Friday 26 September 2008

Guided tour

It's been quite a while since I came back from my summer holiday, but powerful evil forces have stopped me from laying my thoughts down and sharing the wonderful experience that was my holiday with you, my readers. I was stuck at work and with work, till late in the night... or even till late in the following day... It's been quite a rough period, but now that it's gone (hopefully for a few weeks, at least), I can squeeze the writing somewhere in my oh-so-busy schedule. I'm exaggerating, of course (as always, some might say).

Due to the fact that you have been good kids, patiently waiting for my unavoidable return, I'm gonna take you on a visual guided tour to a few very beautiful places that I recommend anyone to visit someday.

The tour starts on Friday, 15 August 2008, when all packed I jump into Vlad and Mihaela's car to begin our journey having as aim the perfect blend between mountains and sea, meaning Austria and France. The car was chosen as transportation mode because, apart from the independence of movement it offers you, a couple of bicycles fitted really well in the trunk (and another 1/4 of the car...).

Leaving Romania is always one of the happiest experiences I have, but it can never equal the power of the depression I have every time I come back. When you leave, you're happy because you know you're going to see nice places, meet nice people, eat great food without feeling very guilty and, for some of us, shop... Yep, guilty, I discovered I was a girl... Shopping can although be replaced with window "licking and drooling", but... there must be shops!

It's only 6.30 a.m. and there are already 28 Celsius degrees outside. No worries though, because with the 600 km to the border out of which only 113 are on a so called motorway, we have plenty of time to catch 43 degrees on a road not too far from the border, because a Bulgarian bus had fallen into a ditch the night before. And how could it not? The road was freshly overhauled, but I guess the road administrator was still tendering for the painting services at that moment, since no marking could be seen anywhere... The ideal conditions for driving at night, especially with the concrete edges of culverts not being leveled to the road...

Finally, the border appears and we all feel that there's still hope. Like Vlad says, it's like stepping into a parallel universe, even the omnipresent dust seems to just freeze on the separation line, refusing to lay on Western territory.

Our first stop for the night is in Mezőhegyes, a very small town where the Austrian-Hungarian emperor Joseph II has established a stud-farm and where the famous horse breed Nónius can be seen. We stay at Hotel Nonius which is right near the stables and has very old plane-trees, impressive with their arches. Everyone is nice and welcoming, everything is clean and bright. There are people training horses and practicing horse-jumping, while a freckled lonely grey horse is begging for some grass.

Dinner was... let's say very difficult. I ordered cordon-bleu, filled with mushrooms and cheese and I believe I got what was prepared for a whole week, for all the customers of the hotel. It was HUGE! And that is not describing it too well. To wash our culinary sins a bit, we decided to go for a walk. I was struck again by the order and discipline of the very small town and, being in the field, the very cute little railway station they are having. But nothing struck me more than what I saw on the street and I will further present to you... Let me just say that in Bucharest, things like this are... erm... isn't the way roads are actually supposed to look like?? Aren't these deformations part of the design? No? Really...?

The picture is taken with my phone, so it's not very clear. Where the small branch is laying on the asphalt, there's a tiny deformation of the road...

We went to bed after our walk to gain enough strength to be able to face other shocking situations like the one mentioned above, especially because the following day we were heading towards Austria.

The next 813 km to Kaprun, our Austrian destination, were not so bad, especially because most of them were on the motorway. From Salzburg, we chose a road that cuts through this little bit of Germany with a very funny history. At least, it's what I've been told, couldn't find any information on this on the Internet. Apparently, this Austrian guy who owned that piece of land lost it over a card game one night... It's a beautiful area anyway, with a road going through the woods, where everyone drives peacefully, not going over the speed limit... That is only if you're not Romanian, own a dark green Dacia Logan with a Bucharest license plate, you're hurrying like an idiot towards Zell-am-See, you're by-passing every Austrian car, not caring if there's another car coming from the opposite way and that you don't have time enough to go in front of the car you're by-passing, so you're nearly forcing the poor guy coming from the other direction to go out of the way! Jeez, I really wished I had a gun to go after that bastard! And we're wondering why foreigners don't like us... I know why: we have no manners, no education, we respect no rules and nobody.

We lost the imbecile in Zell-am-See just when we thought we were maybe "lucky" enough to have him as a neighbour. It would've been dreamy, what can I say. We saw Kaprun in the distance and relaxed, we were there...

In Kaprun, we stayed at the Dorfchalets which are owned by this incredibly nice Irish couple, Sandra and Alistair Robinson. We felt incredibly welcome there and I really want to go back someday. Alistair welcomed us with his warm Irish accent that I totally adored. Very funny guy.

That night we had dinner at the Guggenbichl, which is a restaurant owned by a family called Nindl. I was looking forward to going there after the stories told by Vlad, descriptions of food and alcohol wild consumptions. Haha! It was a lot smaller than I could've ever imagined it. Very cosy and... private. The food was interesting, I loved this thing made of noodles and onions and loads of cheese, everything cooked in the oven for a while. Finger-licking, really!

The next morning I woke up to find that Vlad and Mihaela had gone out on their bikes. Since they are so addicted to biking, having thousands of kilometers of bicycle runways was like finding heaven for the two. I grabbed my camera and went for a little walk, trying not to lose myself. Here is what I found:

Nice, isn't it? When I got back home, I found my friends and together we headed towards the Krimmler Waterfall. This is the second highest waterfall in Austria and looks amazing. It's located in the Hohe Tauern National Park. It was very nice to take photos there and because Vlad had his ultra wide lens on his camera, I managed to have quite a funny pic of myself.

From the waterfall, we travelled towards Kaprun, but stopped to take the Kitzbühel Alps Panorama Lift and see the beautiful view. It was kinda cold up there, but the sight was unbelievable. The clouds looked crazy and so did the glacial lake. We saw some very funny long-haired cows. Their noses were curled. And one of them had a baby.

The next day we decided to go to Zell-am-See and see The See (not Sea)! We first stopped to buy some traditional costumes for Vlad and Mihaela's friends' kids in France and some necklaces. I loved the trachts. They are really beautiful and so elegant, expensive of course. The ladies wearing them looked very delicate. I would've loved to get one, but I couldn't think of a place where I could go wearing such a costume. I got the edelweiss necklace though.

From there we moved to a cafe where I had my first ice cream for the day. I think it was the first one anyway... But who knows... I really love ice cream in general, but the 0ne I ate in Austria and later in France was yummy as hell! So I kinda finished the national strategic ice cream reserves of both countries. *blush* This, of course, showed later on my scale which hysterically yelled at me: "the second person is kindly asked to step down!!!!!". Back on track now though...

So... Zell-am-See... From the cafe we managed to lose ourselves in some shops, but we finally got to the shore of the lake. Ohhhhh, such a nice view... And because the weather was great, it just enhanced the wonderful sight. You may see for yourselves:

In the center of Zell-am-See, it's very difficult to find a parking place, unless you choose the underground parking. Vlad insisted in not doing that, so we thought we were really lucky when a car was just leaving a place in front of us. We parked, looked around for a meter. There was nothing to indicate that you had to pay for the parking so we went away. When we came back, we found a fine stuck to the window, of course. We also managed to find the meter... Since there was a small construction ongoing, there was this container blocking the view to it. Also, it was hidden in a corner... It did seem a bit strange to me that only our car and the one of the German beside ours had a fine... No Austrian car had one... Hmmm... We went and paid, don't think that because there are no regulations between our states regarding this, we just ignored it.

This is where something happened and I really have no idea what... I am looking at the pictures date and from 18 August they jump directly to 20 August... I have no idea what I did on 19 August... Hmmm... I might've been abducted by aliens or something... Or maybe... it just rained and we went shopping. That must've been it.

Anyway, on 20 August, we decided to go to Kitzbühel. The weather was not too nice there and it was pretty cold. I liked it though because it is colourful and clean. I saw the most wonderful Miu Miu shoes in a shop and left a trail of saliva on the window. I kept googling for them, but didn't find them. I found a similar pair, so click here. Imagine them with dark green instead of blue and purple and black. At least I think those were all the colours. I'm not good at remembering details, I just know they were really fine! God, I think I'm turning into Carrie Bradshaw... Won't go into more details, but I kinda have reasons to believe that I'm getting shoe-addicted. :(

I also remember that I had a very interesting ice cream there. Even though it was kinda cold, everything was worth it. The ice cream was shaped as spaghetti and it had a lot of goodies in it. Yum-yum!

Ha! I just remembered what happened on 19! It indeed rained and we went shopping, then went towards Salzburg in the afternoon to meet a pair of friends of Vlad and Mihaela. Together we went to this beautiful fancy restaurant, where the staff was very polite and all the waitresses wore trachts. They looked so cute! We ate in their garden, under a walnut tree. The food was amazing too. I will not say anything else apart from the fact that because it was during the Mozart festival, the tables were booked since November 2007... But for the friend... well, they just added another table... Special! ;) No pictures to prove it though, so you'll just have to take my word for it. No alien abduction... Bugger!

Back to 20 August now, sorry for the disruption! We headed back to Zell-am-See in the afternoon because there was a city celebration and we were interested in eating "stelze" (meaning pig shin) and "ribs". Since these are pretty hard to cook, especially the stelze, the restaurants don't usually have them on their menus. But because of the festival, the restaurants were having white plastic tents in front of them, with barbecues and tables, and very tasty stuff was being cooked. Vlad and myself settled for the stelze, while Mihaela had ribs. I don't know why, but my portion was a lot smaller than Vlad's... Hmm...

21 August 2008 was dedicated to Salzburg. It was a wonderful sunny day, would've been a waste to stay inside. We hopped in the car and off we went. We parked near the Mozart Square and then started walking. I loved the streets! In our way, we stopped to see the Cathedral, a magnificent masterpiece. We continued to walk and after having something to eat, we went to see the Mirabell Palace and its beautiful gardens.

Last year, when Vlad showed us his holiday pictures, also from Kaprun, I was very much impressed by this location, that they found by mistake, with wooden stairs built on the stone walls of a valley carved by a river. Somehow I remembered that it was far from Kaprun, but on 22 August when we went on another trip, I realised it was not far at all.

The extraordinary location is called Die Sigmund-Thun-Klamm. I don't know if I could ever describe it in words, because it's absolutely unreal. Therefore, I'm just going to let the pictures talk...

When reaching the waterfall, the road is leaving the wooden stair path and continues through the woods. The wood hides the Klamm See, the lake with the most incredible colour I have ever seen. Everything is amazing and you're trying to photograph it the best you can. The way the lake mirrors its surroundings is magical. Sometimes, like we did, you meet lamas on the way. So cute! Afterwards, you can sit on this terrace and have a good white beer, like me. :)

The next day, our last in Kaprun, was not that nice from the weather's point of view. It poured all day long and it was cold. We went shopping though, without grumpy Vlad, we left him home. Heehee! In the evening, before leaving, Alistair came over for us to pay for the accommodation and he brought some Guinness and Baileys and told us the story of his life. Ah, adorable guy, I tell ya! He then invited us over to his beautiful house and we continued to share stories. I enjoyed that evening a lot.

Kaprun was good also because I learnt to do something that most normal people learn when they are kids. I learnt to ride a bike. My expectations on being able to do that were not that high, even though I usually try not to think that there are things that I cannot do. It was a bit frustrating not to be able to do something so normal for anyone else. Vlad insisted in me having to do that, so one afternoon, with the help of Mihaela who was running after me, trying to sustain the bike, I managed to embarrass myself in front of a few 7-8 year olds who were looking at the curious "show", not understanding what could be so hard. They were riding their bikes like they were born on them. But I did it! The following couple of days I joined Vlad and Mihaela on their daily rides and I really liked it. Of course, every big effort requires sacrifices. The sacrifices I made were a few bruises... Because I was so stressed, I didn't break to stop, I just put my feet on the ground. In the beginning, that led to a few little blue bruises. On the first day of riding on the special biking paths, there was this woman walking in front of me. I was speeding a little, so because I got scared that I might run into her, I just put my feet on the ground. The right pedal badly hit the back of my leg, taking away a few layers of skin in the process. Blood poured instantly down my leg, absorbed by my white socks and new pretty Sketchers shoes. I didn't suffer because I was put to sleep immediately... Haha, that sounded funny! No, I take hits pretty easily, so I don't complain a lot. But it was nice to have a big crusty wound and a huuuuuge colour-changing bruise on my calf for about two more weeks. Ah, it's all gone now... And I can now ride a bike! :) That is why I already purchased one and will go out with it whenever possible.

Right! So, moving on... On Sunday, 24 August, we woke up very early and started loading the car just to realise that the room for the luggage was not enough anymore. There were two possible explanations: either the car had shrunk or we had bought another cubic meter of... various stuff. The car shrinking option was dismissed quite rapidly and we blamed it on the acquisition of another bike... and a few tiny little clothes... and shoooooooes. :D

We headed towards Innsbruck and then towards the Brenner pass. It's very funny to know you're on a motorway, but you're stuck in traffic, moving at the speed of 10-20 km/h. I understood that since there are just a few options for crossing the Alps, the situation is always like this. Moreover, if you're trying to do this in a period when everyone's returning from/going in their holiday... it's bad. Anyway, we prayed for the best. I also hated the fact that if in Austria, you go into the first gas station after the border and buy a vignette valid for a week for an insignificant amount, in Italy (and even worse in France), you have to pay depending on the kilometers you travel on the motorway. Ok, ok, if I don't like, I can stay home, I know. But... I can complain, can't I? :P At least in Italy you don't have to stop every 2 km to pay 1-2-3 Euros or so, you just pay at the exit.

I was very anxious to get to Genova or at least to by-pass it. I had heard it was beautiful. I didn't expect so many tunnels and viaducts in the area. They are so many that your eyes start to hurt, especially if it's a very clear day and the sun is too bright. I did manage to see a bit of Genova though and I loved it. A city by the sea... I then understood why a certain curly-haired green-eyed guy is looking so forward to go back home each time he's here. I wouldn't blame him for wanting to get out of here even if his hometown was not by the sea... But with the special feature, his hometown is gorgeous. :)

We reached Ventimiglia and had a small heart attack finding out the amount we had to pay for the motorway. Nah, I'm joking, but it was around 4.5 more times than what we paid in Austria for a week. We were getting closer to our French destination, Six-Fours-Les-Plages, near Toulon. I called our host to let her know that we were on the way and once again I struggled to find my words in French. Thing is that about 14 years ago (OMG!!!!! It's been 14 years already), when I was singing in the choir called Voces Primaverae and we were touring around France, my French was brilliant. That was also due to our French teacher from school, Ms. Arsenescu. We thought she was mean back then, but it's only when you grow up that you realise that this kind of teachers were actually the ones that really counted and shaped you into the person you're becoming. Since school, times have changed and English became my main focus (yes, I know, my English still has to improve) and I managed to forget most of the words in French. It was funny when I first called Ms. Bertrand, our host, and I asked: "Excuse-me, do you speak English?" She said: "Nooooon, Français!" It took me about 30 seconds to say "Ok, j'essaierai..." in what seemed to be a dying voice. I wanted to know if she had spare rooms for the period in which we were going to travel and to ask if the price from their website was still applicable. One by one the words came to me and I think she managed to understand me because at a certain point she joyfully exclaimed "Mais vous parlez très bien Français!" I was thinking "Sure, if only you knew how long it took me to remember how to say '60'!" She was very polite and I remembered this first conversation when reading chapter 5 of Stephen Clarke's book "Talk to the Snail". It's called "Thou shalt speak French". But I'll tell you more about the book a bit later...

We didn't have too much trouble reaching La Griottière. This is the name of the Bertrands' house in which they have 3 Chambres d'hôtes. I will say it wasn't the same as Dorfchalets, especially because we didn't have the independence we had there. I am not saying it was bad! No, not at all. Pretty charming, I got the pink room! Heehee! Everything was clean, I had my bathroom, so what more could you ask for? Then again, you don't go on holiday to spend it inside the room, right? Well... I'm sure some of you might contradict me on that, but... it wasn't the case, really. :D I actually had to sacrifice and pay the price for the room which didn't take into consideration that I was just one person... *sniff sniff* Fine, one and a half after that much ice cream!

After unloading the car, we went straight to Vlad and Mihaela's very welcoming friends, Cristina and Jean Marc. They are a nice family, she's Romanian, he's French, they met in Bucharest and fell in love. They have two kids, Alicia and Ionut, very adorable kids. Alicia fell in love with my long blue nails and I used that to tell her that it was from eating a lot of cheese and drinking a lot of milk that my nails were so big. You see, she doesn't eat anything with milk, so I couldn't tell her that my nails were fake, I just thought that they might be reason enough to change her mind... No, not really, unsuccessful mission. :P

The next day we went to their house again, but I was smelling the sea, not seeing it and craving to reach it. It was only after lunch, that Cristina guided us towards the sea and we walked on Ile du Gaou. It's such a different landscape than the one in Austria. It's still beautiful, but in another kind of way. And the water... oh, the water was so clear and warm and lovely. The wind was not blowing and the sea was so still, that sometimes it just looked like a big lake. There were people tanning and swimming and I was more and more restless to feel the water on my skin... I didn't have my bathing suit with me then, but I did the next best thing... You'll see...

Afterwards, we went to take Alicia from the summer school. It was pretty amazing to see Vlad's face when he saw her. The last time he was there was when she was 2 or something. Now she's 5 and she's such a beautiful girl! She looks like a cat. :) She's such a diva, posing for photos and everything. Totally adorable!

Together we went to Sanary sur Mer for a Haagen Dasz ice cream and for Alicia to ride on the merry-go-round. I won't comment on how great the ice cream was, it's impossible to put it into words. Just click on the link and visit their website. It doesn't make justice to the taste, though...

The evening was spent again at Cristina and Jean Marc's house, planning for the next day trip to Grasse. People who read or saw "Perfume: the story of a murderer" will know this city as related to perfumes. It is indeed known as the world's perfume capital because a lot of aromas for either cosmetics or food are made here. The best thing to do if you're interested in perfumes (not only for wearing them, but for knowing about how they're made) is to go to the Fragonard Museum. The entrance is free and you can visit the historic factory too. Don't think that they are generous for the free entrance, you will definitely end up buying at least one perfume after the tour ends. I got Eau du Bohneur... *blush* Maybe it brings some bonheur to my way when I wear it... I'll keep you posted! :)

The city of Grasse itself is not particularly impressive... or so it seemed to me. It's not bad, but... I confess I expected more, maybe that was my mistake. I met a very very lazy cat and a very cute dog on my way. Our trip passed through Nice, where we 'pique-nique'ed on the stony beach, watching the planes taking off from the airport every 30 seconds or so.

The next day was reserved for Marseille and Bouillabaisse... I think that Vlad had waited for this day with an enthusiasm that cannot be met too frequently. :) Marseille will always remind me of the days when I was touring France with the choir. As always and everywhere, the kids in a group that has the same hobby do not always have the same background. Therefore, while some were spending mummy and daddy's money, the others would just look. Of course, most of the ones looking were also the ones not cool, myself included. When we went to Marseille, some of the kids embarked on a boat and went to visit Château d'If. You can imagine that being the place in which the Count of Monte Cristo had been locked was very interesting to us, the kids. We couldn't really make the difference back then that he was just the character of Alexander Dumas' imagination.

I didn't get to visit it this time either. Money was of course not the problem, just the lack of the same kind of interest as 14 years ago and the plans of seeing something more interesting. We met Cristina, her mum and Ionut in the port and we embarked on a little tourist train that took us to Notre Dame de la Garde. This is a very nice and tall cathedral, placed on a hill, overlooking the Old Port, Château d'If included. The view is fantastic and what you find inside the cathedral is a bit overwhelming. It is full of mosaics, a bit of a strange combination between different styles. The statue of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus that is placed on the top of the church can look quite magical on a sunny day, giving you the impression that it has an aura.

Afterwards we went to have lunch and Bouillabaisse, of course. I had only had it once before and it had been cooked by Vlad. It was very very good and I hoped that the one in Marseille would be even better. It can get awfully expensive because of the variety of fish and other sea food it contains. We found a restaurant and after the waiter tried to fool us into thinking that the only thing left at that late hour was some meat, we finally got what we wanted when he saw that six persons were threatening to leave their restaurant. But no, for me it wasn't as good as the one made by Vlad. He liked it though... I guess our tastes are different, I'm a bit weird when it comes to tastes or food I enjoy or don't. The important thing was that he was happy with what he got.

Between visiting nice locations and spending time at Cristina's place, we found a bit of time to actually go to the beach and do what most people do when they are on the seaside: get a tan and swim! I couldn't really swim and I was always pretty scared of the water. It wasn't very different this time either, but Vlad has tried to at least teach me the basics of swimming. I do look like a giant frog while swimming now, but I am still afraid of deep water. It doesn't mean I don't like being in the water as long as I feel safe. I usually spend more time in the water than on the shore, but I REALLY REALLY wanted to get a tan. The time was very short and I couldn't enjoy the water too much. I didn't get a tan either in the end, just on my arms that were always seen by the sun rays during our trips. Maybe next year...

The beach is good though... Not too big, depending on your taste you can choose a rocky beach or a sandy beach. There are loads of people with very small kids. Everyone is civilised. No one is running around your towel getting sand all over you. No 'manele' can be heard! Yes, that is possible. It's comfortable to go to the beach in Six-Fours-Les-Plages.

I was a bit scared though... because of the book I was reading. Ever heard of Stephen Clarke? Some time ago, when everything in relation to my job (not the job itself, just the environment) seemed like it was present in the moment when the shit had hit the fan, I walked into a library and found a book called "A year in the merde". It was in Romanian, the title made me laugh and I picked it up immediately. It's a very funny book, about a British citizen moving to Paris for a job and what he has to go through to adjust to the French way of living. I found it hilarious! So when I realised there were more books by Mr. Clarke, most of them sequels to the one I had just bought, I ordered them all over the Internet. The holiday choice was "Talk to the snail" that I mentioned above. It teaches you how to behave in France if you don't want to get in trouble. No, it's not a tourist guide, just a very funny book on French arrogance in general... Not that we don't like the French. Even Mr. Clarke has been living in France for more than 12 years, so you can imagine everything is written and meant as a funny thing. Still, his books mock the French, so reading one of these on a beach full of French people seemed a bit suicidal. No one seemed to notice though... Or maybe the French just don't speak English and couldn't understand what I was reading. Especially when I found a paragraph that cracked me up and I insisted in reading it out loud to Mihaela.

On our last day there we went to Toulon. I was interested in seeing the Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier. So we went to the port and embarked on a ship which made the tour of the port, including the military one. I expected to be very impressed. To see planes on it. Maybe see a few taking off... A few landing... Nothing... It was big indeed, no comment on that. And hearing a few of its specifications, only made me swallow a bit harder. It wasn't as exciting as I would've wanted it to be... :(

From the port we went to the highest mountain near Toulon, Mont Faron, also the location of the Memorial of the landing in Provence in 1944. You can either choose to go on cable car or by car, if you're not afraid of heights. The road is a one-way path, near an abrupt edge. If you do make it to your destination, you will be rewarded by a beautiful panorama over the city of Toulon. If you're a heavy smoker, forget going up on the mountain. I think they have hired snipers to blow your brains if you smoke. They are VERY afraid of fires. And it's understandable. I understood that besides the fires caused by the high temperatures, there are also some idiots who set forests on fire for the price of the land to drop. Awesome, right? Cristina's house was very close to be burnt a few weeks before we were there because of a similar act... People are incredibly inventive when money's concerned. But going back to Mont Faron, the view is amazing, especially if you're lucky enough to get there on a very bright summer day.

The next day we unfortunately had to start the journey back home... It had been nice, but since all good things come to an end, our holiday was over and huge work loads were waiting for us back at the office. I could get a taste of what was waiting back for us the moment we were heading towards the Italian border and my phone rang off. It was an Italian guy I work with (very nice fellow, by the way!) who seemed a bit disappointed that I wasn't going to be back to work for another couple of days. What gave him away? His reaction, and I quote: "F&%k!" Hahaha, lovely guy! He is!!! :) (And he likes Uniball pens...)

Once again we passed Genova by and I made a mental note to self to go and visit it someday. The evening was going to be spent in Lido di Jesolo. This is a little town by the sea, around 65 km after Venice. I had a wonderful dish of tagliatelle quattro formaggi there followed by a huge ice cream. Guess I was preparing for home where I was supposed to go right back on the diet. What was very bad for Vlad was the fact that our hotel was located on the main shopping street. :)))) The street closes for cars at night and people are flowing from all directions. It's a nice atmosphere, but way too crowded for me! So is the beach. Just hotels and apartment buildings one next to the other, no privacy. I wouldn't really choose it for my holiday... Then there are loads of Romanians and Russians... Definitely not my thing! The morning is good though... I woke up very early and went to the beach to take some pictures of the sunrise... You'll see the results a bit later.

Next morning we hopped back up in the car and crossed Austria quite fast. We were on the by-pass of Budapest when we got stuck into this huge traffic jam. We didn't really move for quite a while and it was getting dark. I called the hotel in Mezőhegyes just to let them know we were still coming, but that we were going to be a bit late. We got there at almost 11 p.m. and guess what! They kept the restaurant open for us and fed us very very good stuff. We really appreciated that and were really impressed.

Pfff... last day... and the hardest of them all... We were only around 30 km away from the border... Vlad decided to speed a little (a.k.a. 56 km/h where the limit was 50) and got pulled over by a policeman. At least we didn't have to search for a place to pay the fine and everything could've been settled from back home. We continued and as much as we hated it we had to enter our "wonderful" country again. To describe the trip to Bucharest would mean writing again as much as I wrote about the entire holiday so far... It wouldn't be worth it though. I will just summarise it: more than 13 hours on the road (remember, 600 km only, 113 on some kind of motorway...), nearly lost our lives a few times when very smart truck drivers were trying to by-pass other trucks, idiot drivers by-passed us without having enough time to properly get back in the line and forcing us to brake violently, we stopped 1000 times for works, took the wrong road and instead of by-passing Arad, we went through it (thought we were going to just give up and decide on living there), couldn't find a vignette until the 4th gas station after the border (need I say that the Hungarian vignette was sold in Austria BEFORE the border??)... I remembered once again the book I mentioned earlier, "A year in the merde", but felt like the book I was a character in was named "A lifetime in the merde". The only moment I hoped I was just living a bad dream and I was still in a civilised location was the moment we entered the newly built by-pass road of Pitesti. Didn't last too long though... and the nightmare was back full force... we entered Bucharest... ta-ta!

The most important thing is that for nearly three weeks I spent a wonderful time somewhere where I feel more like home than anywhere within the Romanian borders. It's frustrating to live everyday near people you don't have anything in common with and whose behaviour totally disgust you, not having any hope that things could improve. You cannot convince a people that has lived for centuries led by the idea "We only remain with what we drink, eat and f&%k in this life" that life's a lot more than that. That kindness to others is not a thing only mentioned in the Bible. Ok, let's not desire kindness, but at least politeness. Po-what?? someone might ask... Some of you might think I'm exaggerating, but if you don't believe me, I can direct you to a few people, of different ages, who think the same... If God helps, when I'm old and retired, I'll be able to have a cute little house in Kaprun or in some place like that where people greet you with a smile on their faces and with a loud "Grüß Gott". We shall see... definitely, have to keep a positive mind, right? :)

So this was my summer adventure. It was fun and I cannot wait to have another one again. It's been overall a good photographing study tour. I will leave you now, but not before adding my favourite pictures out of which three are now printed, framed and adorning one of the walls of my room. Hope you enjoyed the tour!