Missing the Black Sea

I can happily say that I’ve had my share of salty water this summer – Romania, then Croatia and soon Italy. I’ve took long enough to make up my mind about posting the photos, though, but finally, after three months, here they are! 

As you’ll probably realize soon enough, I’m currently obsessed with light leaks and since I don’t exactly have the possibility to experiment with film, I just played around in Photoshop. I like what came out, but these are probably the only photos of this kind you’ll see from me. Anyway. Enjoy these (many) pictures from the Romanian sea-side, more specifically Vama Veche, which was fun, fun, fun!

We really enjoyed ourselves and I have many stories to tell, starting with the horrible place we stayed at, which was actually so bad that it soon became funny – first night we crashed at some friends and that meant four girls crammed together in a 2/2 room and two tiny beds, fighting over the blankets in a desperate attempt to keep warm. In the second night we upgraded,however, getting a better room that was actually clean and warm,  so you could say it was all for the best.

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She sells sea-shells by the sea-side

So I wasn’t planning or expecting to take such a long break from writing but being home turned out to be so comfortable that I couldn’t bring myself to do anything else.  And don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying the break, I just thought I’d pop up with a fun fact and some updates.

Two days from now we’ll be celebrating the International Work Day, which I thought all my life it’s just a Romanian thing, but according to the all-mighty Wiki, it’s not. Sometime in the 1880’s, after brutal manifestations (I suppose) it was decided that the work day was to be reduced to eight hour and oh, look, people celebrate the same thing in the States – Labor Day, only, well, in September. Communists also come in the picture somewhere along the lines, but just google it, it’s already too much history for me and what I wrote so far probably didn’t make much sense anyway.

But yes, that was funny for me, because it opens a whole new horizon:  it seems highly likely to me now  that it’s not just Romanians that take a day off work to celebrate work (because that makes total sense. Totally.) Do I have any Eastern European readers here? Can you spare some info about that?

The point is that I’m going with the crowd this time by which I mean, I am going to spend this day like most normal do – either making a barbecue on someone else’s lawn, or getting in the car and driving some place. This time the crowd I’m going with is thirsty for salt water and heading towards the seaside. And I am oh my gosh so excited! The lists were made, the bags are (over)packed and I’m now anxiously counting the seconds because in just a few hours – well, more that a few actually, six is not a small number – I will be on my way to fun-land. Or so I hope. Hope that it will be fun-land and not just a beach full of drunk people and litter. Which I know there will be too, but still, I expect more. And I’ll be bringing my camera, so brace yourselves, photos will be coming!

A quiet town and a cool museum. Today we’re visiting…

I visited Ladenburg in November, last year, as part of a German course I was taking and even though the weather was shitty, I thought it was a charming little place. The city is located in Germany, in the Baden-Württemberg region, on the shore of the Neckar River. It’s also close to the two more important cities in the area – Heidelberg (which is beautiful!) and Mannheim (where I once got lost).

As I said, we had horrible weather when I was there – it was awfully cold, overcast, it even rained if I remember well. It was winter and Christmas was right around the corner, but the atmosphere felt nothing like it when we got off the train. Still, as we got closer to the town center, things started to warm up a bit. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Ladenburg is really nice,  but most importantly, has an impressive history, starting as a Celtic settlement, later to be turned into a Roman military unit and finally developing into a town about twice as its original size. The St. Gallus Kirche is now sitting on where a Roman basilica used to be, a basilica that was apparently three times bigger than the already huge church.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know what is here to be seen. In winter, around Christmas, there’s a Weihnachtsmarkt – a market with everything from hats and hand crafted jewelry to different kinds of food. And Glühwein(…mulled wine?), too! Other than that, the internet also recommends the Lobdengau Museum, the Bishop’s Palace and the Chapel of St. Sebastian.

There is one thing I read and thought it was interesting. Apparently, in several German cities they have started to place some so called “stumble stones” – Stolpersteine. They are metal bricks put down on the pavement and they are supposed to commemorate individuals that were in one way or another victims of the Nazis. There are two such stones in Ladenburg, too (which I haven’t seen), placed in the memory of  a man and a woman that were deported and eventually killed.

My personal recommendation is however a museum. More precisely, das Automuseum Dr. Carl Benzwhich can be found as of 2005 in the old factory where the C. Benz Söhne vehicles were manufactured. Also, you could visit the house of the  inventor of the gasoline-powered automobile, if you’re interested.

In 1904, Carl Benz moved to Ladenburg with his wife and child and two years later they founded a company with their own money, called C. Benz Sons. The cars gained popularity by constantly being present at races and probably by kicking everyone’s asses. Since they tried really hard to come up with efficient race cars, they eventually started to sell them too.

Also, his wife, Bertha Benz, seemed to have been a pretty awesome woman. After investing in her husband’s company and also giving him five kids, she decided that she was going to have more to say regarding the guy’s business. So after trying – and failing – to talk him into a more sensible plan of action, she just took matters into her own hands.

One sunny morning she got her two sons (I’m guessing Carl’s two most prized possessions), hopped in the car – remember,  that wasn’t something people typically did at that time – and off she went. To see her mother, she said. In reality she had just put every dude to shame by becoming the first person to drive an automobile over a long distance.

After driving for a little over 100 kilometers and marketing the car by scaring the shit of the people she met (which was her plan all along),  Bertha won herself the right to scream into her husband’s face “I told you so!”. After this funny event, not only had the vehicle gained a huge amount of publicity, but it was also considerably improved, growing to be a real financial and technical success.

As for the actual museum, all I can say is that you definitely won’t get bored, even if you aren’t a car enthusiast. There is plenty of information to read, early models of cars and bikes, race cars, old documents, all things car-related and a souvenir shop with things that one would in fact want to buy.

Wow, I really went overboard with the photos, huh? So anyway, that concludes our short visit. I’m not sure if you will find this useful, should you ever visit Ladenburg but I surely hope you enjoyed it!

A city overlooking the Alps. Today we’re visiting…

I have been putting this off for too long, so here goes: this is the first out of a series of city introductions, so to speak. I will be talking about – and showing photos of cities that I have visited and liked and which I am sure you will like too. There won’t be any short posts here, so put your reading glasses on (I mean, if you need them) and get on with it! 

I’m starting with a place I’ve seen about three weeks ago but was too lazy to write about:

Luzern (or Lucerne or Lucerna or..Lozärn? For a country with 4 official languages, I guess it’s normal for every city to have at least two versions of its name) is a rather large city in central Switzerland – in the German speaking part, that is. It’s also the capital of the canton of Lucerne, so I’d say it has a pretty major importance.

A bridge over the Reuss River

As for things worth seeing, probably the most iconic place here is the Kapellbrücke – a bridge built in 1333 (or a long, long time ago, for those of you who aren’t very good with numbers and/or history) to somehow fight off enemies. How a bridge would do that is beyond me. What makes it so special are the paintings on the inside – triangular depictions of  scenes in Swiss history – with subtitles, too! However, about 600 years later, it gave everyone a lot of trouble as it caught fire and a large part of it had to be replaced; as for the paintings, an even larger part vanished into thin air. Literally.

Die Kapellbrücke

 Apparently that happened because someone could’t help having a quick smoke on a wooden bridge.

Off we go now, to the second worth-seeing thing on the list – Das Löwendenkmal – The lion monument. Pour yourself a cup of whatever and relax – this is a long story and it goes like this:

Traditionally, a Swiss regiment served  as part of the Royal Household of France. During the French Revolution, King Louis XVI and his family were forced to move from the Palace of Versailles to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. They soon realized that was no proper place for a king – or safe for that matter and soon got him out of there too, so that when the men with the guns besieged the Tuileries palace – suprise! The king was nowhere to be found.

That, however, didn’t stop the revolutionaries from beating the shit out of the Swiss guards that loyally stayed behind, because, well, it was a revolution – blood, fight, stuff. Some years later,  Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, an officer of the guards driven by guilt for having spent that terrible day on leave, leisurely strolling through Lucerne decided to do something to always remember people of that day.

Thus, a beautiful lion monument was born, dedicated to “the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss”: Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti

The Alps

Of course, I’ve written about all those things while avoiding the elephant in the room – the lake, that is. Vierwaldstätterseeas it is called, is simply put, a weirdly shaped lake shared by four Swiss cantons. Also, it has birds, which erm…I don’t like. I have been trying to find some literary reference to it that could help make my job of describing it easier, but…

Next morning we left in the train for Switzerland, and reached Lucerne about ten o’clock at night. The first discovery I made was that the beauty of the lake had not been exaggerated.

Mark Twain, “A tramp abroad”

Well, maybe I didn’t try that hard.

And finally, if you happen to be in Lucerne, I recommend taking a short trip to Mount Pilatus, the pride and joy of the locals, so I’ve been told. I didn’t do that, however, the internet says you should and has some pretty good arguments. Firstly, the view is amazing, but then again it is a mountain, and mountains often have amazing views.

Mt.Pilatus

Secondly, if you decide to hike to the top, there are several trails that take you deep into the awesomeness of the Swiss forests, but if not, just go for the Pilatusbahn, which is, oh you know, just the world’s steepest cogwheel railway. Not only that, but the line still uses the original rack rails that are now over 100 years old.

While they may seem ancient, don’t worry! They are dealing with the rails wearing out, by simply turning them over. Which I find slightly worrying. And, brace yourselves, because I saved the best for last. There are legends that say that there is a dragon living on the mountain. A dragon. How about that!

So I think that is about all. You’ve had a mini-virtual-tour through Luzern, which you hopefully enjoyed. There is, of course, much more to be said, for instance about the churches – if you’re into that kind of things, or the small antiquities shops or about the Altstadt in general, which should be the number one destination, no matter which city you are visiting – in case you don’t know, that is the historical center, often the (only) most beautiful part

A glimpse of the Altstadt

KKL - Culture and Convention Centre Lucerne, home of one of the finest concert halls in the world

But I am going to stop here. Thank you for reading and any kind of feedback will be much appreciated – you know, for future reference!

Disclaimer: I really suck at history and while Wikipedia was certainly helpful, there’s a limit to what it can do. I made a lot of effort to take things out of there and write them here more plainly but I am really sorry if I misinterpreted the stuff I read. So don’t take them for granted and feel free to correct me if necessary.