It is 5:00 AM and the neighborhood rooster noticed that the sky is brightening and he begins to crow. Moments later he is joined by another and the chorus is aggravating the dogs and they begin to bark. I am uncertain if the barking is at the roosters or the townspeople who are making their way into Cluj-Napoca. Such has been the typical start of everyday in my exploration in Transylvania.
Soon the sun is completely visible and the roosters return to their “more calm” state! But the construction crews on the sides of my apartment now begin their day’s labor as the edges to Cluj expand further into the countryside.
With the seven hour time difference between the Eastern Europe Time Zone and the Eastern Time Zone in the USA, it is not uncommon that I am awake and going before my friends and family in the USA have gone to sleep! While I have often written about Cluj and my journeys, this entry is about my typical daily routine in Transylvania.
My daily adventures always begin with a coffee latte and a fresh pastry at one of the many bakeries. I have my favorite bakeries, of course, and going to them is an essential priority for me. The best coffee in town is at “Let’s Coffee” where my friend Vasile charges 10 lei (about $2.50). It is a bit more expensive than other cafes in Cluj but his rich, hand-crafted cup of coffee is well worth it!
On some days I walk a mile and a half downhill from my apartment to “Bistro Engel’s” for a full breakfast of eggs, ham, bread, tomato, and latte for 10 lei (tip included)!
Before returning to my apartment from my visit in town, I often walk in the city cemetery, view old buildings, or go to the old Reformed church and a part of the old Cluj city wall. The church organist practices at an early hour and it sounds regal in the building with its high vaulted ceilings. The congregation is celebrating the 450th anniversary next year. The interior of the church has always been decorated with the family coats-of-arms from all over Transylvania.
Yesterday was my day for doing chores such as washing clothes and grocery shopping. Already, at 10:00 AM it has become a scorcher and walking back from the Lidl grocery store I smell the fields like they only smell on steamy, summer days. The smells bring back memories of being young and recalling those intense summer smells at my grandfather’s farm near Holsopple, Pennsylvania which was named for his grandfather.
My apartment isn’t traditional (as in “old”); it is modern with a washing machine. My clothes dryer, however, is “solar-powered” meaning that the hot afternoon sun will bake my laundry dry. I have grown accustomed to relying on the sun which means on some cool or cloudy days it may take 48 hours for the laundry to dry.
In the afternoon I have often written reviews in TripAdviser, blog, and spend time exploring Unirii Square, medieval Cluj, or walking in Central Park. The park is quite large providing pleasant exercise, walking from the bus stop past the memorial celebrating the 1989 overthrow of Communism in Romania.
In the park there are always many people… mothers with their infants in industrial-strength strollers, young people in their torn jeans walking or on bikes and skateboards, and others playing a wide variety of string instruments. It is a nice place with many walking paths and benches. Exploration includes seeing the fountains and the pond with people rowing among the geese.
Near the park I often spoil myself with “Placinte,” a Romanian favorite. Fried like a funnel cake, the tortilla-shaped dough treat is filled with your choice of jam, potatoes, sour cream with garlic, cheese, or cabbage. I am partial to the jam and haven’t acquired the taste for the cabbage. In this neighborhood the “Roma” sell their flowers, nuts, fruit, and vegetables on the curb or sidewalk. It is a lively, colorful place.
Some days my routine has changed with trips to Bontida, Bran, Sibiu, or Oradea. Other cities and villages are within an easy ride by bus or train. Bucharest is distant from Cluj and getting there takes a sacrifice of time (ten hours by bus) or money (airfare). Europe is notable for excellent train service; Romania, however, is working to get to that same standard so going by train to Bucharest takes longer than going by bus.
There have often been festivals of some sort during my stay in Cluj. Last evening I went to a folklore festival. There is something going on just about everyday such as food festivals, local crafts, religious celebrations, etc… and when there isn’t a local event, movie theaters almost always have one or more shows in English with Romanian subtitles.
Many Romanians learn English watching movies in English or watching American and British TV reruns. Just about all young people know English. Movies are reasonably priced. For about $5.00 you can see a show, eat popcorn and enjoy a soda or water!
There are few Americans or Western Europeans in Cluj. Mostly, visitors come from Eastern Europe except for students. The university population is about one-third of the 600,000 residents in Cluj.
There is a lot of world history in this and nearby communities. The story of Romania is steeped in the history of the Roman Empire, influenced by Hungarians, German Saxons, and ethnic groups. Conflicts and religions have shaped and reshaped the political boundaries and the identity of this diverse, mysterious land.
It has been very enjoyable exploring and learning about Romania and living in such an interesting place and exploring many facets like the Witch Trials in Cluj, Dracula and the “Girl’s Eyes” in Sibiu. There is more for me to learn here and I am certain to return in my experiences traveling and exploring throughout the world.