Friday, 14 September 2018

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Diving in the Red Sea - Golden Triangle

Diving in the Red Sea was an exceptional experience the first time, so I decided to go again, on a different trip, during my off month in-between jobs.

Needless to say, it was another exceptional experience.

Ok, the arrival was a bit confusing to me. Was the visa included or not, I had gotten contradicting information. Finally, it was, and I should have seen the guy with an A4 sign and a faded "Diving Attitude" sign. He was also shouting my name in various parts of the arrivals in Hurghada airport. There were tons of people though, and we never met until it was too late. In the end, another dive instructor was getting Jenny and another lady from the airport (our dive instructor for the trip). So basically, I had a private lift in Hurghada to the marina.

The Golden Triangle stands for Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone, the major reefs visited. These are located south-south-east from Hurghada, on reefs far off the shore. The sea was a bit rough at points, and the cupboards in our cabin were creaking. Most of us spent the first or second night without proper sleep. The rest of the nights were spent in calm waters, just behind protecting islands and/or reefs.

Picture copyright: Diving Attitude

This is the trip marked my first close-up encounters with sharks. The first close-up encounter (at an arms length close) was with a longimanus shark which we found under our diving boat. They like roaming close to the surface, under boats, looking for scraps and fish. On the second dive, I tempted Eric, my diving buddy for the week, to go below our boats, see if we found some sharks and possibly other marine life under the boats instead of looking at small marine life on the reef. He readily agreed, and thus began the epic part of this adventure. Hanging on the boot lines of a couple of boats between 10 and 15 meters depth, we managed to escape the crowds. One longimanus seemed to enjoy that and came to check us out.

The second encounter was with a hammerhead shark at 28 meters depth. We spent an easy shallow dive on one of the reefs, when we suddenly spotted it below us. Most of the others were already around 10 meters, coming up from 40 meters. I decided to go down there and check out if it wanted to stay a bit. It did, and it came by really close for a couple of times, until it decided to elude me by hiding behind a rock and escaping. I never saw in which direction.

I was looking out to see if I saw the Nautile Evo from Anthias Plongée, and I finally saw it on Elphinstone. They did the St. Johns tour, which seems to be a bit low on life these times.

Below, the video I made.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Romania 2018

So I went to the airport one train earlier than scheduled. You never know, quite a few have been cancelled in the last few weeks. It was running late a few minutes, as was the airport connection in Geneva. So far, so good.

Arcul de Triumf in București

I browsed through the food court and the 2 and a half shops in the airport lobby. The security check queue was almost empty, so I had plenty of time.

So I thought.

Until, when thinking I would go through security, I realised I had forgotten my passport. I checked the time, knowing I would never make it home and back in time to catch my flight, even if it ran late half an hour, a advertised. I started sweating lightly.

Antic Ex-Libris book store

Street crossing

Now Romania is part of the EU, no? So I could go import myself with my Swiss ID card? What about the passport number I registered on the ticket?
I went to look if I could find a WizzAir desk, thinking that's the last air company anyone would know of. Quickly, I was directed to the SwissPort desk, at which WizzAir was hadvertised.
The lady at the desk quickly asserted that I could go with my ID and that no one would care if I traveled with my ID instead of my passport. She ended our conversation with "ça va mieux maintenant.".
That's what happens when you book a trip with almost no time to prepare it.

Castelul de Bran

Now why did I choose Romania? Basically because of two reasons. The first, I never set foot in that country, which is reason enough. Second, I wanted to see how Dracula's Transylvania looked.

Room in Castelul de Bran

Room in Castelul de Bran

Transylvania, or at least the very small parts I've seen of it, is really nice when the sun shines.
Dracula's castle, which is actually Castelul de Bran and quite small is very beautiful, inside and out.

Inner court of Castelul de Bran

I rented a car to freely roam the Romanian roads, although I had only so much time at hand. Two days to be precise, with a flight scheduled at lunch time on the third day.

On the first day I drove all the way to Bran, which is a small town out of the Carpathian mountains. The road winds through the Carpathian mountains to get there though.
After visiting the castle and considering the next step using a restaurant's WiFi connection, I drove back to Sinaia, from where it would be close to go visit Peleș Castle and the Sfinxul. The Sfinxul is a Sphinx shaped rock in the Bucegi national park. It's not so far, but it's a narrow and very winding road that gets up there. It was heavily clouded and rainy, so I wasn't able to see it.

Castelul de Peleș

For my first night out of Bucharest, I found this most awesome house which was designed by the same architect that was hired to improve and extend the Peleș castle. The house itself also looks like a castle. Its current residents, Carmen and her mother are also very welcoming and nice. Carmen also makes elder flower limonade.

Moorish room in Castelul de Peleș

Reception room in Castelul de Peleș

Castelul Bran was built much earlier than Peleș, and for complete different reasons. Bran castle originated with a pass control checkpoint at Roman times. The castle built later on the same spot as it is thought, was built for the pass control and also the administration of the surrounding areas a far as Brasov.

Royal bedroom in Castelul de Peleș
Peleș and Pelișor (its smaller neighbor) on the other hand, were built for king Carol the first. It has been the royal family's summer residence from about 1911 up to the last king of Romania, who died in 2017. During the winter months, the castle was open for visitors as a museum. The money gathered like this being used for helping improve Romania's social well-being like funding for the elders, the poor and the sick.

Vegetation below Castelul de Peleș

All the rooms are heavily decorated with tapestries and heavy furniture. Different rooms have complete different decorations, like for instance the Turkish room and the Moorish room.
Bran castle was a functional castle with very sober rooms. It has its own authentic charms. I personally like it better. Also, Vlad the impaler lived there, and was probably the origin of Dracula.

Small town between Bran, Brasov and Sinaia

As an end note, I'll quickly write about Bucharest (București in Romanian), Romania's capital city. I have been there first, on my trip. I arrived in the afternoon, booked an UberX taxi to Central Guesthouse, where I stayed for 2 nights. I was impressed with the first glimpse of prices I have seen. Because, when looking at the prices in Lei (RON), it looks like similar prices than in Switzerland. Except that you divide the Lei by four to get Swiss Francs.
The city is very interesting in itself. It has loads of museums, ancient buildings, and other sights to see and visit.

Countryside outside of Bran, in direction of the Carpathian mountains

The metro system is quite efficient and very easy to navigate. You can get a day pass for 8 Lei. Mainly everything of interest seems to be on the blue line.
Some interesting sights would be the old village (like Ballenberg in Switzerland) but have not been to it, the largest beer hall in eastern Europe (have not been either), the parcul Regele in the north of the city (visited), the book store Antic Ex-Libris located in a historic building (quite impressive, have visited), The Arcul de Triumf (visited). I roamed the old city, and when I saw it all (it's not that big), I took the metro to the parcul Regele, and aftewards mostly walked back to the old city.

Vila Rezetat in Sinaia

The old city has been converted to a eating/party place for tourists. The prices are still quite OK though. And there are some interesting restaurants like the restaurant Hanu' lui Manuc which has animation and local dishes.

Menu page of Hanu' lui Manuc

The prices are even lower outside of Bucharest.

Bucegi national park
Bulz in restaurant Snow in Sinaia

Friday, 16 February 2018

The man in the chair

The boy was slim
He grew up to be a slim man
He went to Burma
To watch people pass by
He took a chair and sat
Sat on the side of a busy street
He watched and watched
People pass by
It was so interesting to him
The man watched and ate
People brought him food
Street food, finger food, soup
They fed him well
So well, that the slim man
Was not slim anymore
The slim man grew fat
And fatter and fatter
So much that he stayed in his chair
All day long without moving
As the years went by
People couldn't see the chair anymore
The chair was still there
This chair the slim man chose
He chose it to sit upon
This chair was now lost
Lost in the fat man's body
This heavy body

When the fat man dies
They will find the chair again
They will put it there
Next to a busy street
So someone can sit on it
And watch the people pass by