khar_muur: (Default)
Cisphobia is not a thing. Heterophobia is not a thing.

An individual may be suspicious, wary or prejudiced against people they perceive or know to be cis / straight.

But to call that -phobia is to equate them with the very real and potentially lethal transphobia and homophobia, both of which are forms of systematic oppression, something a single individual does not—cannot—do when it is against the status quo.

If you're being treated with needless hostility just because you're perceived as cis / straight, you're being treated with needless hostility. You're not being oppressed.
khar_muur: (the eye of sauron)
Today I made kind of a promise to step up my sleeping game and start going to bed earlier. It would preferably mean the two of us both try our best to be in bed by midnight or 0:30 at the latest, but I'm determined to make this change all by myself if it comes down to it. It's time to make some sense of my life.

So. If you're reading this, please don't tempt me to stay up late. I may show some activity on social media at strange hours regardless of any effort or promise I make, because my ability to fall asleep is lacking, and I don't need or want babysitting, but I ask my friends and lovers to please excuse me if I head to bed earlier. So much of my well-being has to do with how I sleep.

Business

Mar. 6th, 2015 09:51 am
khar_muur: (Default)
Met with entrepreneurs this morning (at an ungodly hour). They form a network of businesses called BNI, and the point is to get referred to and by other businesses to get new customers. It's not super exclusive and not a secret society, just an extension of existing contacts without the burden of immediate competition, as no companies there are in the same line. There's no catch other than a paid membership.

Each visitor was given a little time to introduce themselves and their business, and I completely fucked up mine. Ended up stammering something vague and freezing up, which is quite rare for me nowadays. I blame the hour—I had to get up at six. I was disappointed with myself, but people were very nice and not judgmental at all, and I got to mingle a little and was asked to meet up for potential cooperative projects, scheduled appointment and all. Went better than I expected on that part. I might even get to work if I'm very lucky.

My future as a photographer seems brighter today. I can't join the network, because of course their subscription is too costly (far less so than I thought, though, and for a small-to-medium-sized company it's pretty much peanuts) since I barely make any money right now, but a great big bunch of people got my card, and a lot of people said they need a photographer, and I'm allowed one more visit there with no strings attached. Next time I'll bring more cards, a pen, and a properly prepared, well-rested brain.
khar_muur: (the eye of sauron)
I need help! I'm doing the Reading Challenge and have some trouble finding all the required books.

Things I'm missing are:
- A book written by someone under 30 (no, I will *not* read anything by Christopher Paolini, thanks)
- A book with nonhuman characters (I've read The Animal Farm and Watership Down, and something like 8 Redwall books)
- A memoir (recommend a good one, please)
- A book with bad reviews (no, I will *not* read the Twilight books)
- A book with a love triangle (see above)
- A book set in high school (again, see above; I'd prefer this without awkward romances altogether)
- A book written by an author with your same initials (that's A.K. then)
khar_muur: (the eye of sauron)
Teacher, translator, philosopher, assistant, professor, industrial designer, specialist painter, graphic designer, photographer, art director, copywriter, artist, communications coordinator, architect, landscape architect, digital media project manager, editor, driver, locksmith, watchmaker, masseuse, archivist, sound engineer, foley artist, drafter, sculptor...
khar_muur: (black unicorn)
Myönnän heti alkuun, etten noudata kirjoituksellani mitään tieteen tekemisen metodia saati perusta tekstiä selkeästi määriteltäviin teorioihin. Väitän silti, että pystyn pätevästi ottamaan kantaa sukupuoleen, sen määrittelyyn ja määrittelyn seurauksiin, tarkoituksenani perustella ihmisen oikeutta itsemäärittelyyn ja identiteetin riippumattomuuteen. Viittaan tekstissä sekä tieteellisiin että anekdotaalisiin tietoihin. Ensisijaisesti tämä teksti edustaa omia mielipiteitäni ja on luettava juuri siitä näkökulmasta. Mikäli joku tekstiä lukeva haluaa tarkentaa tai korjata jotain, tarkastelen mielelläni päteviä lähteitä käsittelemistäni asioista ja pyrin korjaamaan tietojani todisteiden perusteella, puolsivat ne tähänastista käsitystäni tai eivät.

Tarkastelen tässä muutamia sukupuoleen liittyviä ilmaisuja, jotka ovat havaintojeni mukaan yleisessä tai spesifisessä käytössä kulttuuriympäristössämme. Klikkaa. )
khar_muur: (khar_muur07)
1. Mitä sellaista teit vuonna 2013, mitä et ollut tehnyt koskaan aiemmin?
// Kävin Valko-Venäjällä, Ukrainassa, Romaniassa ja Moldovassa. Suunnittelin julisteita.

2. Piditkö uudenvuodenlupauksesi ja teetkö enemmän ensi vuodelle?
// En harrasta. En yleensä puhu tavoitteistani, jos epäilen, että niitä on vaikea saavuttaa.

3. Synnyttikö kukaan läheisesi?
// Yksi kaveri.

4. Kuoliko kukaan läheisesi?
// Isoäitini.

5. Missä maissa kävit?
// Viro, Latvia, Liettua, Valko-Venäjä, Ukraina, Romania, Moldova, Puola, Ruotsi, Saksa.

6. Mitä sellaista haluaisit vuonna 2014, jota puuttui vuodesta 2013?
// Sama vastaus kuin viimeksi: säännöllisiä palkkatöitä.

7. Mitkä vuoden 2013 päivämäärät tulet aina muistamaan ja miksi?
// Muistini ei toimi näin.

8. Mikä oli suurin saavutuksesi tänä vuonna?
// En koe saavuttaneeni mitään suurta. Pieniä saavutuksia tuli koettua treenin myötä. Sain myös raahattua itseni autokouluun ja se on mennyt hyvin, ehkä se lasketaan, vaikkei ole vielä kokonaan ohi.

9. Mikä oli suurin epäonnistumisesi?
// Työttömyys.

10. Kärsitkö sairauksista tai vammoista?
// Flunssa, norovirus ja migreeni. Aika keskivertoa.

11. Mikä oli paras asia, jonka ostit?
// Dante ja Faust <3

12. Kenen käytös herätti hilpeyttä?
// Kissojen, kumppanien, perheen, ystävien, joidenkin julkisuuden henkilöiden.

13. Kenen käytös masensi?
// Omani, useimpien poliittisten päättäjien ja muiden valta-asemaansa (väärin)käyttävien, ja muutaman muun.

14. Mihin käytit suurimman osan rahoistasi?
// Matkustamiseen, kissojen tarvikkeisiin ja kirjoihin.

15. Mistä olit oikein, oikein, oikein innoissasi?
// Kulttuurielämyksistä, joistain peleistä (AC4 ja Baldur's Gate:EE muun muassa)

16. Mikä laulu / levy tulee aina muistuttamaan sinua vuodesta 2013?
// Imagine Dragons: Demons

17. Viime vuoteen verrattuna, oletko:
a) onnellisempi vai surullisempi?
// Vaikea kysymys.

b) laihempi vai lihavampi?
// Enemmän massaa, mutta varmaankin alhaisempi rasvaprosentti.

c) rikkaampi vai köyhempi?
// Aika samoissa lukemissa, ehkä vielä viime vuottakin köyhempi. Avokki elättää >_<

18. Mitä toivoisit tehneesi enemmän?
// Vielä enemmän treeniä ja ulkoilua. Meditoineeni säännöllisemmin. Etsineeni vielä ahkerammin töitä.

19. Mitä toivoisit tehneesi vähemmän?
// Stressanneeni edelleen turhista, angstanneeni ja jumittaneeni.

20. Kuinka vietit joulua?
// Kiteellä äidin, isän, siskon ja avokin kanssa.

22. Rakastuitko vuonna 2013?
// Luultavasti en. (Älkääs nyt, ei se ole niin yksinkertaista!)

23. Kuinka monta yhdenyön juttua?
// Nolla. Monen yön juttuja sen sijaan joitain.

24. Mikä oli suosikki-tv-ohjelmasi?
// QI edelleen. Ja joo, Laeppavian videoita ei lasketa tv-ohjelmiksi, mutta sanon silti, että Laeppavika.

25. Vihaatko nyt ketään, jota et vihannut viime vuonna tähän aikaan?
// En jaksa vihata.

26. Mikä oli paras lukemasi kirja?
// En tainnut lukea loppuun kuin muutaman, aloitin kyllä varmaan kymmeniä. Pratchettin Snuff oli hyvä.

27. Mikä oli suurin musiikillinen löytösi?
// Ei mitään mullistavaa. Týr, Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, jossain määrin myös Die Antwoord.

28. Mitä halusit ja sait?
// Pussailla kivoja tyyppejä, larpata ja käydä ydinohjustukikohdassa.

29. Mitä halusit muttet saanut?
// Edelleen omakotitalon. Ja töitä.

30. Mikä oli suosikkileffasi tänä vuonna?
// 2013 ilmestyneistä, siis? Rush (2013) tai Yi dai zong shi (2013). Los amantes pasajeros (2013) oli myös mainio.

31. Mitä teit syntymäpäivänäsi ja kuinka vanha olit?
// 26-vee. En muistaakseni paljon mitään.

32. Mikä yksi asia olisi tehnyt vuodestasi mittaamattomasti tyydyttävämmän?
// Työ, tai oppisopimuskoulutuspaikka.

33. Kuinka kuvailisit henkilökohtaista pukeutumiskonseptiasi vuonna 2012?
// "Onko TÄMÄKIN paita/takki liian ahdas hartioista?"

34. Mikä piti sinut järjissäsi?
// Ystävien tuki, oma härkäpäisyys, lääkitys.

35. Mikä oli vuoden 2013 paras peli?
// Assassin's Creed 4

36. Mikä poliittinen asia herätti eniten mielenkiintoasi?
// Venäjän ihmisoikeusrikkomukset, kansalaisaloitteiden käsittely, aktivismi ja siitä uutisointi, eläinoikeudet, paavin poliittiset kannanotot, ympäristöpoliittinen apatia, tekijänoikeudet ja freelancerien asema työelämässä.

37. Ketä ikävöit?
// En ketään.

38. Kuka oli paras tapaamasi uusi ihminen?
// Monet queer-tyypit!

39. Kerro arvokas elämänohje, jonka opit vuonna 2013?
// Opin viime vuoden joulukuussa, että sukupuoli on himmeli. Olen vakuuttunut siitä, että seksuaalisuus on myös himmeli. Joten: seksuaalisuus on himmeli.

40. Mitkä ovat suunnitelmasi vuodelle 2014?
// Keikkatöitä, työnhakua, teatteria, treeniä, ihmisiä.

Baritone

Oct. 26th, 2013 06:06 pm
khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

Sometimes when I speak I notice how woman-identified people start listening to me and not each other even if I wasn't part of their conversation and was talking to someone else. Sometimes, when that happens, I find I feel a little too good about it. And then, guilty.

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)
Yup, took Berlin roughly from behind. Such a gigantic, wonderful, multi-faceted city would really need more than a measly five days of attention, but one does one's best. Rainbow flags and gay/queer hangouts were abundant, and the streets were filled with people of various cultural and ethnical backgrounds, and more vegan eateries than we were able to explore.

Also, I don't know if I've ever taken a trip to Germany without catching a cold, or worse, and so I'm ill again. Lacking energy as it is, I really didn't need this shit right now that there's so much fighting to do. Compiling a To Do as I write, so I'll know the things won't bite me in the arse (like they would if forgotten or neglected). And while we're on the arse-biting business: bureaucracy, social security, the bank, everything even remotely money-related fails and collapses on me. Despite having fought exactly the same battles for my entire adult life, it seems like I'm not getting any better at it, and I've a hard time adjusting to the thought.

Does anyone know of any scientifically-proven actually helpful things one might do to boost one's immunity (against illnesses)? Besides getting a day job with plenty of human contact, and having good genes, for both of these I'd love but can't have; and besides eating plant-based, exercising regularly, and sleeping, all three of which I already do.
khar_muur: (mongolia_flag)
WHY THE CAMEL ROLLS IN THE ASHES

A great many years ago, the Buddha began assigning an animal to each of the years of the twelve-year Mongolian calendar. When he had finished assigning eleven animals, the Buddha paused to consider which animal should be allowed the twelfth and final year.

On hearing this, the Camel and the Mouse, neither of whom had been selected, rushed to see the Buddha. Bowing respectfully before the Great Sage, each presented himself as a worthy candidate. The Buddha listened in silence as each animal argued his case.

When the elaborate pleas came to an end, the Wise Buddha, not wishing to offend either of the eager and equally deserving animals, quietly told the Camel and the Mouse that they would have to resolve the matter themselves in a friendly and honest way.

The big Camel and the tiny Mouse, after much discussion and debate, finally agreed that they would settle the issue with a contest. The first to see the light of the new morning sun the very next day would be the winner, and the winner would enter the twelve-year Mongolian calendar for all time.

That night, in the darkness, in the middle of a wide, open plain, the Camel took up a position facing East. The Mouse, who had asked the Camel if he could sit on his hump, fixed his eyes on a faraway, snow-covered mountain to the West. Eyes propped wide open, the two anxious contestants settled down to wait for the critical moment.

At dawn, when the great fiery ball began its slow ascent, one thin early ray glanced off the snowy western mountaintop. The Mouse squealed out: "There it is! I see the sun! I win!"

"What?" cried the Camel, who knew that the sun rose in the East. "Why, you little sneak! You've cheated! You'll pay for this!"

As the terrified Mouse scurried down the Camel's hump to seek safety in a nearby pile of ashes, the Camel charged after him. He threw his heavy body on the ground, and rolled back and forth on the ash pile, hoping to crush the Mouse with his weight.

The Camel didn't squash the Mouse that time, but he's certain that one day he will. Whenever he spies a pile of ashes, he thinks the Mouse must be hiding inside. He snorts, stamps his feet, then lies down and rolls around and around, trying to flatten his tricky little foe.

So it happened that the little Mouse entered the twelve-year Mongolian calendar while the big Camel was excluded.

Feeling sorry for the Camel, the Wise Buddha told him gently that he would never be forgotten. No, in fact the Camel would be represented in the Mongolian calendar by possessing one feature of each of the twelve different animals.

If you look carefully at the Camel, you will see that the Buddha has kept his word, because the Camel has:

the ears of the Mouse
the stomach of the Cow
the paws of the Tiger
the nose of the Hare
the body of the Dragon
the eyes of the Snake
the mane of the Horse
the wool of the Sheep
the hump of the Ape
the head-crest of the Rooster
the crooked back-legs of the Dog
and the tail of the Pig.

This, as you can imagine, makes him a very happy Camel indeed.

happy-baby-mongolian-n-camel

From the Mongolian Folktales (1996)
khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

TOP 3 best (omni) restaurants

1. Khevron, Odessa, Ukraine
2. Café Pushkin, Bakhchisaray, Ukraine
3. Rustic, Baia Sprie, Romania.

TOP 3 worst border crossings
1. Lithuania – Belarus
2. Belarus – Ukraine
2. Ukraine – Romania

TOP 3 most English spoken
1. Lviv, Ukraine
2. Vilnius, Lithuania
3. Sighișoara, Romania

TOP 3 accommodations
1. Casa Olarului, Baia Sprie, Romania
2. Hunting House, Kujbyshevo, Ukraine
3. Hotel Telecom Guest, Vilnius, Lithuania

TOP 3 most impressive cities

1. Minsk, Belarus
2. Odessa, Ukraine
3. Lviv, Ukraine

TOP mammals
1. Cow
2. Dog
3. Horse
4. Goat
5. Chicken
6. Cat
7. Sheep

Bonus mammal:
+ Donkey

TOP birds
1. Pigeon
2. White Stork
3. Sparrow
4. Western Jackdaw
5. Barn Swallow
6. Rook
7. Hawk

Bonus bird:
+ Peafowl

Achievements unlocked
⭐ Drove through the Carpathian Mountains during thunderstorm
⭐ Swam in the Black Sea
⭐ Sat in the chair of a missile base command centre
⭐ Saw the elusive city of Minsk
⭐ Bribed a police officer in Ukraine
⭐ Climbed the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa
⭐ Saw a white stork in a nest on the roof of a house
⭐ Saw a flock of bats flying over us on a dark forest road in Transylvania
⭐ Visited a crypt in Transylvania

Cases of blatant animal suffering witnessed
😡 a man striking a horse hard with the blunt side of a pitchfork (Bonțida, Romania)
😡 multiple cases of tying horses' legs together (to prevent them from wandering away, one assumes) in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania; saw two horses hopping down a road with legs tied in Romania
😡 dozens of strays everywhere, the majority of them ill and/or malnourished
😡 dog strongman contest; the animals were made to pull very heavy loads, and kept alone in small cages inside cars. Judging by the picture in the event poster, the dogs are pumped with steroids. (Gmina Wasilków, Poland)

Things the border guards inquire after or search for

- girls, tasers (Ukrainian; Belarus to Ukraine)
- petrol (Polish; Ukraine to Poland)
- gifts for guards/Finlandia vodka (Ukrainian; Ukraine to Romania)

Craziest drivers:
Kiev (Ukraine)

Best roads:
Belarus and Poland

Most white storks:
Romania

Most Hesburgers:
Lithuania

Easiest hotel to find:
Vila Chesa, Romania

Most difficult hotel to find:
Vilari Guest House, Ukraine

Most horse carts:
Romania

Most strays:
Ukraine

Coolest museum:
Strategic Missile Forces museum, Pervomais'k, Ukraine

Most insane memorial:
Dzyarzhynskaya Hara, Minsk, Belarus

Best cemetery:
The cemetery of the Church on the Hill, Sighișoara, Romania

Best overall service:
Ukraine

Best starry sky:
Crimea, Ukraine

Greatest bird density:
Belarus

Lushest lands:
Middle Ukraine

Most epic memorial:
Батьківщина-Мати (Mother Motherland), Kiev, Ukraine

Most impressive church:
The Church of the Saviour at Berestove, Kiev Pechersk Lavra, Kiev, Ukraine

Highest temp 30°C (Polish-Ukrainian border, day)
Lowest temp 13°C (Kujbyshevo, night)

khar_muur: (Default)

The hotel yard has been turned into a flea market. I'm momentarily tempted by a modern German military jacket, but decide against it.

Driving. Crossing borders like they don't even exist. A borderline surreal radio program in Lithuanian, with sound effects and solemn, powerful voice acting.

Driving. Partially skies, lush fields, wonderfully boring roads. Crossing another border, shooting at the deserted station, gleefully defying the obsolete rule against photography. A BMW caught speeding equals schadenfreude. Finns on motorcycles. "Peintbols Pif Paf". Passing the dam, back on the Via Baltia. "Moses taps (tm)"

Driving. We're in a bit of a hurry now, it seems, if we're going to catch that boat back to Finland.

Driving. Thinking about the journey and what a great experience it was. Came up with a short list of places to see next time in Romania. (1. the Danube Delta
2. Brasov & surroundings)

Sailing. Food is so strangely expensive. People are strange and speak with tongues I know. This floating-bar part of the trip is such a nosedive to reality. So is the drive from Helsinki to Turku. It's beyond odd to watch the sun get up again at 1:30 AM.

So much to do now. Clothes to unpack. Car to clean up. Over a thousand pictures to go through. Seitan to eat. Cats to comb.

Well, I'm back.

khar_muur: (Default)

I love the smell of mould in the morning, especially when it's right at the level of my nose.

We tour the old Lviv on foot, merely scraping the surface of all the things this city has to offer. Flea markets, alleyways, churches, marketplaces, parks, palaces, museums, cobblestone, pavement, statues, monuments, townhouses, manors, old and new, from 18th century to 21st. Nearly everything about the city speaks more West than East to me, but with a twist that's completely unique. It's too bad we're constantly in a bit of a rush.

Crossing borders to Poland takes quite a while, apparently because at one point they completely forget about us and we have to go knocking after our passports to get going.

Poland is mostly what I remembered, and bears a striking resemblance to most of Ukraine. Fields, towns, fields, trees, fields. I leaf through the Polish part of a phrasebook and find the pronunciation actually mostly doable. Mostly.

Today seems to be the official get-hitched-day, since both in Lviv and in Poland we spot couples (with entourage) and cars decorated with pink ribbons and/or balloons.

Driving in Poland is surprisingly uneventful. Roads are in mint condition, straight, and traffic is low. I'd be bored if I wasn't thankful. It comes to mind that actually, with these roads and what most houses and other buildings look like, Poland is starting to look a lot like Germany, probably due to EU standardisation. S.O. says how this seems to be the EU's agenda—to make everywhere like Germany. And that sounds kind of familiar... Well, my only wish is that they never pass a directive limiting the appearance of bus stops.

The only hotels available in Bialystok, the originally planned cite of accommodation, are four and five stars and therefore far too expensive, so we booked a cheap hotel at Gmina Wasilków some ten kilometres north of there. Arriving at Nad Zwelem proves easily the single most surprising experience of today; there's a dog strongman—strongdog?—contest going on right here on the on the grounds (this facility serves both as a shabby hotel and a camping area). Dogs bark and people shout and cheer and laugh drunkenly. It's not exactly a nightmare, but something very close to one. Our room is silly-shaped and very big, and the bed springs have definitely seen their better days. The dog contest seems to know no end, the barking continues, and it's nearly midnight. Posting this tomorrow at dawn when we leave for Tallinn, because the Wi-fi only reaches the common areas and I'm dead tired.

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

We're almost done at the guesthouse, raring to go, when the ceramics artist's son offers to show us around the workshop. He's apprenticing for his father. And by gods the artist is skilled! Both the little and large figurines and statues and the vases, pitchers and oil lamps are impeccably crafted. There's even a self-portrait there. We indulge ourselves on his very affordable wares, then hit the road.

Up the hill we go, towards Sighetu Marmației and the Ukrainian border. The serpentine road is shaped like a cooked wheat noodle at the bottom of a soup bowl. By the road runs a lively stream, in which father decides to dive. We drive through some very pretty villages, and every now and then we spot a huge stork's nest on top of a pole, usually with one adult stork and at least two young 'uns. I've now seen more storks on this journey than I can count.

At Sighetu Marmației we visit the Memorialul Victimelor Comunismului și al Rezistenței, a communist-era prison turned into a large museum and a memorial for the victims of communist oppression. Small booklets are available in English, and we dash through the chilling hallways, and peek into the cells now displaying parts of the exhibition—apart from the two solitary confinement cells which are pitch-dark, in the middle lies a set of shackles, and there's nothing else.

We're in a bit of a hurry, because you never know how long it's gonna take at the border, and this time it does take quite a while. In the end, we get through. Immediately the road is full of holes and bumpy all over. It's just like in Carelia. Seeing a small bunhc of road repairspeople inspires a spontaneous cheer in both cars and we wonder if there's some kind of fund we might donate to. Feeling quite shaken, possibly a bit stirred. Wel-sodding-come to Ukraine.

The rough roads go on for what seems like forever. Hours upon hours of wobbling here and there is seriously getting on my nerves, and I can only imagine what it's like in the Toyota (father's, sister's and brother's vehicle), what with it being old, low-set and clunky. I must say I'll be surprised if all our precious ceramics survive this party. Finally joining the smoother M-06 feels like flying.

Western Ukraine gives off a slightly different vibe compared to the east side. Once the mountains are behind us, factories and other industrial buildings constantly dominate the skyline, but the landscape mostly consist of fields and petrol stations, just as before. There's more churches either newly finished or under construction. Lviv is supposedly more Central Europe than Kyiv, and the unofficial culture capital of Ukraine.

Arriving at Lviv at dusk, we're first greeted by very large and very ugly Soviet-inspired concrete apartment blocks. A bit further and closer to the centre the view slowly changes to include some more variety in architecture. Unmistakably a Central European city. The hostel is much crappier than expected, but it is of little consequence.

Once again, we sit at a restaurant at the end of the day, and have to wait for the food quite a while this time. When the dude at the next table lights up his third cigar, I call it a night and go to bed.

khar_muur: (Default)

We leave Târgu Mureș with slightly damp clothing (I think they forgot about our laundry at the hotel until this morning), heading towards Baia Mare via the following castles:

1. Kemény Castle, Jucu de Sus
2. Bánffy Castle, Bonțida
3. Kornis Castle, Manastirea

The winding road takes us through villages; some people are dressed traditionally, and a particular fashion seems to be a wide-brimmed hat, some kind of a suit, and a gigantic moustache. More sheep than before, and nearly as many horse carts as there are cars. In Râciu we drive past a strange little parade with schoolchildren, people of all sorts carrying large crosses, and the flags of Romania and EU. At nearly every crossroads is a small shrine-like construction, usually complete with a colourfully-painted crucifix.

Fields here aren't as lush as before, as the more fertile grounds are past us and also it's clear that the most powerful agricultural machines and tools aren't available here.

Those EU flags really are everywhere. Clearly displaying some serious EU pride here.

As a huge herd of long-haired goats nearly leap in front of our car, I realise I may have mistaken them for sheep earlier. Definitely seen sheep too, just probably fewer than I thought at first.

Kémeny turns out to be both small, boring and off-limits, but Bánffy of Bonțida is interesting. Its construction was started in the 1500's and finished two centuries later. After years of neglect, all the buildings are nearly ruins, but they're reconstructing it now—there's builders hanging around and about the place. There's much to do, but both what's left of the original and what they've already built is looking mighty fine.

Kornis Castle is nothing more than a ruin, but a particularly attractive one for one detail: the old gateway is guarded by two unicorn statues. Yes. Unicorns. With the horns made of steel and hence mostly intact. Next to the castle ruin is a neglected mansion, probably dating back to the mid-19th century, with two horses grazing on the yard. Tall pines, broken windows, caved-in roofs and tall columns all together give a slightly haunted feeling.

It starts raining when we get back on the road for Baia Mare. Passing a nasty-looking accident. The road's good, but it matters little if you're driving recklessly.

Our hotel, or guesthouse, for tonight is Casa Olarului, a potter's house, and as picturesque as they come. Father and I go scouting up the nearby hills, to find out about a curious-looking spot on the topographic map. It turns out to be pasture for the most part. The way up is incredibly beautiful, dashing through a thick forest of tall, slim, bamboo-like trees, on an old stone slate road. We run into some Italian tourists while up there, beyond a mine and a skiing centre. I'm further away taking pictures, but apparently they're quite the travelers—they've been to Finland, and to Turku, even.

The grande finale for tonight before bedtime is a restaurant called Rustic, which lives up to its name and is strangely in line with the aesthetics of our pensionat which, by the way, we have entirely for ourselves.

Tomorrow we'll be leaving Romania for Lviv, Ukraine.

khar_muur: (Default)

Today brought us the unarguably tourist-y but very gratifying Sighișoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepeș, and its Medieval citadel. We climb the furrier's tower and the clock tower, visit the incredible Hill Church and its crypt—"Visit a crypt in Transylvania, check!"—and the adjacent atmospheric cemetery. The church's friendly guide apparently speaks every European language, and presents the church like a Romanian David Attenborough. He also recommends us the town of Brașov and the strange salt mines of Praid. At this point I know I have to return to this country, preferably sooner than later. Next year, maybe!

After Sighișoara, we take a quick turn at the little hamlet of Biertan, sad but not surprised to notice the castle has closed for today; then, we travel back to Târgu Mureș, take a stroll around town, sit down for a while in a café (they all seem to double as bars in Eastern Europe), and return to the hotel, preparing for an early start tomorrow.

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

We went for a drink (and ended up doing some grocery shopping in a 24/7 market) after midnight in the very sleepy Chișinău. Monday is, unsurprisingly, not the busiest night of the week.

The hotel apartments were quite comfy, apart from the little maggot friend I found in our bed. Meh, as long as there's Wi-fi.

Moldova is very rural, most of it fields and cows and goats and tractors and hills and vineyards and fantastic landscapes wherever we go. (Other animals: ducks, dogs, chickens, horses drawing carts or grazing, various birds of the Corvus family, one family of turkeys, and very infrequently, sheep.) A friendly billy goat I'm trying to photograph nibbles at my hand with its flabby lips. TomTom is firmly of the opinion that there are no roads here. Radio plays energetic folk music and international hits.

Crossing borders is relatively easy, and roads improve immediately.

România is beautiful, what can I say. Plenty of houses look brand new and people look well off, if a touch surly. Mushrooms and other goods are sold by the roads. Horse carts aren't uncommon, and there are lots of wells in every village we drive through. Towns and cities look and feel very different, chaotic and grungy but interesting and occasionally also very impressive. Churches, shrines and monasteries are everywhere. Here and there they fly the EU flag together with the Românian flag.

There's a storm brewing as we reach the Carpathian Mountains, but so far only one ruin of a castle sighted. The lightning strikes inside a cloud a few times, rain pours down on and off, thick mist blankets the tall pine trees and nearly touches the ground, and I can't remember the last time I was so overwhelmed by the landscape. Words simply fail me. The moment I saw the mountains I knew I'd always wanted to see them. Transylvania, a (mild) storm, some bats—only the castle is missing.

This part of Transylvania is partly Magyar; most signs are in Romanian and Hungarian.

We stop by a large field to admire the rainless thunder light up the entire sky. (Yes, there are pictures.) Hope we'll still get inside the hotel at this time of night, with all these delays...

This hotel is the only one we've been to that advertises itself well ahead, so it's laughably easy to find (unlike a few others); just follow the huge sign and the flashing neon lights!

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

A lazy morning, then to the Malibu Beach of Odessa! It's the beachiest beach I've ever been to, white sand and blue sea and everything. After bouncing up and down the big, crashing waves, we go and have lunch at a kosher restaurant called Chevron. Everything's awesomely delicious, and we practically roll out of the place. Little brother dearest bumps his head for the third time today.

We wander through the Prymorskyi Boulevard to the statue of Richelieu and the famous Potemkin Stairs, then wander back, and turn our cars towards the mysterious white spot on the map that is Moldova. Rather than driving through the separatist area of Transnistria, we take the slightly longer route and take Chișinău from the south. The shortcut way isn't available, at least not to us, but the slightly longer one is.

The fellows at the ukrainian side of the border are strangely intimidating in a laid-back sort of way. And, indeed, they "expect presents from Finland". Insert nervous laughter here. On the moldovan side, things are far more official but fairly smooth.

The roads to Chișinău are mostly pretty good, and, conveniently, there's a separate road for horse carts, so we don't have to compete. Gas station toilet is a hole in the ground.

We arrive at our destination after sundown.

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

The star pictures turned out alright. We clambered a small hill to get a good view over the village and the mountains. Also woke up every guard dog along the way, and witnessed a return home by taxi and subsequent argument between (presumably) husband and wife.

Khan's Palace is half bewitching, half disappointing, the former because it's quite large and ornamental, with many different buildings and rooms to inspect, and the latter because it's packed with tourists, and because it's been rebuilt so many times there's precious little to see of the 17th century it was originally built in. The Fountain of Tears is there, though, with a Pushkin bust beside it. We dine at Café Pushkin—we're more or less dragged there by an enthusiastic local fellow, but the cozy terrace and hanging vines have us at hello, anyway. A very zen stray cat approaches our table, promptly jumps into dad's lap and settles there, only moving when he gets up.

The narrow street's completely blocked by a tourist bus and a herd of cars, so we try taking the long way round, only to discover that the only way through the village is via said blocked Lenina St. so we just waddle through like everyone else.

The drive to Odessa is uneventful, apart from driving a little too fast before a bridge; playing the foreigner's ignorance card and paying a fine (20€) settled the matter nicely. Starting to get a real taste of Eastern Europe...

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A Journey in the Dark

March 2016

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