A Threefer

Three topics combined into one post.  Lucky you!

Cultural Palace Looks Open for Business

I was in Iași, Romania on my usual early-part-of-the-year business trip in February.  The Cultural Palace has been under renovation for as long as I have been visiting our location(s) there. It’s coming along nicely. My local contacts tell me that it should be open for visitors by the time of my next visit — presumably this summer.

The last couple times I’ve been there I’ve visited their enormous new mall built up around the palace grounds.  There’s a giant Auchan store attached to the mall, too.  I bought a couple non-perishable specialities back, but not borș.

A Drippy Visit to Seligenstadt

Our travel buddy the Resident on Earth completed her farewell tour through Germany, and we met up with her in Frankfurt at an Ebblwoi1 bar for dinner and brunch the next day in Seligenstadt.  A tip of the hat goes to her for recommending Motel One, which might be our new favorite hotel chain in Germany.  We have had good results there in Frankfurt and Munich and heard good things about the one in Nürnberg and Berlin as well.

The weather in Frankfurt that evening was terrible, but I was determined to park the car at the hotel and do the rest on foot — despite the rain.  We got soaked on the way there and opted for a taxi back.  The taxi driver was a chatty dude, and we thought, at first, that must be dumbing down his German for us, because it was so comprehensible.  We didn’t have to ask him to repeat anything or use a non-regional expression or slow down or anything like that.  Then we remembered that that’s what German can sound like outside of those deep pockets of localized dialect, like d’Obapfoiz.2.

Brunch the next day was nice, and we took a stroll around Seligenstadt to walk it off a bit and try not to be sad about our buddy’s return to the USA.

Bridge Update March 2016

Trucking bridge pieces awaySomewhen3 in the last week, another big piece of the auxiliary bridge has been dismantled and moved off the scene. Sarah captured it. I took a stroll around today on my way into town for some groceries.

P3129960_sFirst thing I noticed: a coffee bar on our street is undergoing a change. Not sure if it’s just a face lift, like when the Spital Café opened up next to it where the Cat Pee Chinese4 joint had been. Or maybe something bigger is happening here. Assuredly they better hurry up — Café Blanket Season is already upon us.

That tent on the South Bank side has been up for … over a year now? Something must be happening in there, but at this point, there’s more visible activity on our side. Spring is very nearly upon us, with Easter and Pentecost vacation periods and the heavy influx of visitors they bring with them.

If the plan is to have the next section of auxiliary bridge — diverting traffic off the big middle section, which as far as we can tell has had little to no work done on it yet — up and serviceable before then, they better step on it. And not on these little purple guys.

P3129966_s

  1. Apfelwein auf Hessisch []
  2. die Oberpfalz, or the Upper Palatinate []
  3. I love it when Germans translate irgendwann into somewhen. []
  4. Not its real name. We only ordered from there once. Guess why? []

Roadtrip through Northeastern Romania

I was in Iași again the last weekend of April 2014. I was there for a long time — nine days, which might be a new record for me — between two holiday weekends, and staying there over a weekend, which usually isn’t necessary. Romania, as we discovered last fall, isn’t particularly foreign-tourist-friendly. And I try not to obligate my work people to spend more of their free time with me than, say, one evening once per visit. But the team surprised me with an exciting day trip around the region, including all new stuff for me to experience.

I’ve been visiting Iași since November 2006. I’ve eaten at most of the restaurants you’d take a visiting foreigner who likes local cuisine. On Friday afternoon they said “bring a jacket (in case it rains), comfortable shoes, and your camera. Be ready at 9:00 sharp Sunday morning out front at your hotel.” Mysterious! I had no idea this was going to be a roadtrip through Northeastern Romania — or a wide swath of it, anyways. Continue reading Roadtrip through Northeastern Romania

Grounded in Iași

So I’m staying, reluctantly, overnight in Iași. I’m in Little Texas (www.littletexas.org), which is kind of ironic, given that my VPN’d proxy usually reports my IP as being in San Antonio.

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I’m staying here an extra night because of an undisclosed technical problem with the Austrian Arrows plane that arrived late from Vienna this afternoon, intending to scoop up passengers and return with them to Vienna.

After it arrived in Iași late, we boarded and then proceeded to sit. And sit and sit. Then, from my choice seat under the wing, just across from the engine cowl and landing gear on our Dash-8 turboprop plane, I saw some ground crew pointing and gesturing at a growing puddle on the ground and drips coming out of some kind of exhaust port on the plane. Eventually the pilot left the cockpit and came out to check it himself and touched the fluid, sniffed his finger, and returned to the cockpit.

Not too long after that, we deplaned and started making plans for the night, since that was the last flight of the day in a direction useful to me. Austrian Arrows tried to convince me to get on a bus to Bucharest (5 hour ride to catch at least two more planes? No thanks!) so that I could take a plane from there. I said “What else you got?” When he tried to offer me a stay overnight and some more Austrian flights out of Iași in the morning, I said “I’d rather fly Carpatair tomorrow at 07:30. Can you make that happen?” He swallowed and reluctantly made me a reservation for flights home to Munich and an overnight stay and dinner at Little Texas on Austrian’s Groschen.

I have never had anything but pleasant prompt service from Carpatair. I have always had complicated, delayed, stressful travel with Austrian Arrows — including sprints through the lousy Vienna Schwechat airport and luggage arriving days later than I did, which is why I didn’t bring a suitcase on this trip. I’m thinking this was Austrian’s last piece of business from me.

Night shots of Iași

Unknown Church near Copou -- PA281181Got some local help on the evening activities on my most recent trip to Iași — mulțumesc to all. They helped me to see some aspects of their town — perhaps even their country — that were new to me, even though I’ve been to Iași more than ten times by now. Apparently, ancient art and architecture like these examples are abundant all over Romania, but as one of local friends said, they don’t put any effort into promoting foreign tourism. He noticed how easy it was for him to navigate around Austria’s treasures without speaking any German, because they have signage and guides and websites and brochures all catered to speakers of English, French, Italian, etc. Certainly Romania could profit greatly from visitors who can function in these languages, if not Romanian. So why not capitalize on it? It seems like such a small step to take to bring in money from tourism.

Or is the intent to keep Romania an insider’s secret?

Iași at dusk -- PA291189 Eminescu Tree and Obelisk -- PA281185

Unknown Church near the Cultural Palace -- PA291197 Unknown Church near the Cultural Palace -- PA291208

Front (but not the street side) of the Mitropolia -- PA291211

Salut de Iași!

I’m back in Iași this week for something like my 7th (is that right? that number seems pretty low) trip to Romania since the initial one in November 2006. I’ve not been back here for a visit since March 2009 — it’s really unusual for me to not visit for a whole year, but then again, my team has come to visit me in Germany in whole and in part, so although I haven’t been here as much as I like, I think the contact to my group is still good — I hope they agree.

I’m making a little bit more* of an effort with the language this time, thanks to a nifty Berlitz phrasebook from my parents. I think it has helped a lot with my pronunciation, too: I learned that I have been saying some things incorrectly since the beginning. Oops. And this is despite the fact that modernization has been tricking me. How? Well, view this post in Windows (XP or earlier) and take a look at the character between the a and i in the title. Does it look like an ‘s’ with a little comma below it? Or just a box? Odds are, it’s just a box (unless you’ve already installed the European Union Expansion Font Update). Boxes instead of proper characters are ugly, so while the rest of the Latin (more or less) alphabet world was getting their personal computing and desktop publishing and graphical design on with all the characters they needed for their languages, Romanian has not been patiently waiting for the s-comma and t-comma characters to become part of Unicode 3.0 standard, and for the biggest share of the computer-user market to support it. Instead, they by-and-largely just pressed on ahead, substituting ‘s’ and ‘t’ for ș and ț. Perhaps locals had to compromise — they wanted to use computers and had to settle for incorrect characters (or sometimes using t/s-cedilla substitutions, which are a little better, but still not correct).

papanașiWhat’s the big deal? Maybe nothing at all for native speakers who know what the words sound like, or kids who started learning to spell in the post-XP / Unicode 3 world. But I sound like a schmuck ordering “mamaliguta” instead of “mamaliguța” and “papanasi” instead of “papanași.” But after living in Bavaria for six years, I know a șnițel when I see one — no matter how it’s spelled.

*Zero plus 10% still isn’t very much.

VLC + Handbrake + DVDs = iPod/iPhone video joy

I’m leaving tomorrow on a business trip to Iași. It will be my first trip there in over a year, and a bit longer than my normal trips (a full work week; something I don’t normally do).

Now that I’ve got this iPod touch thing though, and it has injected itself into many aspects of my life, I decided to try to take advantage of its 32GB storage capacity. I have several DVDs sitting around waiting to be watched. Why not watch them on the plane on my iPod tomorrow? But how can I rip the DVDs (something I’ve never done before) to a format my iPod touch can handle?

I downloaded a few trial versions of payware DVD rippers, and they didn’t work so hot (wrinkly distortions in the final product, plus the watermarked logo until you cough up for the software registration). My favorite geek reference site — ISCABBS, a place so geeky you have to use telnet to get in there — came to the rescue with a recommendation to use Handbrake together with VLC. At least on Mac OS X and Linux, having these together on your computer will allow you to rip right from a DVD into an iPod/iPhone compatible format — for free. Handbrake also nicely converts other video formats — apparently pretty much all of them — into a few of the more modern ones, like MP4 via the H.264 codec. I ripped the DVDs (and converted a few other video files I had lying around) in Handbrake and then dragged the converted files from the Finder windown onto my iPod in iTunes.

Works like a champ — love that.

East of the West, West of the East

I’m headed out to Romania again today, this time back to Iași. I found it oddly appropriate that this comic was published today and I’m headed to a place that is straddling geographical and political, historical and present-day definitions of “East” and “West”.


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It’s still not the Eastern-most part of Europe in which my company does business, but I can only think of 3 more European offices or factories further East than Iași.

I’ll be back really late Friday night.