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.
Recently my sister gave me a bottle of La Umbra Merlot 2009 Dealurile Munteniei, Romania, she had purchased from Waitrose. It’s always exciting to try a new wine available in the UK from the region so I didn’t hesitate to crack it open.
Despite being unoaked, this is a punchy red wine, with a fabulous ruby red colour, making it a great wine for your decanter at your dinner party. There is an intense aroma of ripe plums and blackberries. A touch of tannin just gets the back of your tongue making it a great wine to serve with a traditional Romanian hearty dish. You could eat it with red meats but I’d personally recommend with my Romanian Pork and Bean Stew.
Romania’s presence at this year’s London International Wine Festival was certainly bigger and better than before. It seems that with the launch of the La Umbra range, Romanian wine is finally getting the attention it deserves, particularly after the recent mass investment in replanting, primarily led by Halewood Romania.
What you need to know:
Alcohol by volume: 14% vol
Bottle size: 75cl
Closure type: Screwcap
Exclusive to Waitrose: Yes
Grape varieties: Merlot
Style: Full Bodied
Suitable for vegans: Yes
Suitable for vegetarians: Yes
Wine colour: Red
Price: £5.69 per bottle
Square 2 Design, a Romanian design group, recently revealed an eco-friendly concept home for the Danube Delta. As you can see, the eco-house features a wall covered in foliage and an indoor greenhouse, making the garden an integral part of the home itself, rather than an addition.
The group claims that the interiors and furniture are constructed from biodegradable and recycled materials, making them environmentally friendly too. I think in the past Romania’s had a bad reputation in the West for being a backward country but this sort of innovative design and eco-thinking demonstrates just how forward-thinking this country can be.
Founded in 2002, the Transilvania International Film Festival (TIFF) was the first international feature film festival to take place in Romania. Over the last nine years, TIFF has become a well-known brand in Romania, not only due to the outstanding films screened every year, but also for the effective organization, sparkling atmosphere and density of events, from seminars, workshops and panels, to fabulous concerts and crazy night-long parties.
This year’s festival will take place between 3rd and 12th of June 2011 in Cluj and 15th to 19th of June in Sibiu.
The programme is yet to be announced but visit www.tiff.ro for more information.
Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit. Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts. Here’s our top ten…
During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city. The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).
Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting. The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste. Open 9am to 7pm daily.
The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories. Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.
Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets. While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them. Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.
Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.
With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation. Open 9am to 9pm daily.
One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square. There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks. Open 10am to 8pm daily.
Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city. Open from 10am to 9pm daily.
Cologne in London, UK
Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market. While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design. Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch” and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold. Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe. December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity. Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans. These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
I recently came across the company UTracks who offer active walking, trekking and cycling tours throughout Europe, including Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Romania and Transylvania. There are tours suitable for all capabilities from those seeking something of an introductory level, all through to those seeking something a little more challenging; yet all offer unique opportunities to discover the untrodden Europe, spanning postcard landscapes, centuries-old culture, rural lifestyles and tempting culinary delights. In short, they’re flexible, unique adventures of undiscovered corners, offering you a great deal of independence yet providing support when you need it. Best of all, they start on virtually any day of the week, so you can combine any tour to create exactly the holiday you want.
The six-day Transylvania Castles and Mountains tour includes a trip to Bran Castle to learn about the legends of Dracula, time for discovering unique villages, a walk along limestone ridges to take in the stunning landscapes of Piatra Craiului and plenty of cultural exchanges with local people.
The tour itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrive Bucharest, train to Brasov and transfer to Zărneşti
Day 2 – Walk in Piatra Craiului (Royal Stone) through the Zărneşti Gorge (5hrs, 15km +800m, -600m)
Day 3 – Continue on foot through Piatra Craiului mountains and rural villages (4hrs, 13km +450m, -450m)
Day 4 – Walk to Bran Castle home to the origin of the character known as “Dracula” (4hrs, 12km, +350m, -600m)
Day 5 – Ascend the Bucegi Mountains with stunning views (6 hrs, 18km, +650m, – 900m)
Day 6 – Transfer from Bran to Brasov where you take the train to Bucharest. Trip concludes on arrival in Bucharest.
During the trip you will be accommodated in rural pensions which are rated as 3 stars in Romania. These are traditional guesthouses which while simple, provide a unique dimension to the cultural experience of travelling in the region.
This May UTRACKS are launching a new trip through Slovenia lasting 10 days. Slovenia encompasses a wealth of stunning natural features: this self guided cycle journey takes in all of the highlights while allowing for time to appreciate the unique culture and culinary delights. From Lake Bohinj and the delightful lakeside town of Bled, the cycle continues around the Julian Alps, with a white water rafting experience on the vivid blue waters of the Soca River! In the wine growing region of Brda enjoy a special dinner and wine tasting before heading to the massive Skocjan Caves with its underground gorge. Ending in the capital city of Ljubljana, there is time to explore the old town and sample the local cuisine. Departs: Every Monday from May to September 2010. Price: £1,190 per person
To book a UTRACKS trip, complete the booking form which can be downloaded from their website www.utracks.com
Today sees Romania’s Fashion Week kick off in Cluj. This season’s shows are dedicated to the late Alexander McQueen.
And here is what you really need to know… this season’s timetable:
Welcoming International Guests
18:00 Models Casting, Napoca Hotel
23:00 CFW PARTY 01, Midi Club
13:00 OPENING Art Exhibition”Living Art”, Casa Matei
15:00 Workshop 1 – Reality and Imagination Lifestyle, Fashion and Film DIANE PERNET, West City Hotel
17:00 OPENING Photo Exhibition, “Lifestyle XXI”, Turnul Croitorilor
18:00 TIFF Film Screening, Rade Couture, Cinema Arta
20:00 CFW FASHION SHOWS: 10 designers, Napoca Hotel
23:00 CFW Party, Midi Club
10:00 Openning Interactive Exhibition “Complementary Esthetics”, Polus Mall
12:00 OPENNING Expo Alexander McQueen Romania/Danemarca,
14:00 Workshop 2″21st Century Fashion”, Hotel Paradis
16:00 OPENNING “1-100” Installation plus Photo Exhibition Miquel Villalobos,Graham Tabor, Turnul Croitorilor
18:00 TIFF FILM Screening, Valentino, the last empire, Cinema Arta
20:00 CFW Fashion Shows: 11 Designers, Napoca Hotel
23:00 CFW Party, Midi Club
11:00 OPENING Photo Exhibition – “The Stylist Fashion Week”, Napoca Hotel
15:00 THEATRE “HELL” by Cris Simion, Napoca Hotel
17:00 DIANE PERNET presents A Shaded View on Fashion and Film ASVOFF 02 CLUJ Screening, National Theatre
20:00 CFW Fashion Shows: 9 designers, Napoca Hotel
23:00 CFW Fashion and Film on the Catwalk Party, Hotel Napoca
16:00 CLOSING Exhibitions
17:00 OPENING CFW 02
It has been announced that Doubletree by Hilton is to make its debut in Romania when the upmarket brand opens in Oradea, the capital city of Romania’s Bihor Country , close to the Hungarian border, in September next year. It will be the home to only the third property owned under the Hilton umbrella in Romania.
Located 1km from Oradea’s city centre, it is expected that the hotel will boast 147 guestrooms plus meetings facilities for up to 350 delegates. Other features will include a restaurant, bar, spa and swimming pool. The hotel will join the Hilton Sibiu, opened in July this year, and the Athenee Palace Hilton, Bucharest, Hilton’s first Romanian property which launched in 1997.
Hilton have also said they are in discussion regarding further projects in Romania and throughout Eastern Europe.
Marina Regia is located 15 km (10 miles) north of the city of Constanta, the largest port on the black sea and home to a rich heritage of Ancient Greek, Ottoman and Christian civilisations. Constanta was founded as the citadel of Tomis by Greek settlers in the 6th Century BC and later became part of the Roman Empire, counting the poet Ovid, banished from Rome for political reasons, amongst its residents. Constanta and its surroundings have a cosmopolitan history, with Genoese, Venetian and Greek merchants, mixing with Jews and Turks. Many of these ancient communities are represented in the city today, where mosques stand alongside Orthodox churches and Italian basilicas.
Spectacular views and unbridled luxury come with every part of Marina regia residence, which hosts two beautiful hotels, a spa, an exclusive club and restaurant, a private beach with bars and stylish chaise lounges and 46 gorgeous Mediterranean villas. Marina Regia residence is a perfect retreat for pampered relaxation as well as fine dining, and is ideally located as a base from which to explore the intriguing coast and countryside. The residence offers a wide variety of activities, catering for relaxed beach and spa holidays as well as active breaks. When not soaking up the delicious sun and enjoying the fine sand and warm water, guests can unwind in the chic restaurants and bars in the Arcadia and Arena hotels or in the Colonial Club. For the adventurous there is an abundance of water sports on offer, be it jet skiing, water skiing or parasailing. Tours of Constanta and the seaside resorts, trips to the Danube delta and wine tastings at Murfatlar are also organised for guests.
The splendid location and extensive facilities at Marina Regia make it the ideal setting for both private and corporate events. The Arena Hotel, the Arcadia Hotel and the Colonial Club have flexible spaces which can be used, as required, for conferences, art exhibitions, presentations, receptions and other such occasions. The superb beach provides a stylish location for weddings or private parties.
Immediately to the south, Marina Regia lies next to the best-known resort on the Romanian Black Sea, Mamaia. The resort started life in 1906, and in the 1920s became the summer residence of the Romanian royal family, the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringens. Mamaia’s location on a narrow strip of land between the sea and lake Mamaia provides it with a wonderful expanse of beach and arguably the best facilities on the coast for water sports. Mamaia is at the height of its glory in summer, and regularly hosts international events such as concerts, club nights, yacht exhibitions, car racing and fashion shows.
The hinterland around Constanta and Mamaia comprises Dobrogea, which became a well-established trading centre under the ancient Greeks and Romans. What is little known is that romania is one of the largest wine producers in Europe, and, with a history of viniculture dating back 6,000 years, it is also one of the oldest. Murfatlar vineyard, the largest in Romania, is located in the middle of the Dobrogea plateau, and is blessed with the perfect climate to produce a large variety of quality wines, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Ottonel, which are available for tastings all year round.
Further north of Constanta lies the Danube delta, Europe’s largest remaining natural wetland. It is a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, with fishing and shooting also available at restricted times of the year. Fascinatingly, the Danube delta is home to a sizeable community of Lipovans, an ethnic minority of dissenters from the official Russian Orthodox church, who fled Russia in the 18th Century and settled by the delta as fishermen.
How to get there
Marina Regia is accessible by road, rail and air.
From Bucharest: car, or train from Gara de Nord, the main railway station in Bucharest (journey is approximately 3 hours).
From Otopeni (Henri Coanda) or Baneasa airports (Bucharest): car, or taxi to Gara de Nord and train as above (journey is approximately 3 hours).
From Mihail Kogalniceanu airport (Constanta): car or taxi (journey is approximately 30 minutes).
Eurostat have revealed the results of their latest price survey across Europe, proving bargains are still to be had across Eastern Europe. The survey revealed that price levels in 2008 differed widely across Europe: Northern European countries tend to have the highest prices while the south-eastern European countries have the lowest prices. Southern and central European countries tend to show price levels closer to the EU average.
In Denmark consumer prices appeared 41% higher than the average of the 27 EU Member States, while in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia prices are 53% lower than this average. Among the EU Member States, the cheapest country is Bulgaria (49% below the average).
Food and non-alcoholic drinks are most expensive in Denmark and cheapest in Bulgaria. Taxes on food, alcohol and tobacco across the bloc’s 27 states are highest in Ireland and lowest in Romania. Regarding clothing prices, Britain is the least costly and Finland is the most expensive. Prices for consumer electronics are lowest in Britain and highest in Malta. Hotels cost the most in Denmark and the least in Bulgaria.
Eurostat examined prices of 2500 consumer goods and services across 37 European countries (27 Member States, the three Candidate Countries (Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey), three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and four Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia).
The results of the surveys are expressed in “price level indices” (PLIs), which provide a comparison of countries’ price levels with respect to the European Union average: if the price level index is higher than 100, the country concerned is relatively expensive compared to the EU average and vice versa, if the price level index is lower than 100, then the country is relatively cheap compared to the EU average.
10 Least Expensive European Countries
4. Bosnia and Herzegovina
10 Most Expensive European Countries: