A timelapse of Bucharest

I recorded this over the course of two days (12-13 march 2017) in Bucharest’s Sector 1, with a very nice view of Herastrau Park, courtesy of our hotel room at the Pullman. We were there for our spring expo. Enjoy!

The dawn

It’s not often I wake up early enough to see the dawn. I usually work late into the night, because I find that’s when I can gather my thoughts and be at my most productive — when I’m alone, the noises of the day have subsided and the only sounds I hear are the reassuring churning of the hard drive platters in my Drobo and my own breath.

When I do manage to wake up early (or work through the night and into the dawn), I get these gorgeous, glorious views of the Earth waking up as that huge fireball called the Sun starts to light things up. Mind you, I’m not talking about the sunrise. It’s the dawn, also known as the daybreak. It’s when the darkness of the night starts to fade away and shapes begin to form out of the mist. It’s when things unseen become seen.

I thought I’d publish a gallery of various photos I’ve taken in recent years of the dawn. Some of the photos are from places where I’ve lived, others are from places I visited and most are from the road. My wife and I would often just get in our car and drive to some town where we had business in the middle of the night, so we’d be there in the morning. The roads were quiet and it was an experience unto itself to be in the middle of nowhere, our car a capsule of civilization and warmth in an otherwise cold place at a cold time, its headlights eyes, peering out into the darkness and making sense of it. Now that we have a small daughter, there’s no night driving. We’re too exhausted. We’re happy to take any and all sleep we can get. Which is what I’m going to do after publishing this post, because it’s way past midnight here.

This gallery isn’t exhaustive, it’s a work in progress (I hope I’m around for a long, long time to capture countless more dawns on bits and bytes) but I think it’s beautiful to look at and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

Italian road trip – Day 4 – Ravenna, Rimini and Grottamare

Day 4 of our Italian road trip took us from Chioggia to Ravenna, Rimini and Grottamare, which is where we stopped for the night. Get a cup of coffee and get comfortable, there are 71 photos for you to enjoy here.

If you’d like to see the other posts from our trip, here are days 1, 2 and 3 (part 1 and part 2); and here’s the overview.

How to fold your shirts (and organize your closet in the process)

Here’s how you can fold your shirts like a pro and save space in your closet while you’re at it. This way of folding them doesn’t cause creases, allowing you to stack them nicely on shelves in your closet or in your travel bag.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy lugging around large garment bags when traveling. I’d much rather have a rolling suitcase and be done with it. While I haven’t yet found a way to fold suits so I can do away with the garment bag entirely, at least I don’t have to put my shirts in it, meaning it’s lighter and easier to carry.

This video is part of The Elegant Gentleman series.

A couple of suggestions for Waze

Waze

I’ve been using Waze for over a month and I love it. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should. It’s surprisingly accurate, even in a country where you wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of users, like Romania.

The traffic updates can get a little overwhelming in large urban areas like Bucharest and sometimes it doesn’t find an address I need, but overall, it’s a wonderful app and the idea of a user-driven (and updated) map is awesome. Live traffic alerts and automatic calculation of the best route based on current traffic conditions are awesome options (these used to cost a pretty penny with GPS devices and weren’t very good nor up-to-date).

Here’s a way to make Waze better: use the accelerometer in our iPhones to automatically determine if the road is unsafe, based on braking, swerving, stopping and yes, even driving (or falling) through potholes. I love being able to report a road incident but when I’m swerving through potholes and recently dug up roads (like the one between Medias and Sighisoara), I don’t have the time nor the multitasking brain cycles to tap on my phone and report a hole in the road. So doing this automatically and reporting it to the users would be a wonderful new addition to Waze. I’d love to get an alert on my phone as I’m driving through fog or rain, when the visibility isn’t great, telling me there’s a pothole ahead. And by the way, Waze, have you thought about hooking up weather info to the traffic reports?

One thing that always annoyed me with GPS devices is the constant repetition of stuff like “take the 2nd exit” or “turn left”. The new version of Waze seems to be doing the same thing. I’d love an option in the settings where I could specify that I’d like to be reminded about such things a maximum of two times (not 3 or 4 times…)

A big thanks to the Waze team for the awesome work!

Washington DC at Christmas time

These are photos taken on an evening walk in DC, during Christmas time, back in 2006. They should bring back memories for some of you, and if they don’t, they’ll give you a good idea of what to expect if you visit our nation’s capital in December.

I’ll have a regular coffee, please

Coffee… some say when you drink it, it’s like flogging a tired horse. Sometimes you need to do that — you need to push yourself a bit further and get that day’s work done. And sometimes you just want to savor a well-made cup of coffee. It’s a bit like meditation. You focus on one thing while you let the world flow around you.

It’s getting harder to find good coffee on the go in Romania. I used to get an espresso now and then, especially when driving at night. That was till I got tired of espressos that were too bitter, too bland or tasted like motor oil. It used to be you’d rarely find an espresso back in 2008 and 2009. Now everyone, including the random roadside stand, has an espresso machine and most taste terrible. To date, the best espresso I’ve had was at a little hotel on the beach in Ladispoli, Italy, back in 2009, and that says something about the quality of the espressos if in more than three years nothing even came close.

The thing about the espresso is that if you want a good one, you have to have a good espresso machine. And that machine has to be serviced regularly and constantly calibrated. You have to put in quality coffee in the right amount. But most restaurants and hotels forget these other things. They think that if they’ve got an espresso machine, they’re good to go. No, no, no. Not unless you want to sell crappy espressos.

So I’m not drinking espressos anymore. I’ve switched back to regular coffee. To my dismay, I’ve found out that most places don’t have filter coffee anymore. In the short span of three years, they’ve all stocked up on espresso machines and forgotten about regular coffee. Stop at any place in Romania but a five-star hotel and ask for it. You know what they’ll say? “Sorry, we don’t have any. But we can serve espressos. Would you like one?” To which my answer is easily guessed.

Given my experiences, I was pleasantly surprised when I had breakfast at a Swiss hotel next to Hanul lui Manuc in Bucharest, where I had what was quite possibly the best cup of filter coffee ever. Just as I was thinking it, my dad, with whom we were dining, exclaimed: “Wow, this is very good coffee!” I sure wish I could remember the name of the place but you can’t miss it, it’s right next to Hanul lui Manuc, the great historic inn, which by the way, doesn’t serve filter coffee or turkish coffee, only espresso, as if the espresso existed in the 1800s.

To make sure, we went back there just last week to have breakfast and sure enough, the coffee was just as delicious: perfectly flavored, not bitter, not watery, the right aftertaste, went down easy and made you want more. I called the waiter over, complimented them on their coffee and asked how they made it. In case you’d like to follow the same recipe, here it is: ground Lavazza coffee, 6 grams per 50 ml of water. They run it through a regular coffee maker, albeit a big one. That’s it. It’s so simple. Why aren’t others doing it?

Boat ride on Lake Vidraru

Remember my time-lapse video of the boat ride on Lake Vidraru? Well, this is the behind-the-scenes, the B-roll if you will, of that time spent on the boat. The name of the boat is the Mirena and at its helm stands Captain Gigi.

We had a blast and we’d gladly do it again. I hope the video shows the beauty of the nature we saw and the wonderful time we had. Enjoy!

An afternoon on the Transfagarasan Road

This weekend, we spent an afternoon on the Transfăgărășan Road, in the Făgăraș Mountains of Romania. (Trans-faragarasan → “Trans” = across and “Fagarasan” = the specific mountains which it crosses.) I enjoyed driving its challenging curves (Ligia not so much) and later we both enjoyed walking and meditating in the mountains. I also took photos (naturally) and I hope you’ll enjoy them.

This is how the mountains look as you approach them from E68, after you pass through a village called Cartisoara.

As we started to climb, these are the sorts of views we started to get. Hold on, the best stuff is yet to come.

At the top, it was fairly crowded. I tried to avoid the crowds as I took my photos. Some people were hiking, others were stuffing their faces. Not sure what it is about the top of a mountain that makes people so hungry. It’s not as if they climbed it — they drove it. There were loads of cars in the parking lot.

This is what the slopes to the top peaks looked like. Although it’s summer, we were fairly high up (above 2,000 meters in altitude) so the weather was foggy and fairly cold (10-15 degrees Celsius).

Since it was too crowded and noisy at the top, and the smell of cooking pervaded the air, Ligia and I decided to drive on past the main peaks and we stopped further down the road, where it was nice and quiet. That’s Ligia hiking toward me.

The views only got better as we went higher up. The black dot in the center of the photo is Ligia.

I’ll let this three-photo panorama show you what I mean. I left the white space unmasked on purpose, to show you everything the camera captured.

Here’s a close-up of the left side of that pano, showing the twists and turns of this picturesque mountain road.

We stopped to meditate and enjoy the tremendous beauty before us where the rock face turned sharply upward and climbing by foot became dangerous (we had no climbing gear with us). As we sat there, fog from the valley rose up alongside the cliff, joining with the clouds.

We climbed down refreshed and clear-headed, and as evening drew near, we wound our way down toward Sibiu and home, but not before taking another panorama of the Transfagarasan.

Here’s another photograph that shows the spread of the road in the valley below.

As usual, if you’ll go through gallery below, you’ll find photos that I haven’t shown here. Enjoy!

Lacul Oasa and Transalpina

The second leg of our trip through the Southern Carpathian Mountains, whose first leg took us through Obarsia Lotrului and Lacul Vidra, now took us by Lacul Oasa and the Northern portion of the Transalpina, a high-altitude road which offers unsurpassed vistas and which I documented through photos in late fall of last year.

This picturesque, unpaved portion of the Transalpina Road is also quite dangerous. The rocky cliffs you see hanging above it are eager to hurl rocks at passersby. It’s a situation made worse by man’s presence there. They blasted through the rock to make the road (a necessary evil) but they also set up a temporary concrete factory there and chewed through yet more rock to make the stuff. Until vegetation grows back on that slope to hold together the rocks, or measures are taken to reduce the rock falls, it’s a dangerous section of the road. Rocks were falling right by us as we drove through.

Be sure to view the full gallery posted below for more photos.

Sighisoara: off the beaten path

This Labor Day, we drove into Sighisoara and we decided to see it differently from the way most of its visitors see it. The typical route is to park at the bottom of the hill, walk up the stairs, see the clocktower, tour the piazza, buy some trinkets and go back down…

We drove into the outskirts, climbed up one of the adjacent hills, found a clearing, and got some interesting views of the city that way.

Afterward, we went up into the fortress to see if we could see some spots we hadn’t yet seen, and after walking up a well-known side street, were rewarded with the open gates of the rectory. We went right inside the courtyard and had a marvelous walk up into the gardens adjacent to the fortified walls.

We were greeted by a very pregnant and friendly kitty in the courtyard, who acted as our host for the duration of our visit.

The human hosts saw fit to ruin the architecture with polycarbonate sheeting as cover and communist-era poured concrete as a rude balustrade for the balcony. The satellite dish is apparently a modern pre-requisite.

Back to our walk in the beautiful garden.

In this view of the fortified tower, you can see the city and the river in the background.

Our feline host got a belly rub, which made her very happy indeed.

She then accompanied us to the gate.

We stopped at one of the local establishments for some lemonade.

Here are some more photographs from the streets of the Old Town.

Upperville in the spring of 2005

Upperville is a quaint little town on Route 50 in Virginia, about 50 miles from DC. We visited it twice, once in 2004 and once more about a year later. We loved its historic church and library. The stone architecture and cobblestone courtyard had an immediate appeal to us, as the buildings seemed to have come to life from the pages of a fairy tale.

We loved being able to walk about the buildings unhindered, and the orderly appearance of everything around, including the furthest grounds of the church.

Let’s go inside the church for a bit.

Have you ever seen a smaller and more endearing public library?

If you get the chance, please visit it. According to Wikipedia, there are a number of thoroughbred horse farms in the area, so that might be of interest to you as well.