Iasi (aka. Romania is REALLY creepy)

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November 11th 2013
Published: November 13th 2013
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I got the bus from the south bus station over the border to Iasi (Yash), Romania. The bus only took about 4 hours, possibly the quickest crossing so far. The Romanian border guard was very charming but wouldn't give me a stamp for my passport, which sucked.

I arrived at Iasi's west bus station and was met by my old HK flatmate. Emma (her teaching name 😊 took me back to her place and we ate, drank a lot of tea, looked at the photos so far and watched some telly. Her husband got home around ten with a lasagne from his mother, and we sat down to eat lots and lots of mushroom (mmm, mushroom lasagne with stuffed mushrooms). We watched a film and fell asleep in the early hours.

The next day we headed out to the outskirts of town to begin the Emma's Iasi's highlights tour, beginning with a particularly gaudy hotel with some lovely views. We headed back into town and went into the park and botanical gardens, which had some interestingly named roses (I'm looking at you, Eddy Mitchell, Mark Sullivan, and Cocotte ('whore'/'casserole dish', either is weird)). There were lots of pumpkins about and I asked if this was for Halloween, but apparently it wasn't; Romanians just like having pumpkins around the place.

Emma's Mr had to go to work and me and Emma walked down into central Iasi. We popped into her old university and had a look at some awful paintings by a local artist. Both the subject matter and the style were strange, and all the people in them looked like aliens. We went over the road to find that one of Emma's favourite cafes has closed since she's been away, so we had a look around the art gallery there. The artwork was unexplained and thus incomprehensible. There were some not-very-subtle religious overtones to the work and bulls skewering matadors (way to go, bulls). I quite liked the style for some of the work (ink drawings, good use of negative space), but on the whole found most of the work inaccessible. I just didn't get it.

We had a good walk to the big shopping centre behind the Cultural Palace for something to eat. We found a vegetarian version of Sarmale (rice and vegetables wrapped in a cabbage leaf), falafel and avocado salad, with honey and mint lemonade (amazing) and followed it with a 'fro yo'. Hom nom nom.

We went back to the front of the Cultural Palace, and had a look inside the churches there.

Dear Romania, having a saint's skeleton as a relic in an open coffin which people touch is REALLY creepy.

The churches themselves were very beautiful. We have moved from the Russian Orthodox to Romanian Orthodox, away from the onion domes and towards spires. The outside of the churches look more like the ones in Britain, but the inside is painted like the Russian ones. There were services going on which were fascinating to watch. Lots of melancholy chanting, candles and incense. Beautiful and a little depressing.

We went into a bar for some pussy crushers (epically named cocktail) and wandered home a little while later.

On Saturday we went in the car up to Lacul Roșu (Red Lake). The drive took us through some stunning canyons and we wound our way up the steep hills. Along the side of the road were clusters of stalls selling touristy yet practical souvenirs (hats, slippers, brooms, pots, pans, doormats, etc). The lake was very pretty. Very still and clear, surrounded by mountains and trees. It wasn't too busy, which was nice, and there was Langos (lan-gosh: Hungarian flat doughnut covered in sour scream garlic and cheese. It was my favourite when I lived in Budapest. Emma's Mr had one covered in chocolate) and a twizzly-bread-and-nuts-spiral-thing that was cooked over an open flame. We took a seat on a bench looking over the lake and were joined by a few quite pretty strays.

On the way back to Iasi, we stopped off at a traditional Hungarian restaurant, half of the food was out of season so I ended up with a tiny globule of stew (tasty but tiny) and baked plum dumplings.

Hmmm, dumplings. Plum dumplings. Baked plum dumplings. Hom nom nom nom nom.

We woke up late on Sunday morning and went for a leisurely walk through the town and then a drive out to the town's lake (which included a quick peek at the airport). In the evening we went out to celebrate their cousins birthday at a Chinese restaurant (the first Chinese I've had since Beijing, but it was good).

Early on Monday morning, Mr and Emma drove me down to the bus station and put me on the bus to Cluj-Napoca in the west of Romania.

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