Archive for the 'Government' Category
Shot by TotalAdventure’s Blaine Zuver and Martin Zuver.
A an overnight first class sleeper train ride from Budapest had us arriving fresh and rested on the first morning of summer, June 21.
The”Dacia” Boarding in Budapesti Keleti.
Brasov – Romania’s Hollywood ? Brasov is the center of Transylvania.
Dracula’s Castle, known as Castle Bran, is about 25 km from Brasov. Building began in the 1200s and was added on to over the centuries.
A hidden stairway deep in the interior.
The modern day ( 1883 ) Peles Castle, in Sinaia. was built by King Carol. It was built with electricity,telephones,telegraph and other modern conveniences.
The Carpathian Mountains are quite undeveloped. There are a few small ski areas, with a long powdery season, rafting,climbing and seeing rare animals that are extinct in Western Europe. For many years only Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was allowed to hunt.
While forcing his subjects to live in poverty and half-starvation,Ceaușescu lived in the grand style of a Communist Emperor .An entire section of Bucharest ( not just a neighborhood, but comparable to the Upper West Side of Manhattan or Soho in London ) in order to build the People’s Palace – the world’s second largest building in terms of square footage , just after the Pentagon. It took 18 years to complete – from 1978 to 1996 – 7 years after the execution of he and his vile wife Elena.
A chandelier weighing 5 Metric Tons – one of over 100 in the building – constructed at a time the populace was relegated to one 40 watt lightbulb per apartment.
The Dictator. – “Genius of The Carpathians” was one of his many self-bestowed titles.
One of many grand staircases. Many had to be rebuilt several times in order to make him seem taller than his short stature.
The view from one of the balconies from which Ceaucescu would never make a speech.
One in three adults were rumored to work for the Secret Police – the Securitate.
In a nautical mode.
In Nicolae and Elena’s villa – solid gold water faucets. Commoners were rationed to half an hour of hot water every other Sunday.
Modern radio – circa 1988.
The last two weeks have seen some of the worst media and government generated fear mongering since SARS- even from the US Vice President. The travel industry has been severely affected – especially airlines – just recovering from last year’s astronomical fuel prices.
In Mexico most adventure travel companies are small operations that depend very much on having full bookings all season. One or two cancellations could put them out of business – denying future adventurers from the same incredible experiences – climbing volcanoes, rafting in Veracruz State, whale watching in Baja, exploring newly discovered Maya ruins in Chiapas or fishing for Marlin in the Sea of Cortez .
Thankfully the US did not give in to total paranoia and close the border . ( That’s me above at the Laredo crossing a couple of years ago.) One of the explanations for flu fatalities in Mexico is that there is ready access to antibiotics without prescription -which are then used for the most minor colds. Consequently they don’t work when they are really needed.
Now is one of the best times to book flights to Mexico. Last week June departures from New York or Miami to Mexico City were as low as $190 RT ! Book now – by June the flu will be long forgotten !
Adventure Travel in Latin America has just gotten 30 % cheaper in the last two weeks. Worldwide economic volatility has has caused flight to the US Dollar from many fearful investors in Latin America. As a result :
The Chilean Peso is now 622 to the Dollar. This compares to 390 earlier this year.
The Argentina Peso is pegged to the US Dollar, but has still slipped from 3 to 3.22 and probably will go lower.
The Mexican Peso was 10 to the Dollar a few weeks ago and is now 13.2 !
Most dramatically – the Brazilian Real was 1.5 to the dollar in August – and is now 2.2 – in effect – 50% more spending power for the US Dollar.
As a long dark and financially dreary winter takes hold in the North – now is the time to enjoy the incredible Nature, Sunshine and Adventure of Latin America. Book now on ArcticTropic Direct Booking.
Looking across the bridge from Mae Sai, Thailand into Tachiliek, Burma. All travelers must arrive through Rangoon airport. ArcticTropic is the Gateway to Adventure in Burma and Thailand, I shot this video in 1988, and things have not changed since then – Time Stands Still In Burma.
Since I abide by the US Treasury Department regulations,and to avoid angering my fellow Miamians – I have never set foot on Cuban soil. However, during my many trips to South America, I have flown over Cuba many times. Cuba will be an adventure paradise for a LONG time – thousands of kilometers of untouched beaches,wild tropical mountains, unfished, unpolluted reefs and deep seas. Above is Matanzas Bay.
Gitmo Bay in the distance.
As an American kid growing up in Heidelberg, (West) Germany, back in the 60’s I got to travel quite a bit around Europe – Western Europe. It was very difficult to travel to the mysterious lands beyond the Iron Curtain. I did traverse Yugoslavia by train on the way to Greece – fascinating to see out the window, but not really that “Communist”. I wished that our family could be a little more adventurous and visit Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, etc. However – there was one country completely off limits – Albania! No one could go there –ever – under pain of death.
Xenophobic Stalinist Dictator Enver Hoxha had sealed the nation off from the world. In the 1960’s the only diplomatic relations were with China – even those were broken in the 1970’s when Hoxha denounced the Chinese for betraying true Marxism.
For the next 25 years or so – I often glanced at the globe – knowing one day I would finally get to Albania. In 1991 the evil regime finally collapsed and the world finally got a glimpse of life inside the bizarre hermit nation. The early 90’s were a busy time for me, and I finally got a chance to visit in the Spring of 1995.
I flew from Bari, Italy to Tirana aboard an old YAK-40. Looking down from the plane it was hard to believe we were flying in Europe – the land was nearly unpopulated, with dirt tracks instead of roads. We had a slight delay in landing as sheep had to be cleared from the runway. On the runway were military aircraft – US, UN and Italian – as less than 80 miles away in Kosovo war was raging.
The first thing one notices when leaving the airport are the pillboxes everywhere. Hoxha had been convinced that the entire world was ready to attack and invade – so one pillbox was built for every four people (1 million pillboxes) to defend the homeland. In addition every fencepost had a razor sharp iron spike to impale invading parachutists.
The city of Tirana had not been rebuilt yet, as it is apparently now. Free enterprise had taken over, but Western retail establishments had not yet entered the volatile war-prone market.
Proletarian flatblocks were dilapidated – and Communist propaganda was still visible. PPSH had been the acronym for the Communist Party.
Religion was reappearing. The Iranian government was helping to reopen old mosques (one had been used as a hog slaughterhouse by Hoxha – to defile Islam and promote himself as a god) and build new ones. This mosque in Durazzo had been recently restored.
The people were very friendly – LOVED Americans and school kids cheered everywhere I went.
Government buildings were built in a way to inspire terror in would be dissidents.
Factories had been destroyed in fighting during the collapse of the Hoxha regime in 1991 – mostly outdated make-work sort of places. Also, an amphetamine factory had been looted at the same time all the armories of AK-47s and grenade launchers had been totally emptied by the populace – making for a very touchy situation – even still in 1995.
After a couple of days, first in a hotel, then at my guide’s flat, we ventured into the countryside. The old fort of Kruje glares imposingly from the Balkan heights.
Small villages are not much changed from medieval times.
Transport is primitive, yet innovative.
Pollution poisons the country air in many regions.
Once we were invited to a viewing of a 100-year-old man who had died that morning. In accordance with Islamic Law he was to be buried by sundown.
Propaganda is hard to remove.
Business deals everywhere – here at a car market where stolen cars from all over Europe are traded.
The coast is beautiful. 12 years ago the next Adriatic Riviera was waiting to be opened up – it still is.
Two wars have been fought here since my visit,and now the nation is at peace.
ArcticTropic features Albania, with a hotel link. More accommodations and providers will be offered soon. Please suggest any provider HERE – and we will list if appropriate. For advertising opportunities click HERE – or click on Advertise in the top menu bar.
In 1993 I filmed this Saigon storefront offering many rare and newly discovered species – stuffed and preserved – for sale. One can only hope the Vietnamese government has cracked down on such operations – there is far more money to be made in ecotourism than selling this contraband that would be confiscated at most customs checkpoints in the world. ArcticTropic has several exotic flora and fauna adventures in the jungles and mountains of Northern Vietnam.
In the Far East Russian City of Khabarovsk were some dingy old Soviet era factories. The old motto in these places was “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.””They” being Soviet slavemasters creating make-work factories to churn out shoddy useless products – and have shortages of such products. ArcticTropic leads adventure travelers to explore everyday life in distant points of the Earth.
In Petropavlovsk,Kamchatka a 50 meter high statue of Lenin keeps watch on the now booming port – off limits to outsiders in Communist times. There will be plenty more still shots and videos of Kamchatka and other Russian adventure destinations. On ArcticTropic there are two ways of reaching Russian listings – from both the European and Asian map entry points.