For three weeks starting in the end of March I traveled to Belgium, Germany, and then Romania first for a job interview and then for vacation & adventure.
On the 27th of March I flew to Belgium and traveled to the small town of Beerse, about 45 minutes east of Antwerp. There I had an interview for a postdoc position in the process chemistry department of a large pharma company. The interview went very well and it was fun seeing their campus as well as talking with all the different scientists that I met there. It’s quite a large operation and the job in their process department is pretty much exactly what I have been looking for. Beerse is a very small town, with a couple other small towns nearby and the larger city of Antwerp a short drive away. Overall nice countryside, but FLAT. At least the location is relatively central to the rest of Europe and I would have plenty of opportunity to travel other places to get my climbing & hiking in.
After the interview I was picked up by my friend Peter and his wife Barbara who live 2 hours away in Bochum, Germany. They had just been on a two week surfing vacation in France and the timing was perfect for them to swing through Belgium and pick me up on their way home. I spent the weekend hanging out with them and their friends, going to many nice bars and a football (soccer) match on Sunday, which the local team won!
After a whirlwind weekend in Bochum I took a flight to Cluj, Romania, and stayed there with Bianca for the next two weeks. Through complete accident on my part the timing I picked for this vacation was perfect and my time in Romania coincided with their Easter celebration. Because of this Bianca didn’t have to go in to lab very much and was able to work from home most days with me, while I was working on finishing off the last chapter in my thesis. Most of our weekdays were spent writing during the day and then out in the city with Bianca’s friends and brother during the evenings. I had a lot of fun tasting all the local beer and food and exploring a new city.
The first weekend I was there we went to visit Bianca’s parents at their home in the nearby town of Turda and then went up to their mountain cabin outside the village of Remetea. Her parents, brother, and a few friends joined us there the next day, but before they arrived Bianca and I went for a very nice hike up the nearby mountain Piatra Secuiului. The mountain stands over the village of Remetea and we could start hiking right from her parent’s cabin. There was a local friendly stray dog that had been following us the day before, and it actually followed us all the way over the mountain that day too. The hike started as a short walk down the road, then across some sheep fields and up into the hills. After the fields we hiked through forest similar to what one would find in the New England mountains. Near the top we broke out of the forest and onto a wide and rolling plateau of grass and few small shrubs that made up the main ridgeline of the mountain. We climbed up to the top of a small knoll and had our lunch while admiring the view, then headed down the backside towards the village of Remetea. The descent was quite steep down a gully that had seen a good amount of rockfall from the cliffs on either side. Despite this there were many people hiking up from the village to enjoy the beautiful weather and Easter holiday. When we reached the village below Bianca’s father picked us up in the car and took us back to the cabin to begin the Easter celebrations. The hike was ~3-4 hrs and maybe 4-5 miles with ~1500 ft of gain. Back at the cabin we drank plenty of beer, ate lots of great food, and had a nice bonfire that evening. The next day we went back to Bianca’s parents home in Turda, had a second amazing Easter dinner with them there, and finally returned back to Cluj to start the next work week.
The second weekend I was there we stayed in Cluj, but I got to see quite a bit more of the city. We went for a nice long run and part way through stopped on a hill overlooking most of the city that gave a great view. Later we went to a sort of ethnographic museum / installation that was a large tract of land where many traditional Romanian buildings such as farmsteads and mills had been moved & preserved. It was quite beautiful there with many flowering trees.
Several days later we took a taxi to the local airport in Cluj where we parted ways again and 26 hours later I walked back into my apartment here in San Diego. The interview in Belgium turned out to be a success, though, and I’m in the process now of accepting the postdoc position, so there will be plenty more trip reports from Europe in the near future….