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Moldova's newly elected president stripped the ex-president of Romania of his Moldovan citizenship today. I think this kind of fun is possible only in that region.

The reason for revoking the citizenship was undermining Moldova's legitimacy by calling for the reunification of Moldova with Romania. Moldova's newly elected president is known for his anti-Western and pro-Russian views. They did have to find some other pretext to declare that the guy's Moldovan citizenship was obtained illegally, and they did find some minor procedural irregularities apparently.

Moldovans generally can get Romanian citizenship because Moldova used to be part of Romania and the current generation's grandparents were stripped of their Romanian citizenship by force when Moldova was annexed by the Soviet Union after the WWII. Likewise, Romanians whose grandparents were born in what is currently Moldova while it was still Romania can claim Moldovan passports.
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The city of Iasi (pronounced Yash), the capital of the Romanian part of Moldova is slowly getting taken over by the statues of cats. They are all different but all are close to the real size. Some of them are within reach and you can touch them, like this one:



Some of them have wings and are high up like these nice blue ones. I like that couple of pigeons watching them. Seeing these two plunged me into a long daydreaming session about the world where cats could fly.

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He's got the hat, she's got the shoes, this could work I guess. He also is carrying her jacket while she has a coffee, a phone, a pack of cigarettes and a cigarette in her hands.



She was carrying her jacket herself though. But then he had a union jack t-shirt, red sunglasses and two bracelets, carrying jackets might have spoiled the look.

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It is quite a walk.

In Transylvania, Romania.

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The train from Chisinau, the capital of Moldova to Bucharest, the capital of Romania takes slightly over 13 hours. The distance is around 285 miles. Yep, that's below 22 miles per hour on average. Moldovans and Romanians will not be taking any prizes for the fastest trains from the Japanese any time soon.

The border crossing and customs take over three hours because the wheels of the train need to be changed at the border due to the rail gauge difference between the two countries. The USSR had different width rail tracks from the rest of Europe as a defence measure to prevent European trains from being able to cross its borders apparently. Moldova used to be part of the USSR, Romania wasn't. The wheel change involves lifting each of the carriages up one by one (with all the passengers still inside them) and, well, changing the wheels. I think that provides for a very rare opportunity to move vertically up in a train carriage.

Here you can see the wheels waiting for the next train at the "wheel changing station" at the border:

From above

Nov. 5th, 2016 03:24 am
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Some of Romania's mountains from above.

Romania

Oct. 16th, 2016 10:19 pm
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What are the first couple of things that come to your mind when you think of Romania?

Earthquake

Sep. 24th, 2016 02:30 am
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An earthquake a minute ago woke us all up here. I do not know how strong it was but everything was moving quite a bit and there was quite a bit of noise as well. I think it was quite short, shorter than a minute. Some people went outside but we stayed in and I am going back to sleep shortly. People are worried about repeats and are saying that they often come in batches here.

Update: I found it on earthquaketrack, it was 5.6 magnitude (Romanians are reporting 6.1 magnitude) earthquake 5 km from Nereju Mic, Vrancea, Romania.
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This is a popular spot to steal wifi in central Brasov. I think it is the office of some government agency and one of their wifi connections is not password protected. I did what this dude is doing one minute before I took this photo of him.

In Brasov, Transylvania, Romania

Artists

Sep. 13th, 2016 11:32 pm
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These guys were working on an installation at Sibiu Tattoo Expo.

Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania

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We are thinking about going away for the weekend and are choosing between Odessa, which is on the Black Sea in Ukraine and Constanta, which is also on the Black Sea but in Romania.



Both cities are their respective countries' largest ports. Odessa is slightly over 110 miles away, Constanta is a bit further away at 285 miles.

Odessa is a Russian speaking city even though it is in Ukraine. We were told that in Soviet Union it was known as one of the most Jewish cities in the USSR and also as the "capital of humour" (yes, I also struggled to put "USSR" and "humour" together in a sentence). It was founded in 1794 by a decree of the Empress Catherine the Great and was known as "Southern Palmyra" and "pearl of the Black Sea".

Constanta is the oldest city in Romania, Ovid used to live in exile there. It is about three times smaller than Odessa (which has a population of about a million).

I think we are leaning towards Odessa.
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When we visited Transylvania's last gothic fortified church in Biertan (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) they told us how the Saxons who lived there used to deal with the couples asking for a divorce.

To ensure that the husband and wife really thought things through, they were required to live together for two weeks locked up in a tiny room with one single bed, a single plate, just one fork, a single chair, etc. The guide got really excited telling us that it worked so well that although many couples got locked up for two weeks, there was only one divorce while the practice was in use. I just had to ask how many of the rest of the cases ended up in murder trials instead. They did not have that statistics.
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Moldova's and Romania's Roma (Gypsy) villages are home to some of the most hideous architecture I have ever seen. We are going to a Roma wedding in a main Roma town in Moldova soon and I hope to do a detailed report on the famous architecture of the Gypsy Hill.

This house in a small Roma village I drove past today is modest and tasteful compared to the typical palaces on the Hill:

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On the shore of Romania's heliothermal and salty Bear Lake, which is unique in Europe (being both heliothermal and salty).

The water and the mud from this forest mountain lake apparently are known for their strong therapeutic qualities.

When I was taking this picture I remember thinking whether activists fighting to ban covering one's skin with black mud because of possible racist connotations could appear one day.

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A couple of our hipster volunteers are looking to spend some time at an organic sustainable agriculture mountain farm in the neighbouring Romania after our project. It turns out many of these remote farms have something like this as part of their requirements for volunteers:

"We do not accept fundamentalists, rasist or violent behaviored, relegiosly fanatic people." [sic]

It seems that Romania's remote mountain farms have become popular with violent fundamentalists and racist religious fanatics lately, which is unfortunate. However, a serious increase in interest in sustainable organic farming among these guys might be a good sign. I think that there is a bit more hope for a violent racist religious fundamentalist with a passion for composting and herbal tinctures than there is for just a violent racist religious fundamentalist.
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We were on a train crossing Romania from east to west (don't do this it really sucks, drive instead). The train stopped in this bleak small town only for three minutes very early in the morning. It was cold, wet and grey and the station was really run down, depressing and almost empty. This old guy was standing there, his head and hands shaking, scanning the train from the front to the end and back anxiously trying to see if anybody was getting off the train. Nobody did and as soon the train started moving he walked away with his two walking sticks, dragging his left foot a bit every third step or so.



I called granddad in a couple of hours and got "What is it about? I can't really talk now, we are driving to Gothenburg today and had to leave the house two hours ago but your grandmother is not being easy about this as usual so I am going through some intense stuff here now so that we can bloody leave already." That was great to hear.
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Arabella McIntyre-Brown, a British writer and publisher, moves to an isolated village in Transylvania, where she organizes workshops, writes non-fiction and crime novels and watches the world go by.



"When she moved to the village, people kept asking her how come she’s not married, how come she’s a woman living alone. “They just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t married. But when I said I was a writer…’well…in that case…it explains everything’. So I can get away with murder because I’m a writer. I’m just an odd English woman writer,” she said laughing."

Full article is here.

I read Arabella's book Liverpool: The First 1,000 Years, which was a best-seller and hit no.2 around Christmas.

Arabella's sister was Virginia Frances "Ginny", Lady Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes an explorer, the first woman to be awarded the Polar Medal and the wife of adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

The village of Magura, which Arabella moved to is beautiful, see here.
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At least that's what her t-shirt said.

In Sibiu, Transylvania, Romania

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But we will be going back to this lake soon.

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You may remember that I thought it was a bad idea to base this campaign on not wanting to be stuck on an island with Boris and Nigel because, as little as I knew about Romanian politicians I still suspected that many of them would have been a much worse company to be stuck with than Nigel.

The city in the centre of that campaign is Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania's largest city, second largest city in Romania and home to Romania's largest university and student community.

Today I was told a little bit about Gheorghe Funar, mayor of Cluj-Napoca 1992 - 2004 and currently the General Secretary of the Greater Romania Party and an MP.

I will not bore you with the details of his ridiculous xenophobic policies as mayor (he also ran a huge Ponzi scheme on the side) and will just share a couple of his latest thoughts, which include "World's Jewish Government wants to move Israel into Romanian borders and is trying to exterminate Romanian people by using food additives" and "There are already more than 2 million Jews in Romania working for its destruction". Apparently he also claims that theory of relativity was developed by the Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu and was stolen by Einstein (described by Funar as a "retarded individual").

Yeah...well...about being stuck on an island with Boris and Nigel....I think the Brits are probably fine for now.

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