In-and-Out: Brunswick in Coastal Georgia

Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

While many of my travels allow me to spend time in a city or country for a long enough time, sometimes that is not the case.  And that is usually when I go on business trips.  It has been quite common for me to travel for long periods of time with work but, especially in the case of domestic travel, trips can be quite short.  That means either the ability to explore is limited to off work hours or to just one evening.  In the spirit of still sharing what I see, it makes sense to do an “in-and-out” series where I can share the small windows I get to see a place with you.  My hope is that it may show glimpses of places, however limited in scope.  So here goes the inaugural post – and please let me know if you like the idea.

Coastal Georgia – Historical… at least for Georgia

The state of Georgia does have a coastline, on the east along the Atlantic Ocean.  That coast is dotted with many islands like Jekyll, Cumberland, St. Simons, etc.  South of the middle of that coastline is the town and port of Brunswick.  Now, I know it may not be much to be excited about given Boston, Philly, Paris, London or Athens but in this part of the Southeast, Brunswick goes “far” back as 1738, depending on how you count.  Supposedly, around that time, the British set up something in the peninsula where Brunswick sits to almost face the Spanish who were in nearby Florida (credit Oglethorpe) AND who had laid claim to lands in this area too (the boundary between modern-day Florida and Georgia not existing back then). In the end, it is funny to think about that this all would have ended up being Florida has the Brits not initially colonized the area…  Brunswick as a town did not get founded until the 1850s but still, its history goes back to colonial times and that fascinates me.  It was designed, though, in the late 18th century in a layout similar to Savannah with many squares (14 of them, large and small) almost mathematically laid out in a grid of streets.

Brunswick, Georgia, parks, squares, layout, map

Map of downtown and its squares and parks

Brunswick, Georgia, parks, squares, layout, map

One of the smallest squares

Downtown , square, Hanover, Brunswick, Georgia

One of the larger squares: Hanover Square

I wonder if Savannah won some battle against Brunswick to become the premier coastal Georgia city.  Brunswick certainly is gifted in terms of its setting.  Perhaps Savannah had some edge with the river and better fit for a port?  But Brunswick was a very important port in the shipping of lumber abroad.  England, Cuba and Brazil were among the destinations for lumber that made it out of the continental U.S. through this port.  It is also incredible to learn that the largest blimp base during WW II was located in Brunswick since there was threat of German U-boats along the southeastern U.S. coast.

Approaching Brunswick – Golden Isles Airport

I had a choice to drive for 5 hours or take a short flight.  Because of the short duration of the visit, a 10-hr round-trip did not make sense.  Now, if the plane had been a larger plane, the flight may have been 30 minutes but it took about 50.  That’s OK.  On my flight in, I got some good views of the land around, with rivers or creeks and perhaps marshes.  I never got to see the ocean as the approach did not require to go past Brunswick towards St. Simons and a turn back.

Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, final approach

Lots of tree farms near Brunswick

Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, river, final approach Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, river, final approach  Brunswick, Georgia, coast, window view, airplane, travel, South, trees, river, final approach Downtown Brunswick

I did not have much time in the area and, because of closing hours, I could not visit places like Fort Frederica.  But I decided to, at least, make the short drive from my hotel near the tiny airport to the downtown area.  The town proper is quite small but it was very charming.   And the time of day for visiting, right before sunset was just perfect for the best light.downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, Coca-Coladowntown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, Ritz downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, sunset downtown, Brunswick, Georgia, red brick, architecture, charming, photos, rainbow, flag

Old homes in downtown Brunswick

I loved seeing old homes not immaculately restored but kept up.  Clearly, Brunswick is not a ‘happening’ place that pulls visitors in left and right but that, perhaps, has kept it more authentic or reflective of how places ‘used to be’ since it is not corrupted by out-of-control development nor by anti-septic ordinances that force artificial curbs, sidewalks, etc.

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The skies were a little dark because it had just rained.  You may appreciate in a couple of photos the rainbow coming out.  But the best was left for my drive out of Brunswick:  a beautiful sunset as a backdrop.

Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo Brunswick, Georgia, sunset, sun, cloud, silhouette, golden, sky, photo

Photo of the Week – A Storm over Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC, Potomac River, Reagan airport, National airport, storm, rain, weather, photo, grey

No, I am not referring to the government shutdown or any of the infinite number of incidences of stupidity that emanate from the politicians who make a career in DC at our expense and to our detriment (soap BOX!!!)…  This is a literal storm caught from my hotel in Arlington, Virginia looking towards Reagan-National airport and the Potomac River right behind it.  If it were not raining, you would see in the distance the silhouettes of the famous buildings around The Mall.  But that is not to be in this moment.

I love the clear outline of the core of the storm as it seems to hang over the Potomac.  Quite a sight!

Washington, DC, Potomac River, Reagan airport, National airport, storm, rain, weather, photo, grey

A Border Town in Moldova: Soroca

Cetatea Soroca

When planning my trip to Moldova last year, I really did not have a good idea of what there was to see or do.  I went with the recommendations proposed by a person I hired to show me around.  I wrote about the very unique wineries I explored, about the churches and monasteries I visited, and about the country’s capital, Chisinau.  What I have not written about yet is the trip to the northeast corner of the country to visit Soroca, a town on the border with the Ukraine with less than 30,000 inhabitants but lots of history.

The history of the town seems to go to the Middle Ages (it was Genoese post – who knew those Genoese got that far!) and it has been at the crossroads of many military campaigns.  It also has a large gypsy (Romani) population and it is known as the capital of the Romani in Moldova (more on them later).

I really enjoyed my visit to this town for three reasons:

1.  The old fort

2.  The houses on the hill overlooking the town

3.  Viewing Moldova and the Ukraine with the Dniester in between.

Off-the-beaten path twice over (Moldova by itself is already off-the-beaten path and within it, this town is off-the-beaten path even for Moldova!), this town is well worth checking out.

The old fort (or is it a fortress?)

Cetatea Soroca, fort, Soroca, Soroki, fortress, Dniester, Nistru, Moldova, Olympus

The Soroca Fort, or Cetatea Soroca, facing the Dniester

As far as forts go, this one is not monumental but I enjoyed the views from it and, even more, seeing its construction which seemed semi-rustic (which makes sense considering its age).  Seeing the details of the stonework, clearly no one needed all the stones to be perfectly aligned or anything like that.  The details on the windows and the stones on the inner walls all show really interesting detail of how it was built.

Cetatea Soroca, fort, Soroca, Soroki, fortress, Dniester, Nistru, Moldova, Olympus

Interesting detail on a fort wall, and how the stones were set

Cetatea Soroca, fort, Soroca, Soroki, fortress, Dniester, Nistru, Moldova

Details of the windows’ construction

Cetatea Soroca, fort, Soroca, Soroki, fortress, Dniester, Nistru, Moldova, Olympus

The inner courtyard of the fort

You can go up and see the city, or the houses on the hills of Soroca, or look at the fields of rural Ukraine across the Dniester but more on the latter later (ooh, that just came out like that – he he).

Cetatea Soroca, fort, Soroca, Soroki, fortress, Dniester, Nistru, Moldova, Canon EOS Rebel

That’s the Ukraine over yonder

 The houses on the hills

The town is known as the Romani capital of Moldova for a reason.  The hills overlooking the town are home to most of them.  And boy, do they live it up up there!  Their houses are small mansions, most of them seem to be a never-ending work-in-progress.  The guy showing me around Moldova wondered out loud:  how could they afford building these houses since most of them did not work.  I am not sure what he was implying or had in mind but can only guess.  All I can say is that the houses were some of the best I saw in Moldova in terms of “solidity” and the architectural grandeur they seem to aim for.

Soroca, Soroki, gypsy, Romani, architecture, Moldova, Canon EOS Rebel

Big ole houses in Soroca’s uphill

Soroca, Soroki, gypsy, Romani, architecture, Moldova, Canon EOS Rebel     Big ole houses in Soroca's uphill

Grand staircase!

Soroca, Soroki, gypsy, Romani, architecture, Moldova, Canon EOS Rebel     Big ole houses in Soroca's uphill

Another grand house!

Soroca, Soroki, gypsy, Romani, architecture, Moldova, Canon EOS Rebel     Big ole houses in Soroca's uphill

A house with a view from the back: the center of town below and the Dniester and the Ukraine beyond.  I’d take that house if I lived in Soroca!

Soroca, Soroki, Moldova, architecture, gypsy, Romani, Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the roof of a mansion. This type of metal roof is common in Moldova in general

A river and two countries

There was something interesting about being in Soroca, a town on the Moldovan side of the river, and then pastoral-looking Ukraine on the opposite bank of the river.  I was tempted to ask for a little boat to the make the crossing but there was no time.  Plus no telling what sort of border problems I would find – if there was any border police to begin with.  I always have wondered who minds every meter of a border…  But I digress.  In any case, before reaching Soroca we went to a lookout with a tall religious tower atop it.  It is when I first saw the Ukraine and where the final two photos were taken.

Soroca, Soroki, Moldova, Dniester, Nistru, Ukraine, Canon EOS Rebel

Two boys and the Ukraine

Soroca, Soroki, Moldova, Ukraine, Dniester, Nistru, Canon EOS Rebel

Moldova and I to the left. The Ukraine to the right.  Any questions?

Soroca was the sort of unexpected that I so enjoy in my travels, be it to a new part of my own hometown, or halfway around the world!

Photo Essay: Bucharest, Romania

Calea Victoriei, one of the main streets in Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest was my gateway into Romania and I was eager to see this city that has always -for some strange reason- been an object of my curiosity.  The capital of Romania has been called the “Paris of the east” due to French architecture influence  – but perhaps also because the pre-communist elite had the airs?  I am not really sure but it definitelyhas  architecture reminiscent of the French capital.  In any case, Bucharest is a relative newcomer as a capital city having been picked as capital of Romania only in 1862.  It is a city of over 1.6 million inhabitants – and it feels that way:  a city with the weight of any capital city, with all the attributes of a European city, yet not quite a megalopolis or an international center.

There are too many photos to share so I will place them here in a gallery at the end so you can see some of what caught my eye in terms of architecture, monuments (especially to the 1989 revolution), streets, etc.  Just click on the images to enlarge them!  But first some thoughts on the city…

Architectural potpourri

It is very interesting to see this architecture in Bucharest because it usually is mixed in with very different styles. It almost feels that either construction in the city skipped a few periods or styles as some parts have very different styled buildings next to each other.  Maybe that is what some communism legacy does and what a deliberate demolition of old portions of a city will do (Nicolae Ceausescu, the communist dictator, razed parts of the city for his grandiose building, now the Parliament).  I don’t know as I am not an expert either in architecture or Romania!   This cacophony of styles gives it an interesting air…  And/or perhaps, I needed to see more of the city than I got to?

Old Town Bucharest

Old Town Bucharest is charming like the older part of a any city and, at night, is very lively and a great place to go to have dinner, watching folks go by, and then stay for drinks and more people watching.  We enjoyed a night out on a nice summer evening the night before our return home – good food, good wine, and lots of good laughs.

Not far from Old Town you encounter the grandiose communist buildings sponsored by Ceausescu – a madman of sorts yet independent enough to say no to the USSR whenever he felt like it.  (How DID he get away with it??!!)  In any case as I mentioned earlier, much of the older city was destroyed by him to pave way for these new buildings.  It is sad to think that, until the early 1980s, the old district was much larger and probably containing some gems that are now lost.

Sights around Bucharest

Bucharest has a canal going through it (the Dâmboviţa river that goes through town was channelized in the late 1800s to prevent the flooding that the city suffered periodically) and nice parks, especially near the Romanian Arc de Triomphe.  In that area you will tend to see foreign embassies and it seems a nice place to be if you live in Bucharest.  The most grandiose building of the communist period already has an entire post to itself here so I will not add those pictures to the gallery here.  Just know that around it are similar though slightly smaller buildings also built as part of Ceausescu’s grand plan.  One of those was built to house guests of Mr. Ceausescu and now serves as a magnificent J.W. Marriott!

Unfortunately, I did not get to spend much time in Bucharest as the focus of my trip was elsewhere.  However, I did get to see some of the key places around town, such as the former royal palace, a few churches, the monument to the revolution (eerie), and the balcony where Ceausescu stood in his final days trying to give a speech but, in a crucial moment in history, the crowd turned on him and the whole thing unraveled for Nicky  (I remember watching that in the US in the news the day it happened!).  I will end the post with the gallery of sights around Bucharest – enjoy!

(Click on the thumbnail to see the entire photo!)

A Wonderful Spot in the Northeast: New Hampshire

New Hampshire nature - river and rocks

What did I know about New Hampshire before I went there?  Well, an uncle was born there. A high school friend (and NH resident) boasted about the natural beauty.  A place where folks have an independent spirit.  Somewhere crunched in New England.  No, I had never heard of the old man rock (sorry) nor of its recent demise (double sorry).  I also did not know how sensitive a topic this was!  After hanging on to an invitation from my friend for a few years, the opportunity materialized to actually go for more than a 3 day weekend so I went for it.

Getting to Intervale, New Hampshire

Getting to my friend’s place in Intervale would require a bit of coordination and a few different means of transportation. However, it was easy and quite comfortable.  (Perhaps my recent trip down under from Atlanta would make any other trip seem easy…)  At Logan airport in Boston, I was able to catch a very comfortable coach that would take me north to Portsmouth, NH where my friend would pick me up and then drive close to another 2 hrs to get to their place.  (If you do take the coach, buy the ticket online as you cannot buy it from the driver and will have to stand in line when you get to the destination as they take your driver’s license away to ensure you pay!  Now this could be dated info but check before you go.)

Portsmouth

While the plan was not to go sightseeing in Portsmouth, it was after lunch and neither of us had had lunch.  After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we walked around the downtown area of Portsmouth.  It was a charming town and perhaps because of the beautiful day the town was teeming with people walking about and soaking up the sun.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire on a beautiful summer day

A Mountain Biking Marathon?  That Is Nuts!  But Fun

My friend’s husband and oldest son were to participate in what I consider a mountain biking marathon called the 24 Hours of Great Glen (right by Mt. Washington) where individuals and teams bike -in theory- for 24 hours solid with the individual and team making the most laps winning.  The other son served as the videographer and my friend and I acted as groupies, I suppose.  It was definitely something I had not seen before and I greatly enjoyed the atmosphere at the event and seeing folks come down the intimidating “Chute” where I think I would even worry if I had to WALK it down!  My friend’s son and his team did awesome and won their category – way to go Slow and Steady Gets Eaten by a Bear!  (I think the team name itself guaranteed their success.)

24 Hours of Great Glen mountain biking race in New Hampshire

Nature:  Rivers, Waterfalls, and Mountains

So, for all these years, my friend kept telling me to go around July or August so I could get in the river.  Well, it was not just one river nor were they just rivers.  The rivers had all sorts of rock formations and waterfalls which means you not only got in and got wet but you got to climb around rocks and even throw yourself down “natural water slides” letting the current take you down whether with an inner tube or without one.  I tried the latter though I admit it took me a little bit to summon of the courage.  But before any of that were possible I had to accept and tolerate the FRIGID waters!   Wow, the water was so cold my feet hurt!  But, of course, nature takes its course so as soon as my feet were sufficiently cold, I no longer felt anything which facilitated continuing my entry into the waters.  My friend managed to take some rather unflattering pix of me in the process of getting in and jumping in which I will most certainly not be loading here 🙂

New Hampshire nature - river and rocks

New Hampshire nature (outdoors) - river and rocks

New Hampshire nature - river and rocks

New Hampshire nature - river and rocks

We also drove to the Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods (famous for being where the IMF was created) – a very impressive structure in an even more impressive natural setting!  The drive there though was just as impressive and we even saw a moose roadside minding its business, whatever moose business is about.

Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

In all, I have to admit being very impressed at the natural beauty and the amount of places to see and explore in New Hampshire.  Places to hike, places to get wet, places to swim, places to sit and soak nature in.  How did I never hear about this (friend aside)??  Is someone trying to keep this a secret?  I think there is likely a conspiracy here somewhere…

Echinacea flowers in New Hampshire, purple color

Old Friends, New Friends and a Discovery

Topping the weekend off was meeting some of my friends’ friends and going to one of their places to eat a wonderful lobster paella.  Good food, good setting (a house by a river), and great folks.  I also discovered a place of wonder called Patch’s.  A gas station-cum-small-diner-cum-post-office – a veritable all in one.

Getting to hang out with old friends, getting to know their kids much older than last time I saw them (2000!), and enjoying the natural beauty of NH made for a perfect 5 day trip and great memories.  I wonder what the rest of NH is like – perhaps I will get to find out in a future trip to the granite state!

Visiting the granite state:  New Hampshire

New Hampshire waterfall - nature outdoors

A happy ilivetotravel!