Sitting in Vienna with the feeling that the last remains of a practically non-existing summer was slipping away and with no new jobs coming in, the decision to take the car and set off for Romania was easily done. Romania?! My imagination took a curl through the common stereotypes of vampires, Roma’s and a country stuck somewhere between horse carriages and BMW’s.
Romania’s past was familiar to me. A country where the repression had been more cruel, more brutal, than in other states caught in the hallucination of a ‘socialist paradise’. Yet, just like in many other post-socialist countries, the regime had only been replaced with new faces from the old nomenclature leading to a slow transition in the development of a new state. While some parts of the civil society had taken huge leaps in development other parts were lagging behind. An image constrained with the Romanian ‘exodus’ of beggars, sitting on the street corners of every major European city and the unflattering reputation of being the uncontested Eastern European titleholders in the art of stealing, was all familiar to me. However, non of this really bothered me driving through the plains of Hungary on my way to discover Cluj, the first stop in this discord of Eastern European hegemony of Slavonic languages.
Debrecen, the end of the Autobahn and the beginning of an endless road leading in to a dark Romania, with no radio stations (at least non you could enjoy not even speaking of comprehending) and endless villages, roundabouts and horse carriages. Well leave the temper behind and consider time to be your friend, not your enemy. The Romanian president, Traian Băsescu , summarized the situation of the Romanian infrastructure by saying, “I’ve never discovered Romania the way I did from a helicopter”.
I can’t possibly approve with this statement. Although I pity the villagers, having the bulk of the Romanian transports literally on their porch, there is no better way discovering the villages, cities and the regions of Romania then by taking the roads and the endless offspring’s of shortcuts that Romania offers. Praying that I wouldn’t oversee any potholes and that the suspension would hold until Cluj, I finally managed after a four hours delay to reach the beautiful city of Cluj. I sniffed garlic – not really! Cluj, Klausenburg or Kolozsvár is the second largest city in Romania and although considered to be the unofficial capital of Transylvania, the city has thanks to its number of students kept a young and floral atmosphere, not being succumbed under the cape of Dracula and the associated clichés.
Tired and craving for a drink, I gratefully discovered a hotel on the main square with the catchy name `Hotel Melody´! Nice – Ceausescu nice! The hotel had probably seen its last refurbishment some about after 1989, the year of the revolution (evolution). But I couldn’t care less. Ending up soaked with Țuică and Palinca, I barely managed to catch a glimpse of the beautiful city only having a brief view on the synagogue and letting my interest for the afterlife take an outlet on the scenic graveyard in the centre of the city.
My first 24 hours of Romania had transcended into a headache. Not the kind you regret, but the one that will engrave a memory into your skull. The next morning was committed in preparing myself for the 170 km to Sibiu – a four hours ride into deep Transylvania!