Thursday, April 28, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark - a delightful city

The only really busy place in Copenhagen

I don't normally use the word 'delightful' to describe anything, but Copenhagen is indeed just that. It's picturesque, not densely populated like Amsterdam, with a very laid back atmosphere - even more so than in Amsterdam.
Ian is chillin'

We took a roadtrip over the Easter holidays to visit our Danish friends, Ulla and Andreas. We had a 'delightful' time exploring the city, laying in the parks, eating traditional Danish foods and, of course, drinking some traditional Danish beers ;)  Ian was a great trooper, as usual, and maybe even learned some Danish along the way - 'tak' for thank you, and 'hi hi' for goodbye.

Tip to foodies out there: Copenhagen does boast the world's best restaurant now, Noma, beating out El Bulli in Spain.  Unfortunately, we did not have the pleasure of dining there, but maybe in the future ;-) 
cool modern angles
Check out more pics of our delightful trip to this delightful place!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ungheni and Chisinau, Moldova

Moldova, Moldova....I don't think many people know about this country. I mean, I didn't until I started this job. It used to be part of Romania and the people speak Romanian (also called Moldovan, but it's not a separate language or dialect). Everyone understands Russian as well, and the older generation still speaks Russian as their main language.  There are many villages where the residents just communicate in Russian (!  Moldova gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and a large percentage of people want to re-join with Romania (part of the European Union), however, that isn't very likely. For a more detailed account of the country's history, you can check wikipedia ;)

I only spent 4 days in Moldova on this trip, but I will be returning in June.  We support a project, called Fundatia Muncii, training youth in various skillsets/trades to find employment in a company, or to start their own businesses. Moldova is traditionally an agricultural country (including a long and noted history in viticulture - wine making), so the youth are often not really well-trained for other types of labor. There is also a large exodus of young people to Russia, Romania, and other countries, because the Moldovan economy is just so terrible.  In terms of GDP, it's the poorest in Europe (average monthly salary is around €150/month). There are poorer people on the planet, of course, but this is on the modern, European continent!

Anyhow, at first appearance, I thought the landscape was quite grim. Of course, the trees and flowers still had not blossomed and it was rainy, so the old delapidated communist high-rise buildings and factories of Ungheni and elsewhere, were quite depressing.  After a couple of days, however, I got to see more of the lovely countryside and, I dare say, it looks like Virginia.  At least, I could picture myself in Virginia as we were driving....rolling hills, vineyards, the trees, etc.  Have a look at the photos towards the end and see what you think.  Besides, the Moldovan people made the country appear much brighter with their sincere warmth and generosity (according to some experts I met who have traveled extensively throughout the former USSR, the Moldovan people are by far the nicest).

Well, that's it for an update.  I will be tasting more of the respectable wines on my next visit to the world's largest underground wine cellar, Milestii Mici!

Here are the rest of the photos!
*I didn't take our nice DSLR camera because I didn't want to lose it, so please bear with the less than perfect quality. ;)