Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, December 10, 2012




You thought that if we bought tickets to go home, we’re really going? And skip this beautiful city? No, no, no, no... too many ties to my country’s and the world’s history. Nope, we had to visit, even if is just for four days.

Leaving the warm Egypt, we prepared for a thermic shock: Istanbul is with ten degrees latitude North of Cairo that translates in a difference of almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature. We layered all our clothes and hoped for the best.

These ladies are not playing, they're cleaning!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

In The City


Flying from Cairo to Istanbul, there is certainly a cultural shock. I didn't expect such a dramatic contrast, after all what's the difference between Egypt and Turkey?

We spent three weeks in Egypt, we've been everywhere and it would have only been fair to spend at least the same amount of time in Turkey. Surprisingly - it is the sixth most popular international touristic destination, ahead of Great Britain or Germany. Turkey receives more tourists every year than all South America, three times more than Australia and New Zealand combined, five times more than Japan or Egypt! People come here from all over the world to see various ruins, Cappadocia, seaside resorts and, of course, Istanbul. I guess all I can learn from the statistics is that we have a pretty good chance of a vacation in Turkey sometime in our future. At this point we look at it differently. With time and energy running out and the winter coming, we had to settle for just a quick stop. To get from Cairo to Romania it is cheaper to stop in Istanbul.

Thursday, December 6, 2012



Again we’re moving in a block, eyes darting in all directions, reading the intentions of the people surrounding us. They know where they’re going, we have to huddle up so Mihai can look on the iPad to find the streets we’re supposed to follow to reach our hotel. We left Luxor early in the morning, boarded the train and passed the time people-watching, eating, working on the computer.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Things That Make Egypt the Most Interesting Country Yet

I might say that Egypt is my favorite country so far as well, but that might be a bit of exaggeration and a lot of relief from the fact that we're going home soon… so I'll just use the adjective 'interesting,' and go from there.

Interesting can mean a lot of things. It can mean interesting as in "lots to learn about it." It can mean "slightly negative situations you're being polite about." It can mean interesting as in, "haven't seen this before."

So, without further ado, here's my list.

The Best Museum in the World

We left Luxor on a 10 hour train ride. The train came late and was getting later and later, it seems that it stopped more than it moved. We had first class. Periodically the conductor came to clean up the car of the scores of guys that didn't have tickets. It was an open layout, we observed the people. Foreign tourists were not allowed to travel on day trains in Egypt. It was the rule for a long time, and we have no idea if it is still on the books, we went to the train station, got the first class tickets and pretended that we know what we are doing. We did it so we could see the country, save some money and also because we were not in the mood for another night on the road. We were the only foreigners. Why wouldn't they let foreigners on day trains? Hard to tell, I doubt that there is an official explanation. The train had third, second and first class cars, the one we were on had some uncracked windows. Most others were broken, a mistery that would be solved in an instant, just a couple of hours into our trip. A very loud noise came from Ileana's side. She ducked, a rock had just hit and broken her

Sunday, December 2, 2012


There is no way to get around Luxor. This is the old Thebes, the ancient capital of the New Kingdom and the birth place (and domicile) of the most important god Amun-Ra. On the East bank of the Nile, 700 km from Cairo and 300 from Aswan, the city is experiencing a resurgence under a determined new mayor. At least that is what the Lonely Planet guide says. I bought a voucher for a hotel for three nights - non refundable. After previous adventures with hotels in Egypt, nobody would be surprised to find out that we arrived three nights later than we were supposed to and the hotel accepted our voucher and upgraded us to a little apartment at no extra cost. They rated themselves as three stars, I would give them maximum two, but they were nice. Plus they had a framed letter from a secretary of a member of "The" Royal Family, thanking them for being good hosts during the 15 minutes break that her highness took in their lobby. Thirteen years ago.
Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Turning Point


The restaurant of the cruise is empty, besides Maria and myself—just the waiters changing the linens on the tables. Judging from their voices and gestures, they’re not too happy about a new batch of tourists, each with their whims and their steam blowing. I didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed—on the contrary, I was happy to escape the droning and the pervading fumes of the neighboring boat’s engine—just that I don’t feel inclined to find excuses: for the miserable western food (the juice, the milk are watered down, the desserts seem emptied from a can, and everything else is weird tasting—it’s not easy to follow a recipe if you don’t know what the result is supposed to look and taste!), for the forced jokes of the waiters trying to make us smile and have a “good time”, for the sky-high prices of everything not included in the service (a British woman tried in vain to convince the manager that 15 euros for a glass of juice is not a normal price!), for everything. I’m tired and the day has just started.

Market delivery

Friday, November 30, 2012

Kali mera Elada!


Present time (November 30th, 2012):

Duty— You should have written every day!
The writer— I couldn’t, the writing would have been dry, just a bunch of facts, what we did, like a check-off list, no one would have been interested.
The child— Can we play now?
Duty— Now you have to write after almost two months; what would you remember now?
The writer—I’ll write, just leave me alone, don’t carry me to all these new places, give me some time!
The child—I want a roiboos tea!
Duty—We don’t have time! And plus, these new places have to be seen, they are a must, remember that you always wanted to see them!
The writer—OK, let’s see them, but then I won’t write!
The child—And I want to watch a movie!
Duty— You have to write! People are waiting for your blogs!
The writer— Are you kidding me? They live their lives, we’re just entertainment for them, if there is no blog to be read, they just go and find something else!
The child—Look at me! Look at me!
Duty—Then write for us!
The writer—I need peace, and time! Leave me alone, to find my muse, to process those feelings, to make them less personal, to bring a unified image of how it was there, and not the whole material. It was one thing to present Asia, where it was a first contact with a different culture, and another to show Europe. I grew up here, I can tell details, but then I have to explain them, and you don’t give me time!
The child—Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong! Let’s escape!
Duty and the writer—WE CAN’T! WE HAVE TO WRITE THE BLOG!

Two months ago and forward.

Kali mera, Elada! (kah-lee mair-ah) Good morning, Greece!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some Egyptology

There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones fascinated about Egyptology and the ones who are not. I don't know where are we. We got tired of reading countless articles in National Geographics about Egypt, we have no desire of learning all about the thirty dynasties and all the names of the 332 or so pharaohs that we know about. But there is so much to imbibe from those three thousands years, and it is so simple to get the basics of it.

It all starts with the Nile. This is a river in Africa. The longest in the world. People spent a lot of time trying to figure out how long it is, they still don't know for sure. It crosses ten African countries, the last being Egypt.

There is a river in Africa called Nile

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Egyptian Brother

Egypt is a strange country. There might have been an adjustment period after we spent almost three months in the "civilized" first world, but I don't think we noticed that. We were returning to something familiar, like Madagascar, Indonesia, India or Nepal. Yet it is different and somewhat weird. I am trying to grasp it and I cannot. The weirdest part is the interaction with people. And even more weird is that I found a little brother in Aswan that I didn't know I had and we all came to accept him after a while.

Monday, November 26, 2012



“Wait there on the chairs!” says the security man from the airport. We sit for almost an hour, other tourists sharing the same fate. It is not because he has something else to do, he just talks with his colleagues, but I think this is a new policy (at least for me), they control things better in groups. We fly to Cairo to change the airplane (actually, it is the same one, with the same stewardesses, and almost the same passengers) so we could go to Aswan.

Again I have to face my fears, my own prejudices. This is a time of unrest, of social change, of political games. It is a Muslim country with 5-10% of Coptic Christians. Don’t we invite trouble just by being here? The number of tourists coming in is down, aren’t we a source to be ripped off? Are they really going to take us to the hotel or somewhere else? In whom to trust?

Outside the airport there are several taxi drivers, waiting for a client. Between them is Mr. Samir, who has in the middle of his forehead a crest, the consequence of many prayers (the Muslims pray by touching their forehead to the ground). That little voice in my head says “Him, you can trust him! No, no, no, no, I take it back. What if he is a fanatic?”

 But I don’t listen it anymore, Mr. Samir is talking politely with Mihai and he is inviting us in his seven seat car, a Peugeot from 1974. It is a long drive and from time to time he tells us that, somewhere in the darkness, we’re passing the High Dam, or the Philae Temple. We arrive at our hotel,

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Sabaah el her! (sub-ah-L-hair)

"You speak Arabic? Are you Egyptian?" No, I just like to use my limited knowledge and greet people in their language. Ioan and I, both have a darker skin, Mihai is sporting a beard, most of our skin is covered, our men walk in front, we, the feminine side, follow them, yes, we could be Egyptian. We’re not Muslims, but we could be Coptic Christians, or some other religion that doesn’t require  a woman to cover her head. “Tourist” cries from our behavior, but maybe we’re long time emigrated Egyptians, visiting our country. Sometimes I wonder, do we really have this plasticity to fit different countries or is just a way of the locals to brush our ego?

Good morning from the Sinai Peninsula! We’re here to rest, to dive into oblivion, to do nothing, to forget there is a world outside!



Of all the American feast days, Thanksgiving is closest to my heart. The first immigrants gathered with the Indians and gave thanks to God for helping them survive. Many times I thought it shouldn’t be just once a year, but then  I changed my mind; it is good to have an official day, in which one can think about all his or her gifts, received daily or in time. The words to come were written as I thought about them while we were traveling.

I give thanks to God; He helped us every moment.

I thank Mihai. He is the one who transformed an idea into reality. Step by step, innumerable hours, during the day and especially at night, he searched on the internet for the cheapest and most comfortable ways of transport. He read what others wrote and learned from their experiences. He found the ideal weather (you don’t want to be in India during monsoon time, when it rains for three months in a row) and made a schedule allowing us to travel with minimum clothes. He is the one who searched and found hotels and apartments, not only good, but cheap and close to the places we wanted to visit. He is the one who pushed us out of the house, when we wanted to sit and complain, saying there are still places to be visited, and in this way he enriched us.
Baobabs Avenue, Madagascar

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kidnapped in Egypt

I woke up at 5 am on Monday morning with the sudden realization that we've been highjacked. No, I wasn't dreaming, my mind continued to work during the night and put together many puzzle pieces. The only question was the correct term. I made my instant coffee and I got out on the balcony. The sun was rising behind the mountains of Saudi Arabia, across the gulf. It was quiet, nothing was moving, another glorious morning in Sinai. I checked the dictionary, we haven't been highjacked, we were kidnapped. I started to laugh. There were few questions left, I had to make a plan and organize our escape. The Internet wasn't working, so with no additional information I had to make several alternative plans and figure out a strategy. Kidnapped without even knowing. An uncomfortable feeling was settling in, but there was still something funny about the whole story:

With the Arab spring revolutions, security in Egypt has been in question. From outside, there are concerns about safety, but many travelers have reported a nice experience, "it is safe without the crowds," touts have sold their camels because of lack of tourists.
This is the Sinai peninsula from the air

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Birthday

To me, my birthday felt like any other day. Not very special. Maybe without the excitement of having all your best friends over, playing your favorite games together, getting a big chocolate cake, and unwrapping lots of presents. It isn't the day you look forward to for a full month. Sadly most of the above aren't possible here in Egypt. Friends are back at school in America or Romania, therefore we can't play all those games together, big chocolate cakes aren't found easily in Egypt, and traveling with as few things as possible means our bags don't have room for a present. Unless its a iPod/iPhone/iPad mini. But I already have an iPod so I don't need another one.
When everyone wakes up one by one, they tell me "Happy Birthday!" Instead of cake I got meringues. I gladly accepted them. While going down to my regular breakfast, I made a little rhyme: "Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me. I am 103, without the zero in between."
Good morning and Happy Birthday! here is your present...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Italy in Haiku


Italy; haikus.
(I need to write about it,
And prose behaved not.)

Wrote this post before.
Did not work at all. Into
The breach once again.

Milano's Duomo. 
Building since one three six four.
Samsung ads on walls.

Goofed around on rails.
Took photographs one and all.
Laughed till stomachs hurt.

(On the train whooshing
Past the countryside, playing
On electronics)

In Torino, met
with penpals— Federica,
A nice friendly girl

Her mom, Maria
Rosa, guided us around
This superb city.

(Eyelash in my eye
Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!
Couldn't get it out.)

Florence next, full of 
RAIN. Walked around in raincoats,
All day every day.

Statues, paintings, ceilings, WOW.
They all come alive.)

Then Venice, full of…
Pigeons! Eat out of your hand,
Cooing and preening.

Canals, with people
Pushing gondolas past us,
Frosty winter air.

Next, near Napoli,
Greek ruins; superstitious
Romans preserved them.

(Stayed up late to write
NaNoWriMo [LINK HERE] has arrived!
Sore fingers; HAPPY)

Pompeii, destroyed by
Mt. Vesuvius— walls still
Here, mosaics too.

Same story as Pompeii— but
Rich people lived here.

Capri: amazing
Coastline, scenery, and caves
Blue Grotto was closed.

Napoli: Dirty.
Like India but with tons
Of dead umbrellas.

Napoli pizza.
Not the best, not the worst— good.
Pizza boxes pile.

Vatican City:
Long, long line, wrote postcards near
St. Paul's Cathedral.

Sistine Chapel, a
3-D experience not-to-
Be-missed. Like, ever.

Rome's Colosseum
Cruel, needless torture… ugh.
Skulls of innocents.

Many other things
But my rhyming's broken… oops!
Other posts are here:

Thank you for reading!
Haikus are hard, but I tried.
(It's better than prose!)

Agony and Ecstasy

We board the flight to Milano. People are talking, the stewardesses are nowhere to be seen, while a voice says in Italian “to click the seat belt as it is shown”. It makes me laugh out loud, causing some heads to turn around like, “What’s so funny?” By the time they repeat the message in English (with a heavy Italian accent), the stewardesses are there to do their duty. After we take off, I think we have five minutes at the cruising height and then we start the descent, with a searing pain in my ears and hysterical cries from small children (why do they have to go down so quickly, not giving us time to equalize?)

And then, buon giorno Ee-tahl-eeah! Good day, Italy!

We have three weeks in Italy, and the plan is to visit Milano (only because the airplane takes us there), then we go to Turin, to see our pen pals Federica and Maria Rosa. From there to Florence for four nights, Venice one night, Napoli and surrounding area for six nights, finishing in Rome with five nights.

This is a touring marathon, a masochistic demonstration of how much one can absorb without getting sick of it.

The Boxer

Saturday, November 10, 2012

And There Was Italy

Fast, too fast, Italy passed from the list of future and present destinations to the one of the past's. We spent 19 full days and nights, changing beds seven times, Milan, Torino, Florence, Venice, Vietri sur Mare, Napoli, and Roma. We stayed in five apartments rented on and two hotels (for one night each).
Colloseum in the distance

We went on and on visiting a lot. Greek and Roman ruins, churches and museums, occasionally some amazing landscapes. We travelled by plane between Venice and Napoli, we rented a car in Catania for three days, we travelled the rest by train, boat and bus. We saw some of the most phenomenal creations in the history of the human race.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Middle Italy


We didn't like Napoli. We wanted to, we really wanted, but the place left me puzzled. We wanted to like it because we liked Marcello, Mihaela's boyfriend, he is from Napoli, in love with his city, he wanted us to stay here longer and he gave us advice of how to enjoy it. Antonio, the owner of our rented apartment, welcomed us to the "la città più bella del mondo!!" I think he and many other locals believe it, but raising the expectations like that is a sure recipe for disappointment. The city has some attractions and many significant problems that nobody can deny. It is dirty, crowded, noisy and dangerous. Probably the most unsafe destination so far, it didn't hold us back too much, but we kept the cameras inside, watched our bags and backs all the time, avoided most of the back alleys, crossed the street with extreme caution. At times it reminded us of the bad parts of India, maybe we forgot some things, but Napoli seemed worse. And lucky us we didn't even have a garbage collectors strike. The four huge containers across from our apartment were emptied Sunday afternoon and in a few hours were overflowing again. These people are able to produce unlimited quantities of rubbish and they don't even realize.

The gulf of Salerno

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Week In Italy

We had a fantastic month in Greece, better than we could expect, we didn't want to move on, we had to. A few days before, we made our schedule. For a split second we questioned going to Venice, but we said it out loud and Maria ended the debate before it started: "Of course we go to Venice, I want to see it!" The other factor was transport from North to South, how to get to Napoli. The cheapest and fastest way was to fly on a particular day. We were left with eight nights in the North, to cover Milan, Torino, Florence and Venice.

I considered skipping Milano, but my mother said we really have to see the dome, the children, hearing its story, expressed some interest, and I was happy. I heard about it maybe forty years ago. I started to collect postcards as a child and all I had from Italy were with the Milan Dome. It seemed then to be the center of the world, the one and only site that I must see. Quite wrong, but I was a child.
The Dome in Milan, postcard type picture

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A History of Greece Through Our Travels

People come to Greece to see the Acropolis and dip in the sea, to eat gyros and yogurt. Or to learn some real history. It is the birthplace of the Western civilization, the beginning of art as we know it and the first experiment in democracy. During our four weeks here we learnt a lot. We visited a lot of places as they came our way, but it makes more sense to put them in historical perspective. I am sure it will help us to remember, but I also hope that you will learn something new.

Our itinerary in Greece

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Greece in Four Weeks

I never understood how Eol was such an important god, actually I didn't understand why he was a god at all. That is until now, when we left the island of Mykonos on a BlueStar Ferry. It is the biggest boat we've ever been on, but the wind is so strong that everything is trembling. Anna, the owner of our hotel, repeatedly told us over the last week that we are lucky, they didn't have one good day all summer. We had two or three days without wind, it was uncomfortably hot, but, when the wind blows, it is almost cold and it is certainly unpleasant.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scrambled Foxtrot (2)


Cristina and I have been BFFs since 5th grade. No matter how much time passes from the last meeting, we talk and work together like we saw each other just yesterday. She takes the children fishing (Mihai, Ileana, and I are not fans) and then she shows them how to clean them.

Ready to eat grilled fish, hand caught crabs, tomato salad with feta cheese and many other goodies!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Scrambled Foxtrot

 Athens greets us with sunshine and social unrest. The bus doesn’t go all the way, the subway doesn’t stop at the Syntagma station, the one close to Parliament. We arrive at Cristina and Dan’s house safe and sound. Six years is a long time, but it didn’t change a thing. They spoil us with freshly squeezed orange juice (not all oranges are equal to this task, they have to be small, soft, and with a shiny peel), dried figs from their garden, olives from their trees. Our children don’t remember meeting (they were less than 5 years old) but get together like all teenagers do. They live in a very small apartment, next to a church that rings its bells from 7:30 am. If we all get in the kitchen there is barely room for standing, so we go out and eat feta salad (feta cheese with tomatoes and flooded with virgin olive oil), kokoritzi (a dish made from sheep intestines), sausages and meat patties. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Greek Continent


Our first experience in Greece includes meeting Mom's lifetime friend's husband at the Athenian airport. We take a bus for a while… then have to get off the bus because there are strikes going on and public demonstrations.

Apparently this is the new norm in Athens.

It's kind of weird to say you're in Athens. For some reason, I think of this more as a history-book place, which I suppose is normal, since people do tend to read about it quite a lot in history books.

It does look like an Ancient History type of place, but mostly that's reserved for the museums and the ruins. 

We met Cristina, Maria, and Eleni again, had dinner at a Greek restaurant, watched the Romanian version of the camp presentation, and talked till after midnight.

(Some of us, however, (read 'we girls') laughed hysterically the whole night.)

The next morning, after talking a while longer, we headed to Ermioni (in a round-about way).

It took us 4 days to reach it, despite the fact that the trip could easily be made in three hours.

First we went to Meteora, where we visited 4 Orthodox monasteries.

It is so comforting to be somewhere where you know all the rules and how to act and everything seems familiar. Catholic churches, for some reason, don't feel like places of worship to me. Then you reach an Orthodox church and there are paintings of saints on the walls and icons everywhere, and the altar, and they're so cluttered, in a way, that you feel very very cozy, as if everything's alright and nothing can go wrong.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Zeus's Hiding Place

"It’s far away....20 euros!"

"No," says Mihai and walks away. Another taxi driver approaches and gives his price: 15 euros. The first one insists “I’ll take you, 20 euros!” Mihai can’t believe it, there is a lower offer on the table, and the first one insists on his price. NO!

Our hotel is far, far away but it has a kitchenette. While we settle in, Mihai goes to the corner store for a quick grocery shopping. The vendor was eating a pomegranate and offers him a piece, and when Mihai refuses, he puts it anyway in the bag “They are not ripe yet, but they’re sweet.” I’m happy for it, I haven’t had a pomegranate in more than a year, and just before I taste it I say out-loud “Bogdaproste, let it be for the departed souls.” The Greeks are Orthodox Christians, like ourselves, and give alms thinking of the ones who left this life. I don’t know if he intended it as alms, but if he did, I want to recognize it.

We wake up before sunrise, amidst barking and roosters cockle-doodle-dooing. We take a bus, change in town to another one and we arrive at the opening time at Knossos's Palace. The place seems empty, just a few other tourists. We didn’t do our homework, so we don’t know where to go, we’re just following the road. And suddenly we’re there, at the same level with fluted red-browned columns, blue frescoes, mosaics and door jambs made of plaster that imitate the wood grain. And groups of tourists, blocking the view! Suddenly, our main task became to see the bits and pieces in between groups. Their guides talk loudly, and the tourists are hanging on their words, crushing anything in their way. 

Greek Islands


Here's a secret. I'm not sure how to spell this island's name.

The view from our grandparents' hotel's balcony.

On the Facebook update it says Mikonos. In Remington Steele episodes it says Mykonos.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Europe Since Then

So the last post I put up was "Europe So Far" and now we're just continuing since then.

We left off with Kutna Hora. After going around town and seeing the sights, Daddy and I caught a bus back home to Prague, and the next day we took another one for Berlin.

The first night we stayed at a very nice hotel, and Mom and Daddy went to dinner with some friends, who, starting with the next day, would lend us their apartment as they went off on vacation. The parents came home at an absurdly late hour and we were torn between worry and that "WOOHOO THE PARENTS ARE OUT AND I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT YAAAAAY" feeling that most people get when the parents shut the door. And, like most people, we didn't really use our fleeting freedom and just hung out doing whatever. And then, you know, scolded our parents when they came home at 11.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Hola! Hello!

"Who wants to get out?" asks Mihai.
"No, thank you! You said we were going to rest and that’s what we intend to do!"

We’re in Estartit, a wonderful village by the Mediterranean Sea, with a wonderful beach and wonderful eateries, and all we want to do is to be inside the walls of our apartment, even if we don’t have internet. I need to put a little bit of space around memories. Europe is intensive, with so many things to see, I need time to filter my emotions and impressions, to write them down and I don’t want to go and make new ones.

We could have chosen any location close to Barcelona, but we came here because we were invited by Isma (Ease-ma). We’ve met in Thailand, us, leaving Bottle Beach, he, going to the doctor for an infected leg (diving with unprotected wounds would do that to you). Our car started speeding up when we realized we didn’t give him our card, he couldn’t run, so we threw it on the sand and that was our last image of him. He liked our page on Facebook and we exchanged a few messages.

He visits our apartment one afternoon and we talk about wind surfing, tourists, business, independence. Driving through Catalunya we read graffitti inscriptions asking for independence. The signs are first in Catalana, then Spanish, then English, people speak Catalana, they teach it in school. I ask why do they want independence from Spain? Not everybody wants it, but it seems it is about money and who is using them (Spain or Catalunya). Until they reach a majority, they are part of Spain.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Taste of Spain

The story might seem fairy tale material, but it is not. As we left Bottle Beach, we got on a little boat for half an hour. During the trip, Ileana got to talk with a nice young fellow. Then we parted ways. Waiting for departure in the back of a truck, I asked my daughter what they talked about. "Our trip", "He's from the most beautiful Spanish village and he works in the best restaurant in the world". "Let's go there!" I said and my daughter readily agreed. As our truck was now departing, I waived at Isma and I threw a contact card towards him. In the dust behind us we saw him limping with his injured foot, retrieve the card and waive back at us.
The season is over in L'Estartit

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Family Meetings in Barcelona


Barcelona is the location where we will be meeting with Mom's half of the family. Our cousins, aunt and uncle, and grandmother have come to Barcelona for a conference, but they're also going to meet with us.

We arrive in Barcelona first. Dad somehow navigates to the apartment, drops us off, and heads to the airport to drop the car off (having trouble finding the way to the airport without any map he sees all of Barcelona). We meet Adina, a Romanian who's managing the apartment, and find out with crestfallen faces that instead of our apartment and our family's apartment being in the same building, we're 7 minutes away from each other on foot.

The only reason Dad paid for such an apartment was because he thought we'd be in the same room. Otherwise, we would have had a much cheaper place!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Berlin, Deutschland


Gutten tag! 

Here we are in Goethe’s land. The first time we were here it was a few months after the fall of the Wall and the differences between East and West were evident. The situation was tense because they had just adopted the Western mark as the national currency, transforming overnight normal Easterners into poor people. The graffiti was everywhere.

The first night we roamed the streets with our friends. Mihaela and Marcello (from Napoli) are so kind and let us stay in their apartment, while they go to visit her family in Romania. We walk aimlessly, talking and catching up with our busy lives, finding more about them and Alina (her sister) and Matheu (her sister’s boyfriend). We switch from Romanian to English, then when they talk with each other it’s either in Italian or French. We ask for directions in German. I ask Mihaela how many languages does she speak: seven, all of the above plus Spanish and Portuguese. And she is not alone. Berlin is the hubbub for all the artists, a place where they can find a venue for their imagination and is not expensive to live.

Enjoying the movie "10 Months In"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Stay in Berlin

We liked Berlin. We came here for several reasons, specifically invited by Mihaela, a long time friend. Besides, it's been 22 years since we were here last time, shortly after the fall of the wall and the day after the monetary unification. It's been too long since then and I couldn't wait to see the new city of Berlin, frequently described as the most vibrant European city. A past great capital, the center of European power games and also the second biggest Turkish town in Europe. Berlin is a city in constant change, the locals don't recognize it year after year, and they joke that they don't need to go to any other city, they have something new all the time.

Guess what? I am in Berlin!

With our friends, before they left. Too soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New Clothes, New Friends, and New Shoes



Some of the artwork on the remainders of the wall.

We reached this amazing city in the afternoon, bunked down in our bunks, and sent the parents out to enjoy themselves.

They bought Icebreakers for us— Ileana took mine (very happily), and I took her pink one temporarily. We exchanged it the next day for a beautiful dark blue shirt that makes me look like a completely different person. How do people handle changing shirts every day? I just can't figure it out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012



Ahoy! Hello!

We're in Prague,  Czech Republic. We slept while crossing the border. No one asked for our passports, we're in the European Union.

Day One: we walk toward downtown seeing streets and people (who were drinking beer at 11 am),

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I don't like violence. But there is something contagious in the joy with which Czechs display the room and window of defenestration.

The old depiction of the events

The same window in 2012

The story on display is simple and almost romantic: the representatives of the king where not good to the people, so the people stormed the castle and threw the regents out of the window. The Czechs kid themselves with the idea that if necessary they would do it again whenever necessary, supposedly their rulers should be aware of the risk and govern mindfully. The view from the window is gorgeous, but there is concrete below. If there could be just a black hole, I would gladly recommend the defenestration for all the politicians of the world. Take them to Prague and get rid of them. Until we solve the technical details, Prague remains just a touristic destination.

It's full of tourists in Prague during a hot September day

Europe So Far

We'll start this thing with London.

Actually we'll start by saying I can't type. But this has already been established.

Maria and I flew from Chicago on Tuesday and arrived in Great Britain the day after, where we met with Mom, Daddy, and Ioan. We took the metro and eventually reached our hostel, which was recognizable thanks to the construction stuff around the entrance-y bit. We slept on the top floor, which happened to be the fifth. Thanks to the teeny-tiny elevator and the long wait required for it, we preferred the stairs. The internet was only available on the ground floor, so the stairs were used quite a bit.

We met up with our grandparents and sightsaw a bit, going to the Tower of London and seeing the Crown Jewels, Buckingham Palace (sans parents), saw the changing of the guard (yawn. Yawn yawn yawn yawn yawn. Yaaaaawn.), was rushed around the Queen's Gallery which happened to be showing a very interesting exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci (the rush was to see the yawn changing of the guard), saw Westminster Abbey which is less church and more graveyard.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Zero Percent

If you try to learn about the world, there is a small population of 13,428,300 in 2010 (0% of the total), who suffered the most and caused most of the trouble in the world. Most of them live in America and some of them live in a country called Israel. They are generally called Jews, even though what makes someone Jew can be an issue of considerable debate. There is a lot to learn about them and the best place to do it is in Prague. It might seem illogical at first, but soon it all makes sense. Hitler dreamed of a museum for the "extinct race of Jews" and apparently he chose one of the oldest synagogues in the world to house it. In an adjacent synagogue they started to pile the artifacts stollen from the population, items of inestimable value, waiting to be put on display when the Nazis would have won the war. So saved from destruction and somehow surviving the communist era, they are now available for the whole world to learn. There is a quarter in Prague Old Town that contains the Jewish Museum, unusual because it comprises a few buildings scattered over several streets in a relatively new Art-Nouveau labyrinth. There is the Old-New Synagogue, built in 1270. The ceiling is awkward, almost clumsy, it has five spikes, the builders were Christians, they knew how to built a ceiling with four beams connecting in the shape of the cross. That wouldn't have worked for a synagogue, so they added a fifth one, clumsily. Why? The Jews were not allowed to built, they had to employ Christians. Why? Asked the children, it just doesn't make sense. They were not allowed to do anything, exempt moneylending. Why? They ask again. People are stupid. That is the short answer, there is a (much) longer one.

The ceiling with five spires, credit wikipedia

Awesome Days in Prague


We spent about four days in Prague. We actually did interesting activities for two of them (well, rather, we did activities).

September 8th was my name day. We walked around Prague, saw the enormous clock that hangs up and shows the saints that are celebrated on each day.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wien, Osterreich


Guten tag! (goot-an tuck) 

Hello! We are in Vienna, Austria (the title of the blogpost is read Veen, Oh-stir-rye-h). From the airport we take the train. There are no turnstiles here, no blocking of the flux of people coming or going, just  two boxes where you are supposed to validate your ticket as you enter the station. It is your responsibility. The train is wide and has doors that don’t open automatically (this makes for a quieter ride). Mihai is concerned if we are going to figure how to open them, but it’s quite simple, just pull the handle. 

In the station we are welcomed by Alina, our cousin. She lives here with her 9 years old son, Victor. Though we know stories about him, it is our first time that we meet him (only Mihai met him years ago). Both sides are curious. 10:30 pm. He says hello, and after getting a good picture of our faces, he goes directly to bed. At 6:30 am he wakes up to go to school. We stay late and eat and talk and eat some more, in a true Romanian style. 

This is the next night, we have duck, dumplings and red cabbage!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Teacups, Operas, and Kinder


I have a friend who frequently gives us all kinds of tips for our trip.

My favorite is this one, about New Zealand:

"Watch out for hobbits!"

Or mothers taking pictures of fire hydrants.

The Best City in the World

According to September's National Geographic, again this year the best city to live in this world is Vienna. To understand what this means, the highest ranked American city is Honolulu, at number 29. The Economist uses a different scale and rates Vienna a close second, after Melbourne. This wasn't our reason to come here, we came to meet with Alina and Victor. For nine years now, my children knew they have a cousin and wanted to meet with him, but unfortunately they had to wait this long.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Visiting United Kingdom's Capital


We are so spoiled! 

After so many months on the road, we are complaining of a little bit of deprivation of sleep due to uncomfortable chairs. Like all the night buses should have recline-able chairs with a hood to shelter your face as in Japan! Spoiled or not we are sleep-walking to our hostel, where we find out that we can’t enter our room until 3 o’clock. It looks like a dorm one... Well, we’re on a budget, it will do.

After a good night sleep we can’t wait to pick up our girls from the airport. Happy to be together, sad that they don’t have a new stamp in their passports. 

They brought bagels! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

London in Seven

In November 2005 I asked my family a tricky question. P or L? A majority chose P and it turned into $300 plane ticket to Paris on a now-defunct airline. It was the first international trip for my children on Valentine's Day in 2006. L would have been London...

The children liked Paris and enjoyed returning there in 2009, but at least one of them held it against me for not getting to London until now.

London this summer - it's all about the Games



Ileana and I arrived in Heathrow Airport nonchalantly. We walked (or skipped) ahead of our entire plane, then lost our lead entirely by stopping at the toilets. 

We carried our bag of bagels throughout the baggage claim area, very happy that we didn't have to stop. As we walked through the store that comes just before exiting into the wide world that is England, I looked around at the perfumes. Why would anyone shop for perfume just before exiting the airport? It doesn't make sense to me. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Camp

So it's about time I confront the keyboard and my rapidly deteriorating ability to type and write a blog post. I figure summer camp is as good a thing to write about as any. Except for the fact that it will be heavily censored, as this took place at a church camp, and further censored as this is a family blog and swearing is not included, and censored even further because the participants will probably end up reading it. Maybe.

Friday, Aug 17: Fly to UAE, bid parents adieu, fly to JFK, reach Saturday somewhere over the ocean.

Saturday, Aug 18: Keep flying, fly to Pittsburg, wait around to be picked up by someone, we do not know who.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


On the last day of the contest Capture the Color we found out that we were nominalized so we didn't lose any second. Here they are:


Lesotho is the third poorest country in the world. This bar was on top of a hill and had a few customers. I liked that I could interpret the written signs as "Be prepared, you are going to be disarmed by two sisters!"


Tsiribihina River, Madagascar. Planting rice.


Kyoto, Japan Preparedness, Japanese style


Taj Mahal, India 

We went to visit first thing in the morning and a heavy fog was all around us.  This man was sweeping the leaves that fell in the night time.


Antsirabe, Madagascar

Water is scarce in Madagascar and is usually brought from the river or the water pump in yellow jugs. The boy was collecting them and caught a ride on his wheeled platform.