Since there was so much hiking the day before, I fancied a day that was a little easier. So staying in the city of Brasov, I went for a walk to the park, where there were stalls selling things from gingerbread to furniture. There was a section full of seats and chess boards with all these men crowded round playing each other, it seemed a really nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. I spotted a building that was mentioned on the map as still having bullet holes preserved from when 1989 protests were being broken up.
Later, in the town square, I was drawing people enjoying the day. A man and woman joined me on the bench, she leaned over to ask what I was doing (I presume that is what she asked, she spoke in Romanian) and once we’d established I was English we eventually got into a conversation about our different cultures. I was interested to see their views of living in Romania, not the shiny lovely bits proffered to tourists. They didn’t seem that optimistic about life in Romania, in fact most people from Romania that I spoke to said they wanted to leave and work in England. The people that I was talking to said that, yes we may have had a revolution, goodbye communism and all that but it’s still the same mindset, it’s still the same people running the show. I asked about the future, the next generation will change things surely? They didn’t think they’d see any changes in their lifetime. We also spoke about religion- they gasped in horror when I said I was an atheist… It seemed so odd to be odd in that respect. And relationships – it seemed a machismo culture. We went for a walk around the base of Mount Tampas, very green and refreshing just outside of the city. I very much enjoyed being in the city next to a wall of trees.
When someone is having a wedding, everyone in the procession of cars puts on their blinkers and honks the horn all the way up the road.
There are quite a lot of stray dogs here, fortunately they all seem rather friendly and look at you with doeful eyes and not likely to chomp off your leg in a starved frenzy.
There seems to be a fashion here of boot-sandals. Like boots but with the foot bit cut out. Is this happening in England too? Dear god I hope not.
I was sat in the town square when I sneezed, a Romanian sat next to me said ‘bless you’, oh dear am I that obviously English tourist?
That being said, I got asked for directions by some Romanian tourists and they looked upset when they discovered I was a foreign tourist that had no idea what they said.
Everywhere, it seems, the bus system requires you to buy your bus ticket and then punch it yourself when you board. Sometimes this means you can get away with a sneaky journey, othertimes there is a bloke that will tell you off and fine you.
So far I have slept in 13 different beds.
Back home, I have never drank a pint of beer. In mainland Europe, I have lost count of how many beers I have had. This doesn’t mean I like it.
Cappy juice doesn’t seem to exist in England, I’ll miss it. I’m not sure why.
Today I was told my Romanian was good. By good I believe she meant I phrased ‘do you speak English?’ well.
The show I saw in Sibiu was a dance piece by a group from Hungary; I thought it was fantastic, so full of energy and seemed to confront some interesting ideas on relationships. Also staying at the hostel was a guy who was volunteering for the festival. I asked him some details about how he got involved and I will admit, I’m tempted to come back next year and volunteer… I really love what they’ve got going on here. And I absolutely love the hostel. The owners are wonderful people who made me feel right at home.
I was a little sad to leave Sibiu, but Brasov beckons. I took a free walking tour here, saw some points of interest – some city towers, the smallest road in Europe (or something like that), the black church and the huge mock-hollywood ‘BRASOV’ sign. Today I went to see Bran castle and Rasnov citadel with an Aussie couple from my hostel. I’m kinda glad I had someone to go with because the buses got us a little confused and lost at one point but we made it! I was expecting more from Bran castle, I paid for an audio guide which mostly told us what was on the signs around the castle. It was also all nicely whitewashed and sparsely decorated so lacked some atmosphere…
The utterly exhausting hike up to Rasnov citadel was well worth it for beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
So festival #5 happens to be an urban art festival. That runs only during the 3 days that I am here. How is that for timing eh? There are skateboarders, graffiti artists working on big wooden boards in the town square and there is music and theatre too. Brilliant!
After having spent a lovely weekend in the chilled Pecs – soaking in the local nightlife, drinks and highly decorated roofs with my friend who decided to come along for a short jolly – I headed into Romania.
First stop Cluj Napoca, where there happened to be a city celebration that fortnight. There were lots of folk bands and guests and markets, it was great! I intended to spend only one night there but thought it worth staying for a proper look at the city, having spend my first hours in Cluj at the festival. I went with another guy staying at the hostel and we couldn’t understand much of what was going on during the speeches given by the bands but we heard lots of blah blah Cluj (cue cheering) blah blah blah Cluj (more cheering)… and so on. So felt we knew enough to know when to cheer…
Fortunately Cluj is a fairly small city so could reach all the highlights in one day – the botanical gardens, the tailor tower (part of the old city wall), the citadel, a crazy little pharmacy museum.
I left Cluj in the direction of Sibiu. I say direction because I really didn’t know which train I was catching where because I was getting loads of conflicting information from websites and train timetables. I got shooed onto a train with an over-familiar creepy train conductor (I was so glad when I switched trains) and managed, with creepy train conductor, to figure out the route of where the hell I was meant to be going. And before you say, I did ask at the front desk but they said, um the next train is.. Oh god! now! go go go! so leapt on without a plan.
I got let off at a station in the middle of nowhere. I climbed down the train and jumped onto the gravel beneath. I walked to the ‘platform’ (some concrete slabs) and was told to get the train behind me. Again no platform to speak of so the train door started at about waist height. I lugged my bag on and clambered up after it. I felt sorry for the little old ladies I saw having to do this too… The train passed through fields, the landscape was so beautiful, really green and tumbling hills that last forever. We stopped at stations that had a sign, a rusting hut and a farm next to it. I got the feeling this was a very local train. Especially when some farm workers got on with a bucket of paint and a scythe.
Eventually made it to Sibiu and discovered festival #4 – an up and coming well respected theatre festival. I saw some street performance, some music and a one woman show about her cycling journey across the Middle East. There are performers from all over the world here to perform, how exciting! Today I’m hoping to catch some more street theatre music and a dance performance. On that note, the festivities will be starting again soon so I had better go!