(Yes, that’s to the tune of The Eagles’ song)
The train ride from Budapest to Cluj-Napoca was LONG and a little tedious. We bought first class tickets (for an extra $30AUD each, return) and had a whole six-seat booth to ourselves. The air-conditioning was excellent at first, but by the time the early afternoon sun hit our large window, it was pretty useless.
The train stopped for really long periods of time at most stations, sometimes for up to ten minutes. Our passports were checked as we left Hungary and taken into a nearby booth. We could hear a female voice reading out my details over a radio… She was checking on the validity of my visa because I didn’t get the chance to show them my Hungarian residence permit! Ten minutes later, over the border, Romanian authorities came to check our passports and stamp them too.
The scenery as we got into Romania was stunning. The mountains were lush and green and we followed a river almost all the way into Cluj. I spied a waterfall amongst the sheer rock faces. Unfortunately no bears frolicking in the water to be seen!
There were a lot of small villages where people had big gardens filled with corn, sunflowers and other vegies, and scattered everywhere were tall, conical haystacks. Amazing! We both loved seeing people of all ages outdoors raking, weeding, working. Older women in long skirts and headscarves, younger men tending a herd of goats, kids on bikes, farming families loading up horses and carts… So provincial and simple.
Cluj-Napoca itself is another smallish central/eastern European city much like others I have seen recently. Churches, cobbled streets, outdoor eating areas, statues and monuments, interesting trams and trolleybuses and a mix of well-maintained vs old and run down buildings.
The light at dusk here is a fantastic blue, and the street lights against the sky make the buildings luminous. I got some good shots with my camera – as usual the iPhone doesn’t do it justice.
What I’m most interested in is the mix of languages. This area was originally Hungarian and I heard a lot of people speaking Hungarian. Obviously a lot were speaking Romanian too but I was surprised at how much familiar Hungarian I was hearing, yet every written word around me was foreign. People speak enough English here that we’ve bought dinner, checked into the hotel, bought panadol from a pharmacy and groceries from a corner store without any problems.
There seem to be a lot more Roma people here (aka ‘gypsies’) than in Budapest, and we encountered two young boys at the restaurant (outdoors) asking us to buy religious icon cards from them. We kept saying “no thank you, I can’t read that, no thank you” and one boy said, “oh, English. Money? Money?”
Smart kid, but no.
The Hotel Transilvania is simple but clean, the beds are comfy and we have English speaking channels on telly! The staff are helpful and I’m hanging out for a cooked breakfast in the morning.
Driving to Sovata tomorrow to swim in the salt lake!