September 18, 2017

5 misconceptions about Romania (Romanians)

Without any introduction let's dive into it:

Romania is a dangerous country from Eastern Europe

First, as my good friend would argue, geographical we are kinda in the middle of Europe. I don't have a problem being included intro the Eastern European group as long as it is not pejorative. I do like our group, I've met some lovely Bulgarian girls and on my visits I've loved Bulgaria, I like Hungary and Czechia and Poland and all the other countries in the Eastern block.

Still, Romania is not a dangerous country. Nothing new will happen to you if you visit Romania, different from what could happen to you in Western Europe. Yes we have pickpocketers, yes we have madly traffic, yes we do have prices inflated for tourists, but so do London, Paris, Rome, Brussels, just to name a few. So if you've been to London and survived, or if you drove in Brussels and you still have a car, Bucharest is just a peace of cake compared to those two.

Romania has stray dogs and beggars

On the same note as the previous point is this one. I do have to say that the stray dog problem is somehow in the past. On my last trip to Bucharest I've found just one stray dog and he was on a neighbourhood far away from the centre and even him, I think, was owned by a store lady, cause was hanging around a store. So yes we had a stray dog problem, I'm kinda afraid to ask how that was handled, but... Still Romanians have a deep love for their dogs so you will see a lot of people walking their dogs on the street, with a leash and everything. And what is even a plus point for Romanians is that you will see a lot of former stray dogs walked on the streets. So Romanians prefer to adopt than buy, which is so positive I can't even tell you...

Beggars. Yes we have and we seem to export them to Europe. So yes you will see beggars in bigger cities, but they are civilised and not aggressively begging as I saw in Paris. So yea, they are ours and Romania still has this problem, but little by little I think things are improving.

Traffic is horrible

Yes. No argue on this one. Traffic is terrible especially in the big cities. That is why I advise you to walk. So if you lived your whole life in a quiet town such as Arlon or you drove in Ireland, taking the Bucharest traffic is too much for you, but if you live in Paris or Brussels, the Bucharest traffic is no match for you. It all depends on what you are doing in Bucharest or Romania, if you really need to drive or not.

All the gypsies come from Romania

No they don't. If you look just a little bit back into history you will probably hind out that at their origin gypsies come from Asia. It was just unfortunate that the 50 years of communism that Romanian people endured, forced them to stay in Romania. If you are familiar with the traveller communities in Ireland, originally gypsies were migratory people, too. They are now doing what is in their nature, which is to migrate. I am aware of the negative press about gypsies, but if you take your time and get rid of any misconceptions, you will find out that they are fascinating people, with a lot of traditions, culture, a universal language and colourful clothes.


I don't know how I jumped from gypsies to Dracula, but here it is. Actually Dracula is not Romanian. When I've lived in Dublin, I've researched a little bit Bram Stoker's life and found out he never went to Romania or Transylvania. Still, he placed his novel in Transylvania and we thank him for it. Dracula is a never-ending well of revenue and some of it is spilled into Romania, so thank you mister Stoker! I've heard there are thematic tours around Transylvania, there are books about Dracula, there are dishes and restaurants themed around the character, there are hotels and motels all around the country so why not, Dracula comes from Romania.

I do have to say though, that there is a little bit of truth around Dracula being Romanian. Apparently Bram Stoker heard about a Wallachian price who used to impale his enemies. That one is ours and he is called Vlad Țepeș, the son of Vlad Dracul. You can read about him from wiki, but from what I remember from the history lessons in school, he did a lot of good besides impaling people.

Transylvania is a real land

I don't know how people could think that Transylvania is like the Shire or something, but yes Transilvania is a region in Romania, it is real and it is lovely. If you have a chance to visit it, Dracula fan or not, you grab it with both hands. You will discover picture perfect towns and a lot of legends far more interesting than the Țepeș one and good food and adventures to last you a lifetime.

Romanians speak good Russian

Actually I was asked a couple of times myself, if I speak Russian and I don't, but yes, at some point Russian was studied at school as a second language in Romania, so the generation of my parents maybe remember some Russian words. My generation though studied English or French so no Russian speaking Romanians from the age of 40-45 down, it think. Except, of course, the ones that actually liked Russian language and studied it.

To make things a little more clear, Romanian is a Latin language so it is closer to Italian, Spanish and French in this order. Still, Romanian language has a few Dacian words, a few Turkish words and a few Slavic words and you can find the explanation for that in the history books. So maybe that is where the confusion with Russian language is made. We have Slavic words in our language, but we don't speak Russian.

When speaking English, we speak it with a Russian accent

No we don't. We don't speak any language for that matter with a "Dracula accent". If all my English teachers throughout the years could read this (maybe they will pas over my grammar mistakes) they would tell you I am right. There was such a pressure on us as students to speak the posh, British English, that I don't think any Romanian speaks English as Dracula does. Actually the posh accent is considered the right one by Romanians even now when we have the opportunities to travel and work in English speaking countries. Personally I love the Dublin accent, the Irish accent on television (which of course is not the true Irish accent) and the Scottish accent, in this order. I try to speak English without an accent, cause that was what I've aspired towards when doing radio in Ireland, but I would love to have the Dublin accent on my English. It pops up from time to time, especially when I'm in Dublin, but it doesn't stay with me :(

Bucharest is the capital of Romania and not Budapest

Ever since the 90's when Michael Jackson first came to Romania and said "Hello Budapest!" this confusion is being made and I've heard that it has reached such a scale that people booked flights to Budapest instead of Bucharest and the other way around. So, just to make it clearer, Bucharest is the capital of Romania and Budapest is the capital of Hungary. Still, if you made the mistake, both cities are worth a visit, so no disappointment there, it think.

Romanians are welcoming towards foreigners/tourists

No argument here, it is true. I've experienced it when I've took my friends to Romania, so yes it is true. I don't like it, but that's it. And I don't like it because I am a foreigner living in a foreign country and travelling to foreign countries and I don't experience the level of friendliness as the Romanians are capable of giving. We love to host guests and we give them everything and the legends are true, if you go to a Romanian's house you will be treated like family. We try as much as possible to take the same friendliness with us when we move to different countries, but not all the people are as friendly as we are. No finger pointing at anyone at this moment, but I do miss this level of friendliness which you can find in Romania.

So here they are, all the misconceptions I've heard about Romania. They are more than 5 as the title indicates and some of them are not misconceptions at all, but I've liked the title and I think it will go well on google so it will stay like this.

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This is an interesting video, long video, about Romania. It is focused abound an Irish guy who discovered Romania and made it his second home, but in the video he ticks most of the points from my post. So do watch it!

September 11, 2017

Luxembourg - Melusina is back

It took them 4 months and the whole Luxembourgish summer, but they brought Melusina back. I am so, so happy and I love the sculpture, maybe because it is made from ceramic, or because it was placed during our stay in Luxembourg so it is actually part of our own history with the city, I don't know, but Melu is back and I am glad.

I can't believe I've never shown you, here on the blog, this sculpture, but she is present on my Instagram and Facebook.

So long story short, Melusina is a legendary character, one of the few truly Luxembourgish, she was a mermaid as you can see. The sculpture was placed in the Grund area of Luxembourg in 2015 and every time we visit her I snap a selfie. It has almost become a tradition of ours.

In May this year someone broke Melusina's tail. The article in Wort almost made me cry, seeing her all bandaged up and looking sad. This was actually the second time that the statue was vandalised, the last time someone took a ceramic tile from her back, I think. So in just two short years the statue was vandalised twice. So it is very fragile and unique which makes me love it even more.

The restored statue was put back on its place at the beginning of August, but as it was a busy month we did not get a chance to visit it. That happened last weekend, when we left home with the sole purpose of visiting Melusina.
And here she is! Back and melancholic as ever!
I have a ton of photos of this statue, but none from this angle. This goes to show that every time you could discover a new way of looking at the 3D printed ceramic statue.
And this is The Selfie! August 2017. Melusina is back!
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September 4, 2017

France - Calais - Cite de Dentelle

I debated a lot if I should write a post about this museum or not. The reason of my indecision was that I did not like the museum, but since I've liked the temporary exhibition (despite not being a fashion fan) and I did take a lot of photos I've decided to do a post on it and let you decide for yourself if it's worth a visit or not.

Believe me, I have my fair share of museums visited and I am able to form an opinion, but even if this would have been the first museum I would have stepped into, the total darkness and the somewhat scary monitors which would start talking unexpectedly made the experience of visiting the permanent collection a very creepy one. I do understand that old pieces can only be shown on a specific lighting, but there has to be another way. It was a dark room, with dark display cases and I felt bad from beginning to end.

Don't get me wrong, the information was there, it was good and well condensed, but after a three or four display cases I've met an old lady and we scared each other out of the museum. Why paint the room black? Why?

I did take other pictures, but I feel you have to experience the creepy feeling for yourselves to understand. Instead, I will post pictures from the temporary exhibition about the designer Hubert de Givenchy. One thing though, I've posted only the outfits I've liked. If you like fashion and you are in the area the Givenvhy exhibition will be open until December, 31st.
I would wear that shirt 
Embroidery on velvet 
The awkward moment when two people meet wearing the same dress, in this case it was The Duchess of Windsor and the Baroness of Redes, both wearing the striped Givenchy dress. Picture behind the mannequin.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis 
I have a similar dress, of course made by an unknown Romanian designer :) 
The little black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's 
Me and another of Hepburn's dresses designed by Givenchy 
You can't see from the picture but the blue lines are made from long beads embroidered on the dress  
A Givenchy bride 
From the exhibition book, Hubert de Givenchy and his dog
That's it folks! 
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August 28, 2017

France - Going to the seaside from Luxembourg

If for you (as it is for me) summer means seaside, then hold on a minute and read what I have to say. If you live in Luxembourg summer is an undefined notion. It could last from one week to a month and it can be anytime between April and August. Nevertheless, from April, intensified in June and July, I feel the urge to go "smell the sea", because I am a Romanian vampire, sunbathing for me is a big no. I get headaches, vomiting sensation and long sleeps, so exposing myself to the sun is not an option. In this context going to the seaside in this region makes more sense for me than for other people.

If you don't know where the seaside is, read along. If you do, skip this paragraph :) Only three to four short driving hours from Luxembourg you have the beaches in Netherlands, Belgium and France. They face the English Channel and to my knowledge the water is never good enough to have a proper swim, but on a sunny day you can go to the beach, have a picnic, enjoy some fine wine, play in the sand or do whatever your heart desires.

From my experience, during the summer months, the hotel rooms are expensive in Netherlands, and less expensive as you go down the coast. And by expensive I mean more than 300 euros for a night in Netherlands, to me that's expensive. In Belgium you may have the luck of finding a room for 150 euros per night, but in France you can find rooms with 70 to 100 euros per night. For me it was logical to look for hotels in France, because I've already been to the seaside in Netherlands and Belgium in previous summers.

So this time we choose Calais. I was told not to go there because of the bad press related to refugees camps, but for me Calais was a nice surprise. It looks a little bit deserted, especially around the Town Hall, but the Old Town and seaside area are excellent for a weekend or even a long weekend. We went to the beach, we visited three or four museums, we enjoyed the wildlife so long story short we had a nice, relaxing weekend. Our goal was accomplished.

Here are some photos:
The Opera/Theatre 
The Town Hall with Auguste Rodin's sculpture "The Burghers of Calais"  
A very nice looking house 
Charles de Gaulle and his wife. 
I hope I've remembered well, they married in Calais and she was from Calais, or something. 
Luna was not allowed on the beach, there were posters everywhere with the fine and everything, but I've asked a local dog friend and he told me that when the guards are not on the beach, the dogs are welcomed. 
So we bended the law a little bit and we went on the beach in the morning up to 11 a.m. and in the evening after 7 p.m.
Every morning we took long walks along the beach with coffee in one hand and Luna's toys in the other :) 
Inside the Lace Museum was a temporary exhibition about Givenchy's creations and that is the actual black dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's  
On the promenade with my Romanian Blouse waiting for Alin and Luna 
I love wearing Romanian Blouses and this is a very special one which I love 
In front of the Lighthouse. There are two or three lighthouses in Calais and near Calais. This one is at the ships exist from the harbour. There is one in the old town which was never open and there is one on Cap Gris Nez close to Calais
As a shepherd dog, Luna is not at ease with being in the water. Of course she can swim, but it's in her nature to heard sheep and not swim. Still, since she is with us she is more and more into playing with the waves, going into the water, to the point when I wasn't paying attention for a second and she was a couple of metres into the water chasing a diver.
Another favourite Romanian Blouse (I wonder if I own a Romanian Blouse which I don't like:D) at the Cap Gris Nez
In the small harbour there is the Fish Market and a lot of fish nets. I thought this one was nice looking. I don't know if they ever use them, though. 
At the Museum of Fine Arts they had the mould after which Auguste Rodin created his famous sculpture "The Kiss"
And that was it, our weekend at the French seaside close to Belgium. If you liked my post and find it interesting please do share it on social media. You can find me at my fb. page:

August 21, 2017

The advantages and disadvantages of being a cross-border worker between Belgium and Luxembourg

I have to say that five years ago the people I knew who would even understand what a cross-border worker between two countries is, let alone be one, was limited to the fingers of one hand. Even now I have friends in Luxembourg, no less, who can't get around their head how it is possible to cross the border daily. It was funny when my friends, recently relocated to Luxembourg, were "afraid" to go to IKEA in Belgium, but at the border with Luxembourg, afraid they would have to import stuff and be buried in paperwork :)

Things are way easier here and for people like me it's become a common thing. I don't think Luxembourg's situation is singular and without going into too many details, the phenomenon of cross-border workers in this area is due to the fact that Luxembourg is a small and expensive country and living across the border in any direction is more affordable and commonsensical in my view. I do have a subjective opinion and this will be a subjective post, but as this isn't a scientific paper I am allowed to be subjective. It is my blog, after wall. Another thing I have to say, I am not talking about the situation between Germany and Luxembourg or France and Luxembourg. I'm not even talking about coming from Liege or Bastogne or other towns in between. I'm only talking about commuting from Arlon to Luxembourg City.

The advantages:

1. Cheaper rent

I think that if you ask a cross-border worker why he or she lives in Arlon the main reason would be cheaper rent. I have to point out that is way cheaper then in Luxembourg, anywhere in Luxembourg. I don't have exact numbers so I'm only relying on what I know from my friends. Based on that, a flat with two bedrooms in Luxembourg City, but not exactly in the centre, but with good connections, nonetheless, is around 1700-1800 euros. It could be even more expensive depending on the facilities, such as garage or a small garden. The same apartment in Luxembourg Centre is more than 2000 euros. In the country you can rent the same two bedroom apartment with 1300-1500 euros. In Arlon a two bedroom apartment can be rented with 700 to 1000 euros.

2. Bigger houses with gardens

At these prices it makes sense to rent a house in Arlon and the renting prices for houses (so from three bedrooms up) are between 900 and 1500 euros depending on how new is the house and how many facilities does it have. I forgot to mention that in this area (Arlon and Luxembourg) houses or flats are rented empty without even a freezer or washing machine. For me, coming from Dublin this was a big shock as in Dublin you rent the apartment fully equipped with everything you could possibly need, including cutlery and plates.  

3. Clean air

I don't know if you reading thing have the same thing, but for me living in the country means cleaner and fresher air. Of course Arlon is also a city and it has traffic and on the other hand Luxembourg is not as polluted as other major cities around Europe, but in my head living in a smaller city equals less pollution. Although there is a factory somewhere near Arlon and sometimes I would prefer a little traffic fumes to the smell of paint or something similar. And then again, living in the country means another sort of smells. Wasn't there a study somewhere saying that cows pollute more then cars?

4. Country life

What I mean by that is easy access to producer shops. There is one on Autelhaut which sells fresh eggs and cheese and bread made by the owner of the shop. In Arlon there are Bakeries which sell fresh bread and pastry and are open even on Sundays. Beside that, having a garden (and some gardening skills) means you can plant whatever your heart desires. We only started two years ago, but now we have the best tomatoes I've ever tasted, we have salad, onions, basil and another thing which we Romanians know and love, but is unheard of in this region, we have dill.

5. Store proximity

At some point the Arlon authorities have noticed that Arlon is populated by commuters and they accepted for all the major supermarket chains to have stores here. So a short walk away we have Aldi, Cloruyt, Lidl, Carrefour, Delhaise and I'm forgetting something, I just don't know what. We also have outlets with all the major brands, we have IKEA and some sort of a mall, called Hydrion. You have to drive to the last ones, but they are closer to Arlon than Luxembourg and they all are in Belgium. I have not mention it but we do have all the mass stores such as H&M, C&A and others.


1. Lack of public transport

This is a big no and the only reason we might move to Luxembourg. Basically if you drive and have a car, Arlon has only advantages. If you don't drive, like me, the public transport between Arlon and Luxembourg sucks. The only public transport linking the two countries is the train. If you are a regular commuter by train you might not be as bothered by their delays as I am. But as I do go to Luxembourg away from rush hours for me is a nightmare to get out or in Arlon. I do have to say that they try to make the trains between 6.30 am and 8.00 am as on time as possible and in that interval you have around 6 trains back and forth. The same goes for between 4.00 pm and 6.30 pm. If you want to go to Luxembourg but not between those hours you have one maybe two trains per hour. But you also have delays and cancelled trains or trains replaced by busses which do not have the same timetable as the trains. So it's like Russian roulette every time you go to the trains station. 

A good thing though, now they introduced ticket machines that give tickets for Luxembourg as well. They had them even five years ago, but only recently they added the Luxembourg option and not to both (the one in the train station and the one outside), just to the one inside the railway station. It's an improvement, believe me as the workers there are never in a hurry and always willing to chat. I've lost countless trains because of them or I've payed extra for a ticket purchased in the train.

2. Nightlife

Recently I've noticed that even in Arlon there is some sort of an evening life. There are new takeaways, new restaurants, new terraces, small events, so little by little Arlon is waking up to life. Problem is if you work in Luxembourg and all if not most of your friends and coworkers live in Luxembourg. They will never be willing to come to Arlon for a drink and it doesn't make sense anyways. So if you are a cross-border worker in Luxembourg you are somehow forced to socialise in Luxembourg. If you have a car, I guess it could be alright, but in this case you are BOB (the designated driver) so no alcoholic drinks for you. If you rely on public transport you can say farewell to evening or nightlife in Luxembourg as the last train is at 11.00 pm and even the Luxembourg railway station closes around 10.00 pm.

3. Commuting times

Many people asked about the disadvantages of commuting between Arlon and Luxembourg would say the commuting times. I tend to disagree and let me tell you why. Indeed in the morning the motorway is pretty much on a stand still, but there are another two or even three alternative routes that link Arlon to Luxembourg. Another thing if you don't have fixed working hours, you have no traffic. I know for a fact that after 8.45 am the motorway clears out. And there is always the train, as I've said during the rush hours they try to have the trains on time.

As actual commuting times go, on a busy day, I could make from Arlon to Kirschberg in Luxembourg around 45 minutes. If there is no traffic I've made from my house to Esprit parking in the centre 20 minutes. By train you can make between 25 to 35 minutes depending on the type of train you catch. If you catch a direct one from Arlon to Luxembourg the journey is around 25 minutes, if the trains stops on the way, the journey is around 35 minutes. But, if you take the train you have to take also the bus in Luxembourg City and in the morning it can be a challenge. So even if you make 25 minutes by train, you can spent another 25 or even more in a bus. So in total if, for example, you work around the Airport in Luxembourg and you live in Arlon (although it makes more sense to live in Germany if you work around the airport) I would estimate your commuting times would be between 25 minutes (if you work close to the railway station in Luxembourg) to 45 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes.

Which is not that bad. I've lived in Bucharest and in Dublin and my commuting times were way bigger, with 45 minutes for 12 km in Bucharest and with one hour in Dublin. So if you come from London or another big city, to commute for an hour is something ordinary and that happens here only if there is traffic.

I think this will be a TLDR post, but if you made it this far, I thank you! I will try to insert a picture here and there and bold some information so it would be easier to read, but yes it is a kilometric post.

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August 16, 2017

Belgium - On top of Saint-Donat Church in Arlon

If you live in Luxembourg you have a lot of reasons to pop in Arlon from time to time. It's only a 20 minute drive if the motorway is busy and you are already surrounded by another type of people, another culture, another way of doing events and another landscape. Living in Arlon I've discovered that if you keep a close eye on billboards or posters you find out that there are a lot of events going on, besides the Carnival or Maitrank. This summer the highlight has to be to climb on top of the bell tower of the old Saint-Donat Church. There are 120 steps and it costs 3 euro per person, but they allow dogs inside and on your climb you can marvel at the old bells.

What I don't know though is if they have a timetable, because I walk Luna there almost every day and I've saw the tower open maybe twice? They have a phone number: 063600893 and an email: so if you are really interested give them a sigh. 

But if you do come to Arlon and if you find the bell tower open the views are amazing. They say that on a clear day you can even see Trier's Cathedral. I could have stayed for hours looking for every corner of Arlon and beyond towards Luxembourg, but there were a lot of visitors and two families of Belgians who met after their holidays on top of the tower and had to share their experiences then and there. If I hate something about Belgians is their lack of empathy towards the others when they meet. It was actually a narrow path around the tower so imagine two families with two children each chatting on that narrow path :( The thing was they didn't care and I have a limited amount of pardons in my vocabulary so at one point after participating involuntary at their memory sharing, I had to be the bigger person and give up, climbing down the 120 stairs.

Nevertheless I do recommend this attraction in Arlon. I was there at sunset and the views were even better.

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August 7, 2017

Belgium - Braderie in Arlon

Please do not stumble on the word "braderie". It comes from French and it is a "flea market" or a "yard sale". The one in Arlon is actually huge and if you are interested in this sort of thing come with me to find out what you can buy from Arlon Braderie which takes place every first Sunday of the summer months till November.

I have to say that as an Arlonais (I do hope that means people living in Arlon and not people born in Arlon) I was unaware of this event that takes place in my town. I saw on Sunday that the most important vlogers of Luxembourg were heading towards Arlon posting at the same time on Insta Stories what they found and I had to check it out.
Just to give you a head's up, if you plan to come by car to a Braderie in Arlon, leave your car at the railway station or in one of the supermarket's parkings, because the whole city centre is closed and on the streets near the centre you have to have a ton of luck to find a spot. 
Here is the poster I see literally every day when I walk Luna, you'd think I'd pay more attention. Well, no :(
This is a tea/coffee set I've noticed in Villeroy and Boch store in Luxembourg. Expensive at first hand, expensive at second-hand, unfortunately.
A functional and beautiful gramophone
If you know me, you know I'm passionate about Romanian blouses and to some extent about all embroidery. This is a Belgian nightgown, an old one.
At Braderie Arlon one could find even an old gynecologists's table. In the background, not this first thing, whatever it is.
What can be more at place than chocolate moulds at a Belgian flea market?
Different tiny radios. 
I felt like someone was selling their collection, cause this particular seller had this white trays with cooking instruments, toys and even small radios.
Again a whole collection of pepper grinders.
Not even the traffic signs were left undecorated.
Photo cameras
Old thread coil with still nice colours
Nice chair
Old signboards from Brussels
A furry seller :)
So if you are interested in this sort of stuff you still have two or three Braderies in Arlon until the season is over.
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