I’m back from Iasi

It was a good trip — we got some important stuff done, planning some short-term projects to get us over the hump we’re expecting in the coming months. It was nice to get to know my team’s local boss better, show my own boss around town a bit, and get to see Iasi what Iasi is like outside of extreme weather conditions — I’ve been during the hot spells and one of the few snowstorms in recent memory.

lunch breakApparently the food delivery service they used to use in Iasi in lieu of a canteen has started to declie in service but rise in price, so they go out for lunch much more often now. Here we are at Alila for pizza. It was pretty good!

container buildingWhat struck me on this visit (number 6 or 7 since November 2006…I’ve lost count) the most were are all the changes since July 2007. My team has moved to another building completely — one that took less than two months to construct. It’s made out of old shipping containers that have been hitched together. It sounded pretty terrible to me when they described it, but the interior is a completely modern and well-equipped office building.

Iasi office park When I first started visiting Iasi, all purchasing stuff was happening in the main building — with the goofy architecture. Then my department moved to the building on the right for a while, and since August last year, they’ve been in the one on the left. And the whole location is pretty much out of space at the moment. They’re looking for a new home in another part of town that will allow them to effective double their current head-count by this time next year.

Piaţa UniriiIt’s not just the office that’s changing though — the rest of the town appears to be in an upswing as well. We spotted a Mercedes-Benz Taxi, halied him and arranged for him to pick up my boss early Wednesday morning for an airport trip. He had good results, so I called an reserved a trip with him as well. This seems be the entreprenurial spirit that probably was lacking under the communist regime.

Bună seara de Iași

Good evening from Iasi! After dinner tonight, I took the camera out with the Gorillapod for some night shots. You can click on them to make them bigger.

Now I’m tired, so I’m going to bed. Big day tomorrow and the rest of the week, actually. You might not hear (see?) from me again here until after I get home on Saturday.

two car rentals in one day

I pride myself on being pretty automobile-independent, but as it happened I rented two cars in one day yesterday for two completely different purposes. The first one was due to a SNAFU in getting back to Regensburg from Iasi via Munich (which worked out just fine after all — just a little more hassle than I wanted), and second one was for attending Jentry and Markus’s wedding reception in Hirschau.

We ended up renting it for the whole day, and that means we can do some exploring today before we return it. We’re thinking of a trip to Weltenburg for brunch, like last year with Tammy and Matthias.

Here are the remaining snapshots from my most recent trip to Iasi:
clouds 1 clouds 3 clouds 2 night shift

AirportLiner Regensburg — use at your own risk

For those of you planning on visiting us via flight arrivals/departures from Munich or Nuremberg, there are several ways for you to get to/from Regensburg to/from the airport.

  • Train/Bus — check out the BayernTicket, because it’s great for a pretty low-cost, low-stress trip from anywhere in Bavaria to anywhere in Bavaria. The catch: it’s only valid one day at a time and you’re responsible to figure out your own subway/train/bus connections.
  • Rental car — good flexbility, but more expensive, and do you really want to deal with traffic having just got off the plane or on your way down to the airport?
  • Taxi — I shudder to think what this might cost,
  • AirportLiner Regensburg — I used to think this was the best option because
    • they’re reliable
    • they’re fairly priceworthy
    • they provide door-to-door service.

I think my opinion of them has changed. Read on.

AirportLiner Regensburg offers a pretty unique service; I myself have had good results with them. Their drivers have always been friendly and prompt, even in spite of rude/late/grumpy customers. The most trouble I have ever had with them was a failure to communicate a more specific pick-up time than the 1.5 hour window they gave me; but even that was no big deal — I just waited outside for longer than I needed to.

Matthias, thinking about AirportLiner while on vacation in the USThen I heard about Matthias’ miserable AirportLiner experience, in which AirportLiner apparently couldn’t schedule a pickup for them themselves, but rather had to hire a taxi to pick him up and drop him off at some misunderstood rendezvous point, which nearly made him miss his flight (or maybe it did, I’m a little unclear on the details). But you know what? I thought it was just him. He seems like the kind of guy who gets rotten luck — order identical menu items at a restaurant, and his is the one that comes out undercooked. Ask for ketchup and mayo for your fries at a restaurant, and they’ll be out of mayo if Matthias is the one requesting it. Stuff like that.

Then Cristi and Adi came to visit from Romania. AirportLiner was late picking them up yesterday morning, and there were unexpected traffic problems on the highway down to the airport. These two factors lead to Cristi and Adi missing their check-in window at the airport by 10 minutes. Since it was an economy-class flight, CarpatAir This is not Cristi and Adi!was not obligated to let them rebook on a later flight. AirportLiner would assume none of the liability for them having missed their flight. The next feasible to flight home to Iasi would be Monday morning. So thanks to AirportLiner, Cristi and Adi’s trip got extended by 2 days. Fortunately their boss in Romania* just happened to be passing through the Munich airport on his way to Regensburg on the day that they were scheduled to head home, and he was able to arrange new flights home and a couple of nights’ stay at a hotel in Munich for them.

Bottom line: apparently not everyone has good luck with AirportLiner like Sarah and I have had. I’ll be rethinking my transportation options for my next flight. We fly economy all the time and also cannot afford to purchase new tickets simply because our ride to the airport did not come through for us.

Traditional Romanian dinner with our Romanian colleagues


Where are Camelia and Orhan?

Originally uploaded by cliff1976.

Got back yesterday from a three-day trip to Romania — this time with my boss (guess which one he is). It was a good trip, but a short one.

I think the next time I go — and I will be going regularly, apparently — I’d like it to be for at least a couple days. That helps justify the time lost in transit.

  • an hour on the way down to the airport
  • an hour spent getting checked in and frisked and waiting to board the plane
  • At least an hour and a quarter in transit to the first layover (Timisoara, Bucharest, or Vienna in that order of preference)
  • the layover
  • Figure an extra hour waiting in line with other screaming P.O.’d passengers at the baggage office in Iasi if you fly Austrian Arrows
  • and of course all the same time spent traveling in the reverse direction

Some might think that I could be working during all the downtime, but honestly — at least up until now — all my work stuff is entirely dependent on a network connection, and the company wouldn’t spring for a cellular modem for me. But maybe now that my guys in Iasi are making it possible to do work that’s more offline in nature (writing application specs, having meetings, choosing programmers, and I see a helluva lotta PowerPoint in future, at which I am really terrible), a bi-monthly trip might not be so bad (especially if I get that company mobile phone we’ve been talking about, and I can telco it up on my layovers).

It was quite nice to be able to take these people out to dinner for an evening of levity after having imposed on them four times since November 2005 for 2-5 days at a stretch (thanks, boss).

But I’m glad to be back home in Regensburg.

Recital

The Joint

Sos. Bucium (langa statia Petrom)
Phone: +40 232 21.87.01

http://www.inoras.ro/?section=local&instit=326&dom=3&or=1

NeluBar none, this was my favorite dining experience in Iasi. Nelu kindly took me on a night-time driving tour of the town, which ended here. I’d been looking for an authentic Romanian restaurant to try ever since I arrived on my first trip to Iasi back in November 2006. I am so glad he showed me this restaurant.

Nelu told me that Romanians like their food sour, and he was not kidding. We had crusty, crunchy bread on which we spread olive paste and red pepper paste, and an appetizer of dill pickles dusted with paprika. I tried a Romanian beer brewed in Iasi that is quickly getting famous. It was very good.

Mutton with polenta and sheep's cheeseFor the main course, I had mutton with polenta and sheep’s cheese. It was excellent. The sheep’s cheese adds a great tangy flavor to the polenta and also compliments the flavors of the mutton.

I recommend this place to anyone visiting Iasi looking for authentic Romanian cuisine. It’s so hard to find traditional places like these among all the pizza/Italian restaurants!

got my stuff back!

Big ups to the Hotel Unirea for offering to call — and keep calling — Austrian Airlines to inquire about my lost bag for me while I was at work today. Big boos to Austrian Airlines having lost it in the first place, and making me wear the same clothes three days in a row, and not having the decency to deliver my lost bag to my hotel. They made me come pick it up!

This morning (It’s about 6:30 now) I will do a full shave (I didn’t trust the flimsy disposable one in my Star Alliance overnight bag to do anything more than my neckline) and wear clean, non-jean, non-t-shirt clothes for the first time since Sunday morning at 4:00 Central European Time. I’m really looking forward to it.

I tend to ride to and from the office in a taxi while it’s dark when I’m here visiting. Various members of the hotel staff have been calling at all hours of the day/night to the Austrian Airlines department at the Iasi Airport and reporting back to me. I found out yesterday at 1pm that I’d have a two-hour window to pick up my stuff, starting at 12pm (so much for the two hours). I was prepared to take a taxi out to the airport and back, but Vlad suggested he drive me in the company car. Vlad has been very, very helpful in lots of office-related ways. He sacrificed his lunch hour and I am grateful for that. We got stuck in traffic, further shortening my 2-hour window to arrive at the airport. The image at left actually does not show one of the reasons we got stuck in traffic. Those horses were moving along at a good clip.

After work last night, I grabbed my camera and tripod (thanks Sarah) and tried to capture the city in a more festive light:

Day 3 — still not stinky (I hope)

I fear I might not even notice my stench in these clothes at this point. I must praise the staff of the Hotel Unirea, because Virgil and Alina on staff there are repeatedly calling Austrian Airlines to check on the status of my suitcase. For the latest report, I am supposed to check back with them today after 10:00 to see what Austrian Airlines knows.

One small complaint:

I know that all Enrique needs is the rhythm divine, but the Unirea needs to expand its music selection at the breakfast bar. If they manage to get my bag back before I leave on Friday though, I’ll happily sing (if you can call it that) along with them and the Progeny of Iglesias.

third time’s a charm, right?

…an EVIL charm maybe.

On this, my third and definitely final trip to Iaşi this year, I had high hopes that all my travel ducks would be in a row. Previous trips have gone off without a hitch — airport pick-ups and drop-offs, customs, luggage, hotels, and taxi transportation have all been no problem in the past.

But this time, something’s different. I flew Austrian Airlines instead of Carpatair, transferring in Vienna instead of Timişoara and decided to check my bag at the ticket window in Munich early Monday morning.

Well, right after that, I forgot that I still had my little Leatherman Squirt pocketknife attached to my keychain. I realized it before going through the metal detectors toward the gate, but my baggage (just one small suitcase) was already being checked onto the plane, so I couldn’t stash it in there. I went back to the Lufthansa (they do the check-in for Austrian…I guess the Anschluss lives on in some ways), and the ladies there were very nice, offering to walk me down to the Service Center where I could do short or long term storage of luggage and other items. I ended up paying €2,50 to store my entire keychain for up to three months (I plan to return on Friday afternoon). And with that, my first problem was solved. I thought to myself, “See? No sweat.”

I got to the gate still in plenty of time and waited and waited and waited. Finally they let us board the plane…and then we waited another 30 minutes. This was only supposed to be a 40 minute flight, and I had something like only 35 minutes between landing and take-off of the next flight in Vienna. I got picked up outside the plane on the tarmac in Vienna where I was rushed to customs, re-scanned for metal, and then rushed back out to the tarmac for boarding on my flight to Iaşi. I was the last person on the plane, and my ticket was for a seat in the last row, so I got the stinkeye from everyone on board, who probably assumed that I was responsible for my own lateness. Right after I buckled myself in, it struck me that there was very little chance of my luggage arriving with me.

When we landed in Iasi, I was pretty much the last person off the plane. There was only one person working the Austrian Airlines desk in Iaşi, and he spent like 20 minutes each on the first two people whose luggage also got lost. An older Romanian man pushed me out of the way when it was my turn to present my baggage claim ticket, which made me mad. A Belgian lady and an English lady behind me in line grumbled in what they probably thought was support, but it just made things worse — the Austrian Airlines baggage claim guy yelled at her when she asked if he was the only one working.

End result: I get to go to work and train my new guy at 8:00 am on Monday wearing the same clothes — my “plane clothes,” as it were — I put on an 4:00 am on Sunday. Yuck. And I was sleepy after my travels today, so I napped and now I’m up at 4:30 in the morning on Monday, waiting for the hotel’s restaurant to open for breakfast at 7:00.

But the good news is: I got a chance to walk around town in daylight for the first time and snap some pictures.