Sunday, November 26, 2006

To Galati

The next day we drove southwards from Iasi to Galati. The main problem with a right hand drive car was overtaking the many horse-drawn carts that were used for general transport in the rural areas. Getting petrol was a problem because in the towns there was usually a queue about a mile long at each of the few petrol stations. The cars were parked at the side of the road with their engines switched off and when the queue moved they were pushed. In the countryside there were few queues. We saw petrol stations with high octane petrol between Iasi and Galati and arrived with a fairly low tank. Sure enough there was a queue of cars along the road and out of sight round a corner. We drove along and then I saw a gap near the front and drove into it expecting to be sworn at in Romanian. A crowd surrounded the car calling out 'pumpe speciale' and escorted us to the special pump (for party leaders perhaps) and then they all admired our luxury Ford Cortina and gave us a friendly wave as we left.
1. This well is at a world famous painted church.
2. Typical horse drawn carts.
3. Making friends with a local on a ferry.
4. We will always remember this hotel. On arrival it looked better than the previous ones and it even had a multi-lingual menu in the dining room. We each chose someting different but the elderly waiter mumbled someting and disappeared, returing with the young man from the reception desk who said 'We are not rich in food!'. All they had were chips, some cold ham and some cucumber. Towards the end of this banquet a local asked to change money and I was so fed up that I followed him to the gents and got about 5 times the official rate of exchange which made things more affordable. That was the first time I changed money on the black market.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iasi 4-wheelers

Romania has a continental (hot in summer, cold in winter) climate. Most of the 4-wheelers had the front near side window removed. Not for them them the complications of air-con or semi-convertable cars.
1. Close up of a typical w-wheeler at Zona Ind (Industrial zone).
2. There should be plenty of electricity. I don't remember any power cuts on this trip.
3. Well laden tram near city centre.
4. Just imagine that you have a wife and two children with you and that you all were all relying on this tram to get you back to the hotel before they sold out of anything edible.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iasi Tatras

Iasi has a metre gauge tramway.
1. Turning circle at Tatarasi.
2. One of the main squares in the city centre. The sole motor car is a locally built Dacia.
3. In the socialist world most bus drivers were men, tram driving was usually woman's work and anyone could have a go on trolleybuses. This was the first time I had seen driving cabs with lace curtains etc, although it is quite common in the more remote parts of the former USSR.
4. Track repairs in the city centre.

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Parc Distractiv

The Romanians considered their language to be superior to those of their neighbours. Everyone knows that Magyar is only related to Finnish and Estonian and the surrounding slav languages are written in Cyrillic script. Romanian is written in in the Latin script and claims to be the closest of all modern languages to Latin.
In 1982 hotels had to be pre-booked through the Romanian travel office in London and vouchers had to be pre-purchased for petrol. The hotel vouchers stated the name of the hotel and the date and covered room and breakfast. A cash refund at the official rate of exchange was given on checking in to pay for meals (if available). The petrol vouchers could be used at larger petrol stations that stocked 4 star petrol but only in multiples of 20 litres.
After taking some photos in Oradea we started to drive eastwards towards Iasi through the Carpathian Mountains. This was too far for one day so we spent the night in Targu Mures (or it might have been Cluj-Napoca). There were no trams here so in the evening after a frugal meal we went to the 'Parc Distractiv'.

Friday, November 03, 2006


It is only 15 km from the Hungarian border to Oraea but it seemed like a different world. Though both notionally communist states Hungary and Romania were persuing very different economic policies. Compared with the other eastern bloc countries Hungary was a bit like China today - and some private enterprise was allowed and the shops were full of goods and there no queues for petrol. Romania was paying off the national debt by making sure there was nothing left for the locals. Food was scarce - even fresh fruit and vegetables in August and buying petrol for the car was a challenge.
1. The first tram I photographed in Romania. One of the 'standard' four wheeters without air conditioning.
2. I think this was the first time I had seen trams operating on dirt roads. I wonder if the EC will pay for it to be surfaced now.
3. The bogie version was far less common. We only saw them here in in Timisoara. Note the bow collectors on the first three pictures.
4. This is a 'Banat' tram built in Timisoara. These were painted yellow in most towns.

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