23 July 2006

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Mike, my MBAEC colleague in Romania—and who I went sailing with last month—is finishing his assignment in Sibiu, Romania, so this weekend was the last possible opportunity for me to visit him—and therefore Romania. So Thursday morning I boarded a plane to Bucharest, and then took at train north to Transylvania (cue the spooky music.) No, actually, Transylvania is one of the cleaner, more bucolic and well-preserved parts of Eastern Europe—I am really impressed. Sibiu, the city that Mike lives in (until Monday,) is undergoing a revitalization that is turning it into a picture-postcard of what you think an old European town should look like. BTW, Sibiu is also called Hermannstadt, because of the large ethic German population that lived in this area until recently—in fact it is still common to hear German spoken here.

Saturday we drove to the mountains for a little relief from the sweltering heat. Mike’s friend/colleague has a car so we drove up to Lac Belea, a pond nestled near the crest of the Carpathian Mountains. Climbing above the tree line, we entered a broad, glacial valley where remnants of last winter’s snow packs were still melting in to rivulets that joined into a mighty stream that threw itself into the valley below in a magnificent waterfall—all quite breathtaking. Despite the rugged surrounding, the road up (with its numerous switchbacks) is in a very good shape, which is one thing I can say for Romania in general—they have invested a lot more in infrastructure than Bulgaria since the end of communism.

Tomorrow, we go to Sighisoara where Mike finishes his last project, before we head to Bucharest. I return to Sofia on Tuesday and Mike leaves Romania on Wednesday. It was good to have an American friend here to show me around, talk about sailing, and to share our gripes about the development industry in general.

As you can tell, I’ve returned to the original purpose of this blog—namely a travelogue—after briefly flirting with being a technology pundit in the previous post. I’ve got to admit, I was feeling pretty heady on Thursday when this article rose to #3 for a while on Reddit.com and hit Digg.com. I conservatively estimate (based on up-votes and comments) that between 1000 and 2000 people read it over the last 72 hours—I think I really hit a chord with Internet users—but now my proverbial “15 minutes of fame” are over.
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