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Andrew Hanlon

Paul Farrell

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Andrew Hanlon


This is an e-mail I received from Andrew after meeting him with travelling companions Wayne, Lindy and John in Athens, Summer '99.

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Andrew Hanlon
To: "Rob Price" 
Subject: Re: 
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 10:18:39 +0100 

Hello Rob ! 

Very good to hear from you ! I am the guilty one for not getting back to you since we parted in Athens, since then I have had a look at your web site with Mimi and it looks great ! One thing though, unfortunately we couldn't open up Seoul, it kept saying that there was an error with the page. Do you want to try it ? 
Since Athens me and Wayne went on to Bulgaria, then Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and then Czech : Bulgaria was an amazing country to see and the people are really friendly. The scenery is stunning and the skiing there is supposed to be one of the best - At a far cheaper cost than in France, Switzerland or any of the other commercialised ski resorts. 

Me and Wayne made very good friends with a couple - Vladimeer and Reni, and they have promised to take us skiing to the best places in Feb. Amazingly most of the younger generation of Bulgarians can speak good English, they no longer teach Russian in schools as a second language, instead they learn English. Even though Bulgaria was under communist rule, and even though they have taken a beating from it, they are emerging from the injuries made to their economy and I think that in 20 years time, they will soon rank as one of the strongest economies around. 

I made one observation that surprised me a lot ! The girls in Bulgaria are definitely some of the best looking I have seen so far (Apart from Mimi that is.), they apparently recruit most models and minor actresses from Bulgaria. After waiting for our train in Ruse (On the Bulgarian-Romanian border) - 8 hours late, we eventually pulled in to Bucharest - Romania. Bucharest is a burgeoning city and is fast recovering from Nicolai Caecescu's reign of absolute power and greed over his country. He and his wife took virtually all of Romania's money for themselves and built massive structures to honour themselves. Bucharest has its own Champs de Ilyses - Except it is intentionally built to be 6 m wider than the one in Paris - And it resembles the main street in Paris as well ! 

We got a guided tour in Caecescu's People's House - It is the second largest building in the world - Just a few inches lower than The Pentagon (In the US) - The reason why it was not bigger ? - Caecescu and his wife were executed on camera for the entire world to see before it was completed. Again Caecescu wanted everything to be the biggest and best in the world there - It has the biggest ballroom in the world, the largest carpet, the greatest conference room in the world - Not even the UN General Assembly comes close in size. Everything in this massive building - (12 stories high, but 200 metres wide by 300m long !) is made from only the finest materials available in Romania - And everything is exclusively Romanian, all materials were extracted and manufactured in Romania, all labor - Romanian. The chief architect was a woman - 32 years old - The youngest ever to be given this amount of responsibility, except Caecescu wanted to murder her upon completion of the project - And have her buried in the walls of the building - Why ? - So that a legend would exist - That's why. 

After Bucharest, we took a 8 hour train journey to beautiful Brasov - The centre of the Transylvanian Alps (Where Vlad Tepes' a.k.a. -Dracula lived and ruled. We stayed in a private room owned by a very old Romanian lady (Who couldn't speak a word of English) and explored most of Transylvania over a period of 10 days from there. We went to see Dracula's castle, his birthplace (A lovely old medieval town), Peles Palace (The most beautiful building and countryside I have ever been to, set in thick Alpine fir forests, with gardens full of blooms and lush green grass, and surely the most expensive palace yet built, with such intricate workmanship (There is a set of 4 tique tea-chairs and a table that took 3 generations to carve - 90 years !).) We also did a hike up a mountain through snow, rain and thick clouds and stayed in a cabin with other Romanians. Although we made good friends, staying in a warm cabin, drinking hot sweet wine, while outside there were blizzards blowing and the temperature was -15 Degrees Celsius, one thing that did spring up and developed into a big difference between us, was the Kosovo crisis. We were happy that NATO was going in to intervene, but Romanians are extremely unhappy and calls NATO ' The biggest mass slaughterers ever ' ! It is very unsettling when you are confronted with the sheer hatred that some countries have for the allied powers, I didn't know that it existed (Except in Milosovic's heart) until now, even though we think that what NATO is doing is right, it is a reign of terror for others. 

After enjoying a warm comfortable night in the cabin, we hiked down through snow, and then lovely grassy meadows, then through grizzly-country Alpine forests to go back to Brasov. Interestingly enough, the Romanians are actually the direct descendants of the Romans - Not the Italians ! That is also immediately obvious when you hear them chant their country's name at football matches - Roman-ia. 

After Brasov we went on to Hungary. Budapest is a lovely city - Well worth seeing, it has an interesting history and has loads of amazing thermal baths, the museums are outstanding as are the art galleries. It resembles Paris somewhat but is more magnificent. Budapest is an alliance of 2 cities directly opposite across the Danube river - Buda and Pest. Buda is arguably the best side, has more entertaining things to do, but Castle Hill is on the Pest side - Where all the museums and art and the royal castle is situated. Mimi took a 29 hour bus trip from London to join me in Budapest and Wayne went to other towns in Hungary while me and Mimi enjoyed ourselves for 10 days. We didn't leave Budapest, instead took many tours, and ate in many restaurants (Hungarian Goulash is great !), and drank plenty of wine. On our last evening together I treated Mimi to 1 night in a 5 Star hotel - The Budapest Marriott - It was expensive, but lovely and is something that you have to do, just once in your life ! 

Mimi went back to London and me and Wayne went off to Slovakia on a short train. Bratislava is not a very big or a very interesting city. We opted to stay there just for one night, because we weren't too impressed - It is not too modern, but it is artificial - Just loads of concrete. It resembles something of Vanderbijlpark ! After Bratislava we took a 6 hour train to Poprad, and then on to Stary Smokovec - A gorgeous town set in the High Tatra Alps. It is bidding for the 2006 Winter Olympics and is the most beautiful town I have ever been to - Surrounded by lush green fir forests, alpine mountains with snow at the tops, very clean with no litter ! Me and Wayne did plenty of hiking round there - Especially up the mountains - 2600m above sea level ! We took the ski-lift up to the top and just stared at the lovely fir forest underneath us. If I can, I would like to buy a summer house in Stary Smokovec because it is soo beautiful ! 

After an overnight train ride of 10 hours, we pulled into Prague (Czech Republic). Knowing that this was our last country I was a little depressed so perhaps I didn't enjoy Prague as much as I could have if we were still going to travel for a while after. Prague is a lovely city, but unfortunately it is too commercialised and is full of tourists. We weren't really used to tonnes of tourists so we were a bit irritated with the high prices caused by mass-tourism. Prague was the most expensive city we had been in on our travels of Eastern Europe, even though all the travellers that had come from Western Europe kept remarking - This place is so cheap !! We spent about 3 days in Prague and then went out to some towns outside of Prague which were more rewarding in both sights and price. We stayed another night in Prague and then early the following morning I took a flight back to London. I stayed at Mimi's place in Brentford (W London) for about a month and now we have moved into a nice flat together in Brent Cross. At the moment I am still looking for a job and hoping that it will come along soon because I must admit I am getting a little bored, but I must just be patient. Money is not a problem, but finding something to do each day is, luckily I have this PC to keep me busy, I do load of downloads and that which keeps me happy. Mimi goes out to English class every day at 8 am and comes back at 1 pm. She is studying Business English and will write an exam at the end of the year - I hope she passes it because she works so hard ! Would you mind using this e-mail address as my new address, in case it doesn't show up anywhere it is :  {E-mail} You'll also be able to reach Mimi at : {E-mail} - if you want to practice your Korean any time. Plus if you can get hold of a PC that has Hangul script, then send it, I have configured my PC to display and type that too. If you have your own PC and need to get hold of Hangul (it is not standard on Windows), download it free from Microsoft in California. Glad to hear that you are enjoying Taipei ! Tell us more about it and see if you can send some photos out to us over e-mail. By the way, have you got your own PC with its own e-mail so that I can send you some photos over (Hotmail doesn't accept more than one photo at a time). Mimi says : Anyonghaseyo Rob ! Jo-un shigan kajsi-seyo Taipei ! Hope to hear from you soon and enjoy your time !


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