Well folks, it's been 8 days in Romania, but tomorrow I'll be heading back to the previous time zone. I can't believe I've only got 20 more days of this trip. It's also graduation day at UGA in good ol' Athens, GA, and I have quite a few friends participating in that this morning and evening. To all of you: sorry I couldn't be there in person, but I'm proud we all get to be alumni together now. Go Dawgs!
Now that I've gotten that out of my system, let me tell you about my day. It started far too early, but after another restless night in a hotel room that was far too warm, I suppose it was a relief to get the day started. I checked out of my hotel, and it was cool enough and early enough, so I walked the half mile to the train station. By the time I got there, I was properly sweating, but I got to relax in the cool air on the platform for about 20 minutes before my train arrived. It was a shorter train than any other I've had in Romania - 2, maybe 3 cars in total. I
was in the first car. In fact, I was 3 rows behind the driver, who was protected from us by a glass door. You could see his movements and even out of the front window of the train. I didn't have a paper copy of my ticket, but that wasn't really a problem. I showed the conductor my iPad with the ticket on it, and he moved along.
I took a taxi to my hotel in Timisoara (pronounced Tee-mee-shwah-rah) and had my first full conversation in Romanian! The cabbie was probably over 70, but he asked me where I had come from, and when I told him where I was going, we talked in short spurts about that train trip. It lasted probably only 4 minutes in total, but it's the exact kind of conversation they prepare you for in first-semester foreign languages. I felt pretty relieved. I also felt relieved when I bought my train ticket for tomorrow to Belgrade as soon as I got off my train this morning. It cost all of $11, but it was nice to have in my hand, since you couldn't buy it online. And you just never know if it's going
to sell out (which I can't imagine it realistically would, but then who knows?).
I'm staying at the Savoy Hotel right on the river Bega. My room is mercifully ventilated, since it was quite warm again today. At least there are thick curtains and even metal blinds outside the windows that I can lower with the push of a button. No hot tub, but I'll sacrifice that for a good night's sleep. Here's hoping I get that wish.
A large portion of Timisoara is under construction - or at least renovation - at the moment. This seems to be a pattern for Romania these days. All the churches I wanted to go in here (except for the Orthodox Church) had nice scaffolding up one side; several of the roads were inaccessible, by foot and by car; and Union Square may as well have been closed, for all you could do there. I got some pictures, which was just about it. I did get to enjoy the parks around town - there's a ton of them, and they were luckily not under construction. There's also not really much else to see besides trees or other people enjoying the parks
in various stages of undress.
A few of my experience today will make up for the lack of touristy sights, though. First off, I tried this vanilla croissant thing - the first thing I ate in town - and it was heavenly. I also tried a langos cu branza
, as recommended by a former student of mine from Romania. They're massive, but I ordered 2 because I mistakenly thought they were something else smaller in the basket at the window. When the lady put them in the bag, I thought - dinner! They're basically cheese-filled dough that's been fried. Salty but so addictive. I'm glad I don't live here or I'd never lose any weight from this. I also got the Gypsy treatment inside a McDonald's here - I truly thought I'd be safe in a place like that. No loitering/begging, right? Well, maybe the management didn't see the 2 little girls, or maybe they were just turning a blind eye. But one came up to me speaking Romanian, and I thought at first she was asking for my table, since I was at a 4-seater. Nope. When I said "sorry?" she kinda motioned to her mouth for food
and money, at which point I held up my hands to show I had no money. I had just stopped in for a drink and the free wifi and the indoors, since it was sunny and warm outside. The girl was about to go away, but then her little sister reached for my cup, so I pulled it away. The older girl took the younger one and kinda laughed at her, and they went on to pester someone else. Lastly, as I was walking down a street with the road torn up, a young couple of bikes came down the sidewalk towards me, and the guy, bringing up the rear, was shooting a bird towards the shops on my right. I kinda gave him a quizzical look as they passed by, and he was very apologetic - "not for you, sorry!" I was relieved, to be sure.
One thing that I wish I could find in Romania is a hotel with a trash can in the room. They all have tiny trash cans in the bathroom, but never one in the bedroom. I would also like to find a city without so much construction. Sighisoara was the only real
exception to that, but I think it's because they're a UNESCO World Heritage site. The people in Romania have usually been good about speaking English when necessary (except for that grocery-store-bakery woman in Cluj), and now that I'm getting the hang of Romanian (with less than 15 hours left in the country), it really has opened more people up. Sometimes, they indulge me - like the cab driver this morning. But most of the time, they'll switch to English once they realize (after a sentence or two) that I'm not a native speaker of Romanian. I'm fine with that; I just don't want to give the impression that I'm one of them there lazy English speakers who doesn't care enough about where I am to learn the language. True, I didn't know I'd be here until a month ago, but they don't know that. They also don't know that I'm in Europe for 11 weeks, and that I can only put so much into my mind in a short time. Hungarian was just beyond my ability besides a few words. Other places, though, have differing levels of linguistic familiarity to me. Romania has been one of the easier ones to
get accustomed to.
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