is their inconspicuousness, the trivial and ordinary that make Schmeken’s pictures so eerie.” (Hans Magnus Enzensberger)
Only when Regina Schmeken began taking photographs of the NSU (National Socialist Underground) crime scenes in early 2013 did she become aware of the dimensions of these crimes committed in German cities by far-right terrorists. With her new exhibition project BLOODY she seeks to commemorate the victims of the murders and to confront the public with places that, at first sight, seem to bear no traces of acts of violence. Between 2013 and 2016, she paid many visits to the twelve crime scenes in Germany. Her journeys resulted in a series of large-format, disturbingly impressive black-and-white pictures that are the visual representation of her coming to terms with what happened.
The concept of “Blood and Soil” was first coined by Oswald Spengler in “The Decline of the West” (Der Untergang des Abendlandes) and was later used as a propaganda slogan by the Nazis, who were convinced that a “healthy state” was based on the unity of “its own people and its own soil”
This very idea also was the motive for the NSU murders. Almost all of the victims were of Turkish origin. They were found on the ground, lying in their own blood — brutally executed by right-wing terrorists.
In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Feridun Zaimoglu (a German author of Turkish origin) calls the history of the NSU a “story of great damage” German journalist Annette Ramelsberger writes: “The journey to the crime scenes was a journey to a land of pain and tears, of indifference and callousness, and of secret gloating over the things that happened. When the NSU was exposed after ten murders, two bomb attacks and 15 robberies, everybody was convinced that such a series of terrorist attacks could never again happen in Germany. But if you observe the NSU trial, you become aware that there is no guarantee for this.”
The first victim, florist Enver Şimşek, was murdered on September 9, 2000 in Nuremberg; the last victim, policewoman Michéle Kiesewetter, on April 25, 2007 in Heilbronn. Ten people died in these seven years, and many others suffered wounds to body and soul. The trial of Beate Zschäpe, an alleged member of the NSU, began in 2013 at the Higher Regional Court of Munich. The judgement is yet to be delivered; the crimes are not yet completely solved.
Who knew that in Muş I would have the chance to come across such amazing hermanos?
Málaga came to be without much thinking. Flight booked and off I went to Andalucía!