First 48 days as expat in Marseille

[Citeste acest articol in Limba Romana – click AICI]


One and a half months ago, I was packing my baggage to go to the airport again, only this time I was not leaving to board a ship for 5 months, but to a new job and a new life. I explained in great detail why I wanted to quit sailing in the much controversial and popular own article “After six years at sea”, so after the last voyage I made the final decision to look for something to work on land. I have ill spoken a lot about our country Romania (and for good reasons considering that people are working for 300-400 EUR / month and the government is ripping you off on absolutely every step of the way!) and I have seen too many beautiful and civilized places in this world during my voyages to ever settle there, so the only option left for me was to become an expat and luck had it to be in Marseille.

Most of my  CVs were sent in English-speaking countries, especially in the UK, but since the whole Brexit phenomenon, most companies  have been reluctant to hire East Europeans. Fate decided that the lucky interview would land me in Marseille, France, a city of which I did not know much about , in a country whose language I ​​vaguely understand and speak. It was this or other positions somewhere in South Africa or Mexico so guess what I chose.

I only had sea experience on my resume so the only way to make the transition to land was to remain in the maritime business. I will not say the name of the

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Primele 48 de zile in Franta ca expat / First 48 days as expat in France


Marseille dupa 48 de zile de locuit.

Acum o luna si jumatate imi faceam iar bagajul sa ma duc spre aeroport , doar ca de data asta numai plecam la vapor pentru 5 luni, ci la un nou job si o noua viata. Am explicat foarte detaliat de ce numai am vrut sa navig in mult controversatul si cititul articol propiu “Dupa sase ani pe mare” , asa ca dupa voiajul trecut am luat decizia definitiva de a imi cauta ceva la uscat. Am injurat mult tara noastra Romania (si pe buna dreptate considerand ca se munceste pe 300-400 EUR si guvernul te jegmaneste absolut la fiecare pas!) si am vazut mult prea multe locuri frumoase si civilizate pe lumea asta in timpul voiajelor ca sa ma pot stabili definitiv acolo , asa ca singura optiune era de a deveni expat afara.

Majoritatea CV-urilor trimise au fost in tari vorbitoare de Engleza , mai ales in Marea Britanie , dar de cand cu Brexitul se cam sfiesc firmele sa angajeze Est Europeni. Soarta a facut ca interviul norocos sa ma aterizeze in Marsilia, Franta. Un oras despre care nu stiam in principiu mai nimic , intr-o tara a carei limbi o inteleg vag. Era asta sau alte pozitii pe undeva prin Africa de Sud sau Mexic asa ca ghiciti ce am ales.

Fiind doar cu experienta pe mare , cam singura cale de a face tranzitia la uscat era sa raman in domeniu maritim , nu voi zice numele firmei dar fiind in Marsilia cred ca nu e asa greu de ghicit. Asa ca imi rezerv dreptul de a comenta si implica in orice discutie despre shipping , mai ales ca acum am acces la o perspectiva mult mai generala a sistemului , nu doar de pe vapor la fata locului , voi reveni si cu detalii de la locul de munca mai tarziu.

Mutarea nu pot zice ca a fost foarte grea , avantajul de a fi obisnuit cu impachetatul la tot ce ai nevoie intr-o valiza si plecat la aeroport dar si firma a fost foarte sustinatoare si mi-a oferit o luna o Continue reading

Budapest road trip

[Citeste acest articol in Romana AICI]

We wanted to avoid the big crowds of the National Navy Day back home so we decided to leave for the extended weekend on a road trip to Budapest. Like any good idea, this trip came to our minds during a drunken night in Vama Veche. All being said and done, on Saturday morning, two couples were in my car, on our way to the border with Hungary. From Constanta to Budapest there are about 1050 kilometers, of which only 218 km are on national two lane roads and not on the motorway, namely Olt Valley between Pitesti and Sibiu entrance, and the missing A1 section between Deva and Faget – Dumbrava. In theory you should do this trip in 11 hours, in practice we live in Romania and it’s baaaad , very bad. I recommend a lot of patience and cold blood, on the Olt Valley I lost at least 3 hours in the still traffic, blocked between coaches and an infinite number of cars on both lanes, bringing the time up to 15 hours. Once you cross the ring road of Bucharest and the Olt Valley and you reach the A1 highway from Sibiu, it’s clear roads from there. The new section of A1 highway goes all the way to the border of Hungary at Nadlac and on to Budapest. The new border crossing point at Nadlac has enough lanes and works like a drive-in, just show the id or passport at the booth and go on. Immediately after the border at the first car park on the M43 motorway, you need to stop and buy a vignette.  A 10 days pass will cost 2975 Forints (10 EUR) and if you buy it from the Internet you pay this price, if you buy it from the parking lot you will pay EUR 14, as we have discovered. The roads and the highway system in Hungary are impeccable and everybody drives very civilized on lane 1, lane 2 being used on short intervals only when you overtake a slower car from lane 1. Lane 2 is not always busy and when you’re on it no one will come in your back and flash you insistently, but will rather wait calm until you finish overtaking and come back on lane 1 or at worst they will turn on the left signalling to alert you that you keeping the lane busy. The GPS assistance is truly holy during this trip, especially in the city.

[Read more after the photos]

Due to the fact that all the trip was planned at a very short notice, finding accommodation was a challenge. Unlike the previous visit in 2012 Budapest  , when all the travel package came at 100 Continue reading

Tales of the past: unique photos from Constanta Park 1991

[citeste acest articol in Limba Romana AICI]

In my previous article about the Lost train line in the Park , I made a call out to all my readers asking for old scanned photos of the park and of the miniature train.  A few days ago Mr. Ray Wilkinson from Halifax contacted me. He was in vacation in Constanta, Romania in 1991, a short period just after the anti communist revolution and luckily he made coloured photos that he was kind enough to share. As a tourist he described his experience as beeing “real” , enjoyed the train ride and mentioned that in the post-revolutionary Constanta of 1991 there was still chaos and disarray (which sadly still is today after 28 years), but everyone was being friendly and tried to show them a good time.

I am sure that the young people of today that fill up the “City Park Mall” which is built on the spot where the first pic is taken, have no idea how the place looked like before.  Unfortunately the people of Constanta just don’t care that this park is gone, a clear evidence of this is the very small number of people that came to protest against the building of the shopping mall when they started the construction site.  At least we still got the photos and our memories, for the others all I can say is: Enjoy your shopping in the recently extended shopping mall!

Constanta Park

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Tales of the past: poze inedite din Constanta cu trenuletul si parcul in 1991

[to read this article in English click HERE]

In articolul trecut despre Trenuletul din parcul Tabacariei ce numai exista astazi am facut un apel la cititori care au poze vechi scanate cu parcul si trenuletul. Acum cateva zile m-a contactat Domnul Ray Wilkinson din Halifax care a fost in vacanta in Romania in 1991, la scurt timp dupa revolutie si care din fericire a facut si poze cu film color.  Pozele lui sunt o adevarata mina de aur si ii multumesc pentru faptul ca le-a impartasit. Turistul strain mi-a povestit ca a avut parte de o experienta “reala” , i-a placut plimbarea cu trenuletul in vara lui 1991 , in Constanta de dupa revolutie inca era dezorganizare (din pacate nimic nu s-a schimbat dupa 28 de ani, inca e si acum) , lacul Tabacariei era mirositor dar toata lumea era foarte prietenoasa si incercau sa le creeze turistilor o atmosfera placuta.

Sunt sigur ca tinerii care umplu astazi City Park Mall nu stiu cum arata acolo parcul inainte sa se construiasca abuziv peste el si din pacate la majoritatea Constantenilor pur si simplu nu le pasa ca a disparut acest parc, dovada clara la indiferenta lor fiind numarul extrem de mic de participanti la protestul din parc cand s-a inceput organizarea santierului (sau la orice alt protest daca tot vine vorba). Macar am ramas cu pozele si cateva amintiri , in rest plimbare placuta prin mall-ul extins recent!


Constanta Parc Tabacarie

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Circuit in Romania cu masina


Daca tot e vara si frumos am zis sa profitam de zilele libere dar si de voucherele de cazare disponibile si am plecat o saptamana prin Romania. Circuitul nostru a inceput de la Cazanele Dunarii cu oprire la Orsova, Dubova , Cheile Nerei, Timisoara, Deva, Hunedoara, Alba Iulia, Sovata, Praid, Sighisoara, Brasov si pe Transfagarasan inapoi la Constanta. Ca deobicei excursia a fost planificata din scurt si cazarea a fost aleasa din ce era disponibil prin intermediul unei agentii de voiaj.

Ziua 1: plecat la drum pe drumurile patriei , unde dupa cum v-am zis si in articolul anterior despre drumetia spre Budapesta , lasa foarte mult de dorit si pierzi foarte multe ore in ambuteiaje. De la Constanta la Orsova am ales varianta Bucuresti – Pitesti – Rm. Valcea cu oprire la Targul Jiu. Imediat cum iesi de pe A1 la Pitesti incepe calvarul si nu se mai opreste pana la Timisoara cand revenim pe A1. Mai nou peste drumurile bune din Romania se pune pietris care nu e presat de utilaje , ci de masinile din traficul deschis circulatiei, pietris care iti face tandari capota si parbrizul – TARA DE CACAT!

Am ales varianta aceasta pentru a opri la Targul Jiu sa vedem sculpturile lui Brancusi. Prima surpriza neplacuta am avut-o cand am vazut ca mergeam spre Parcul lui Brancusi dar am trecut frumos pe langa Coloana Infinitului. Coloana e in alt parc in partea opusa a orasului fata de Poarta Sarutului si Masa Tacerii. Odata ajunsi in parc, vazut si pozat Poarta Sarutului si Masa Tacerii , am plecat in maxim jumatate de ora. Pot sa zic ca nu merita drumul pana acolo si sculpturile in sine sunt foarte….. neatractive si anoste. Operele lui Brancusi nu sunt scoase in evidenta si singurele informatii ca ar fi ale lui Brancusi sunt pe un mic panou portabil pus langa, stiti voi genul ala pe care se scrie meniul zilei la terase. Autoritatile Romane poate ar trebui sa faca o vizita la atelierul-muzeu din Paris al lui Brancusi ca sa isi faca o idee despre cum omagiezi o asemenea valoare.

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Mergem mai departe la Orsova si Cazanele Dunarii. Orsova este unul din cele mai dragute orasele care le-am vazut pe la noi , pe faleza care se intinde la tot orasul este o placere sa te plimbi Continue reading

Budapesta excursie cu masina

[Read this article in English HERE]

Daca tot am vrut sa evitam tigania de la ziua Marinei de acasa am zis sa plecam in weekendul prelungit, cateva zile la Budapesta. Ca orice idee buna , trip-ul asta ne-a venit in cap la o bauta in Vama Veche. Zis si facut , Sambata la 5 dimineata eram in masina 2 cupluri in drum spre granita cu Ungaria. De la Constanta la Budapesta sunt cam 1050 kilometri , dintre care doar 218 km sunt pe drumuri nationale si nu pe autostrada , respectiv Valea Oltului  intre Pitesti si intrare Sibiu , si bucata lipsa A1 intre Deva si Faget – Dumbrava. Teoretic ar trebui sa faci acest drum in 11 ore , in practica traim in Romania si e jaleeee mare de tot. Va recomand multa rabdare si sange rece , pe Valea Oltului am pierdut pe putin 3 ore in trafic bara la bara blocati intre tiruri autocare si un sir infinit de masini pe ambele sensuri , aducand timpul traseului la 15 ore. Odata ce treci de centura Bucurestiului si de Valea Oltului si ai ajuns la autostrada de la Sibiu se merge foarte bine , noua autostrada continua si la granita de la Nadlac si la Budapesta. Noul punct de trecere de pe austrada la Nadlac are destule benzi si se merge ca la drive-in , doar prezinti buletinul din masina si mergi mai departe. Imediat dupa granita la prima parcare de pe autostrada M43 , se opreste si se cumpara rovinieta. Pe 10 zile costa 2975 Forinti (10 EUR) si daca o cumperi de pe internet o platesti la pretul acesta , daca o cumperi de la ghiseul din parcare vei da 14 EUR , dupa cum am descoperit si noi. Drumurile si autostrada in Ungaria sunt impecabile , nu iti rupi masina la podete si viaducte ca pe Autostrada Soarelui A2 , si se circula foarte civilizat pe banda 1 , banda 2 fiind folosita pe intervale scurte doar cand depasesti un autovehicul mai incet de pe banda 1. Banda 2 nu este ocupata in permanenta de smecheri si cand te afli pe ea nu o sa iti vina nimeni in spate sa iti dea flashuri , claxoane , ci vor astepta calmi pana iti termini depasirea si revii pe banda 1 sau in cel mai rau caz isi activeaza semnalizarea pe stanga ca sa te atentioneze ca tii banda ocupata. GPS-ul a fost sfant si de data asta , mai ales in oras.

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Macel spatiu verde Constanta

Spatiu verde si haosul urbanistic cu care se confrunta Constanta este o problema serioasa, am ajuns unul din orasele cu cei mai putini metri patrati de spatiu verde pe cap locuitor din Europa. S-a ajuns aici in timp si cauza principala sunt constructiile abuzive autorizate pe spatiile verzi ale orasului.

O simpla cautare pe aplicand filtrul “doar locuinte noi” si excluzand mansardele, va da rezultate surprinzatoare in cartierele vechi de blocuri comuniste. Cu ajutorul imaginilor istorice din Google Earth, care acopera Constanta la rezolutie mare din 2005, se poate vedea clar ce a aparut in ultimii 11 ani pe spatiile verzi si din pacate lista este mare.  Daca marcam aceste constructii abuzive pe harta cu puncte rosii observam ca desi sunt prezente in tot orasul, majoritatea sunt concentrate in zona de Nord in apropierea statiunii Mamaia. Dezvoltatorii au adus statiunea in oras, aglomerand si mai mult o zona deja foarte aglomerata,  majoritatea imobilelor noi fiind hotele sau blocuri rezidentiale a caror apartamente sunt inchiriate de noii propietari in regim hotelier pe timpul verii. (lista detaliata dedesubt)


Mentionez de pe acum ca nu am nimic cu cei ce au cumparat propietati sau locuiesc in vreunul din imobilele de mai jos, clientul doar a profitat de oferta si nu are nici o vina pentru ce face Continue reading

Vacanta Praga


Praga , un oras unde mi-am dorit de mult sa ajung. Ma uitam pe pozele altora si mi se parea unul din cele mai frumoase locuri din lume, acum ca am vazut pot sa zic cu mana pe inima ca asa e. Orasul ofera peisaje superbe , arhitectura si piete grozave , o bere de nota 10 si baruri in care se fumeaza, si toate acestea la preturi aproape identice cu cele din Romania.

Din Romania nu exista zbor low cost direct catre Praga, dar biletul la Czech Airlines nu este prea scump, respectiv 150 de EUR de persoana luat cu o luna inainte , iar hotelul de 3 stele luat prin TUI ne-a costat doar 121 EUR pentru 7 nopti si pe langa faptul ca a fost foarte decent avea si micul dejun inclus in pret.

De la aeroportul Václav Havel spre centrul orasului Praga se ia autobuzul AE (Airport Express), cursa dureaza cam 40 de minute si biletul il cumparati direct din aeroport si costa 60 de coroane cehe (CZK) adica 10 RON de persoana. Ar fi bine sa veniti cu putina valuta Ceha din tara ca sa puteti cumpara biletul, pentru a evita casele de schimb valutar din aeroport.  Veti cobori la gara centrala “Praha hlavní nádraží” , care este un complex urias supra si subteran, unde aveti acces la autobuze , metrou , trenurile S si mai ales la tramvaie. Spun mai ales tramvaie pentru ca acestea sunt principalul si cel mai usor mod de transport  in oras. Toata capitala este impanzita de linii de tramvai , si acestea vin cam din 3 din 3 minute , au statii dese si benzi dedicate, si cam jumatate din ele sunt de ultima generatie fabricate in tara de Skoda. Bilete pentru tramvaie se gasesc la orice chiosc de tigari sau alimentara si sunt impartite in functie de durata de timp. Un bilet de 30 de minute costa 24 CZK (4 Lei), iar unul pe 24 de ore costa 110 CZK (18 Lei) si poate fi folosit din momentul validarii pe orice linie si de cate ori vreti pana la momentul expirarii.

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After six years at sea

[Citeste acest articol in limba Romana AICI]

After six years at sea all I got is a lot of white hairs, a car, a plot of land, a few good and plenty bad memories. I dedicate this article to all young people who are thinking of going to work and live on the high seas in life.
I made my first voyage in 2010 during my last year at the naval academy and I was among the lucky few who began their cadet program during the academy… . Now that I think about it, I was among the lucky few who caught a cadet contract at all.

I was glad when I left, it was my first real adventure in life, the first time I was leaving home for such a long period, the first time I went to America and on my plane ticket was written Los Angeles. Los Angeles I didn’t get to see that time ,  I only saw the highway from the airport to the boat. The enthusiasm vanished in less than a week, when I realized that I would spend the next six months sleeping in a narrow bed in a narrow cabin, on a ship with a narrow deck, where everybody abuses you, where you work absolutely every day and where everyone only cares about their own skin.

[Read more after photos]

Just another normal sleepless night at work

Catching up with family in a free minute

I chose this career mainly to get to see the world rather than for money, but I soon I realized that you see the world only through airports, or when you are woken in the middle of the night to assist with the ship’s docking maneuvers, or you can see it in your only 6 hours break time if you sacrifice your sleep hours and if your legs are still able to support you. Port views are usually limited to a large container yard, often far away from any settlement, usually a 25 $ taxi ride away from the city. There are exceptions of course, ports like Hong Kong or Singapore, where the port is practically downtown. Or you can stay one month in a shipyard, or sit idle with your engine broken down somewhere nice. Sometimes when you sign on or off from the ship you’re lucky enough to catch a few nights at a hotel, then you can really get to see and enjoy the city, but due to economic reasons this happens rare. It happens sometimes to catch a long stay in some ports, where the cargo operations are very slow due to the management, but this is usually the case in third world countries, where you don’t want to stay long, and you definitely don’t want to go the city.

Honk Kong entrance

In these years I have learned, usually the hard way, that there is no justice on the ship, no matter how many rights and goodwill you have, you will still bite the dust. To survive here and climb above others have you have to step on their heads and be like a snake. And I realized that in an isolated environment if you give the power to a mentally deranged individual who had a bad childhood, he will start acting like the master of a slave plantation and will fuck everybody, and there will be no one around to keep him under control.

But this isolated environment also creates good things: you will make tight bonds and friends that in an office environment would never happen. Apparently if you spend a few months, day and night in a small confined space with the same few people, you either become very good friends with them, or you will find a thousand ways to kill them in their sleep and throw the body in the ocean at night without being seen by anyone. If you’re not a racist you will probably become one, because most people on board are. This starts also from the shipping and crewing companies who assign ranks and set the length and wages of  your contract based on your nationality.

There is no more honor in this business, virtually all your life you will be a mercenary of the sea, in search of better conditions and pay. Before, each country had it’s own merchant fleet, manned with national crew. Nowadays you will find yourself celebrating New Year somewhere in West Africa, among pirates, in the company of barbed wire, surrounded by Russians and Filipinos, on a German ship sailing under the Liberian flag. Isn’t globalization beautiful?

nationality doesn’t matter, on board we’re all in the shit

after years at sea nationality doesn’t matter, on board we’re all in the shit

And than there is the other life: the life ashore. Your time home between voyages, which may be shorter or longer, is not just a vacation, it’s basically your old life since before you started sailing, life that you are trying desperately to cling on to, but with each voyage it becomes more distant and unimportant to you. After 6 months on the high seas, you land in your country for 2-3 months and you simply do not understand what is going on around you. You missed your mother’s birthday, you missed the wedding of your best friend, you missed the latest movies … you missed a lot. And by the time you clear your head and start to adapt somewhat in society, your phone rings and you have to pack up and leave again.

Now imagine what it’s like to start a serious relationship in these conditions. Unless you’ve had your wedding in your early 20’s, or you are in a good consolidated relation with your high school sweetheart, you realize how damn hard it is to start and especially  maintain such a relationship. Be prepared to face situations like: you just finished a contract and come back home to find that your girlfriend is pregnant and already moved in with another dude. But the good thing is that because of these situations you will have a stronger character and you cope more easily and more prepared in future years. And more importantly you will know how to select and value those who remained beside you during hard times.

Years of  continuous non-interrupted daily work with many hours, little and random sleep time, eating food of doubtful quality,  extreme swings of temperature, years of living in a vibrating and rolling environment where your time zones shifts daily,  where the only available comfort you find in alcohol and tobacco and where coffee in large quantities is your best friend, will have an impact on your body. If you managed to escape serious physical injuries and accidents, you can be sure that you will pay in other ways. Those many white hairs that appeared on your head are just the surface syndrome.

[Read more after photos]

There is also the good part that everyone is thinking about: the money! If you sit isolated on a floating prison, means that you do not really have on what to spend the money you earn and you will put them aside. If you got some brains in your head and at the end of the contract you don’t not spend them all in one shot on a BMW,  after a few contracts on the sea you can actually think about buying an apartment, a piece of land, or a house with cash down. So while your friends are struggling with credits at the bank for the next 30 years, you have a chance to avoid this. But as I said earlier, you will pay in other ways, whether it’s with your time, your health or happiness. It is the price worth it? … . That is for You to decide!

Perhaps I am being subjective here, and on other ships, at other companies, the life on board is better. I write to you sharing my experience on container ships, deck department. But one thing is certain: nobody will give you back the time spent at sea.

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Check out other expat lifestyle articles:  Expat beginner’s guide to moving to France , First 48 days as expat in France ,  After six years at sea

Check out other trips: First 48 days in Marseille FranceRomania road trip across the country in 7 days , Budapest Hungary road tripPrague – dream vacationExcursion Dobrogea: Enisala, Ibida, HistriaVacation Madrid SpainTwo days in Jacksonville USAParalia – Greece road tripBrasov 12.2014Buzau quick stopLepsa & Vrancea countyChisinau city breakNessebar BulgariaBucharest weekends 2014 , Busan Korea40 days in Cluj NapocaHunedoara CastleSingapore 2013Brasov 02.2014 , Istanbul 01.2014 , Cluj Napoca 08.2013 , Sibiu 07.2013San Pedro-Ivory Coast , Bucharest 2013 , Varna 2012 , Los Angeles 2012 , Budapest & Viena trip , Salerno Italy , Cluj Napoca 2012 , Florence Italy , Brasov 02.2012 , Amsterdam , Antofagasta-Chile, Valencia Spain , Lima-Peru , Bremen Germany , Istanbul 2009 , Valletta Malta , San Juan-Puerto Rico , Barcelona Spain , Singapore 2010 , Los Angeles 2010 , Transilvania road trip , La Spezia , Bosphorus by ship , Sydney , Melbourne Australia , Auckland New ZealandSan Francisco USATauranga NZ

Alternative tourism: Detroit , Georgia , Burning gate of Turkmenistan , North Korea , Pripyat & the alienation zone   , Nouadhibou graveyard

How the other half lives :  KarachiGuayaquil  , Lagos