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Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Portrait of Nowadays Tourists
"More and more people are ‘cash-rich’ and ‘time-poor’ today. They have less time to travel for leisure purposes, but they want to ensure that their trips create a memorable experience – one they can savour for a long time.

While today’s consumers increasingly demand better quality tourism products, it is paradoxical that the majority are still constantly on the look-out for `price deals`. Pricing clearly remains key.

Today`s leisure travelers, who comprise more singles, more female travelers, more grandparents traveling with their grandchildren, and more large family units (several generations), are much less concerned about which destination they visit, which means they tend to be less loyal to destinations than they ever were in the past.

In this age of environmental changes and the increasingly widespread awareness of the need to be more ‘green’, authenticity is also of growing importance to holidaymakers than ever before. They want more interaction with local people and a more emotional and cultural link to the people and communities they visit."

These are the findings of the Pisa Forum organized by IPK International and sponsored ITB Berlin. More details on the forum and the profile here.

These findings come to reaffirm the economic findings regarding leisure tourists: demand is highly elastic where price is concerned. Unlike the business tourists, who have the same taste for high-standard services and never worry about the price.

More singles, more female travelers. This is a natural trend I guess. A form of expressing one's independence from one point of view. Or maybe finally realizing that no one else will fulfill one's dreams. When you want to see certain places, you just need to make plans on your own and others will follow.

Apparently, the number of conservative tourists, those choosing the same location, the same hotel and eating at the same restaurant, is decreasing. With easy access to thousands of different travel destinations, who has time to go to the same place each time they travel? Maybe exposure to media reports about new hot spots is increasing tourists' taste for new discoveries.

I am more of an adventurer tourist. I like making my own schedules, first deciding when and where to go, what to do there, and then choosing where to stay. I am a fan of cheap lodging (budget hotels or hostels) when it comes to making expense plans for longer journeys (more than one week), but never think twice when it comes to paying a lot on visiting museums, palaces, churches and mosques. And I am crazy about little reminders of where I have been. And love to experience local cuisine instead of going to the universal fast foods that I feel safe with.

For short vacations, I am can be tempted by 4-5 stars hotels. Like this year in Istanbul. As much as I love luxury hotels and would kill to one day manage one, I find it quite dispensable when it comes to seeing more and doing significantly more at the same price.

I buy tourist guides. I could research online, which I actually do, but I find guides to be more detailed and as I buy them where I'm at, it's also a good reminder for later.

What kind of tourist are you? What do you like to do/experience when traveling?

Travel, Travel Destinations, Tourism, Tourist Attractions, Tourists

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posted by Alina @ 3:07 PM   5 comments
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
New Record in Tourism
This year, the number of tourists worldwide has established a new record, reaching a total of 842 million, 4.5% more than in 2005. The highest increase (8%) was reported on the African continent, the area being one of the most dynamic regions in what travel and tourism are concerned.

The growth exceeded World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) expectations for 2006, which were for a 4.1% increase. UNWTO expects a 4% increase for 2007. Will the estimation be exceeded again?

Via Wall-Street.


More details on TravelDaylyNews. This is my favorite part:

"Travellers are better informed and have become more adept at weighing their options and now include security factors as just another consideration among others when choosing their destinations." I would be happy with Romanian tourists becoming better informed and choosing wisely in 2007.

Tags: Travel, Tourism, UNWTO

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posted by Alina @ 2:07 PM   4 comments
Walking Down the Streets of Bucharest
A few weeks ago, during the weekend, I took a walk with Cristina Z. It was a warm day, not that sunny, yet quite pleasant. I was in a taking photos mood, so I took snapshots of what I say while getting from one square to another.

We went to a museum that day, to a cafe, we passed by the Athenaeum. Night caught up with us, so I also took a couple of "by night" photos.

You can follow our trail through photos and short explanations here.

Tags: Bucharest, Tourist Attractions

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posted by Alina @ 1:33 PM   0 comments
Monday, January 29, 2007
Any Easter Offer is Better than the Romanian Offers
According to an article published by Eventimentul Zilei, most Easter offers in foreign countries are cheaper than similar offers in Romania. Bulgaria is the leader of small prices, as all-inclusive packages in four star hotels start at 20 euros per day.

A four day trip would amount to 122 euros (with the tour operator fee), even cheaper than the same period at a Romanian mountain villa. If one would choose to go to a hotel in local mountain resort Sinaia, one would pay about 360 euros for four nights of bed and breakfast. The same conditions four 5 nights plus a plane ticket you would get in Antalya (Turkey) for 370 euros. Or one could spend 7 nights in a three star hotel in Tunisia, ticket included, 2 meals a day, for 400 euros. Or go to Malta for a lot less.

Details of the original article here.

Every time I see such comparatives I am amazed of the lack of perspective in tourism-related management. But what leaves me in deep awe is the fact that Romanian tourists still fill up the Romanian hotels and buy all these lame packages. Why? There are arguments, still none can convince me it’s a smart choice.

On the good side, at least we are winning the GDP Battle...

Tags: Tourism, Travel Destinations, Romania, Turkey, Bulgaria, Malta, Tunisia, Antalya, Sinaia

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posted by Alina @ 1:52 PM   3 comments
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul - Epilogue
On January 2 we got our bags into the car and prepared for the long way back to Bucharest. We were kind of quiet during breakfast. We all realized our little adventure around Istanbul was pretty much over.

I don't know how others feel in these situations. I always feel melancholy and sadness when a trip ends. It is because, like my friend Mark said once, you simply leave all your worries and daily nonsense at home when you embark on such an adventure. Yes, I see every little trip and getaway as an adventure. Childish? Maybe, but it allows me to have the best of every experience, domestic or foreign.

So we left Istanbul to get on the highway that initially got us there. It got cloudy and looked like it was about to rain before getting to the border. I guess the weather looked like what I felt. We also drove by the last Mosque we were going to see for a while, the one just outside the border.

We drove to Bulgaria, it's lightless tunnels and bumpy roads.

As I was getting closer, I wished there was a way to stay more, one extra day maybe...Yes, childish.
For some reason I felt like driving the whole way back. Around 750 km, 12 hours with all the pit stops. I got home tired, too tired to think of anything, so I just slept for 12 hours or so. That was it! It was over. I downloaded the photos and chose those to be published on the blogs. While telling the story of how it all was, I kind of re-lived it.

More photos from the road back here.

The The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul II
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul - New Year's Party
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul IV

Tags: Travel Destinations, Bulgaria, Turkey, Istanbul

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posted by Alina @ 8:56 AM   6 comments
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Two Years of Blogging
Two years ago I started this blog with no clear idea in mind. I just needed a new way to express my thoughts, ideas and feelings. It's been a long and sometimes bumpy way. But I am still here, two years later, many posts and comments later, many visitors later.

This blog has given me more than I had expected: great friends, great reads, K and everything that followed, great moments overall. So I would like to take this moment to thank everyone who became part of my more or less virtual life through this blog. For all the great posts they wrote, for all the kind words they said, for being around my blog and me.

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posted by Alina @ 6:14 PM   15 comments
Friday, January 26, 2007
There Is no Such Thing as an Evil Gene
When one comes to face something they consider to be evil, wrong, unacceptable or never to be done, one never stops to think about why it has happened. Yes, we ask ourselves why, but mostly in the “Why me?” interpretation. The individual responsible for the said act is just seen as evil, maybe crazy or misguided if he’s really lucky.

Abused children become abusers, those who had nothing but hardships in their childhood turn to drug dealing, stealing or even murder. Some just loose it, go crazy for reasons only experts can explain. But regardless of few exceptions, nothing comes from genes, it comes from experience.

I am sure we’ve all seen enough profiling and serial killing series or movies to come to know a little of the psychology behind evil minds. There is always a trigger. And being born evil, what does that mean? That the moment you start walking you also start bringing plagues to the world? Yes there are always forms of evil, the Yin and Yang balance if you like. But when it comes to pure evil, something inalterable, I doubt we can even get ourselves to comprehend it.

Some researches say a bit of coldness in mother-child relationships in the first weeks of life can determine a whole different future. The impact of the environment is also of ultimate importance. As we all know, concepts such as normality, good and bad, allowed and not allowed are usually determined by the views of the majority.

This majority can exist at smaller scale, within a family, within a certain school or town. So if one individual grows up with violence of different kinds all his life, just because he or she is suddenly taken somewhere else where people forget about the past, it does not mean the marks and scars of that prior experience will go away. So one day, when it all goes wrong, people will start saying that was pure evil, born as such, as there was not reason for such violence.

Some might argue children are known to sometimes kill animals for no reason. Strangled cats or chicks. They need to be taught not to. That is quite true. However, children need to be taught certain actions, done in good faith, have bad consequences. Because most of them might get a cat to choke because they hug it and don’t let go. So is this really a form of evil? Or more like a behavior from a little being that knows nothing of death?

I choose to believe people are born good and pure. It’s what others do that can get to change them. It’s what society houses within it, that for some reason it doe not cleans itself of, that keeps corrupting certain individuals.

The post is a reply to Love to Lead's question, "Are people born evil?"

posted by Alina @ 6:48 AM   13 comments
Black Sea Beaches to be Widened by 2012

According to the Dobrogea-Seaside branch of the Romanian Water Company, the projects aiming to widen and consolidate the Romanian beaches may be put into practice in 2008. The consolidation works would last until 2012 and cost 300 million euros. The result would be 100 meter wide beaches. The areas where the said projects will be implemented are Constanta, Eforie and Costinesti.

More details here.

So, we have the funds, at least theoretically, and we want a huge auction with international companies to make sure we find the best one for the job. However, we won’t start right away, we will wait until 2008 to get it started. Why is that?

If the funds do not exist as of now, well, still, the Water Company could at least arrange for the interested companies to present their projects and state their prices. Then choose one and start having fun when the money materializes. But no, why not wait a little longer?

I guess we should at least say thank God it’s not taking 20 years like expanding a metro line!

posted by Alina @ 6:45 AM   4 comments
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Significant Growth of Romanian Tourism
Romanians’ departures to different countries grew over the first 11 months of 2006 by 24.2% compared to the same period of 2005, while foreigner arrivals grew by 2%. These results were published by the National Statistics Institute.

94% of the foreign tourists come from European countries, almost half (46%) coming from the EU. 83% of the Romanians going abroad used road transportation.

Arrivals in lodging units grew by 6.9% in the same period, amounting to 5.8 million persons, as compared to 2005. Significant increases have been reported by youth hotels and hostels, 52%, inns, 35% and camping units, 22%.

The whole story in Romanian here.

Tags: Tourism, Inbound Tourism, Outbound Tourism, Domestic Tourism, Romanian Tourism, Travel Destinations
posted by Alina @ 2:57 PM   2 comments
Moderate Growth in Bucharest’s Business Travel for 2006
"The five-star Howard Johnson Grand Plaza hotel in Bucharest posted turnover worth 13 million euros in 2006, a slight increase on the previous year.

The hotel recorded turnover worth 12.5 million euros in 2005, up 51% against 2004 and doubled profit to 1 million euros compared with the previous year. However, 2005 was the first time the hotel was open throughout the entire year.

The five-star hotel market in Bucharest is facing dwindling demand from the tourist industry and this is the reason why Howard Johnson is placing so much emphasis on increasing the number of clients from the business segment over the forthcoming period.

Hotel officials believe that the significant amount of bookings generated by the business segment cause the hotel's occupancy rate to fluctuate depending on the time of the year or week, holiday season or weekend."

Full story here.

The peak in business travel requests is represented by the Bucharest International Fair that takes place in October. This year, all hotels were fully booked, and unless one requested a room a few weeks ahead, getting one was impossible.

Tags: Travel Destinations, Business Tourism, Bucharest

posted by Alina @ 11:28 AM   2 comments
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul IV
Part Four
(as in Day 3)

Unlike other people who partied late on New Year's Eve, we went to bed quite early, as we had a pretty good reason to do so. A new day of visiting and too much to see to oversleep. Therefore we started early again, at about 9 am. We took the tram to Eminonu and from there, we took the boat to Uskudar.
Taking the boat was quite a thrill, seeing the great views of Galata tower and Dolmabahce palace, seeing the sea waves on a sunny morning and Kiz Kulesi when approaching Uskudar.

More photos of the boat ride here.


This is a district on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, with narrow streets lined with wooden houses, which has managed to preserve some authentic oriental character. There are a number of hans, baths, medreses, mosques, fountains and turbes lending to this effect.

The Greeks called Uskudar Chrysopolis, and it was known as the port of Chalcedon (Kadikoy neighborhood today), a very well known town. Xenephon passed through here with an army of 10,000 in the fourth century BC and in 324 AD, Constantine I defeated his rival Licinius here. The distric became independent. It was subsequently sacked twice during the Arab and Persian sieges of Istanbul in the 7 and 8 centuries. During the Turkish period, it became an important center of trade. It was the end of the Anatolian trade route and the start of the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca. With the construction of the Baghdad Railway, Uskudar gradually lost its importance.
The narrow streets are also on hills. So be prepared for a tiring walk around the neighborhood if you want a first hand experience of the Oriental street building style.

Kiz Kulesi (Leander's Tower/Maiden Tower)

This ancient tower stands on a rocky outcrop at the entrance of the Bosphorus, just offshore Uskudar. It is presently used as a lighthouse and it also includes a restaurant.

The original tower was built in the 12th century by the Byzantine emperor Manuel Comnenos (1143-1180), who aimed to find a firm foundation for the chain which was used to close off the Bosphorus to sea traffic.

There are countless legends about the tower. The best-known of which is that of Constanine's daughter, said to be extremely beautiful. According to the legend, a fortune teller told the emperor his daughter would be bitten by a snake and die. The emperor built a tower in the sea and shut his daughter in it to save her. One day a snake that hid in a basked of grapes sent to the princess bit her and she died, thus the prophecy being fulfilled. This legend gave the tower its popular name, kiz kulesi - maiden's tower.

For all of you going to visit the tower, on weekend and some holidays (such as January 1st) the boat taking you there is not working until 12.3o. If you get there earlier, you can stay on the pillows on the shore and have some tea (cay) or some Turkish coffee. Still, don't get there too early, the cold might just get to you on winter days.

While talking to Vali and Ana, I realized that I had been there the year before, on the very same day. They said I should turn it into a tradition. May all first days of all new years find me there, in the tower. This time I won't wait to get there so long, as I know the proper schedule!

Back in Eminonu, we first had lunch as we were all starving. Sis kebab, pepper kebab, ayran, all of it quite delicious. We then visited some of the interesting sight of the area.

More photos of Uskudar here.

The Yeni (New) Mosque

This is the last of the great classical mosque complexes in Istanbul. It was built near one of Istanbul's major quays in Eminonu. Also known as the Valide Mosque, its title as "Yeni" or "New" mosque was used as a convention in accounts of every period to describe the latest mosque built. The only mosque to preserve the title was the Valide mosque.

The construction was started by the architect Davut Aga, for the dowager sultan Safiye Sultan, Mehmet III's mother. On the death of the architect and that of Mehmet III, Safiye Sultan fell from favor and was sent to the old palace. The construction was then stopped. There was a long hiatus in the building of the mosque, which had hardly risen above foundation level.

In 1660, the dowager sultan of the time, Turhan Sultan, saw the unfinished mosque during a visit to the district which had nearly been destroyed by fire. She then decided to finish the building and commissioned the architect Mustafa Aga to do so. Next to the mosque he constructed the renowned spice market and a splendid fountain and refreshment kiosk, together with the mausoleum of Turhan Sultan and other buildings which have since been demolished.
The mosque was built over the raised foundations and has two minarets, each with three galleries. The mosque follows the basic plan of Sultanahmet and Sehzade mosques, wich a central dome flanked by four supporting semi-domes. The main dome is 17.5 meters in diameter and 36 meters in height. Although classical in style, the proportions of the building are somehow distorted, the dome appearing a little more pointed than the other mosques. The faience decoration of the mosque is notably fine.

The Spice Market (Misir Carsisi)

This is Istanbul's second covered market. The present structure was built by Harice Turhan Sultan. According to the documents, the building was begun by the architect Kasim Aga, and completed together with Yeni mosque by the architect Mustafa Aga in 1660. The present structure was last restored in 1943, when the raised wooden counters of the old shops were removed and replaced by modern shop fronts. Apart from six spice shops, the present market has lost its originality.

More photos of Eminonu here.

We decided to walk back to the street sellers near Sultanahmet. We bought our souvenirs and said good-bye to the historical center.


It was back to the hotel, to pack our bags, get some more ayran and kaymak for home, some helva and other sweets. But it was right here, with the sun setting, that I knew I would deeply miss Istanbul until my next visit.

Tags: Tourism, Travel Destinations, Turkey, Istanbul, Uskudar, Kiz Kulesi, Eminonu, New Mosque, Spice Market, Sultanahmet.
posted by Alina @ 3:39 PM   6 comments
Monday, January 22, 2007
I prey to God your soul to keep...
This is to my grandfather, to all good things he ever did. Funny thing is, when someone dies, some remember the pain they caused, other the happiness. Others just come at your house, pay their respects, as if it matters, then gossip about the dead man’s life with him standing there, placed in his coffin.

Because the world is such a horrible place some times, and because we should judge no one (simply because we would not know how when faced with contradictory facts and feelings), I will choose to remember the good things only.

Soon after turning 18, my grandfather went to war. WW II, that is. He never fired at human targets. “I only shot the air above me. Maybe that’s why God did not allow me to die in that war,” he used to tell us later on. And yes, God kept him alive, for 2 long years of being a prisoner in Siberia. He used to tell me how bad the POW experience was. Little food, lots of work, those who could not work anymore or come back after work were shot by the Russians.

He almost had the same fate one day. On the way back to the prisoners’ camp, he fell, as he was too weak. A friend of his carried him back and the doctor there treated him for a while. After the war, he came back and got married. He had two children, a boy and a girl from his first marriage. And another two, a boy and a girl, from his marriage with my grandmother.

In what blood is concerned, I have nothing to bond me with him. My mom was his step daughter. But for God knows what reason, he really loved me a lot. Maybe because I was the kind of child that never cried at night…Well, I used to wake up at 7 am and run into his kitchen. He would ask what I wanted. I would say doughnuts most of the times. Other times I would ask for food, not sweets. And he’d start cooking or baking right then.

When I grew up, I always went to visit him, although the relationship between him and my grandma was long buried. Maybe because he was part of my oldest memories (the cooking and baking happened until I was 3 and a half). Maybe because I felt all the kindness he spread on me. I always liked seeing him, eating whatever he gave me. Complicated dishes he cooked on his own. Jam and other sweets. He also used make me wooden swards and knifes to play.

The last time I saw him was about 3 months ago, the last time I went to my grandma’s. I had this strong feeling I needed to see him. And I went with my mom, who had not seen him in many years. It was nice and cozy there. Just like I remembered.

My grandfather was nothing close to a saint, my grandma and other distant memories of mine can tell stories on that topic. Still, he did enough good deeds for people to remember him. As for me, I will always miss him. May God rest his soul.

posted by Alina @ 9:04 AM   11 comments
Friday, January 19, 2007
We are too Different to Have Similar Reactions

People react differently when confronted with similar situations. This is true of us all. So stating we’d all turn vegetarian after having a conversation with, say, a pigeon is a flagrant denial of the above stated universal truth.

First of all, most of us live in urban areas. You know, those crowded places with tons of asphalt and animals in zoos only. What could we ran into for a conversation? A fly, a bird, some mice? How would that make us empathize with cows, chickens or fish? Plus, a visit to the zoo would mean hearing elaborate speeches from world class predators.

Secondly, it depends on the animals you own and those you eat. One might find oneself unable to eat chicken soup after being too much around hens, but might continue with pork. They stink anyway!

From a different perspective, as long as you don’t actually see the animals slaughtered, you tend to imagine meat is just meat. It hasn’t much to do with the live animal. If we spent 10 minutes a day thinking about what it is that we feed to ourselves, a lot of restaurant chains will go out of business. We humans have this bad habit of never thinking about what we do to ourselves or to others for that matter.

Besides, I am convinced feeling sorry for and generous towards a different being has nothing to do with its actual thoughts. It’s with the love you surround that poor creature with. I remember once taking care of one little chick, the only survivor from a whole lot of eggs gone bad. I used to feed it, walk it, yes it was actually following me around, much like a dog. I could have never eaten that chick or let anyone harm her. But others were totally indifferent to me.

If we were able to love all animals in the same way, yeah, maybe we would suddenly decide to quit meat. But let’s face it, we’ve been killing each other for so long, we lost count of numbers. We would never do better when it comes to animals, that we generally look down on and take for granted.

Anyway, if anyone ever wants to try out the effect, take my word for it, never take a lion as a chit-chat companion and hope to eat greenies all your life! I have this feeling the result will be slightly different.

Reply to Love to Lead's question, " If we could hold conversations with animals, would we all be vegetarians?"

Vote for me on Love To Lead
posted by Alina @ 2:36 PM   11 comments
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul - New Year's Party
Part 3 (as in New Year's Night)

We were quite tired after an entire day of walking around. But who cared? It was New Year's Eve Party we were talking about. And we have heard of a huge concert in Taksim.

Istanbul’s modern city center, Taksim has gained its reputation of being the heart of the living city not only because of its convenient location but also because of many different cultural, historic and artistic attractions that it offers to the travelers.

Taksim Square derives its name from the 1733 water distribution building built there, in which water distribution for different districts of Istanbul used to be administered. The word “Taksim” in Turkish means “distribution” as it relates to where the water would be distributed from at the time. At the center of Taksim Square is the 12 meters high Republic Monument which was designed by the Italian architect Pietro Canonica and it symbolizes the foundation of the republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

The historic Pera, where is now officially called “Beyoglu” is a long pedestrian-only district that starts at the Taksim Square and swings through to Galata Tower for almost one and a half miles. More than 55 private or state-owned Art Galleries and over 30 foreign Consulates can be found in Beyoglu.

Beyoglu houses many movie theaters such as Emek, Fitas or the Alkazar. Most of the foreign movies are presented in their original language with subtitles in Turkish.

To do junk food justice, we started looking for a Burger King fast-food. There are no Burger Kings in Romania! We completely disliked the food. Sometimes, McDonald's simply rules! So we started walking around Taskim Square. And of course, we chose the most crowded street of all!

That's how we found a very interesting arcade. Traditional and very famous ÇIÇEK PASAJI (Flower Arcade) in Beyoglu, in a walking distance from Taksim Square, through ISTIKLAL Caddesi, is the place for eat, drink, snacks and especially for seafood specialties. We did not stay to eat, we were full, but we still went in to take some photos. We then took a break from so much walking and entered a Starbucks cafe! Yes, latte grade for me please! Extra caramel, of course!

We then continued our walk as midnight was getting closer. We passed by a deliciously looking sweets shop. Take a look at the desert this guy is handling, don't you think it's simply amazing?

Back in Taksim Square we took a better look at the stage. There was a huge crowd around us. Not really enough space, but still, everybody was dancing and singing and having fun!

The square looked beautifully. At midnight, after being totally captured for about 10 minutes to get all the fireworks on our memory cards (yeah, filming, not photo taking), we shared s little bottle of chapagne, traditional Romanian habit. It was more like tasting it for me, I am not allowed to have alcohol, I've been a bad girl somewhere along the path.

The first song of the year? No it was not Tarkan! It was a song of my own, I was the only one there (that I knew) who was in love with it. So I took it as a personal sign of good fortune: Mustafa Sandal - Kopmam Lazım

Bu gece kopmam lazım
Hedefi bulmam lazım
Seni gördü gözlerim
Bırakır mı hiç?
Ki değil tarzım

Some more photos here.

Tags: Travel Destinations, Turkey, Istanbul, Taksim
posted by Alina @ 9:08 PM   5 comments
Tell me your secrets!

Zu tagged me to write about 5 secret things about me. It will be a quite difficult task, as I don’t really have secrets. But here goes nothing:

  1. There’s this superstition I grew up with: if a flock of birds flies over you and you are not standing or walking under something (building balcony for example), you should put the palm of your hand on your head, or someone should do it for you, in order to keep you safe from bad luck. I am 24 know, I know the poor birds have no influence over me, my good fortune or anyone else’s for that matter. But still, every time I get to the office at around 7 and the local crow flock flies by, I find myself holding my hand on my head, discretely of course, I don’t want anyone to think I’m crazy. Moreover, this is not the only superstition I still act on, although I have no idea why I do it. I do it just in case!
  2. Sometimes, I indulge myself into thinking the weather is manipulated especially for me. Rain when I can’t cry or feel bad, as the song says “Rain, wash away my sorrow/Take away my pain”. Sunny, bright mornings just to make me feel better or to suit my glorious mood. Yes, sometimes I am the center of the universe! Talk about being egocentric…
  3. When I was young (yes, very young, about 10), I strongly believed there were no rules in love and war. Therefore, I had no problem blackmailing a qui 8 years older than me into getting me some favors from a guy I had a crush for. They were colleagues, Prince Charming had a skateboard. The blackmail: if you want me to let you have fun with MY skateboard, make sure HE teaches me a few tricks. :P It did not really work, but one day, when he came back from school, he said something nice to me about my skateboarding skills :D. He was also the only blond guy I was ever keened on.
  4. Everybody knows I hate fish (as in any food made from it). Few people know it is not something I was born with. My rejection of this food is actually psychological. See, my dad loves fishing, he goes on fishing trips quite often. This was my way to express lots of anger, frustration and disappointment directed towards him. It got so bad I can’t control it and if I am forced to eat fish, I makes me feel sick.
  5. I have no idea where my step dad is buried. Or if he was buried or cremated for that matter. I call him my step dad, but my mom never married him. He wanted to, but she had enough of marriage with my dad I guess and agreed to live only together. When he got sick, his daughter came from Germany and while I was in a Latin camp preparing for an international contest, she made sure we moved out of the house. My step dad said nothing against her decision because she promised to take him with her to Germany for getting proper treatment. We found out he eventually died a lot later, from a woman who used to do house cleaning for us. She left him to die alone, surrounded by strangers. I hated her for years for that.

Ok, enough for secrets, I got on a quite dark side with the last two. So, a special tag for Ryan who complains he hasn’t got enough topics to write about. Other than that, the tag is open to all who find it interesting.

posted by Alina @ 11:10 AM   4 comments
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Who Needs Editors? Apparently Everyone!

There are ongoing debates on a certain aspect regarding blogs: should they be edited or not? Well, I wouldn’t mind someone double-checking my posts and pointing out mistakes that I make. Another solution would be having crucial enhancements for Word’s spell checker. What I do mind though is seeing online news sites with no proper editing.

It does not bother me that a blogger might misspell some words at times due to certain circumstances (of which lack of knowledge is the least common). I also don’t mind seeing that Slashdot has an entry in their FAQ explaining why there are some typos in their content, as Slashdot is mostly based on user submitted material.

But to see a word misspelled 10 times on a NewsFive is troubling. The article is available in Romanian only, but anyone can see the typo as they wrote “tsumani” instead of “tsunami”. And then there’s Hotnews. I usually like this site, but it is getting rather annoying to see them translate their articles into a language resembling secondary school English (beginners’ class). And I quote:

“the Black Sea is becoming into a major issue for Romania’s international stand.”

While the Black Sea area is far from resempling the Atlantic area of collective security, the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU is expected to boost the interest of member states towards this region, which would involve a series of processes aimed at the development and strengthening of the regional economies.”

“Now, the Black Sea neighbors the EU thanks to littoral countries’, Tudor says.” - this one I really don't understand.

Original story here.

Tags: Journalism, Online Journalism, Spelling, Editors

posted by Alina @ 2:34 PM   8 comments
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Who's Afraid of the Science Section?
"Now that scientists have spotted the pain and pleasure centers in the brain, they’ve moved on to more expensive real estate: the brain’s shopping center. They have been asking the big questions:

What is the difference between a tightwad’s brain and a spendthrift’s brain?

What neurological circuits stop you from buying a George Foreman grill but not a Discovery Channel color-changing mood clock?

Why is there a $2,178.23 balance on my January Visa bill?

This last question isn’t yet fully answered, even after I stared at said Visa bill while lying inside a functional M.R.I. machine at Stanford University. But scientists are closer to solving the mystery. By scanning shoppers’ brains, they think they’ve identified a little voice telling you not to spend your money. Or, in my case, a voice saying, “At this price, you can’t afford not to buy the mood clock!”

Full story here.

This is what I call a great science piece! Informative, educational and very, very funny. Overall, a great reading experience! The subject was not exactly of top interest to me, but the story caught me! First because the title was a bit unusual for a science-focused story and then because of the author's tone.

Tags: Journalism, Science

posted by Alina @ 7:10 PM   3 comments
I watched you change…
Yesterday, in my car, on my way to school. I was listening to the radio when I suddenly heard a song so dear to me. It sounded different somehow, but still, the same song I came to love. Ten Sharp, “You”, a remix of some sort.

I did not know if I liked it more ore less. I felt its change, the fact is was no longer how I used to know it. Someone had altered it. And I got to thinking of relationships. They do to us what had been done to that song: they change us, adding their mark, some of them forever.

When a relationship has ended and you indulge yourself in extensive self analyzing, born out of anguish, fear, self-doubt, the feeling you need to find the weak link in your soul and remove it, that is the moment when you realize you only partially recognize yourself. Parts of you are altered by the experience, someone else has left their traces in your spirit and mind. Do you like yourself more? Do you like yourself less? Do you feel like rejecting the change altogether because most of us fear it? The reaction depends on personal circumstances. But the reality of the metamorphosis cannot be denied.

That is what people do to each other. When close, they touch each others souls, they borrow and lend certain traits, stain and are stained. Something alien finds its way in and starts altering what it encounters. Repeated experiences with people take us from one stage to another, pushing us to evolve in a certain direction. The evolution is compulsory, all we can choose is the direction.

In other news, I have posted some more photos from Topkapi here and here. New Year's party and Part 3 will be ready soon. In the mean time, don't forget to vote for me here. Also, take a look at this post on Girl's Blogosphere Club and tell me what you think.
posted by Alina @ 3:42 PM   3 comments
Friday, January 12, 2007
The Amazing Adventures of Kayla in Istanbul II
Part 2 (as in day2)
December 31st, 2006

We started the day with a great breakfast in the hotel restaurant. By 8.30 am we were already done and ready to start visiting the wonders of Istanbul. While also looking for an exchange office, we took a walk around Aksaray.

Aksaray Valide Sultan Camii

Built in 1871 by Italian artists, this mosque is a perfect mix of different architectural arts.

More photos from the neighborhood here.

We then took the tram to Sultanahmet (the neighborhood, not the mosque situated there). The Blue Mosque was one of the two places I revisited, along with Kiz Kulesi.

Sultanahmet Mosque

Built by the architect Mimar Sedefkar Aga for Ahmet I, between 1609-1616. Its six minarets are unique. Surrounded on three sides by courtyards with five portals, the portico is covered by 30 cupolas supported by 26 marble columns with stalactite capitals. In the centre of the main courtyard there is a hexagonal fountain. The mosque itself has three doors. The largest opens into the main courtyard, and it is this door which is used as the entrance today.

The mosque is almost square in plan. The central dome is supported by four marble piers with four arches sprung between. The dome is flanked on all four sides by a semi-dome with cupolas at the corners. The extraordinary height of the dome (23 meters) allowed for an unusual number of widows (260 in all) which provide the interior with a warm, overall light which illuminates the rich tiling and tracery. According to the sources, there are a total of 21, 043 faience tiles, each valued at 18 silver akches.

The sultan's gallery - mahfil - is in the left corner of the mosque, and has a fine mihrab decorated with mosaic and green tiles. The mother-of-pearl inlay door, gilded faience and filigree relief-carved marble balustrades are beautifully mixed. The mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is so-called due to the faience revetments. Those on gallery level are countered by tracery on the dome in similar tones. The dome is also inscribed with the name of the caliphs.

It was from the steps of the marble pulpi - mimber - that Mahmut II declared the dissolution of the Janissary in 1826. The mihrab, also in white marble, is decorated with precious stones and a piece of rock from the Ka'ba. The mausoleum of Ahmet I, founder of the mosque, is situated in the northeast, together with those of Osman II and Murat IV.

Until the 19th century, Sultanahmet was the traditional starting point for the pilgrimage to Mecca. More photos of the mosque here.

We then walked through the park outside the mosque, on our way to Topkapi Palace. A wonderful site, relaxing, warm and simply breathtaking.

The street shops were so full of color and little mesmerizing objects that I had no idea where to look first. And I just loved the negociations!

These sherbet sellers near the mosque are fierce businessmen. They have no problem allowing tourists to take photos of them in their traditional costumes, but they may ask for payment for their work.
To see more photos, click here.

As Topkapi was closed until one o'clock, we had lunch at Sultanahmet Koftecisi. The real one! The one everyone copies! Even on the same street! Why are they not worried? Well, simple, if they are always full and customers keep coming, why bother to think about what the competition does?

Burial Sites

Walking down the tram line from Sultanahmet to Aksaray, there are burial sites on both sides of the street. Caliphs, Pashas and other important dignitaries rest here. Sultans also, but their tombs are within separate building which were of course closed at the time we were there.

What we found interesting was the fact that in each site there was a small cafe or terrace. Come see the tombs, have a coffee then nearby!

Click here for more photos.

Topkapi Palace

When the palace opened, we got in to get our tickets. There was a huge line, but luck and Ana made us get our tickets quite fast.

After the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmet the Conqueror chose a site on the Forum Tauri (Beyazit square) for his first palace. The so-called "Old-Palace" - Saray-i Atik - is referred to in the sources as a walled complex, although no traces of it now remain. After the construction of Topkapi palace, the old palace became the abode of the members of the sultan's harem who had lost favour or the wives of previous sultans.

Mehmet II began the construction of a new palace at Selaglio Point, which became known as Topkapi Saray after a shore palace near the Cannon Gate(Topkapi) of the sea walls. The walls surrounding the point, which is known as the first hill of the city, were 1400 meter long. The old Byzantine sea walls on the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn were linked up with land walls enclosing the palace known as the "Sur-i Sultan", and supported by 28 towers. The main gate, now the imperial gate - Bab-i Humayun - was formarly surmounted by a keep which was later removed. The flanking bays in the gate were also revetted in marble.

The new palace was begun withing these walls between 1472-1478, and construction continued throughout successive eras with additions being made up to the mid 19 century. The palace complex includes lodges, pavilions, state offices, dormitories and barracks, private quarters, a mosque, library and a huge kitchen. The last pavilion to be built on the site was of the Mecidiye Kosk, which is at present open to the public as a restaurant. Several pavilions and villas in the palace grounds were burnt down during a fire in 1863. All trace of them was lost on the construction of the present railway at Sirkeci.

Topkapi palace became a museum in 1924. It has undergone a number of restaurations since then. If you want to have an idea of how big the place is, think that we spent 4 hours there and we had not had the chance to see it all. Or take a look at this photo:

And we ran into a Romanian sword within the museum. The sward of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great), reason of intense discussions between the two countries. We want it back, they want to keep it, the right way is somewhere in the middle if you asked me.

Further photos here.

After Topkapi, we headed home walking, so that we could see the Grand Bazaar (its entrance only), the Istanbul University and Beyazit Mosque

The Covered(Grand) Bazar

This was the largest covered market in Istanbul. It was originally founded by Mehmet II in 1461 in order to provide traders with a safe and orderly place in whcih to do their daily business. The market was enlarged during the reign of Suleyman I and finally rebuilt to the present plan in 1701. There are a total of 65 streets within this market, which covers 30.702 square meters. It is surrounded by a large number of hans - tradin-inns, which have access to the interior of the bazaar.
Well, the bazaar was closed when we were there. A nice man told us it would be open only after we left. Tough luck!

Istanbul Universitesi

One of the main characteristics of Istanbul University is its leadership in higher education for centuries. It has played a guiding and influential role in the social and cultural life of our country. We can clearly see this when we trace the line of historical development of the University.

Istanbul University, as one of the oldest educational institutions, not only of Turkey, but also of the world, was founded when Mehmet the Conqueror conquered Istanbul. Education began to be available in theological schools ("medrese/madrasah" as they were then called) and, until the end of the 16th century, these schools were instrumental in educating the ruling cadres of the Ottoman society. However, when the "madrasahs" were no longer able to meet the needs of the modern world, a restructuring process began, and as a result, the institutions of higher education called "Darülfünun," the core of Istanbul University, were established. Through the educational reforms, introduced by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk , the " madrasahs" were abolished in 1924. As a first step in modernization, the Istanbul Darülfünun was established, comprising the departments of medicine, law, literature, theology, and science. The institution was renamed "Istanbul University" in accordance with Ataturk's University Reform, and higher education was restructured in Turkey to meet the demands of contemporary society. During these early years, Istanbul University welcomed foreign academics who fled Germany as teaching staff.

When the Turkish Republic was founded, Istanbul University was the only institution of higher education. That is the reason why it is the provider of teaching staff for all the universities in Turkey today. Many academics educated here have initiated the establishment of the other higher education institutions. Thus, Istanbul University has always been instrumental in the training and strengthening of our country's scientific cadres.

Beyazit Camii

This is the first mosque of the classic Turkish tradition, built during the reign of Beyazit II, between 1501-1506. It is best known for its unique minarets and its interior courtyard.
More photos from the area here.

Cross-posted at Light Within.

Tags: Travel Destinations, Turkey, Istanbul, Sultanahmet Mosque, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul University, Beyazit Mosque
posted by Alina @ 2:21 PM   11 comments
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The Sun – Using Romania and Bulgaria to Get More Readers
From today, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria —- two of Europe’s poorest nations — will be free to travel to the UK. Though the Government has tried to cap the numbers allowed to work, it is clear many will seek jobs without permits.

The EU will pump £20billion into Romania over the next seven years in a bid to revamp the country’s dire infrastructure. Huge chunks of it is expected to be lost in Romania's culture of bribes and corruption.”

Whole story here.

How I love the way this Sun reporter makes it look like no good will come from our joining the EU! No benefits, no advantages, hell, they just took us in because they cared so much! Nothing of interest to them here!

Oh yeah, and the illegal workers that will simply flood their country! Oh my! Like there are no other countries Romanians would rather go to. Such as Spain and Italy (much nicer climate there anyway). No, we will all, 23 million, pack our bags and move to England, cause there's only milk. And honey!

But I have to admit, in some way, I feel complimented, as a Romanian, by such an attitude. To my mind, the British are completely convinced any Romanian going there is smart/good enough to take the job. No British citizen could be better! All employers are simply stupid, so they will hire illegal workers who are under qualified and would take a low payment. Who cares the job won’t get done?

The reporter never stops to wonder:

  1. Who are those who would work without a permit?
  2. Are there enough jobs in GB for this segment?

This is just crying “Wolf” every time. My dear reporter, if this fails to happen, you will have to find a different country to through accusations at! Do you know that many countries?

In my opinion, the true professionals, those who have Master’s Degrees and University diplomas would never go there to work illegally in a pub or clean houses or be an au-pair or God knows what. Now, given Romanian is the second most spoken language in Microsoft, I think you should not worry about the illegal workers! Start worrying for later dates, when those Romanians will be allowed to compete with you on the same jobs. Knowing all my colleagues from Journalism…well, you have a job to worry about, don’t you, dear Sun reporter?

posted by Alina @ 3:18 PM   14 comments
Palace of Parliament, Top Tourist Attraction in Bucharest
Commonly known as People’s House (Casa Poporului), these huge building, the second largest in the world after the Pentagon, today houses the Romanian Parliament. It is one of the greatest symbols of the communist era, built with great efforts and in a perfectly eclectic style.

According to NewsFive, about 400 hundred tourists visit the palace each day during the summer. Most of the tourists are Israeli, Americans or Japanese and some of them feel like applauding when the tour, which takes about 20 minutes is over. Personally, I don’t understand this attitude. Yes, it can be an impressive tour, immense rooms of an immense palace, no restraints in what luxurious details are concerned. But it is all heavy on the eyes and mind because it all seems gathered and thrown in together, no real artistic line, just lots of expensive materials showing the power of Ceausescu.

The Palace is however interesting to see, to understand and to make you think a little to how Communist leaders needed to feel a little like the aristocracy and high classes they fought against.

The NewsFive story, in Romanian only, has some very important tips for those wanting to visit the palace. A bit of irony in the story, making it sound a little less objective, but interesting nonetheless.

  • Visiting hours: 10-16 (also on weekends);
  • Ticket price: 5 RON for Romanians; 10 RON for foreigners (about 3 EUR);
  • Photo tax: 9 RON; Video tax: 30 RON
  • Free guide in all major foreign languages (Romanians should join foreign groups if they know one of the languages as guides in Romanians don’t show up that often);
  • Individual or group visits, no prior reservation needed. However, calling before might turn out to be a good idea, as tours are sometimes cancelled when the Palace hosts certain events such as conferences.
More information on the palace here.

Cross posted at Light Within.

Tags: Romania, Bucharest, Tourist Attractions, Palace of Parliament

posted by Alina @ 10:44 AM   4 comments
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Where else would manking go?
Contributed to the "Will the human race ever populate another planet?" topic on Love to Lead.

Have you ever watched someone look at the stars? The wonder, the longing, the warmth you can see in their eyes? Maybe it is some mystic belief, maybe a foretelling, but where else will the human race go when Earth is full?

Some would argue we are technologically challenged. Some would simply say “why bother?” But getting to live on different planets is simply a next step in the long and winding road of human kind evolving. At the rate we are growing in numbers, where else would we go? Underwater colonies are a solution, but limited still.

To see this, the first thing one has to do is rid themselves of short term perspectives. Yes, it might not happen in this lifetime or in the next hundred of years. But 3,000 years later? Who knows? Maybe we will find human race trapped in an immense collection of universes such as Frank Herbert has predicted in his Dune series.

Humans tend to be self destructive, true. We should then all thank Mother Nature, providence, or some other higher power of choice for creating life in such an adaptive and survivor-cut manner. No matter what cataclysm, no matter what weapons we turn on each other, there will be remaining traces of our civilization. And the aim to further grow will keep us going. Like the remains of fallen empires that helped new empires grow.

What is common knowledge is that mankind can never be content with what we have already achieved. We need to find out more, to answer our unlimited questions, to keep wandering on our never-ending road through new worlds. Therefore, if some identify the other planets and other galaxies as future targets, future frontiers to expand, one day it will all come true.

To see the article and vote it on Love to Lead, go here.

Tag: Space, Planets, Galaxies, Future, Mankind

posted by Alina @ 9:22 AM   7 comments
About Me

Name: Alina
Home: Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania
About Me: "This is my church. This is where I heal my hurts". It's also where I feel free and my preferred means of expression.
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