Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Great Student Run

A few weeks before the travel to Bucharest came up, I was asked by Joy Kumar from the Leeds Met Executive Office, if I would participate in the "Great Student Run", a 10 km distance run from Headingley Carnegie Stadium to the Leeds Met Becket Park Campus. Since I am not really the sportive type (as all my friends can confirm!), I hesitated. But then I got convinced as I was offered the possibility to walk this run instead of running it. Well, and so it came that I participated in this event. Leeds Met created some publicity around me walking the run, and last week there was even a brief mention of this in the Yorkshire Evening Post, the local newspaper in Leeds. So I had no other choice than to return from Romania to participate in this event.

Before my travel, I had somehow not taken care of buying food - I had finished all the spoilable items, but now after my return the fridge was empty. So all I had for breakfast, was an apple and a few cheese crackers that I found somewhere on a shelf - they had been in the welcome package 8 months ago.

Strenghtened by this hearty meal I head off to the Headingley Stadium where the run would begin. About 1500 participants took part in this! At 10:30 the runners started. And I was in the group at the very end, "gemuetlich" walking with my buddies from work. Very interesting, to walk on these roads where I usually only drive! I now realised how short these distances in Leeds are. I could even walk to work from the brewery where I live! The first runner finished in about 35 minutes. I arrived at the gate after 1h 42 minutes.

As usual, the fabulous Yorkshire weather played along well: during the run it was overcast, providing a refreshing shade; then around 11:30 the sun came out and created a nice party atmosphere at the Beckett Park Campus.

This will be where the runners will enter at the end of the run. Posted by Picasa

A group of Leeds Met staff who decided to walk the run with me. Posted by Picasa

The only four-legged participant in the Great Student Run. Posted by Picasa

Just before the start at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium. Posted by Picasa

Walking the "Run" at a comfortable pace. Posted by Picasa

Interesting, to walk on the route where I normally drive every day. The roads have been closed for traffic, for the Great Student Run.. Posted by Picasa

Music, food, and drinks on the Acre where the Great Run ends. Posted by Picasa

The arrival gate, with James Graham Building in the background. Posted by Picasa

Resting on the Acre at the Leeds Met Beckett Park Campus. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sightseeing in Bucharest

At 12:00, the last of the ISLES workshop meetings is over, and a tour through Bucharest is scheduled. A tour guide accompanies the nine of us in a small bus, driving through various parts of the inner city, explaining the historic significance. At several places, we stop and walk around. The weather is overcast, but pleasant. Sometimes the sun comes through a bit.

Now I finally see why Bucharest had the title "Paris of the East". Buildings, built by French architects, create a grandious fin-de-siecle atmosphere. In addition, there are many buildings in that typical Romanian style that can only be found here. Things are a bit crumbling sometimes, but great effort is made in restoration in many places. The inner city has very pleasant walk ways, along small stores, art galeries, souvenir shops.

The tour is supposed to go for three hours, so we would be back int he hote by 15:00. Our tour guide is Santdiana. She has planned the tour so that we would be at 14:00 at the highlight of the city: the parliament building. But with us nine individuals, it is difficult to keep us all under control. Some want to buy postcards, others want to take pictures. We arrive at the Parliament at about 14:15.

This is the 2nd largest building on earth, after the Pentagon. Its volume is 2% larger than that of the Cheops pyramide in Egypt! The security measures for entering are strict and slow: everyone has to go through a metal detector, and slowly groups are formed, with guides from the Parliament, and are sent into the halls every 10 minutes. We finally begin our tour about 14:40. A gigantomaniac building effort. More than 1000 rooms and conference halls. And the building is still 10% unfinished.

We walk on a route through several huge rooms and halls, and the guide keeps answering questions. As I can see, the tour through this building would take more than one hour. This screws up my time schedule - I had anticipated to be back at the hotel at 15:00, to get a taxi to the airport for my flight at 17:10. But with the current pace I will definitely not be able to make it. So I ask Santdiana if I could take a shortcut and could go back to the hotel alone, to pick up my luggage and catch my taxi there. She immediately agrees, and we separate from the group. Now I get a fully personal private tour through some of the remaining rooms! She shows me the room where the treaty was signed by which Romania entered the NATO. See a gigantic ball room, probably 5 stories high, and the size of a soccer field. Then we go down an inofficial stair case, and then out through the entrance to the bus. The driver brings me back to the hotel, where I pick up my suitcase and jump into the taxi that already was waiting. Heading to the airport is no problem, Saturady afternoon has only light traffic.

So I made it in time. One last little complication: I only had large banknotes, and the taxi driver could not give me change. However, after the 30 minute ride to the airport, he went with me into the terminal building and got change there.

The flight back went smooth. Got an upgrade to business class to Amsterdam. Then the short hop back to Leeds.

And that concludes my short travel to Bucharest. A very memorable experience!

Guided tour through Bucharest. Posted by Picasa

Romanian Pantheon Theatre. Posted by Picasa

Sandiana, our tour guide, explaining the history of Bucharest. Posted by Picasa

Monument for the revolution in 1989. Posted by Picasa

Manieristic decorations on house facade.  Posted by Picasa

Small church. Posted by Picasa

Wall paintings in church. Posted by Picasa

Strolling through the city center. Posted by Picasa

Street in center. Posted by Picasa

Street in city center. Posted by Picasa

Old court yard in the center of Bucharest. Posted by Picasa

The parliament building, seen from the street. Posted by Picasa

One of the 1000 conference rooms in the Parliament building. Posted by Picasa

Gallery with Romanian paintings. Posted by Picasa

Huge hall. Posted by Picasa

Large hallway in the Parliament. Posted by Picasa