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It hit 40 degrees while we were in Budapest, and for the first time in a long time we wished we had air-conditioning. We wandered the streets in a humid daze. The food was good — I think. The people were nice … I think. The city was beautiful.

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See story here …

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Brasov city

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Brasov square

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In the mountains above Sinaia

There are 935 bears in the Carpathians — someone counted — and weeks before we got to Sinaia, a ski village with a Romanian-Aspen feel, an American woman hiking with five others was mauled to death nearby. No safety in numbers. They are brown bears and ornery like grizzlies, if slightly smaller, which is trivial information if one is chewing you. We mustered the courage for a short hike. No bears — but plenty of wild dogs, birds, weird and colorful spiders, and delicious greasy sausage. In Romania, expect the wurst: it’s hard out there for an Eastern European vegetarian.

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Around Peles Castle, Sinaia

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Goodbye Romania

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Churches in, left, Arbanassi and, right, Veliko Tarnovo

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VT’s fortress long shot, and view from top

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Marc climbing cliffside ladder, Lisa from summit, cave

We came down from Arbanassi into the outskirts of Veliko Tarnovo and heard a highpitched wail. On the side of the road in a broken green milk crate was a puppy, abandoned, crying, dehydrated, not three weeks old, unable to stand, all greasy hair and fused eyes and an awful stink. We poured water on it which quieted it down and carried it into town. No one knew where we could take it. There’s no such thing as the Humane Society in Bulgaria. No vet, we were told, would take it. Some women looked concerned but wouldn’t help. Take it down to the river and toss it in, our hostel manager advised. Deciding against that course – we didn’t want puppy murder to be our predominant memory of Bulgaria – we wandered forlornly toward the park, planless. We saw a dog tied up outside a bodega and a woman inside with a kindly face. We put the crate in the shade with a little food and water and the other dog started nosing around it, then barking querulously. Later the manager said he saw the woman feeding the little puppy from a bottle.


While you’re at it, throw these cats in the river, too

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Good bye Bulgaria; hello Romania

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – A heat wave sweeping central and southeastern Europe killed at least 13 people this week, with soaring temperatures sparking forest fires, damaging crops and prompting calls to ban horse-drawn tourist carriages.

In Romania, where temperatures reached 104 degrees Friday, the Health Ministry said at least nine people had died since Monday due to heat. …

Elsewhere, authorities in Slovakia and Hungary distributed free water in some cities. In the eastern Hungarian town of Kiskunhalas, temperatures reached a record 107.4, according to the national weather center.

See story here …

Europe Makes Early Climate Adaptation High Priority 

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 2, 2007 (ENS) – Rising temperatures are already changing Europe, so Europeans must make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and adapt now to climate change to lessen adverse impacts on people, the economy and the environment, the EU said in a discussion paper published across the 27 member states on Friday.

Issued by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, the Green Paper sets out options to help people learn to adapt to global warming by taking action to cope with changing conditions.

Read story here …

For Americans visiting Europe this summer, the steep decline of the dollar against the euro and the British pound has made eye-popping prices a lamentable part of the traveler’s tale. (The Kingsley family’s hotel room in London was $500 a night; five bite-sized chocolates at Harrods cost $10.)

“It’s O.K.,” said Mr. Kingsley, 59, with a resigned laugh. “I’ll just have to work a few extra years to pay off this vacation.” His wife, Laura, did her best to soothe him. “It’s just play money,” she said.

By now, five summers after the dollar began its long swoon against the euro and the pound, American travelers are used to $5 cups of coffee and triple-digit dinner checks in Europe’s great capitals. But the dollar’s latest plunge — to record lows of 72 cents to the euro and 49 pence to the pound — has turned mere sticker shock into a form of disbelief for many tourists.

Read story here …


All afternoon the trail continues up the Kali Gandaki, which rushes down from Mustang and Tibet onto the Ganges plain; because it flows between the soaring massifs of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, both more than 26,000 feet in altitude, the Kali Gandaki has the deepest canyon of any river in the world.

“… So far from the nearest sea, I am taken aback by the sight of a purple land crab, like a relict of the ancient days when the Indian subcontinent, adrift on the earth’s mantle, moved northward to collide with the Asian land mass, driving these marine rocks, inch by inch, five miles into the skies … The rise of the Himalaya, began in the Eocene, some fifty million years ago, is still continuing: an earthquake in 1959 caused mountains to fall into rivers and changed the course of the great Brahmaputra, which comes down out of Tibet through north-eastern India to join the Ganges near its delta at the Bay of Bengal. All the great rivers of southern Asia fall from the highest country in the world, from the Indus that empties into the Arabian Sea east to the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, the Mekong and the Yangtze, and even the great Hwang Ho that pours eastwards across all of China into the Yellow Sea; since they come from the Tibetan Plateau, these rivers are much older than the mountains, and the Kali Gandaki forged its great abysses as the mountains rose.”


— Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

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A former Laotian General, Vang Pao, accused of being the ringleader in a plot to overthrow the Laos government, has been freed on bail in the US.

A magistrate ordered General Vang be released on a $1.5 million bond.

He and 10 other defendants are accused of plotting to spend millions of dollars on weapons to topple the government in the capital, Vientiane.

Read story here …

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  Left to right: the Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque at night, inside the Hagia Sophia


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Left to right: Inside the Blue Mosque, obelisk (with bird) of Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia at dusk  

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 Left to right: Sufi dancers, man cleaning gold-plated window grating at Topkapi Palace, Medusa head column in Basilica Cistern


Our last day in Istanbul and we have clouds, and rain, for the first time. We duck into a coffee shop and watch the storm through tall double-pane windows.


Black clouds and thunder. The steep cobblestone streets are alley-narrow and become slick in the soft rain. Grey water puddles outside the window, splashed by taxi wheels and the sandals of passersby.


Looking out the window at the bread sellers. Blue walls and orange windowpanes of a neighboring building. Strato-cumulus roiling overhead. The hours pass in the coffee joint, a comfortable woodpaneled lounge owned by an expat Albertan, listening to Neil Young, the Tragically Hip, the Beatles. “Oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go.”

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Worries about the strength of the U.S. economy sent the dollar stumbling in Europe Friday, where the euro broke through the $1.38 mark for the first time.

The 13-nation euro moved as high as $1.3813 in afternoon European trading before falling back to $1.3786. That was up from $1.3783 in New York late Thursday.

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