Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Pointy headed Romanian rock king or King Carol I
Back to reality as I hit the ground running back in Canada trying to re-enter civilian life.

Our Air France flight was largely uneventful except for the 2 screaming babies nearby and the 2 illegals hauled off the plane by border guards as soon as the fuselage doors opened in Montreal.
I drove home with my ride and my aunt and Mom flew on to Toronto and drove back to Peterborough arriving just after midnight eastern standard time.

 So how did you like the Balkans?

This is the question I have already been asked by locals and friends and family upon my return to Canada.

Firstly Serbia and much of Romania is not a destination for the all inclusive resort, cruise ship lounging set. You will not get North American style service and food without looking really hard. There are some high end places that can cater to this set but they tend to run at very high prices.

What typically passes for a three or four star hotel in these countries is not what you would expect from the same rating in Western Europe or N. America. to complicate matters sometimes a hotel exceeds their rating but generally, you can knock a star off to represent true conditions. Service is varied with some surly or incompetent hotel/dining staff and then get first rate service when you least expect it at another establishment.
What happens when you get to zero stars?

The infrastructure is at its limits with power outages, potholed roads and random internet outages. These infrastructure limits have translated into economic growth limits now as foreign investors start to pull back due to poor returns. Ecologically the air quality is poor as coal fired power plants, mass burning of crop stubble on fields, wood source heating and being downwind of 400 million Europeans. Littering is still rampant at road sides and scenic mountain passes and water course quality is poor in many locations. Government and police corruption is still a concern and the EU is taking steps to deal with these Infrastructure, ecologic and corruption problems.

 Women's issues are also a concern in Romania as is witnessed by the many older women in poverty struggling to supplement their living at road side stands and a thriving business in the exportation of sex trade workers.

The Roma or gypsy population face their own discrimination and lower living standards than the general population reminding me of Canada's struggle with it's aboriginal citizens. Of course in Serbia there is still the specter of more war as the Kosovo situation drags on with no real solution in sight.

I hope you are still reading this because there is a big but attached to all the bad news above and it doesn't belong to either of my traveling companions.

Tomorrow I will tell you what the good stuff is.
In the mean time here are pictures of a streetcar to amuse you:

No nefarious intent driver, just a pretty streetcar

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