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We had to postpone the trip to Kamchatka to next year. We did not have the time to plan and do the trip properly this year, going to Kamchatka does require some serious planning.

I will still visit Russia for the first time this year though. I will be going to Yekaterinburg for a week in November. Yekaterinburg is Russia' fourth (or possibly third) largest city situated on the border of Europe and Asia, on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains. Wikipedia is telling me that in winter the temperature there may fall to −45 °C (−49 °F). That's probably why they built the largest water leisure park in Europe. There is also good skiing there we were told.

Apparently Yekaterinburg is known in Russia for being the only large city were the mayor is not from the Putin's party but from the opposition. The people of Yekaterinburg voted in Yevgeny Roizman as their mayor. His "Early life" in Wikipedia is concise:

"The son of a Jewish factory worker, Roizman left home at the age of 14 and started to work at odd jobs, later to be prosecuted for theft."

I look forward to this trip.
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Our neighbours' kids came over and brought us some ice cream. It is Belarusian.

It is good (but then to me almost anything edible is unless it is fancy stuff in nano-sized portions).

Belarus is definitely on my list of places to visit. Their President Alexander Lukashenko is probably the most successful post-Soviet dictator. As you may remember visiting Turkmenistan will have to wait for now so perhaps we can visit Belarus instead.
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you still can't help it, it is automatic.

In Brasov, Transylvania, Romania

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In Baile Tusnad, Transylvania, Romania

I love NY

Jun. 10th, 2016 06:49 am
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The Roma boys in Transylvania are easily recognisable by their hats, they always have them on. And you cannot miss a Gypsy girl, their dresses and headscarves are very colourful, often to the point of trippy.

In Sibiu, Romania

Stork nest

Jun. 9th, 2016 05:12 pm
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Storks are everywhere in Romania. There were dozens of nests in every village we passed through.

New toy

Jun. 8th, 2016 02:01 am
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This guy just bought this toy for his kid at a second-hand shop.

In Transnistria, Moldova

Saint Anne

Jun. 7th, 2016 10:39 pm
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A couple of weeks ago I had a meeting across the border in the Romanian part of Moldova, in the city of Piatra Neamt. We hope to start a project there this winter. The city is surrounded by the mountains and would also be a nice place to spend some time in winter with all the skiing at our doorstep.

Before driving back to Moldova we visited the Bistrita Monastery just about 5 miles away from Piatra Neamt. The monastery was dedicated in 1402. It's main relic is the miracle-working icon of Saint Anne, which was given as a present to the monastery in 1407 by Lady Ana, Voivode Alexandru I's wife. Apparently the icon was given as a "patronage gift" to Lady Ana by empress Jelena, wife of Manuel II Palaiologos, emperor of Constantinople.

I really liked the church where the icon is located. It was different from the more modern Romanian and Moldovan Orthodox churches and reminded me of the Mount Athos churches. Old monks were sitting randomly on the floor in the darkness reading huge old books in candle light, mumbling something and not paying any attention to us. We were the only visitors at the time.

The monastery also has an important collection of medieval art in its museum.
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Everyone is talking about the election here but for a change it is not the U.S. election (yes, they do talk about it a lot even in Moldova) but the mayoral election in the town of Dragusani across the border from here in Romania. There all three candidates happened to have the same name: Vasile Cepoi. And they are not related to each other. Each of the three main parties is led by its own Vasile Cepoi in Dragusani. The voters are urged to be extra careful when voting to ensure that they don't pick the Vasile Cepoi they did not intend to vote for by mistake because the standard pre-printed ballots are designed to stress the candidates' names and not the names of the candidates' parties.

This situation has benefits too. The people of Dragusani already know that Vasile Cepoi will win the election and will be their mayor. Apparently they also went ahead and printed a lot of the new official stuff which required knowing the name of the new mayor already.
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So after a couple of very rainy days it is warm and sunny here today (26C/78F) and we are going wild strawberry and blackberry picking on our way to the lake. I do feel like a nice run through the forest and a nice long swim afterwards.

The mayors of our village and three neighbouring villages are coming over for dinner tonight. We have completed the cleanup of all illegal rubbish dumps at the edge of the forest and are going to celebrate. I hope we can roll out our pilot rubbish disposal and recycling system for the smallest of the villages next week and for the rest of the villages later this month. We have been working pretty hard to make this happen.

Bunga Bunga

Jun. 3rd, 2016 04:25 am
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I had a meeting with the vice mayor of the neighbouring village today. The guy was wearing a t-shirt with "I Love Bunga Bunga" on it. On my way back I saw a guy in his late fifties repairing a tractor in the field with "I wish I could ctrl alt del my boyfriend" on his t-shirt.

I think they get these t-shirts from second hand shops, which get their stock from somewhere in the EU and have no idea about the meaning of what is written on them.
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So today after dinner I spent my time pulling ticks out of my legs. That was fun. Most of them are dark brown or black and relatively easy to see but some of them are really really tiny and close to the colour of the human skin and those are almost impossible to spot before the area around their bite becomes somewhat inflamed.

My host's wife asked me to throw the ticks I pulled out into the grass outside and not kill them, most of them were probably alive after I pulled them out. She told me that there were billions of them here at this time of the year anyway so killing this dozen of those little guys was not going to help with not getting them in the future anyway and it would be pointless to kill them. Instead, they just would educate me how no to get them in the future. Ok, I saw her point and I did release those little bastards back into their natural habitat. I did not feed them but I did not kill them either.

The locals apparently do not get them because they know where to walk and where not to walk (the lower road from the northern side of the forest, etc) and at what time (like just before sunset, after the rain, etc). We have now sat through the lecture on how to avoid getting them here in the future too. I was told that almost all of them here are harmless, particularly if you pull them out within the first 36 hours after getting them.

Now every 5 minutes I get itchy somewhere I cannot see, like the back of my neck and get convinced that I can definitely feel a tick there and I keep asking everyone to check if it is indeed there. It never is.
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I managed to take a couple of photos of this Transnistrian border and passport control officer with my phone through the rear view mirror. Taking photos is strictly forbidden at the border crossing so this is the best I could do.

Note the shoes. Chasing someone in these would not be an option but kicking with those heels could be effective. She had a gun too though.

It was a very unexpected place for glamour, grey, wet, muddy road full of dusty cars queuing up for passport control, people running around, cars getting searched. But she just calmly glided over all that chaos feeling beautiful in those shoes. Her face expression and he behaviour were completely different from the rest of the crew. Straight back, calm face, no hurry, no shouting. And I think it was because of the shoes. And she was way more effective and faster than the other officers. I have always been sceptical about the importance of getting another pair of shoes but I think I see it now. Apparently a new pair can change everything indeed. At least I think it did at this Transnistrian border crossing.

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I was told that the wooden synagogue in Piatra Neamt, Romania was the last wooden synagogue in Europe. I haven't checked yet. But I did take a photo of it, here it is:

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A group of guests showed up unannounced at our Romanian host's house during our stay and I volunteered to move to a small house at the back of our host's parents's garden not very far away for one night as they tried to ensure everyone had a bed for the night. I did not regret it, the view was spectacular and our host's mother cooked an awesome breakfast for me in the morning.

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Yesterday we visited Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria. Last year we managed to visit just one village there right at the border with Moldova but yesterday we made it to the capital. We were impressed by the sky over the city. Note what is advertised on the right. Yes, it is caviar. Transnistria is the poorest break away region teetering on the edge of insolvency of the poorest country in Europe.

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We saw a lot of these in Moldova. They seem to be everywhere. In this case the American people financed the rehabilitation of the irrigation system in Cosnita (Cosh-nee-tsah) village.

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This is the entrance at the back of our host's garden. There is a stream a couple of hundred meters down the mountain path from there. I forgot a bucket near the stream and was going to go and get it but ran into our host's son at the back of the garden and he thought it would be better to bring the bucket back in the morning because "it is getting dark and there will be more bears now".

I still went and got the bucket. I worked in the City and definitely saw more bears than that Transylvanian boy. My last trade was part of a bearish strategy. And yes, "it is getting dark and there will be more bears now" is as true about the markets as it is about Transylvanian forests.

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I had to drive through Bran in Transylvania yesterday (this is where the "Dracula Castle" is) and this time I noticed that all of the trade there is done in three languages, Romanian (obviously), English (understandable) and surprisingly, Hebrew. One also can hear Hebrew spoken everywhere in the shops and the restaurants too. Israelis seem to love this place.

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We gave everything edible we had with us to these two friends.

In Transylvania (again), Romania


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January 2017

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