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.

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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

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 piece of land, a few good and plenty bad memories. I dedicate this article to all young people who are thinking of going 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 cadets program during the academy… .If 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 boat with a narrow deck where everybody abuses you, where you work absolutely every day and where everyone only cares about their own skin.

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Just another normal sleepless night at work

Catching up with family in a free minute

I chose this career more 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 maneuver, or you can see it in your only 6 hours break time if you sacrifice your hours of sleep and if your legs are still able to stand. Port views are usually limited to a large container yard, often far away, usually a 25 $ taxi ride away from the city. There are exceptions of course, 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 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 boat, 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 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 not happen. Apparently if you spend a few months, day and night in a small 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

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 you stayed beside you during hard times.

Years of  continuous non-interrupted daily work with many hours, sleeping erratically, 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, 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.

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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 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 rates 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, other companies the life on board is better, I write to you from my experience on container ships, deck department. But one thing is common to all: nobody will give you back the time spent at sea.

If you enjoyed this article check also my Fb GarciaCalavera.ro  , where you can subscribe by Like-ing it.

Check also other articles from Romania: Cursuri IMO 2016 sau jefuirea navigatorilor Vizita medicala obligatorie – o surpriza placuta ,  Legea fumatului in Romania – greseala majora , Propaganda ridicola a Constantei , RATC Constanta- o mare rusine a orasului , Cu masina la service ,  ANR – SSO Endorsement ;  Trenuletul din parcul Tabacarie , Abuzul Vodafone ,  Mafia Navigatorilor ;Brevet ofiter punte 2011- cat a ajuns toata afacerea;  Legi locale , Taxi Constanta , Birocratia 2 , Black Friday , Policlinica 2 , ANR Bucuresti Bancile in RO , Let’s do it Romania -But why? , Rovinieta in oras Inmatriculare auto , Aviz psihologic , Proiecte abandonate dupa ’89 de incompetenti   , Sea service cadet , Joburile in RO , TVA-ul

Madrid Spain Review

[Pentru a citi acest articol in Limba Romana click AICI]

Although I had the opportunity to see Spain during my voyages, I always wanted a holiday in this wonderful country so I can trully enjoy it. The small escapades and stays through Barcelona and Valencia were beautiful but too short, so between courses I managed to escape with my girlfriend nine days in the Spanish capital, Madrid. I flew with Wizzair from Bucharest, and the tikets bought a month before costed 100 Euro per person. You will not have problems with Wizzair as long as you respect the limits and conditions stated on their website, especially when it comes to hand luggage allowed on the flight.

We landed late in the country and met our hosts there, which whom I wish to thank you so much for your hospitality, and we went straight to sleep. In the morning we woke up to a beautiful view of  Torrejon de Ardoz suburbia, which is a new neighborhood near Madrid, a quiet neighborhood, planned and executed properly, full of green spaces and parks where it was a pleasure to take a walk. [Read more after photos]

Although the suburb is about 30 kilometers from Madrid, you can easily reach the city using a very good transportation system that consists of suburban trains. The state run train company called Renfe , have a frequency of 15-20 minutes and looks flawless, even the older trains. And in the central areas the trains go underground and cross the whole town, very similar to the RER in Paris. Ticket prices vary depending on how many zones you cross, in our case a ticket costs 2.6 euros per trip, but there are cards with 10 or more trips, that make traveling more advantageous. We got off the train at Atocha station , a huge station, which is the city’s main railway hub with links to all Renfe lines, to the metro and also to the main train station were the AVE high-speed trains to other cities in Spain stop. Basically everything related to public transport looks flawless in Madrid. Mostly it’s all largely new, and is well maintained. [Read more after photos]

From here there is only one more stop to Puerta del Sol, the main tourist square in the historic city center. This square surrounded by old buildings is always full of tourists from all over the world, entertainers and street performers and from here you can walk to all the downtown attractions. We took the pedestrian street of Calle Arenal, where there are many shops with souvenirs, clothes, sweets and especially sausage shops where there are exposed proudly many types of Iberian Jamon. Spaniards have developed a passionate obsession for this slightly smoked meat that is sliced ​​for you directly from the pulp of a whole pig. on This Jamon is quite expensive , but it’s quite good also …. and when I say expensive I mean an indicative price of 100 euros per kilogram. [Read more after photos]

 

Continuing our journey, we arrive at Opera Square following the route and on to the great Royal Palace. The palace is really impressive and serves today as the residence for the royal family of Spain. Near the palace is the great and grand cathedral “de la Almudena”, where the royal family ceremonies take place. This Cathedral which is the largest in Madrid, you can visit for free, but to climb to the dome terrace you will pay a fee of 5 euros. To visit the royal palace nearby the fee is 11 Euro. Also in the area you will find Plaza Mayor, which is a huge pedestrian space enclosed on all 4 sides of a historic buildings, full of cafes and restaurants. My recommendation is to walk along the many narrow streets paralel to the main attractions , which are not only less traveled places  but offer superb views, that normally only locals enjoy. [Read more after photos]

 

The next day we went to the central station Atocha and on to Retiro Park. The main and most famous park of Madrid is simply huge, includes two lakes, a botanical garden, outdoor theater and two art galleries. Here you will find the Palacio de Cristal, which is a small palace made almost entirely of glass, and hosts exhibits (actually hung) bones of all age and sizes. A little further is the second lake, where the monument to Alfonso watchers over. [Read more after photos]

Leaving the park behind , we pass the Puerta de Alcala and glampse the Post Office palace called Palacio de Cibeles, an impressive structure that now houses the City Hall of Madrid. Immediately nextto it starts the Gran Via, where you can admire some of the most beautiful buildings in the “new”, structures from the golden age of imperial Madrid. Here we found many restaurants specializing in seafood and other goodies. A menu can be found here for as low as 15 euros if you search a little. The whole downtown area is filled with underground parking, pedestrian plazas, bicycle paths and the sidewalk here it is holy and usually much wider than roadways. Authorities discourages driving and coming here with your car, and the results are visible. Honestly I do not see why you would do that, given that you have a Metro or a Renfe  station next to you almost everywhere. [Read more after photos]

The day after we dedicated to visiting Santiago Bernabeu stadium. The Spanish turned the house of Real Madrid club into a true international attraction. The tour cost 19 Euro per person but it’s worth it, you get to see everything including all the backstage areas. I admit it’s damn good to sit on the coaches bench near the play field. The Club’s history and achievements are presented in an interactive tour and the galleries which host countless trophies are impressive. A must see for any football fan. [Read more after photos]

The stadium is located in the newest part of town, near the financial center. Going forward we reach the Puerta del Europe. Here you will find two of the most tilted towers in the world, an impressive engineering achievement from any point of view. It would have been nice though to let you go up in one of the two towers but unfortunately are both towers are intended exclusively for commercial use. Right next door is the Cuatro Torres Business Area, a set of four of skyscrapers  that are the tallest buildings on the Iberian peninsula. Although the financial center of Madrid can not compete La Défense in Paris or The City of London it’s still a must see for modern architecture fans. [Read more after photos]

The next two days we were lucky that our hosts had free from work and we all went to check out some medieval tourist towns near the capital. We started with Toledo, a medieval town located 60 kilometers from Madrid , which is simply superb. If you think Sighisoara is beautiful, you really need to see what’s there.  The well preserved city on the hill is included in Unesco heritage, and it is most known for the fact that here started the reconquest of the peninsula by the Christians kings from the Muslims Moors , more than a thousand years ago. The Catholic Cathedral of Toledo combines gothic elements with is Arab elements and it is a delight for the eyes. [Read more after photos]

The next day we went in the opposite direction from Madrid, to Manzanares el Real Castle, one of the many medieval restored castles , which is about the size of Bran castle. From here we went to the winter resort of Navacerrada, but unfortunately the snow was missing completely, being replaced only by the cold and thick fog, so we continued on to the beautiful Segovia. Like Toledo, Segovia is part of Unesco and is a city developed by the Romans. The tall aqueduct built by them still watches over the city and today is one of the main attractions, as well as the Catholic cathedral built later during the Christian reconquest of the peninsula. I must admit that these medieval cities were my favorite part of the holiday and I can only imagine how it would look if our castles and medieval cities in Romania were properly restored. Here almost everywhere in the medieval cities, the car traffic is severely restricted or banned. Tourists who choose to come by car leave their car outside the city walls, or in one of underground parking under the city.[Read more after photos]

Likewise, in Madrid, it seems that the real achievements of the city are those that are not seen: everywhere near the main sights, the car traffic and parking spaces were moved underground without any problem. Besides the city river embankment, all car traffic that used to run along parallel to the river, was buried under the river with great effort, resulting in some large open spaces, meant for pedestrians, more details here.  No negative remarks regarding the countries  motorways either. Spain, which in the 90s was not too far from Romania, has today the most kilometers of motorway in Europe, most of them built on EU money, and most of them intersect in Madrid. The GPS was holy here. [Read more after photos]

On the last day we visited the amusement park “Parque de Atracciones de Madrid”, though it was not all open due to the season, and although it was raining that day , it still attracted quite a few customers. Here we found some of the coolest roller coasters, but the park has also attractions for the whole family and for all ages. I also recommend going to a Flamenco show, prices are quite steep but it’s worth every Euro for the performance. [Read more after photos]

In conclusion, Spain is a very beautiful country, where the people don’t seem to be bothered that there is a financial crisis and other stuff and rather prefer to keep going with their way of life and work, with their afternoon siesta breaks. They didn’t build or creat something amazing but simply did what it was supposed to be done and in the proper time , and they done a darn good job also. Well worth the trip.

Hope you enjoyed this article , and you can check out another travel article below.  Also check out my Fb page GarciaCalavera.ro and give a Like there if you like what you see.

Check out other trips : Doua zile in Jacksonville USAParalia – Grecia cu masinaBrasov 12.2014Buzau quick stopLepsa & Vrancea countyChisinauNesebarBucharest weekends 2014 , Busan40 de zile in Cluj NapocaHunedoara CastleSingapore 2013Brasov 02.2014 , Istanbul 01.2014 , Cluj Napoca 08.2013 , Sibiu 07.2013San Pedro , Bucharest 2013 , Varna 2012 , Los Angeles 2012 , Budapest & Viena , Salerno , Cluj Napoca 2012 , Firenze , Brasov 02.2012 , Amsterdam , Antofagasta , Valencia , Lima , Bremen , Istanbul 2009 , Valletta , San Juan , Barcelona , Singapore 2010 , Los Angeles 2010 , Transilvania road trip , La Spezia , Bosphor by ship , Sydney , Melbourne , AucklandSan FranciscoTauranga

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

Cum traieste cealalta jumatate / How the other half lives :  KarachiGuayaquil  , Lagos