Râmnicu Vâlcea – The Most Dangerous Town On The Internet

Over the weekend I came across a short documentary created by global antivirus company, Norton. The 20-minute video on YouTube tells the story of Râmnicu Vâlcea which is described as The Most Dangerous Town On The Internet or Hackerville.

In the documentary, various notable hackers, including some who have been to prison, speak about the demise of communism and how it opened the flood gates to technology. Romania was thirsty for new technology. According to one hacker, fibre optic cable runs throughout Romania (which puts Britain to shame!) making hacking all the more possible.

Some of the hackers claim they hack for good, they want to prove their are vulnerabilities and demonstrate how they can be fixed. Their morality does not always get them what they want though, with one hacker ending up in a maximum security prison for four years. Others hack for hire. Some even hack for Anonymous, an international network of online activists. The targets are everyone from search engine giant, Google, to social networks and governments.

Of course hacking is not just made possible by fast internet connections but is facilitated by the way in which we increasingly live our lives: online. One hacker summises, cybercrime is the way of the future, as more and more people live their lives on the internet. So many people have access to our data, it’s not as simple as avoiding typing your own bank details into an email. Hacking can hit you at any time, because of your own vulnerabilities or ineptitudes or because of big business or your government.

In a bid to present a balanced picture, Norton attempts to provide a reassuring voice towards the end of the video, saying they’ll take on the challenge. However, as the hackers explain, there’s always someone who is smarter. So I suppose for the likes of Norton, it’s a case of which side they’ll choose to work on: good, bad, or a shade of grey in-between.

For anyone interested in the cultural shifts which take place after the demise of a political regime, this video is compelling watching. Having said that, and to, like Norton, present a balanced view, I would remind viewers this is just one place in Romania and a handful of Romanian people. The country is beautiful and has a lot to offer. Don’t let this put you off visiting.

A 3 Minute Video Tourist Guide to Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled

 

Lake Bled is approximately 45 minutes’ drive from Ljubljana. The lake has become internationally recognisable for its small island on top of which sits the Church of Assumption. I’ve been to Bled many times, both on day trips while staying in Kranjska Gora, as well as staying at the Grand Hotel Toplice, which overlooks the glorious lake, on three occasions.

Lake Bled Otok (Island)
Lake Bled Otok (Island)

 

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Grand Hotel Toplice in three stages of its life. The first was some 15 years ago, prior to its renovation. The hotel was tired but there was no getting over the fact it benefited from the most superior view in town. Just over a decade ago the hotel was renovated. Everything was in keeping with the style of the hotel but its glamour had been well and truly restored. Unfortunately, my most recent visit, last year, found that some of the furniture had seen better days and wallpaper was peeling off the walls in parts. However, what hasn’t changed is that fantastic view. Free parking for guests is a great bonus and means you can take day trips to the likes of Postojna, Bohinj and Ljubljana.

Bled Castle
Bled Castle

 

The breakfast at the hotel is excellent too and will set you up for a day of sightseeing, particularly if you’re planning on doing some hiking. You can choose from various types of fresh bread rolls, cheeses including skuta (similar to cottage cheese but better), hot dishes like scrambled eggs, multiple types of sausages and very garlicky and crispy bacon. There’s even a waffle station. The fine dining restaurant is worth checking out one night too. Though there’s some excellent restaurants nearby. Restaurant Ajda does some wonderful traditional dishes included Strukli. While a visit to Bled is not complete without popping into Hotel Park for a slice of kremšnita – a layer of flaky pastry, topped with a layer of cream, a layer of custard and more flaky pastry, with a liberal shaking of icing sugar on top.

St Martin's Church Lake Bled
St Martin’s Church Lake Bled

 

In terms of weather, if you go in the winter, expect snow and there’s potential for the lake to freeze over. In the summer days are generally warm, while nights cool down a little, so it’s good to pack a sweater. Be aware there can be some epic thunderstorms; the last time I visited one knocked the power out to part of the town. Always be prepared and carry a raincoat and umbrella. Don’t go walking in the mountains during a thunderstorm.

If you only have a couple of days, or even just a day to visit Bled, you must try to cram the following in:

1) Walk to Bled Castle and on route, stop off at St Martin’s Church

2) Take a Pletna boat to the island, climb the 99 steps and ring the bell of the Church of Assumption

3) Visit Restaurant Ajda and try their savoury strukli

4) Pop into Hotel Park for an afternoon snack and feast on the kremšnita

5) Walk around the lake (9km) and enjoy the beautiful architecture and fresh air

Useful websites for planning your trip:

Balkan Holidays

Slovenia Tourist Board

Grand Hotel Toplice

Hotel Park

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