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Lost in metathoughts

Posted 19 September 2008 - The Hague (NL):

I was planning to use this photo for the article about `metathinking` but was metathinking so hard that I got messed up.

The photo shows a girl I don`t know talking to another girl I do know and who should now be living in Leeds but I haven`t spoken to here since the moment she should have moved out of Brussels, if that moment has already passed at all. What to metathink of that?

(© Sighisoara - RO, August 2002)
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Organising photos

Posted 7 August 2008 - The Hague (NL):

I have not yet been able to figure out the length of my European trip in kilometers, but I just did in photos: I took 7.386 of them, which equals to about 20 a day. This is one of them, from Romania.

The photos I sorted out today will serve for the Crossroad series, consisting of two crossroad photos from every one of the 27 countries. Another series called Habitat will contain photos of high-rise residential blocks in all the 27 countries. Then, there`s the Us Europeans portraits which somehow needed to be integrated into something fancy and attractive for an exhibition in Luxembourg next year. Still puzzling on how to do that. Any ideas are welcome by e-mail.

(© Baia Mare - RO, April 2008)
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De: Satu Mare A: Debrecen

Posted 31 March 2008 - Satu Mare (RO):

Satu Mare is my last station before getting to Hungary - if the border is not closed off because of the NATO summit, that is.. I don`t know what I will find there: I have been to Budapest and to Lake Balaton before, but that`s about it. This time, I will at least also see Debrecen and Miskolc. Former classmate Eszter recommended me to also go see Pecs, but I first need to locate that on a map.

Photo: another Romanian crossroad.

(© Satu Mare - RO, March 2008)
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Concrete communism

Posted 30 March 2008 - Baia Mare (RO):

At the playground of Baia Mare:

(© Baia Mare - RO, March 2008)
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Great day for science

Posted 29 March 2008 - Baia Mare (RO):

Yoohoo, I am finally back up to datum with my Us Europeans reports! That`s quite a relief after almost two weeks of constantly lagging behind and feeling like the days were getting too short. Yesterday was a great day for photography (or: for science as my CouchSurfing host from Bucharest would call it). I freely walked around in the city of Baia Mare, enjoying the arrival of spring. Next worries on the list: getting my tax forms filled out before the 1st of April.

(© Baia Mare - RO, March 2008)
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Paris, t-30

Posted 28 March 2008 - Cluj-Napoca (RO):

Final photo from Cluj: most of the buses in the city have obvious Parisian origins. Good excuse for feeling at home in Cluj.

(© Cluj-Napoca - RO, Marc 2008)
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(Another) Arrival of Spring

Posted 27 March 2008 - Cluj Napoca (RO):

Another photo from Cluj. Today was a transition day between snow and sun. The coming days should be sunny and warm – with temperatures slowly tiptoeing towards 20 degrees.

(© Cluj-Napoca - RO, March 2008)
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Posted 26 March 2008 - Cluj Napoca (RO):

Here`s a nice and very typical Romanian photograph. It could have been taken anywhere, but I`ll tell you I took it in Cluj-Napoca. It`s got one of still many, many Dacia 1310 cars which were modeled after the Renault 12-type and mass-produced until the fall of communism. Nice detail: the colours in the photo together compile those of the Romanian flag: blue-yellow-red.

(© Cluj-Napoca - RO, March 2008)
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Blue Romanian train

Posted 25 March 2008 - Cluj Napoca (RO):

This is a typical Romanian railway station situation with some people standing in front of a Romanian-blue train that is about to depart. Similar to the one I took to get from Timisoara to Cluj Napoca, 6 hours further North. A few more days in Romania, then off to Hungary. I am staying in a youth hostel tonight, planning to go to bed early and catch up with some sleep.

(© Timisoara - RO, March 2008)
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European Crossroads

Posted 24 March 2008 - Timisoara (RO):

I`m still collecting cross roads. This is a nice one from Timisoara, in the West of Romania.

(© Timisoara - RO, March 2008)
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Delays explained

Posted 22 March 2008 - Sibiu

Sorry for severely lagging behind on both Us Europeans and Dailyphoto during the last few days. Travelling can`t always be easy, and so it isn`t always easy. Had some dental problems, but it looked like they are on their way to be resolved now.

Bucharest was a nice stopover on the way from the Black Sea to Hungary. It changed lots in the last two years, but it`s still a fascinating city with different building styles and lots of different everything. And very very few tourists.

I am now in Sibiu and will move to Timisoara tomorrow, then to Cluj Napoca, hopefully to Satu Mare and then into another next country Hungary. If anybody has suggestions of which subjects I should cover while there, do let me know!

(© Sibiu - RO, March 2008)
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Bucharest in transition

Posted 17 March 2008 - Bucharest (RO):

Hello from Romania. I am in Bucharest again, a city that I first visited with Bas in 2002 and afterwards happened to pass for work in 2003, 2004 and 2005. I did not have the impression that much progress had been going on in those years, but 2008 is different. Lots of advertisements, posters, people, everything hectic, really hectic. Still no tourist information whatsoever but I bet that they will also come up with that within a year.

(© Bucharest - RO, March 2008)
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Political games in Romania

Posted 19 May 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Romania is likely to be able to stay in the European Union. The Romanian parliament tried to send home the reformist president, but the result of today's referendum cancelled the impeachment procedure. Still, the political landscape in Romania is a big mess and it will continue to be like that for a while.

(© Constanta - RO, September 2003)
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In Europa

Posted 3 April 2007 - The Hague (NL):

One of my favourite books (there are not many because I don't like reading) is the fat documentary In Europa by Dutch writer Geert Mak. The book describes the condition of the European continent at the beginning of the 21st century. Mak travelled along locations where main historical events took place, in chronlogical order. For example: to Sarajevo (1914) describing the beginning of World War I, to St Petersburg (1917) describing the Russian Revolution, Warsaw (1944) Ghetto uprising.. up until 11 September 2001. During this 'time travel' he combines flashes of the past with reports of his actual trip in present time. Speaking to people and asking them + himself how the past of Europe explains its current state.

One of the reasons why I liked this book so much is because I happened to visit some places exactly while I was reading about them in the book. Reading about the Securitate and Ceaucescu when I was in Bucharest, about the uprising when I was in Warsaw, about the Balkan war when I was crossig ex-Yugoslavia. etc.

In Europa has been translated into English and was released last week. GBP 25 and you'll know all you need to know.

(© Bucharest - RO, October 2005)
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Joker reaches UK

Posted 2 February 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Another Dutch person protesting against the new passport requirements (no more smiles) and the abundance of rules and regulations surrounding it. The man had his ID-photo taken as if he were The Joker from Batman. His photo matched the criteria and as a result, he obtained his ID and flew to London to prove that security on ID document was and is a laugh.

So where's the leak?

1st degree) Faces are simply not suitable for identification other than by optical and human verification, leaving a high risk of error.

2nd degree) The passport photo decree states that the face should be clearly and entirely visible, while the same goes for the lower extremes of the ears. At the same time it stipulates that exceptions can be made for people whose religion, personal belief or way of life oblige him/her to cover a part of the head.

Authorities could choose to eradicate whole problem by either admitting that their officials are not skilled enough to identify people by photograph (which can humanly be expected to be true). The solution would then be to use something fixed and digitisable like DNA if you really want to be sure. As an alternative, they could opt for taking out the above-cited stipulation, which would at least make the whole story the same for all citizens (and in accordance with art 1 of the Dutch constitution).

Rather than all that, they observe the stupidity of adding an extra rule to the game: people who claim to qualify must now prove that their religion, personal belief or way of life exists, is shared with others and that it cannot be explained as a temporary fashion or an individual orientation. Good work, officer!

(© Piatra Neamt - RO, August 2002)
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Women of Romania

Posted 8 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Romania is quite a conservative country when it comes to women's rights. I don't have much time today to write more personal observations, but did find the text below which accurately describes what already becomes apparent to any open-minded visitor to Romania:

As has become apparent during the past decade, inequalities between men and women in Romania are structural rather than merely contingent, and pervasive phenomena rather than temporary consequences of the transition. The public political sphere is predominantly masculine, [1] as indicated by the systematic under-representation of women in the Parliament and government, [2] as well as by "the absence of an outlook based on gender equity" from political parties. [3] The economic sphere witnesses the same phenomenon: from 1991 to 1998, rising unemployment has constantly affected women more than men, [4] while women are over-represented in the lowest wage sectors of the economy (especially agriculture, healthcare and education). [5]

In the private sphere, four fifths of the total number of single-parent households in 1998 were headed by women; [6] abortion constituted the main means of birth control, with a staggering rate of over 300 abortions per 100 live births in 1990, receding to just over 100 in 1998; [7] the maternal mortality rate in 1997 was over five times the average in Europe. [8] Furthermore, both women's and men's understandings of gender roles is framed by patriarchal assumptions and practices: respondents to the 2000 Gender Barometer agree to an overwhelming extent that women are housekeepers and primary caretakers, while men are breadwinners for their families. Moreover, a staggering percentage of those questioned (over 80%) said that household tasks such as cleaning, cooking or ironing are performed exclusively by women. [9]

This was the last episode of the Romania introduction. Questions about my personal opinion about Romania entering the EU can be sent to info(a)

(© Romania - RO, 2002-2005)
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Romanian cars

Posted 7 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Road conditions in Romania are plainly bad, and the same goes for the average vehicle that uses the aforementioned infrastructure. Tilt carts, trams, trolley buses, steam rollers, trucks and lots and lots of Dacias. The original Dacia was copied from the Renault 12 model and remained in production from 1968 until 2004. Since 1995, new models have been added to the fleet, including the Dacia Logan, which is also for sale in Western Europe.

(© Throughout Romania - RO, 2002-2005)
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Romanian people

Posted 6 January 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Throughout the last century, Romanians have undergone large changes in society, multiple revolutions and malicious leaders. Productivity has suffered from the lack of perspectives and hope for better times. Romanian workforce is badly organised, especially on the countryside hardly any machinery is used. A new class of workers is rising though: youngsters who have not faced the communist supression and are open to new ideas and commercial growth for the country as a whole. Their main challenge is the need to collaborate with/within old-style communist organisations, and to overcome the cynical approach of the elderly towards the EU.

Tomorrow: Romanian infrastructure, Monday: Romanian women.

(© Romania - RO, 2002-2005)
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Romanian Orthodox Church

Posted 5 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

87% of the Romanian population are said to adhere to the Romanian Orthodox Church. During the communist rule, the Church was tightly controlled by the state. Many monasteries were transformed into craft centers and priests were encouraged to learn other 'worldly' jobs. A large number of clergymen collaborated and were informers for Securitate, the secret police. Many others were sentenced to long terms in prison. Existing church buildings were physically moved and hidden behind large apartment blocks. New churches were only built on similar sheltered locations.

Nowadays, religion is still very important. Many Romanians are poor and have lost their hope in politics or even in society. For outsiders, the most apparent expression of their religiosity is their habit to make the sign of a cross (3 times in a row) whenever passing a religious building. No matter whether they are passing by in a bus (lots of crosses in that case!) or just walking by. The best way to trace a church is to look at the people walking by, you're likely to see them before you see the church.

(© Bucharest/Piatra - RO, September 2005 / August 2002)
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Ceaucescu and his People's Palace

Posted 4 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Nicolae Ceaucescu (1918-1989) joined the then-illegal communist party in 1932 and became first secretary of the Romanian Worker's Party in 1965. He became famous for being the only head of state in Central Europe escaping the iron rule of the Soviet Union. Although formally a member of the Warsaw Pact, Romania excluded itself from the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. In the meanwhile, Romania flirted with the United States and even gained access to important loans from Washington and the European Community.

Ceaucescu's state visits to China and North Korea (1971) motivated him to start a process of total national transformation, aiming to reach a multilaterally developed socialist society. As a part of this program, various villages had to be completely demolished and rebuilt. Over 20% of Bucharest was destroyed to create space for the People's Palace. People living in these areas were assigned small apartments in huge blocks. The fact that they had to abandon their pets is one of the main reasons why Bucharest is still full of stray dogs these days.

Beside his systemisation policy, Ceaucescu runned an effective and omnipresent intelligence/torturing service. During the 1980s, Ceaucescu's policy implied the massive starvation among Romania's population. All locally produced goods were exported and not allowing for any importation of goods: loans to the West had te be paid off. Hardly anybody held a passport, so travelling abroad was almost impossible until the 1989 Revolution.

Ceaucescu never saw the completion of this megalomane People's Palace, which still today is the world's second largest building, and got shot on Christmas Day 2005. The first person to show up on the People's Palace balcony was Michael Jackson in 1991 - apparently addressing the crowd with the words Hello Budapest....

(© Bucharest - RO, September 2005 / August 2002)
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Romania - City Impressions

Posted 3 Januari 2007 - The Hague (NL):

When we arrived at Oradea, our first real-life introduction to Romania, we felt like stepping back 20 years in time. Driving from The Netherlands to Belgium, one will hardly notice any difference these days, but Hungary -> Romania is at least an adventure. A change of landscape, buildings, colours, people..

Compared to Western Europeans, Romanian people seemed almost brown in colour. Funny enough, lots of them nevertheless had blue eyes. Clouds seemed sticky and roads were dusty. Cars and washing machines floated in rivers and got stuck behind trees or in waterfalls.

Photo 1: Many people were begging in the street or around railway stations. However, there seemed to be much more compassion with them than we had expected. Passers-by frequently gave them some of the plastic (!) banknotes of 10,000 Lei - which were only worth 60 eurocents by the way.

Photo 2: At the end of August, large floods put the north-eastern part of the country on the water. We had to cancel our plans to go to the Danube delta. We saw how one family desperately tried to rescue a cow from a square-meter-island in what had suddenly grown into a swirling river.

Photo 3+5: Road conditions were very poor. Highways were non-existent and complete city neighbourhoods had changed into giant swimming pools during the floods.

Photo 4: From the architecture, it was easy to tell that there had been better times, but you could also easily read that these days had long gone. Dirty water and eroded buildings in Cluj Napoca, which nonetheless is one of the richest cities in the country.

Photo 6: Bucharest, just behind the People's Palace, completed in 1990 and designed to honour the great Ceaucescu, to whom I will dedicate some words in tomorrow's posting.

(© Throughout Romania - RO, August 2002)
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Romania week @ PhotoLogiX

Posted 2 January 2007 - The Hague (NL):

Yesterday at midnight, apart from the change from 2006 to 2007, two new countries joined the EU: Romania and Bulgaria. I only visited Bulgaria for 2 days, but have been to Romania quite a few times. A good reason to dig the archives for previously unpublished photos and tell some stories about life in Romania. This week will be Romania week at PhotoLogiX.

My first visit to Romania was back in 2002 as part of the big Central Europe trip with Bas (joined by my brother Matthijs for one week). We spent a month travelling around and got quite a solid impression of the country. I found it rather depressing, dirty and badly organised. Moreover, I had to visit a hospital which did not add to the niceness of the experience. We did have a lot of fun though!

Photo 1 shows how Bas is talking to a local station guard in Piatra Neamt, who played flute when no trains were near (= all day) and ate home grown honey, which he also allowed us to taste.

Photo 2 is also from Piatra, and shows the local market, quite a common and daily venue in each Romanian village or city. Beside these two people, we also happened to meet a guy who had been on a pick-pocketing trip through Europe. He explained the how and why of his 'profession' and why he thought it was good and reasonable business. He got arrested in Holland by the way, that's how the conversation turned towards pickpocketing.

Photo 3 is from the area near Bicaz (also central Romania) and shows some people at a bus stop / café. We hitchhiked from there back to the city in a small, plain yellow van then got harassed by stray dogs on the way to the 'campsite'.

(© Central Romania - RO, August 2002)
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Metro Maps

Posted 6 October 2006 - The Hague (NL):

I happened to read about a book called Metro Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden. Looks interesting!

(© Bucharest - RO, October 2003)
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Bulgaria & Romania = 26 + 27

Posted 27 September 2006 - Brussels (BE):

Romania yesterday received the final OK from Brussels to join the European Union on January 1st 2007. My personal experiences in Romania have not always been positive. When taking this photo, I got 'arrested' by the self-proclaimed site managers, some 5 lads who didn't look to friendly and were after my camera and film.

I first sneaked my (by then full) film out of my camera, then negotiated a bit with them for fifteen minutes about whether or not they would warn their dedicated police force. Then a passing taxi caught my eye, I ran off and jumped in, left the guys puzzled. Other incidents (2002 - 2005) include being chased by stray dogs and lime sniffers, having to go to a local hospital and getting quite scared, bribing and being bribed by railway officials, meeting youngsters who had been out to Western Europe on pickpocketing missions... Everyday experiences that show that Romania clearly has a long way to go.

Same story for Bulgaria, although only visited that country once and for no longer than 2 days. Didn't experience too much trouble over there, but the standard of living is similar.

(© Bucharest - RO, October 2005)
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Licensing plates & Secret codes

Posted 13 July 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Licensing plates are interesting in the same way as road signs are. They usually have something to tell you, although the information usually seems encripted. As a first start, I found an informative website about the colour and style of licensing plates, but my intention was to tell which identifiers are used. I will start off with the ones I know and hope that you, international PhotoLog reader, can help me out on the remaining ones in Europe.

France (F): Last two digits: geographic origin of the car (funny story);

Germany (D): First letter combination: geographic origin. Prohibited combinations: SS (Schutzstaffel), SA (Sturmabteilung), HJ (Hitlerjugend), NS (Nationalsozialismus) and KZ (Konzentrationslager);

Switzerland (CH), just like Austria (A): First letter combination + bonus graphic: CH / geographic origin A / geographic origin of the owner (CH), rather than the car (A);

Netherlands (NL): Ascending combination of characters. No link to origin of the car, just to the datum it was inscribed and the type of car. No vowels used to prevent occurence of real words. No M, Q or Y either. AA stands for Dutch Royal family;

Poland (PL): First two or three letters make up the geographic origin of the car. No typical Polish caracters are used;

Ireland (IRL): Two digits showing the year of issuance of the plate, followed by two letters indicating the county the car is registered in. Also: full name of city in Irish;

Great Britain excl. Northern Ireland (GB): First letter refers to region, second one to municipality, followed by two digits showing the age of the car in a pretty incomprehensible way;

Belgium (B): No specific code, plate is driver specific;

Romania (RO): First letter combination: geographic origin. The car below is from Bucharest, which is also the location where I photographed it:

(© Bucharest - RO, October 2005)
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Identity & Photos

Posted 8 July 2006 - The Hague (NL):

I came across this old photo-of-a-photo from a Romanian taxi driver license and thought it'd be funny to post it.

(© Bucharest - RO, August 2002)
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Posted 26 March 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Free PhotoLogiX photos in poster size are on the way!

Keep an eye on your favourite photos AND on the PhotoLog during the coming days to know more! Go to the main website to view more photos, or browse through the PhotoLog archives on the righthand side ->>

(© Bucharest - RO, October 2004)
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Posted 17 May 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Romania and Bulgaria are not on track for joining the European Union in January 2007. Main issues include corruption and organised crime. Corruption flourishes in both countries and at almost every layer of society: public transportation, healthcare, politics - everything is kept together by corruption. Organised crime is exported to Western Europe and includes pickpocketing, car theft, trafficking in persons, drugs and weapons.

Worst of all is that many people perceive corruption as 'freedom of gift' and organised crime as 'applying justice to the poor'.: a destructive cycle that is hard to escape.

(© Bucharest - RO, September 2004)
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Posted 2 May 2006 - The Hague (NL):

2 May is not just a datum, it's also a small city and Black Sea beach resort in Romania. Look it up in brochures and you'll find lovely beaches. Go there and you'll see a lot of industrial activity and mammoth tankers of various kinds. But seriously, it's not such a bad place to go once you crossed all of Europe without having seen a sea for over two months.

(© 2 Mai - RO, August 2002)
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Posted 5 April 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Central Europe is once again touched by major floodings. It's almost becoming a tradition. In 2002, large parts of former Eastern Germany, Czech Republic but also Romania disappeared under water:

(© Bicaz - RO, August 2002)
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Posted 4 April 2006 - The Hague (NL):

"He may have been around for 60 years, but 'The Little Prince' is unlikely to grow old any day soon". France is celebrating the 60th birthday of the little prince this month. For those of you who don't know this book: it is about the struggle between authenticity and whatever is considered to be universal truth.

(© Sighisoara - RO, August 2002)
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Posted 6 February 2006 - The Hague (NL):

Hey you! There are no excuses!

Don't forget to come see 'Na Dato' on Wednesday!

(© Piatra Neamt - RO, July 2006)
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Posted 4 February 2006 - The Hague (NL):

New series called 'My city, my street' - - coming up next at PhotoLogiX!

(© Bucharest - RO, October 2005)
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Posted 30 November 2005 - The Hague (NL):

A 15-year old boy was caught red-handed yesterday for stealing and driving commuter buses in the East of the Netherlands. Bad news for the police: the guy has been involved in this type of joy-riding for quite some time already. Bas and I spotted him driving around Romania (Piatra Neamt) with one of these buses in 2003. He must have been 12 years old by then...

(© Piatra Neamt - RO, August 2002)
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