# Thursday, 22 June 2017

Traveling to Stockholm was an adventure. I was impeded by heavier-than-usual Chicago traffic, lost luggage, delayed flights, and a passport that I stupidly left at home on my kitchen counter.

But I made it in time for DevSum 2017 and it was worth the trouble.

I was returning to DevSum for the first time since 2015 and the event has moved from the city center to the Münchenbryggeriet conference center - 2 islands to the south.

After a long trip, I arrived at the conference feeling anything but refreshed. But the staff made me feel at home. They retrieved a lunch plate for me, despite my arrival after mealtime. And I presented that afternoon on Cognitive Services in front of a full room. I had heard that European audiences tend to be more reserved than their American counterparts, but I did not experience that. The crowd laughed where I hoped they would and remained engaged throughout. I drew energy from them.

The speaker lineup at DevSum was really impressive this year. Speakers came from all over Europe and North America, including people like Richard Campbell, Michael Feathers, Markus Egger, Kent Alstad, Tess Fernandez-Norlander, Dino Esposito, and Gil Clereen.

For me, this was not only an excellent opportunity to learn from smart people, but also a chance to interact with many people whose work I respect - either through their articles, books, podcasts, or Pluralsight courses.  The collective knowledge at events like this is always high, but it's even more so when the speaker homes span continents. I was able to meet Michael Feathers and personally tell him the impact his book had on my life when I was a consultant.

The day after the conference, the speakers were invited to a special outing - a boat trip to nearby Fjäderholmarna, lunch, a tour of a local brewery, a beer tasting, and a walk around the island. It was yet another chance to interact with the other speakers.

One difficulty about traveling to Sweden in June is the long daylight hours. The sun does not set in Stockholm until almost 11PM and it rises at around 3AM. This can be disruptive of one's sleep schedule, especially if one is already suffering from jet lag.

But I powered through this issue. And now I am home and paying off sleep debt and dreaming of next year's DevSum.

Links

DevSum home page

My photos

Thursday, 22 June 2017 12:40:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, 25 November 2016

Murphys (1)Alert readers will recall that I spent a good deal of time in 2015 exploring the coffee shops of Chicago. As I wrote in this post, I used this journey as an excuse to explore the neighborhoods of Chicago. Chicago is a big city and I was new here, so my love of good coffee gave me a reason to drive to Pilsen or Ravenswood. While sipping a latte, I had a chance to explore the neighborhood.

This year, I decided to repeat the exercising by exploring the city's famous hot dogs. If you have spent any time in Chicago, you know that the city is famous for 2 kinds of sausage: One is legendary "Chicago-Style" hot dog, which tops a regular hot dog with a variety of garnishes, including pickles, poppy seeds, onions, relish, and sport peppers. The other is the Maxwell Street Polish, which originated at Jim's Original in University Village and features spicy peppers and mustard on a polish sausage.

I used this list as a guide for my journey, which lasted several months.

ViennaBeefFactoryStore (6)

My hot dog trek took me back to some of the same neighborhoods, but also landed me in a few more, including a visit to Fat Johnnie's Red Hots - a tiny weatherworn shack on the south side in a neighborhood that looked like it might be dangerous after dark.

Boring menus and mediocre food quality caused me to wonder why Gene & Jude's and Red Hot Ranch made the list, but I suspect they were included for their historical significance. Big & Little's also seemed an odd choice - not because the dogs aren't good, but because they are better known for their other offerings, such as fish tacos and po' boys.

Some highlights of my sausage survey were:

  • The pickled tomato used by SuperDawg Drive-In
  • The extra spicy peppers on the Polish Sausage at Jim's Original
  • Chili on everything at Fat Johnnie's Red Hots.
  • The fresh-tasting toppings at Byron's, Wolfy's, Fluky's, and a few others.

I've seen a good part of Chicago now, so I plan to take a break from these culinary pilgrimages; but I may start up again in the sprint - maybe chasing the best Chicago-style pizzas...

Chubby Weiners (2)


Photos of my expedition
Friday, 25 November 2016 16:11:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, 29 May 2016

Mihai Tataran stood next before a group of technologist at the Jidvei winery and castle in Cetatea de Balta, Transylvania. IT Camp had ended the day before and the conference organizers took the speakers to the winery for a tour, a lunch, and a wine tasting. Mihai laughed and translated into English the tour guides jokes comparing wine with a beautiful woman. The group was tired from the activities surrounding the conference, but energized by the fresh air and the sunshine.

The speakers (including me) had come to Transylvania to speak at the 6th annual IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca. Cluj-Napoca is arguably the tech center of Transylvania - the region of northern Romania which has established itself in recent years as a growing technology hub.

IT Camp has grown from a small Microsoft-focused developer event into a 2-day, 6-track, multi-platform event with many presentations covering topics outside of software development, such as business skills and DevOps. This was my third visit to IT Camp in as many years.

The conference featured 3 keynote presentations - all on Day 1:

Cluj Mayor Emil Boc opened the conference by talking about the emergence of the tech industry and the advantage of the universities in his city.

Jayson Street described some things he has done wrong in his career as a security analyst and the lessons he learned from those incidents.

Laurent Ellerbach showed off his IoT-enabled garden that does everything from analyze the soil to automatically turn on sprinklers to take photos on demand.

IT Camp features an impressive list of speakers from at least 9 different countries - mostly from Europe.

I had a chance to see a few sessions presented by others, including Raffaele Rialdi's "Introduction to .NET Core", Mihai Coroș's "Building Your First SPA with Aurelia and ASP.NET MVC 6", and Radu Vunvulea's "Azure microservices in practice".

I delivered 2 sessions at IT Camp: "Open Source Technologies in Microsoft Azure" and "Adding Image and Voice Intelligence to your apps with Microsoft Cognitive Services".

The Open Source Azure session was well-received by the 30 or so attendees. This was a variation on a talk I've done in the past titled "Microsoft Azure Without Microsoft". In it, I highlight many of the open source technologies that are available in Microsoft Azure (e.g., Linux Virtual Machines and PHP web applications) and with which Microsoft Azure can work (e.g., REST services consumed by Java or Ruby).

I was much more happy with the Cognitive Services presentation. The audience filled a room with a capacity of over 100 persons and were impressed by this technology that exposes models built with machine learning to any application that can call a web service.  A line of attendees came to the stage afterward to ask questions.

I also had an opportunity to meet with the Technical Evangelists on the DX Romania team - both in Bucharest before the conference and during IT Camp.

Few conferences treat their speakers as well as IT Camp. Perks of speaking here, included:

  • A room at the Beautiful Grand Hotel Italia, overlooking the city of Cluj-Napoca
  • A buffet breakfast every morning and gourmet dinners every night
  • Evenings spent talking and drinking with other speakers and the conference organizers
  • A field trip the day after the conference. This year, a bus took us to the winery and castle in Jidvei.

I'm writing this recap from an airport lounge in Munich, waiting for a flight to take me home to Chicago. I'm exhausted from a lack of sleep this past week, but I'm happy I had the opportunity to take part in IT Camp and to reconnect with so many people that I only see once a year.

Sunday, 29 May 2016 10:08:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 26 May 2016

Walking through the Old City in Bucharest in a pouring rain looking for a restaurant among the winding streets, it was hard to remember that I came here for a vacation. But I did.

For the third year in a row, I was invited to speak at IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. When speaking in Europe, I always make an effort to take a little extra time and see something new; so I  arrived  Monday evening, although the conference did not start until Thursday.After my ticket to Cluj was booked, I looked around for a place to visit for 2 days and I settled on Bucharest. This was my third trip to Romania, but the first time I set foot in its capital city or the region of Wallachia.

As with all overseas trips, this one began with a flight - or rather with 3 flights. I counted 23 hours between the time I left my apartment to the time I arrived - exhausted - at the Bucharest hotel. Despite the long travel time, it was not a bad trip.

It was late Monday night when I arrived in Bucharest, but the JW Marriott upgraded my room and gave me access to the members' lounge, so I relaxed a bit before bed and slept through my alarm the following morning. It was noon by the time, I ventured out on the streets.

I stopped for about an hour at the Microsoft office in Bucharest and met Radu Stefan - a local Technical Evangelist with whom I had been corresponding. He recommended the City Tour Bus, which takes one past many of the city's cultural and historic landmarks, providing recorded narration as it passes each landmark.

A recommendation from Twitter encouraged me to eat at Caru cu Bere in the Old Town section of Bucharest. The waiter recommended the "House Beer", which was so good I drank 2 (a rare thing for me). I didn't realize until after the waiter brought it, that I had ordered dinner "for 2". It was a good thing I skipped lunch.

Caru cu Bere is located in the Old City - a pedestrian area with cobblestone streets and many old building. I spent a lot of time walking through this section of town - in part because of a desire to explore and in part because it was difficult to find the restaurant. A steady rain fell on me while I walked, attempting unsuccessfully to dampen my spirits.

On Wednesday, I hired a tour guide and driver for the day, who took me around Bucharest. The city has a rich, multicultural history. In the early part of the 20th century, after Romania gained independence, Bucharest was known as the Paris of the East for its beautiful architecture and rich cultural attractions. But the Communists who gained control following World War II had little interest in the Bucharest of the past. Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu destroyed hundreds of blocks of historic neighborhood to create the enormous and lavish Parliament Building.   Ceaușescu was deposed and executed before this building (the second largest administrative building in the world) was completed.

Highlights of my guided tour were:
-A walk through part of the Parliament Building
-The Village Museum - an outdoor area consisting of old homes from many parts of Romania
-The Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral on Dealul Mitropoliei

Wednesday evening, I boarded a plane for Cluj-Napoca for the IT Camp. I only spent 2 days in Bucharest, but I saw a lot of the city and I learned a lot of its history. It was definitely a worthwhile excursion. No amount of rain could dampen that.

Thursday, 26 May 2016 11:13:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 04 June 2015

DevSum

This was my first time at DevSum and my visit to Sweden. In its tenth year, the conference topped 600 attendees. I was surprised by the number of speakers from America, but this fact was a big help to me because many of the Americans introduced me to other speakers, allowing me to expand my professional and personal network.

Patrik Löwendahl, CTO of Avanade Sweden, kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking talk about the challenges facing the software industry.

IMG_1528 I had a chance to see a few other presentations, including Mike Wood's Azure tools talk (condensed to 50 minutes from its usual 90 minutes); a security presentation by Niall Merrigan, in which he pretended to hack into a bank; and a very entertaining rant by Hadi Hari about "Silver Bullet Syndrome" in which he warned that there  are no easy solutions (such as new frameworks or methodologies )to software problems.

Monday afternoon, I gave a talk on Data Visualization. It's a talk I've given many times before, but I added a few new slides for this presentation and it was very well received. Several people approached me after to tell me they enjoyed it and learned from it.

I also was able to squeeze in an interview with Mark Rendle about the new features of C#.

Stockholm

IMG_1547 I spent a lot of time walking around Stockholm. The day before the conference, a group of conference speakers went to the Vasa Museum, which tells the story of the 17th century Swedish warship inside that sank on its maiden voyage and was recovered 3 centuries later. Tuesday afternoon, Chris Woodruff and I explored Old Town - the oldest part of the city - and took a guided tour of the Nobel Museum.

IMG_1599 Wednesday, Jimmy Bogard and I spent the entire day walking around Stockholm. We toured the museums of the Royal Palace and we visited Skansen - an open air museum, featuring reconstructed buildings from various periods of Swedish history and animals from all around Sweden.

Thursday, I bought a pass for the tourists buses and boats. The bus drove around the city while a recording described each landmark as we passed, telling a bit of the history and culture of the landmark. The boat ride gave a similar tour for the waterways around Stockholm. The city is located on a waterway containing an archipelago of over a hundred islands. These tours gave me a brief overview of the city highlights and also provided respite for the blister that had formed on the bottom of my foot. Following the tours, I went to the Gondolan - a restaurant suspended hundreds of meters above Stockholm that provided spectacular views of the city; then to the Photography Museum, where I saw 4 excellent exhibits. I ended the day, sharing an excellent meal with Ward Bell, Julie Lerman, and Julie’s friend Tricia.

Uppsalla

IMG_1775 Friday I took a train to Uppsalla, a university city north of Stockholm, where Tibi Covaci and his family met me and we explored the local church - a beautiful building from the 15th century and walked around the town. A local priest told us that university students were graduating today and that we could expect to hear cannons firing in their honor.

Final Hours

Friday evening, I went for a long walk north and west of my hotel - a neighborhood I had not yet explored. It was good to explore the city, even though I got lost a couple times.

This was, by far, the farthest north I've travelled in my life. The daylight hours in Stockholm are surprisingly long this time of year. The sun rises at 3:50AM and did not set until 9:40PM. This is part of the reason I did not get as much sleep as I should have.

I will carry this trip with me the rest of my life. I visited with old friends, saw a new part of the world, and met many smart people.

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More photos

DevSum

Thursday, 04 June 2015 02:27:52 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 02 June 2015

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I spoke last year at IT Camp in Cluj, Romania and my friend Mihai invited me back again this year. The IT Camp organizers treated me so well last year, I felt I must return this year.

Getting from Chicago to Cluj was an adventure lasting almost 20 hours. I left Chicago Tuesday evening at 9PM and arrived in Cluj at 1AM Thursday morning (local time).

My itinerary included a 9-hour layover in Munich, so I decided to leave the airport and visit downtown Munich. Luckily, a train runs directly from the airport to the city. Unluckily, the train  was out of service because the local workers were on strike. Luckily, I shared a taxi with a woman travelling to Munich from Heidelberg and she picked up the fare. Unluckily, the weather in Munich was cold and rainy. I had been to Munich a quarter century earlier and I remembered its pedestrian area filled with shops, cafes, and beer gardens. I had lunch and a beer at the famed Munchen Hofbrauhaus and a coffee at a local cafe. But I grew tired of walking around in the bad weather, so I returned to the airport to await the next leg of my flight.

I finally arrived in Cluj around 1AM the morning of the conference. Conference organizers came to the airport to pick me up (one of the many ways they spoil their speakers).

IT Camp was as good as I remembered from last year. In 2014, I was one of three Americans but this year no one else came from the US to speak. I remembered many from last year and they made me feel welcome.  Speakers came from all over Europe. Much of the conference content focused on Security and on Azure and I was able to learn quite a bit from the other speakers.

IMG_1367 Unlike most conferences, IT Camp opened with multiple keynotes. Organizers Mihai and Tudor kicked things off and quickly introduced the mayor of Cluj, who boasted of the emerging technology industry in his city.  The first keynote was an excellent talk on security by Paula Januszkiewicz, which focused more on human issues than on technology. Peter Leeson returned as a keynoter to talk about Organizational Sociology and Anthropology in Tech Companies. Peter’s talk was also not technical (Peter is a business anaylyst, not a technologist) but was very informative.

My presentation on Azure Mobile Services was well-received, even though one of my demos inexplicably failed. I participated in a Panel to answer audience questions about Azure. This inspired a lively discussion from the audience about some of the challenges of adopting cloud computing.

We stayed at the Hotel Grand Hotel - a 5-star hotel overlooking Cluj; the organizers treated us to excellent dinners every night; and IT Camp has a tradition of taking speakers on a cultural excursion the day after the conference. This year, we all travelled to Corvin Castle for a tour of this castle built in the 15th century.

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The castle was a 3-hour bus ride from our hotel and we all went for a gourmet dinner in downtown Cluj after returning, which meant that I didn't get to sleep until nearly 2AM. This was a problem because I had to wake up at 4AM for an early-morning flight to Stockholm. My band tracks my sleep patterns and it announced (rudely) that I only slept 93 minutes that night. But I made it and napped on the plane and arrived tired at the hotel in Stockholm, ready for my next adventure. You can read about that trip here.

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Links

More photos

IT Camp Site

Tuesday, 02 June 2015 23:44:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 30 June 2014
Monday, 30 June 2014 01:22:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, 26 June 2014

I’ve been home from Romania for a few weeks and I’m really glad I made this trip. I hope I can go back next year and I hope I can schedule multiple European conferences during the same trip.

Here are a few final thoughts about the trip

International Travel is much easier for Americans

To travel to Romania, I had a passport, an airline ticket, and a hotel reservation. After I arrived, I decided to go to Hungary. I rented a car and was at the border crossing 12 hours after making that decision. I didn't need to call anyone in Hungary to let them know I was coming.

Europeans have it different. To travel to the US - even for vacation - a Romanian must apply for a Visa. Visas are granted by lottery, so chances are he will not get one on his first application.

I speak only English fluently and know only a few phrases in other languages - none of which are common to eastern Europe. Yet I had very little problem communicating in Romania and Hungary. Why? Because Europeans grow up learning multiple languages and guess what the most popular language is? Nearly everyone in a large city's service industry speaks passable English, as does nearly everyone under 30. It was blind luck that the language I grew up speaking is the common language for these countries.

Hotels

I was surprised that most Romanian hotels did not have an alarm clock – something that is now standard in American hotels. Some hotels also did not provide a washcloth. I looked and was surprised not to find one.

In the Cluj-Napoca hotel, there was a low sink about the size of a toilet next to the toilet. I don't know what it's for but I did not wash my face in it.

In the second hotel I stayed in Budapest, the pillows were enormous - way bigger than I've ever seen on a bed before. I wonder what sort of creatures usually stay there.

Infrastructure

Romania has only one highway. Major cities are often connected only by 2 or 3 lane roads.

The roads in Romania and Hungary are not as well marked as in the U.S. Often the road names are on the side of a building, rather than close to the intersections. In Budapest, the many road sign are printed with a fancy font, making them difficult to read in a hurry.

Miscellany

Smoking is more common in Romania and Hungary than in the U.S. Smoking is allowed in restaurants and many people smoke while eating. I had forgotten how much that bothers me.

Every single person I met in Romania and Hungary was friendly and willing to try to help. I was lost several times and I received help from complete strangers, who went out of their way for me.

The landscape in Romania is much prettier than in Hungary (at least where I traveled). Transylvania was filled with green, rolling hills, farms, and small towns everywhere I went. But Budapest was a nicer city than any I found in Romania. I liked the Romanian cities but Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.

This is part 4 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Romania

Photos of Budapest

Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:16:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, 22 June 2014

Day 7: Sunday, May 25

From Cluj to Budapest

I woke up earlier than I expected, excited to drive from Cluj-Napoca, Romania to Budapest, Hungary. The front desk called and ordered a rental car, which arrived late morning. Meanwhile I ate breakfast with those conference speakers who remained at the hotel.  The car arrived but without sufficient papers to leave the company, so I had to take the car delivery man to his house (Not his office - his house!), so he could pick up the papers.

I stopped at a shopping mall, hoping to get a card for my phone that would allow it to work in Europe. My phone had lacked the ability to call or receive email or browse the web since I arrived, except when I was connected to the hotel wi-fi. Before I left America, I had called the local AT&T store to ask how I could use my phone in Europe. When I told him I bought the phone at the Microsoft store, he told me it was certainly unlocked and the best solution was to buy a SIM card after I arrived in Europe. I found a shop at the mall that would sell me a SIM card; unfortunately, when she inserted the card into my phone, we received an error message that the phone was locked by a provider. This was a problem because I was counting on using GPS to tell me how to get to Budapest. I had no idea even how to get out of Cluj, much less which road led to Budapest. I found a solution to this problem: I stopped at a Travel Agency in the same shopping mall, where a friendly travel agent printed out a map to Budapest and translated the key directions for me. I was on my way.

I arrived in Budapest about 7 hours later, after only getting lost 3-4 times.

I didn't have directions to the hotel but it was located in downtown Budapest and I assumed that it would be obvious how to get downtown (as is the case in most American cities). Sadly, I found myself driving lost among the outskirts of Budapest. I pulled over to question a few pedestrians but none spoke English. Finally, I found a helpful lady and 2 high-school age girls who were leaving church. They not only found directions on their smart phone, but they rode along with me to guide me to my hotel before taking a bus back to their home. In America, it is almost unheard of for 2 innocent girls to get into a car with a stranger (much less, a foreign stranger), but I'm glad these girls had no qualms about this.

I thought I was late meeting Adam and Magdolna, but I learned that Budapest is in a different time zone than Cluj, so I was actually early.

They took me to a nice outdoor cafe, where we ate plenty of Hungarian food. After dinner, we walked along the river and he advised me on sights to visit the next few days.

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Day 8: Monday, May 26

Budapest Castle District

The busy schedule, extreme travel, and lack of sleep from the last week caught up with me and I slept 12 hours before slowly waking up around noon. I spent much of the afternoon in a small cafe sipping a latte, writing, and watching the world go by.

Adam had left town for 2 days to visit his father, so I toured the city on my own.

In the late afternoon, I headed up to the Castle district, which lies across the river on a hill overlooking the city. The palaces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have been restored and turned into museums. In fact, the entire hill is covered in museums, along with old churches and monuments. The view of the city is amazing from this area. It was dark before I finally climbed back down and crossed the river to my hotel.

My travels were guided in part by suggestions from Adam and from a Walking Tour outlined on a map of Budapest that I picked up at the hotel.

Monday night, I had a chance to do laundry at my hotel and it felt good to freshen my clothes.

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Day 9: Tuesday, May 27

Gellert Hill and downtown Budapest

The Marriott I originally reserved was nice (suite of rooms, full kitchen), but far too expensive for my budget, so I reserved an apartment in the Jewish District. I checked out of the Marriott and headed for Gellert Hill, so named for St. Gellert, who - according to legend - was tied in a barrel and thrown from the mountain by pagans to die in the Danube.

The climb to the top of the hill was a challenge, but it was worth it. Halfway up the hill, one finds a statue of Gellert, surrounded by roman columns overlooking the city and a waterfall.  At the top stands a 19th-century citadel and a magnificent statue dedicated to the people of Hungary.

Near the bottom of the hill is a monastery built into stone of the mountain. The monastery is closed to the public, but the associated church is open. The contrast between the stone hideaway of cloistered monks and the bustle of downtown Budapest is startling.

I walked across the Liberty Bridge and through downtown Budapest visiting (among other sites) the Central Market Hall, where dozens of vendors set up stalls to sell meat, fish, vegetables, and other wares; The Hungarian National Museum; and the Church of St. Michael

I walked back to the hotel to pick up my car and head to my new hotel. Streets in Budapest are not marked nearly as well as in the US (if they are marked at all) and the sign for the hotel was not visible from the street, so it took me a long time to find the hotel and check in. .

When I finally find the it, I was pleasantly surprised. Although the rate was a third what the Marriott charged, I had a suite at least as big as the Marriott’s. And I had free wi-fi. If I return to Budapest, I will first check out All4U Apartments in the Jewish District. My room overlooked a pedestrian area of restaurants and bars

I had to rush to meet Magdolna, who had invited me to dinner. She found me wandering aimlessly a half block from the restaurant, searching for the correct street number. We shared Hungarian fish soup and a Hungarian dessert consisting of pancakes, rum, chocolate, and whipped cream. After dinner, we walked around an old part of Budapest before I dropped her at her subway stop.

I finished the evening with a craft wheat beer at Léhűtő near my hotel.

When I tried to sleep, I discovered the downside of a hotel near so many bars. I drifted off to the (very loud) sounds of a rock band and a techno DJ at bars below.

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Day 10: Tuesday, May 28

Last day in Budapest. Last day in Europe

In the morning, Adam returned to Budapest and invited me to a Turkish bath. I walked from my hotel (about a mile) and I was ready to relax when I arrived. A Turkish bath consists of about a half dozen small pools, each set to a different temperature. Nearly-naked men soak in them for a bit, then move on to the next pool. I tried them all - from the shockingly cold water to the shockingly hot water. Spotlights of different colors shine from the ceiling into the largest pool. Supposedly, different color lights will heal different ailments. I'm not sold on this medicine, but I did try it.

All in all, it was a relaxing morning, hanging out and chatting with Adam. 

Afterward, I had lunch near my hotel and drove back to Romania.

I had no trouble getting back to Cluj-Napoca, but I had no idea how to get to my hotel. I stopped at a downtown restaurant, where I received directions that did not help. By some miracle, I stumbled upon the hotel a little after midnight. I only slept about 4 hours before I had to get up and drive to the airport for my flights home.

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This is part 3 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Budapest

Sunday, 22 June 2014 17:51:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, 21 June 2014

Day 4: Thursday, May 22

IT Camp, Day 1

Up early to hear the keynote. Peter Keller talked about fear in organizations - what causes fear; how fear can hurt us; how to manage fear; and how fear can motivate us to achieve new things.

Mihai Tataran and Tudor Damian gave a second keynote - this one about security. The highlight was Tudor's demos showing how easy it was to hack a user's password in a typical corporate environment. The main effect of this second keynote was to make the audience afraid for the security of their data, so it's a good thing it was preceded by a talk about fear.

Later that morning, I gave my Data Visualization talk. The room was nearly full and it was very well received. I was fortunate that I could give this talk in English, even though English was not the first language of most of the audience.

In the evening, the conference organizers reserved much of the hotel dining room and treated the speakers to dinner and drinks. This was a great opportunity to get to know the other speakers - most of whom were European and most of whom I had never met.

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Day 5: Friday, May 23

IT Camp, Day 2

I delivered my second presentation - this one on building a Windows 8 game using Construct 2. The audience was great and seemed to enjoy it.

I recorded 2 interviews with Technology and Friends - one with Peter Keller and one with Tudor Damian. Both of these have been published at http://technologyandfriends.com/.

I took more time today to talk with the conference attendees. Unlike most American developer conferences, this one was attended by nearly 40% women. The industry seemed far less dominated by males here than back home, although I did notice only one female speaker.

In the evening, the conference organizers took the speakers to a local restaurant and treated us to another multi-course meal. Again, it was a great opportunity for me to get to know the speakers. Although most of the attendees seemed to be from northern Transylvania, I met speakers from Romania, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Norway, England and the United States.

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Day 6: Saturday, May 24

Alba Iulia

The conference was over but IT Camp reserves the day after the conference for a cultural outing for all the speakers. This year's outing was to Alba Iulia - a beautiful city south of Cluj. Alba Iulia was the first capital of Romania when it gained independence after World War I.

After the bus ride to Alba Iulia, we stopped for an excellent lunch and set out to walk around the city with a tour guide. Alba was a walled city that was well-fortified against attacks but that was never attacked. The country have spent the last five years restoring the city's historic buildings and monuments and the place is gorgeous. Our tour guide was supposedly telling us about the history of the city, but it was hard to tell as he never spoke above a whisper and there were several dozen of us.

After the bus ride back to the hotel, we were treated to one last dinner. I don’t recall attending a conference that treated speakers as well as IT Camp. From the 5-star hotel accommodations to the food to the conference organization, everything was done well.

After the bus returned to the hotel, the conference treated us to another (excellent) dinner. We hung out in the lobby after dinner talking and I decided I would drive to Budapest in the morning. I had met Adam and Magdolna from Budapest a few days earlier, so I made plans to meet them for dinner.

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This is part 2 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Photos of Romania

Saturday, 21 June 2014 23:53:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

Day 1: Monday, May 19

Arrival

I didn't mind the 3 flights; I didn't mind the 15 hours of travel. I didn't even mind the lack of sleep or the oversold flights. But, as I sat in the Cluj-Napoca airport and watched the luggage conveyor belt stop without my suitcase, my heart began to drop.

The good news was that my friend Tibi was waiting outside baggage claim, and a friendly face was what I needed as I headed to the office to fill out the paperwork.

Tibi drove me to his home in downtown Cluj-Napoca, where we picked up his wife Nicoleta and we went out to a nice lunch at a local beer garden. I spent the afternoon at Tibi's house before catching a bus down to Sibiu.

I came to Romania to speak at the IT Camp in Cluj-Napoca (http://itcamp.ro), but it's been 26 years since I've been to Europe and I've never been to Eastern Europe, so planned for a longer trip.

I scheduled 2 days with a tour guide in Sibiu. Although the tour didn’t officially start until Tuesday, Adela was kind enough to pick me up at the bus station and drive me to my hotel Monday evening.

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Day 2: Tuesday, May 20

Sibiu and surroundings

Tuesday morning, Adela and I walked around the old city of Sibiu. Sibiu is a walled city, originally built by the Saxons to protect western Europe from invasion by the Turks. The city has a mix of many different architectures, due in large part to the different nations that have occupied Transylvania over the centuries. The Germans built 3 clock towers so one clock would always be visible from anywhere in the city. Roman architecture is evident in the arches.

Our first stop outside the city was Astra - an outdoor museum featuring reproductions of buildings from a great many regions and eras of Romanian history. The Saxons only allowed Romanians to build their churches of wood, so only these reproductions remain.

We made a stop in Sibiel, known for its icons - religious scenes painted on glass. Catholics in this region have been creating these works of art for centuries, but it wasn't until the 1960s that a local priest asked citizens to donate their icons to a local museum, where everyone could view them.

Next, we drove to Cisnadie, which is known in German as Michelsberg. Apparently, many of the cities founded by Saxons have both German and Romanian names. We hiked up to the fortified church at the top of the mountain overlooking Cisnadie. The church was recently restored and the views from the top are spectacular.

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Day 3: Wednesday, May 21

Sighișoara

Sighișoara is allegedly the birthplace of Prince Vlad - more popularly known as Count Dracula, so of course we had to go there. Historical records suggest that Vlad's parents visited there at the time of his birth and some documents have even identified the house in which he was born. We had lunch in the restaurant that now occupies this house.

Sighișoara contains an old walled city and a church sits atop a steep hill within this wall. We climbed the hill to see the church and the cemetery just outside. Even at midday in full sunshine, it was a bit spooky.

Following the drive back to Sibiu, Adela dropped me at the bus station, where I was taken back to Cluj-Napoca. The bus dropped me on the city's edge and I took a cab to my hotel. The cab ride cost about $3 - an startlingly low amount for an American taxi.

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This is part 1 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.

Romania Photos

Saturday, 21 June 2014 04:35:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)