Constanţa and Marmaia

For me returning to Romania always raises questions about how I perceive the country…..sometimes as Eastern Europe, sometimes as Southern Europe and sometimes as not Europe at all. Wherever I place it though I know that I can expect something worthwhile and different in terms of experiences and photography. This trip involved visiting the important Black Sea port city of Constanţa with it’s sea-side setting, crumbling old town and it’s extensive resort suburb Mamaia. The resort in particular proved to be a fruitful photographic project because in March the place is visually inspiring at the same time as being ragged at the edges from winter winds and practically deserted.

Constanţa old town on the other hand made me feel not inspired but saddened by the beauty of its many fine buildings that are now in a terrible state of disrepair. Yes, there are some museums, galleries and archaeological remains to be seen but much of the impressive pre-twentieth century architecture in this quarter is probably beyond repair…..obviously requiring enormous amounts of investment to preserve and revive the heritage that demonstrates a thriving, wealthier period in the city’s history.

 
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Mamaia is Romania’s most popular summer resort. It stretches for five miles along a glorious strip of sandy beach to the north of Constanţa. In season there is a cable-car that carries sun-worshipers high above the hotels to bring them into its heart. Out of season it’s a great location for a contemplative stroll by the sea or for a photo walk intended to capture some of it’s abstract patterns and disheveled glory.

 
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Málaga and Caminito del Rey

Tens of thousands of Brits must pass through Málaga airport for the Costa del Sol every year but I’m pretty sure that relatively few of them get to appreciate Málaga for the historic and culture-rich city that it is. Just as with the Canary Islands and Mallorca the popular beach resorts give the area it’s reputation in the UK, but actually in both the city and the hinterland there are Spanish and world-class cultural and scenic pleasures to be experienced.

 
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One such attraction is the infamous Caminito del Rey, which fortunately is no longer quite what it was! The path, previously known as ‘the world’s most dangerous walkway’ because there were five deaths from falls all within a couple of years, is partially pinned to the walls of a narrow gorge. It had fallen into disrepair (which no doubt made it more enticing for thrill seekers) but has now been fully renovated into a totally safe but nevertheless enjoyable tourist attraction.

The footpath entry, which is near to Ardales in Málaga province, can be accessed from either of two foot tunnels. The larger has a longer (though very scenic) walk to the entry, while the smaller provides quicker access but is less suitable if you have a serious aversion to subterranean rambling!

 
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the light at the end of the tunnel

the light at the end of the tunnel

 
 
the new walkway is built just above the old one

the new walkway is built just above the old one

 

The footpath finally emerges from the south end of the gorge and, being pinned to the enormous cliff face at El Chorro, offers a suitable climax to an exhilarating walk.

 
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Istanbul

A short tourist trip to Istanbul has evoked memories of previous visits when there was more opportunity for photography. This time I managed only a few impromptu shots on my mobile phone but the place is actually a street photographer’s dream with fabulous light, rich colour and the constant bustle of tens of thousands people going about their business in various fascinating neighborhoods. For those interested in exhibitions there is both a photography museum and an institute devoted to the work of Ara Güler so there’s plenty to take in… but it’s the city in front of you that’s the inspiration.

The documentary film Kedi is about the numerous street cats that live in Istanbul and is a must-see for animal lovers. In the film the inhabitants of the city talk about their love of the cats in such philosophical and heart-warming terms that it’s impossible not to see the creatures in a different light (and to appreciate the humanity of the participants). The little ‘kennels’ for the street cats to live in are a feature that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

 
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Street photography with a slow mobile phone is not much fun for me; the shutter release time-lag means that I usually capture a scene taking place about a second after the composition that had inspired me! At the same time when I’m wandering in a neighborhood and there’s interesting things happening it’s difficult to resist the urge to try and capture something worthwhile. The following three phone shots have worked well enough to satisfy me for the time being…..but also to awaken the desire for another photographic visit!

 
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Romania

It’s always a pleasure to visit a new part of the world and my visit to Romania in September was no exception. It’s one of those places that is often un-recognised by tourists/travellers seeking friendly people, interesting culture and natural beauty….in fact it has all of these in plenty. My own trip involved a few days in the capital Bucharest, a spell in the remote and unique Danube Delta and visits to three of Transylvania’s beautiful Saxon heritage cities.

As a starting point the old centre of Bucharest is one of the best places for eating and drinking that I’ve ever been. Fascinating architecture, a totally pedestrianised environment, numerous street-based restaurants offering a variety of cuisines, inexpensively priced but tasty beers and various entertainments all feature there. Of course the rest of the city with it’s mix of old buildings, communist era blocks and new build is also fascinating to explore.

 
Bucharest

Bucharest

 

The Delta is a wildlife refuge of international renown and also provides some opportunity to see more traditional Romanian village life; with horse drawn carts, sand surfaced roads and water-based transportation.

 
Danube Delta

Danube Delta

 

Braşov, Sighişoara and Sibiu are Transylvanian cities with historic centres dating from Saxon times and, regardless of the dark associations with Dracula, these places have a more vibrant, contemporary feel akin to attractive cities in Southern Europe. Sibiu is Romania’s summer festival capital and it’s beer-fueled Oktoberfest equivalent called Cibinfest was taking place when I was there.

 
Braşov

Braşov

 

This brief visit, with limited time for photography, was not really enough to capture a full set of quality street-focused images and was a reminder for me of just how much time and work is needed to compile a decent album that can show something of the flavour of a place. As a tourist, wandering the streets with a camera gives me a chance to absorb some of the atmosphere and detail but it’s inevitably a bit superficial. Maybe that’s a good incentive to return!