stinkyman… (2 carriages : 1 bitch part 2)

… so where was I?

OK. Oradea.

Stunning place.

I step a long half meter down to the platform – Ms Shittypants has waited til last to leave as well. We carefully avoid eye contact as we hit the concrete: thankfully she is quickly lost in the crowded station.

The station is tiny!

Pushing through the milling throng waiting to get on the train, I headed for the ticket and information office to find out about my connection – due in 35 minutes.

Luckily it’s seems quiet and no long queues.

The arrivals and departures are in Romanian – pfffft no dramas – Google Translate nails it but I can’t see my train listed.

IR263 from Oradea to Cluj-napoca.

Nothing even close.

Ok…

So what about the clicketty clack board showing the next 4 arrivals/departures?

Not a sausage.

“Dammit!”

Where’s my connection?

I line up at the Information window and wait my turn quietly (Romanians are the best at queues, like Canberrans only better).

Finally I get to the window and slap my ticket up against the glass.

“Salut !” says I merrily, with the now patented dumb tourist smile. “which platform is IR 263 to Cluj please?”

The lady damn well eyerolls me!

She looks at the ticket, looks at the train about to leave (the one I just got off) looks at me and says “that one – platform 1 – you have 1 minute!- GO!”

“FUCK what!!!!!!”

“Merseeeeeeeeeee…” I call as I run out the door into the platform and can feel her second eyeroll penetrate my back like a bullet.

I sprint to the train as the doors close but my tiny brain monkey 🐒 “ooks” at me…

“Oook! Hold on a tick…”

I stop and run up to the poorly uniformed unshaven guard at the door, already knowing that he speaks no English. I show him my ticket and point to the train just about to leave.

“Da? Nu?” I ask.

He shakes his head “nu” and I run back inside to the ticket counter.

“The guard says no” I tell the lady.

She eyerolls me a third time and jabs a inch long bright red fingernail at the train on platform 1.

“Why do you mean he said no. THAT one!” and stabs a finger again to the train I just got off.

Her drawn on eyebrows almost pop off her head, she raises them so high.

“FUCK! / oook! ” say my brains in unison.

I run out and punch the green open door button on the train door and move up towards first class, back to where my seat was.

There’s a new lady sitting there now, but someone well dressed and under 40 so English hopefully!!! I smile dumbly and show her my ticket.

She says kindly, as if speaking to a child “let me see…No, not this one…”,

“I should get off?”

“Yes you need to get off”

A whistle blows from the platform.

“Merseeeeeeeeeee!!!” I call over my shoulder while running at the door, punching the green button and jumping off just as the train starts to move.

*Bet she eye rolled me, just quietly.

Now alone on the platform, I take a long breath and blow it out like the steam train I wish I was on.

“Whew that was lucky!”

Now what? Do I book another ticket? Is there another train?

The train pulls away, and I wander inside just as a clackitty clack starts clackitty clackiting just above my head and I glance up.

The sign changes slowly, like a spinning wheel on a old fashioned poker machine, but instead of fruit or cards it is spinning letters and numbers.

Sure enough… one character at a time, IR363 : 17.55 clicketty clacks into view on the board. Platform 3 in 20 minutes.

Perfect.

Time for a quick wee, so I wander up and pay 1 leu for the privilege of a 10 second wee in Oradea, then buy a Romanian knockoff Cornetto for 3.5 leu and find a spot on a square wooden planter to sit quietly and contemplate the next leg of the journey.

Quite interesting so far! I should take trains more often!

Munch munch munch on my fake Cornetto.

I notice an odd smell; sniff at my armpit and shirt, then discretely scratch my ass to check if I’ve somehow shat myself.

Nope, not today!

What’s that sm….

<something in Romanian Romanian Romanian> mumbles a voice in my ear, and I turn to see the filthiest man I’ve seen in quite a while carefully place a steaming dirty paper cup on the bench behind me and move to take a seat next to me.

In my head I hear the buzzing of many flies.

He smiles through a mask of grime and tries to strike up a conversation, but it’s no use – I’m tired and hot, but even sign language won’t save this chat as the smell is overpowering, like a dead cat dipped in dogshit and left in a plastic bag for a week.

I apologise and wish him good evening in my bad Romanian ( buno siéra is as close as I get), shook his hand (wish I hadn’t) and headed for the platform just as my train pulls in.

Excellent timing!

I check my carriage number against the hand written sign stuck to the train window; a lovely lady in a white dress and floppy wide brimmed hat, dragging a zebra suitcase and looking like a Parisian cafe dweller punches the door button and struggles with her bag – I help her up the half metre step up … (of course I do 😉 – I’m a gentleman)

“Merci…”

“No worries…”

She turns left and vanishes to the posh end of the train and I head right for cattle class and an unexpected surprise…

The train is lovely!

A second class ticket gets me a window seat and working aircon, the carriage is virtually empty and the group across from me are deaf so it’s practically silent except for the gentle slapping of hands as they sign to each other.

It’s also cooler as we climb into the mountains, just now following the course of a large river. It’s absolutely beautiful out my window, but nearly 9pm : a total shame it’s getting dark just at the best part of the journey.

The remainder of the train journey was lovely – darkness whipping by outside my window, cool  aircon, quiet cabin, and that gentle regular clicketty clack, clicketty clack that puts you to sleep putting me to sleep 💤.

I recharged my phone and didn’t make eye contact or mime with anyone.

Ahhhhh…..

So what next? 10 minutes from Cluj, Then a short half hour walk to my Airbnb in the Old City ( yeees I’m treating myself) where my host is waiting to let me in, and I’m going to sleep in a comfy bed and not a hostel for a few nights.

What could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, nothing! My new digs are slap bang in the middle of the Old City, and it’s a quick 25 minute walk from the train station last some of the most beautiful churches and cathedrals and statues I’ve seen yet.

The apartment is super small – almost like a tiny house but it’s perfect : quiet, comfy and just enough room for one.

The host meets me at the door, hands me a key and buggers off, so that’s it!

I’m out for the night, 12am.

Gnight all.

Exploring Cluj tomorrow!

** yes I know my tense is all fucked up. I’ll edit it later. I’m tired.

2 carriages – 1 bitch…

So First Class travel eh?

Sure I’ll give it a crack!

Romantic visions of every movie I’ve seen about luxurious European train travel flickered through my mind as I booked the ticket online through the Romanian Train Ticketing system.

Chuffing through the dark Romanian forests and winding through the fairytale Carpathian Mountain tunnels, white smoke billowing from the tunnels mouth as the train chuffs through…maybe even a murder!

For $30 ! Yes please.

So…?

Well Chief…missed it by THAT much.

The reality is all commuter train and allocated seating in our cosy little first class Hell; it’s glass, 32+ degrees outside and blazing sun; the compartment is full, the aircon doesn’t work and we can’t open the windows.

I burst immediately into a lathering sweat as soon as I sit down, as do the rest of the passengers.

Not quite what I imagined but it explains the raised eyebrows and mild amusement when I mentioned to Oana that I was traveling by train.

Awesome: we may die of heat exhaustion but at least the train left on time 🙂 …my seat mates are an older couple that speak no English and a younger lady that does but is totally occupied with staying cool cool cool and her Iphone.

I say ‘Hi’ and she gets up and leaves, heading down to 2nd Class where the aircon is working and takes the last spare seat.

Dammit, wish I’d thought of that.

It’s super hot today (Europe’s having a heatwave, not a tropical heatwave, but a heatwave nonetheless…) and being sealed in this train is not fun at all so far as the drippy layer of whole body sweat slowly dries out and my poor self acclimatises to the oven-like heat in this 2 carriage glass coffin.

Even the locals in First Class are suffering from heat fatigue and they ask the Conductor about it.

He shrugs and walks back into the air conditioned drivers cabin.

There may well be a murder yet.

It’s baking out there!

Let’s try distraction.

Train travel allows for the rare luxury of writing and going somewhere simultaneously and not having to drive!

The landscape flashing by is much like where I come from (🇦🇺 Australia) and strangely familiar: expansive rolling hills and fields of mown green grass fringed with low trees blurring to groves of stone fruit orchards – nectarines, cherries, peaches – flicking to expansive stubbled deserts of dry straw haystacks pebbled with brown-green hay bales flipping to endless green and yellow seas of sunflowers 🌻, all wilting slightly in the summer heat, heads down like an old man having a snooze after a big dinner and a snifter of brandy.

What is surprising though are the number of small hamlets and marginally larger towns dotting the way – every few kilometers there seems to be a new little village with a tall steepled church and a little railway siding, a few tall red brick or metal and concrete grain silos, and little red roofed 🏠.

So many villages!

It’s super duper rural in places though and here the sunflower fields and tall corn literally seem to vanish over the horizon.

At each level crossing, the train 🚊 lets loose a blast or two of its tinny whistle – a somewhat half hearted and rather breathy “MEEeeeep…” – to shoo cars and carts and the odd cow off the track (by causing them to roll away laughing I expect)

So what the Hell am I doing on a train?

I’m in my way to Cluj Napoca, Romania’s 4th largest city but I’ve decided to travel by train via Oradea ( in the North) and then cut through the mountains ⛰ to see what’s what – I should be in Cluj by 10pm.

So 6 hour train ride and free sightseeing tour! Yay!

Let’s go live!

Ticket inspectors move through the cabin, punching tickets and checking ID – I’d been warned about these guys and I think I have everything in order. Surprisingly they give only a cursory glance at my photo ID and printed ticket so after a quick hand written notation by the inspector, they move on.

*More than a little disappointed I think that he couldn’t find anything wrong with my ticket or credentials and so couldn’t fine me.

He’s not done yet though and gives the older man across from me a hard time about his ID and a bit of an argument occurs about something (I know not what) and THEN has a crack at the older mans wife.

Uhoh.

There’s are mildly raised voices, wavy hands and pointy fingers as it escalates to when they get issued a fine (i think) – in any case they get handed another type of ticket by a satisfied looking ticket inspector and they are not happy about it.

The man digs out his wallet and pulls a few extra bills out. Hands it to the Inspector, who writes out a new ticket and gives it to the man, who is still not happy, and gives he Inspector another mouthful.

Dammit!

I’m getting flicked in the face by the sweat off both men’s wildly waving hands and the argument continues – I’m trying to ignore it and typing this up as they argue about 2 feet from my face.

Something is dripping on my neck, and I look up – a bag in the rack over my head has sprung a leak – other passengers and a sloppily uniformed conductor, in his red hat and poorly fitting uniform, see it and try to find where it’s coming from.

Of course they point to my stuff first.

Uh no sorry guys – my water bottle is in the opposite luggage rack. It’s this black pipe here that’s leaking, not my bag.

So they fluff around and surprise surprise – it’s not my bag, but rather leaking condensation from the aircon pipes – the aircon that apparently doesn’t work.

At least the drips on my neck are cooling me down.

The older couple across from me are having a moment. He’s in trouble.

Poor guy. I’ve been there. He’s stuffed up and his wife isn’t happy, gazing quietly out the window as hubby tries to explain what happened. I’ve heard that tone many times with my own parents when Dad did something silly and Mum had the shits.

Hell I’ve used that tone myself.

“It’s not my fault” , “I did check the ticket”… or ineffective words to that effect.

“Hmmm” says the wife, quietly gazing out at the scenery.

She stares, he explains, the train stops at and they get off at Vinga barely an hour into the trip.

My new seat mate is an older lady with bags of shopping, and wants to chat but I’ve had to revert to Google Translate as I dont speak Romanian and she doesn’t speak English.

It’s working so far, well I’m assuming it is anyway.

We fumble at introductions, fail, and settle in for the next few hours.

She shows me some pictures of her daughter, son and a new baby. She’s going to visit them, she mimes.

“I’m a stupid tourist, travelling around Romania by train” I mime back to her, and show her some photos of my family. She smiles – I don’t think I had to explain the stupid part.

Now what? I’ll take some photos for this blog!

The slim youngish mother lady across from me is getting the shits with me taking pictures out “her” window, scowls and points out my own window – a clear ” this is my window, use your own”. Even my patented dumb tourist smile does nothing and she scowls each time I look out her window.

“I’m just taking photos of the countryside!” I try to smilingly explain.

Nothing.

I try to mime “I’m just taking photos of the countryside” but she just glares and points at my window.

Meh…

It’s so not worth it so I turn my back as best I can. I take photos out my window, directly into the blazing sun.

Great.

We are heading slowly north towards Arad and the scenery breaks into flat farming land but now with factories scattered instead of silos.

Ok wow!

Lady Shittypants has gone and found the ticket inspector and has complained about me taking photos out her window – he comes over and asks to see my phone (as I’m typing this) and so I show him – no big deal. He wants to see the video and photos I’m taking.

“Ok. Sure. Here tis! Fill your boots”

So I show him: unlock and hand him my phone – he flicks through my photos and the few seconds of video of the town I took just when the train whistled.

I can’t see the big deal really. Neither can he – we look at each other and shrug … Meh? Meh.

All you can see is what’s outside window in bright sunlight and dark foreground figures in silhouette.

He turns and shows the lady what’s on my phone, she looks across at me with snake eyes and says something quietly in Romanian to the guy …then he comes over and asks me to delete the photo and video.

Suddenly she can speak English.

It’s a miracle.

“I ask him to take photos out his own window” she says waving a pointy finger at me, a none too subtle note of victory in her thin, shrill voice.

The Inspector turns back to me.

“Delete, please” – there’s a barely discernable sigh and a subtle silent pleading in his eyes that says – “please… just do it, I don’t want to deal with this woman”

“Yeah sure” says I, big dumb Aussie tourist smile … he holds my phone as I delete the video and a wobbly photo in front of him…

“There you go mate! No problems!”

Satisfied, he returns my phone and turns back to the lady.

She is still giving me a smirky stink eye so I smile and apologise yet again. Loudly, so folks can hear.

“Sorry” says my smiling mouth but my eyes flash “Bitch!”.

The ticket inspector moves on to hassle another older couple about their ticket.

It’s so hot now people are getting weird.

The older grey haired chatty lady taps me on the leg and smiles, and makes that swirly finger motion at her temple : “she’s crazy- don’t worry about it love”, her gesture says.

She points to the Inspector, rubs her index finger and thumb together and winks at me. Ahhhh – he wants a bribe from the older couple.

Same thing happened in Tunisia in ’16 after taking some innocent photos of a big 🌵 at a remote soldiers checkpoint near the Algerian border.

“You! Delete the photos now”

“Sure ! sorry ! See all done! no problems, sirs”

They didn’t check the Iphones Deleted Items folder either…

Screw you lady.

The journey continues..

We stop for a quick smoke break – the smokers leap off for the chance to shave another 15 minutes off their lives and the cabin fills the aroma of rich cigarette smoke from outside through the open doors.

The older lady sits on the floor to try to escape the sun that’s slowly cooking her, but the guard makes her go back to her seat. She isn’t doing too well, and she signs to me that she is 70.

We’ve worked out a combination of sign language and mime plus stilted English and Romanian via google translate, and have found out that her daughter has had new baby and her son is either a chef or manages a restaurant (dammit i can never spell that word first go – it’s a mental block for me – always has been)

The poor lady is not coping well with the heat though so I offer my water bottle, filled from the hundred year old fountain in Unirii Square. Such good water in Timisoara!

We share my remaining water and she drags out a crumpled plastic coffee cup to drink from. I make her have another cup of water before taking a drink myself, and try to communicate again.

It’s harder than I expected (and as I’m typing this whilst conversing admittedly I’m not giving this conversation my full attention).

I bail – it’s too hard – the heat finally getting to me and I disengage, staring absently out the window and almost directly into the sun. My arms and face are burning even through the heavily tinted windows.

Almost at Oradea. A 40 minute stop to change trains and then head to Cluj.

Let’s hope the next leg goes smoothly…we’re here!

Orodea… breathtaking…

Not really.

Dare I take a photo through the front of the train?

Sure why not…let’s see what happens.

Almost at the station then next stop… Cluj-Napoca!

What could possibly go wrong!

To be continued…

f*cking tourists…

What a pack of bastards!

They come to your country, spend a few days running around seeing the tourist sights, read a few Wikipedia articles (at the very least a travel mag article) and then have the gall to constantly Instagram or Facebook the living fuck out of the mundane places where you work, have lunch and try to relax.

Worse are the ones that ‘know’ your country a few days in and have bullshit enlightened opinions on everything from local politics to ancient history.

Jeez!

Why can’t they just fuck off home.

Anyway…that was me unfortunately for at least a week or so. Caught up in the ‘wow’ moments of a new country and seeing it through rose-tinted lenses, I’d made some stupid ‘generalizations’ and ‘observations’ about life and the people here and then the ignorant arrogance to try to tell the locals all about it.

What a prick!

Anyway, sorry about that, Romania. I’m over it now, really. Back down to earth and sufficiently random once again.

I’m doing the hostel thing again for a while (a long and short story combined) and am struck by the number of people in a frantic cycle of travel – spending a day or two here in town and then moving on. “Oh I went for a walk across the river, did a pub crawl yesterday and saw the museum today – I’ve seen it all now – wow amazing – and heading to Belgrade tomorrow…” ffks.

The average tourist has an attention span of three days tops ( I just made that up but it’s probably true enough)

When I tell people I’ve been here for three weeks they look at me like I am a crazy person. “No one comes here for three weeks!” the Hostel owner said to me last night.

I’m actually in Romania for a month or more but shhh…don’t tell anyone.

A little Facebook blurb from Antony Bourdain (RIP) popped up a few days ago, specifically about his traveling style and he commented on the general obsession for people to be constantly moving when traveling abroad; to try to see as much as they can in a short finite period, and as a result, not really ‘seeing’ anything. I used to be that person.

Settling in to truly experience a place and get a feel for the day to day is a luxurious joy.

This really resonated with me as that exactly what I try to do everywhere I travel these days.

Settle in and feel the feels.

Smell the smells.

Pound the ground.

You get it.

So it’s 3 weeks into this trip and admittedly I’ve spent most of it in Timisoara (Google it – I’m tired of explaining). Apart from a few days out in the nearby country visiting some lovely little villages that wouldn’t be out of places in rural NSW, I’ve been city bound.

There’s a helluva lot to see and experience in this city though so I’ve been busy and have walked this city from arsehole to breakfast time in that 3 weeks, as my Dad used to say.

It’s almost time to move on from this lovely city. Almost.

Staying at my friends apartment close to the city was an incredibly generous (Thanks O.) opportunity to get the feels of this place and a perfect way to slowly immerse myself in daily life.

Gradually I’m seeing finer detail now – the good and the bad. The routines, the traffic patterns, the local workers and the lunchtime ebb and flow. The other characters going about their daily grind. The Police patrols, violin buskers and their hilarious turf wars against the other buskers, and even the touts, pickpockets and other shifty types.

Y’know, the interesting ones!

Like the shifty but talented fellow below, playing his authentically sad and mournful Romanian violin to a largely indifferent crowd. I really REALLY want to sit down and have a chat with him.

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Oh and the buildings are awfully nice too, before I forget.

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Being able to settle has allowed me to find my favourite eateries, what places sell English language novels and shady places to hang out with said book and read, fave coffee shops and most importantly the best cinemas ($6 movie tickets mmmm).

I’ve sussed out where the best pizza is, where the best coffee is on a Sunday, and the largest closest organic fresh food market.

Places that feel comfortable and places that don’t.

I can confidently navigate home moderately drunk at night now – padding along dimly lit streets in neighborhoods best described as sketchy – a benchmark that usually means I’m getting too comfortable and it’s time to go.

Seriously though, a lengthy stay here has so far turned a country and a people into something tangible for me that is lasting, and not just a curiosity to gawk at briefly; to be remembered only through selfies and then quickly forgotten when the next new thing comes along.

So that’s my travel advice for today : sit, stay, and settle in – immerse yourself in the day to day and live locally.

Anyway…so whats really on my mind, why am I writing?

A few things.

Firstly, the violent history of Europe in general is unsettling me, more than I could have unexpected.

I’ve been hitting a few film festivals since I’ve been here – I seem to gravitate to these things – so Timisoara has Ceau Cinema Film Festival and just now the Transilvania International Film festival roadshow is in town.

As I talk a lot ( yes really I do) I’ve been meeting and chatting with the crew and the organisers a bit, meeting some of the filmakers, and generally being the random Aussie film geek.

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My point eventually being I’ve been seeing a lot of local documentaries lately from filmakers , exploring Romania’s history and events. Some of this stuff is just unbelievably batshit crazy and I honestly don’t know how to unpackage it for processing.

You may have heard of some of these things – the Revolution in 1989, the rise and fall of Nicolae Ceausescu, his Decree 770 (this was just horrific), the effects of Communism over the years and life under Communism in general (unbelievable), the actions of the Securitate (Secret Police) and the prison camps – fucking hell!

Demonstrators of the Romanian Revolution. Photo by Denoel Paris and other photographers.

Romania sided with the Nazis then flipped to the Allies late in the war. I didn’t know that! (I mean I’m sure I did at one point in my life, but my brain pushed it out sometime ago)

Look I admire practicality as much as the next person, but Fuck me if Romania doesn’t seem to get a bit too ‘shooty’ at times. If it wasn’t so deadly real it’d be a Monty Python sketch.

Then there are the other things like the casual racism here (sorry guys it’s true, but we Aussies are worse) particularly relating to the gypsies and their odd status here, or the poverty which I haven’t yet seen the worst of at all I’m told and will have to head south to truly experience it apparently.

And again I keep coming back to the Revolution in ’89 that changed everything – but didn’t. The power and corruption just changing hands and becoming another new problem.

protests-against-ceausescuRomanian demonstrators protesting against Nicolae Ceausescu. Photo source: rarehistoricalphotos.com

I vaguely remember these issues from the News and from school when I was a kid, but fucking hell it sure crystallises into reality when you are here walking the streets!

My friend Ciprian described himself as being a child of Decree 770 : just talking to him about it briefly after seeing the documentary I was for once lost for words and moved to tears.

(side note: I met the director Florin Iepan very briefly at the festival, and got a chance to thank him for this film – he does a Michael Moore style documentary and is well known here in Romania for getting in peoples faces)

Odessa.

… Jesus …Odessa.

I can’t even think about Odessa, the most abhorrent thing that I’ve learned about Romania was their role in the Jewish Holocaust during WWII – the extermination of the Jewish population at Odessa in 1941 in particular – 22, 000 (twenty two fucking THOUSAND souls) men, women and children hung, shot and burned alive in barns over a two day period. And worse.

Hit the hyperlink above and read. It will haunt you. I cant stop thinking about it.

So much pain and suffering and grief passed from generation to generation – excluding the millennials however as nothing can touch their layers of entitlement.

You can sorta see remnants of it as soon as you talk to a local and the conversation turns to history or politics (and it will).

I don’t know how to process a lot of it – most of it. Any of it. There exists no frame of common reference for me.

It sounds like some ridiculous horror story to someone from small town Wombat NSW (Population 120) and it’s hard to reconcile the terrible history with the modern country that I’m seeing before me now.

I guess this is my first real experience in an ex-communist country that’s been plagued with problems forever and still trying to cope.

And Communist Romania!! Don’t get me started. Dear God.

The Romanian people have lived through all this horror but haven’t remained unscarred by it. There’s a defensiveness; an insecurity; almost an inferiority complex here that you get a sense of just talking to people.

Hopefully some more travel into the other Romanian regions will give me some insights and answers to the many many many questions that this experience is raising for me.

That’s all I have to say on these things in an open forum –  also I don’t feel that I have the right to comment much more than I have.

I may have said too much already, but these are my first and immediate impressions so fuck it – you’re you have it.

Talk to me in person for real feels.

So what else?

Some positive things.

I like it here! It’s very liveable. Things are cheap and the $ goes much further than back home.

Romanians in general have been really open, inclusive and friendly to me as a foreigner (but Timisoara is a special city I’ve been told – …’in Bucharest, they will kill you in road rage’ …said a friend I hitched a ride back from Gottlob last weekend with).

Smalltalk isn’t a thing tho, at least from what I’ve experienced – any chit chat is economical and to the point. People will quickly share deep personal secrets and tragedy with you after knowing you for a few minutes. It’s great, this level of openness.

My survival Romanian is getting slightly better – I don’t get the eyerolls as much now and I can order basic things and get a laugh or a smile. I’m happy with that.

And Tshirts! I wondered at all the branded American Tshirts that people wear and then I realise that there is a LOT of second hand clothing stores selling what must be good quality donated Tshirts from the US of A 🇺🇸 – going for 5 lei (about $2).

Bargain!!

I even stumbled upon a rack of Tshirts from Washington state and Seattle area businesses which was totally weird.

Hmm…anything else?

I’m sick today!

Yes that’s a good thing as it had to happen sometime on this trip, mixing with so many new people. Might as well get it over with.

I’m in the middle of it now though – thanks a lot Hostel – got a fever, sore throat, sweats and all that so my though processes are a little sketchy. I hope this clears up before I head out to Cluj next week. Then Bucharest, and then bounce around a little more until the 15th when the loose plan is return via Istanbul.

Or not.

I’ve decided to go by train and do a rain thing here rather than fly or drive. The driving thing was all locked in but some people had expressed concerns about conditions and rainy mountain roads (and some have said its fine also) – but after dinging the car in America last year, I’m erring on the side of caution cos I don’t feel like replacing a rental car again.

My timing stinks as far as the Cluj travel is concerned – there’s a big 4 day music festival there next week when I was planning to travel, and most of the accommodation is booked out. I might have to divert to Sibiu or somewhere else and then head to Cluj after the 5th.

My plans change every day so who knows where I’ll end up as opportunities arise.

So far, my highlight has been the Ceau Cinema Film Festival though.

**This isn’t at the festival?

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Hmmm…Apparently not.

After chatting to the organisers and some of the volunteers running the festival, I was amazed by how professional they were, and how smoothly this festival ran. For or 5 venues, 20 or so movies over 4 days, artist talks, meet and greets with the directors and film makers and everything seemed to go perfectly. I was absolutely blown away by how well this thing ran, so I went to every film that I could.

And, as you know, I tend to talk to people, so made some friends. When the offer of a lift out to Gottlob to see the newly refurbished cinema and see a few of the winning films and documentaries arose, I jumped at it, and got to spend the rainy day in a small village cinema watching Romanian documentaries and banned films from the 70’s.

Anyway, my highlight was getting presented with a ‘Gottlob Watermelon’ during the awards ceremony of the Ceau Cinema Film Festival here, the organisers pulling me up on stage and handing over the mike for a quick chat about coming from Australia and especially about coming to the Festival. An unexpected honour for a random token Aussie.

Thanks for a wonderful experience folks! 🙂

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It was a hot night, and so the beer flowed, but I bailed on the after party which wound up shortly after 3am as I had a melon to care for.

Carrying a large watermelon 2.5kms home hitched up on my shoulders, nursing a slight beer buzz and roaming through the city in the early hours makes for some strange looks from the locals for sure.

F*cking tourist, eh? 🙂

————-

*Looks like this is being shared around a bit in Romania so…

Dear Romania,

These ramblings are my initial reactions and impressions on visiting your country for the first time. It’s meant to be an honest record of my thoughts (with little editing except for grammar) and I’ve tried to be true to my reactions and impressions here.

No offense is meant by any of the comments I’ve made either in jest or ignorance.

If you are Romanian, or Securitate, and are offended by anything in this little rant, please accept my sincerest apologies.

La revedere!

Jamie

Roam-ania…

Yep there’s a good reason I haven’t been writing lately: too many Dad jokes and awful puns bouncing around in my brain.

I’ll quietly get them out of the way while I check out a coffee shop Oana recommended – OVRIDE coffee in the Timişoara City Centre. It’s buzzing here, almost as much as my caffeine high – their La Encanta Peruvian blend is making my brain sparkle.

I like this spot. Great coffee and super friendly. The boss is passionate about his coffee – if only the owners wife would let him buy a coffee roaster (no, it will take up too much of his time from his other job) 🙂

Wait what? Romania? …I’d better bring you up to date.

Anyhoo, I hadn’t been traveling all that much since March – well, at least compared to usual, anyway. Some time in Canberra and Melbourne, a few weeks in Thailand – barely enough to feed the ravenous travel beast that howls within.

Waiting on the next contract to go down South again for the 2018/2019 summer had me frustrated and spinning my wheels back in Dubbo (ugh) – medicals done, and no psych testing required this year I was just waiting waiting waiting and walking walking walking.

*Selling my car a few years back may not have been the best move as it kinda screws you when you live in regional Australia.

It also meant that I had nothing but time on my hands – a luxury that I hadn’t placed much value in until only recently. SO…what to do with this time?

Well cleaning out the family storage shed was something that needed to be done, so my sister arranged for a garbage skip, and I set to work over the course of a week or so going over the poorly boxed contents of our parents house – the result of 60 years of marriage and a lifetime together – and figuring out what to keep and what to discard.

Every book, box, envelope and slip of paper had to be examined to determine worth, and then either kept or chucked out. It was surprisingly tough to revisit the memory of my parents, especially all the photographs and hand written notes, personal letters and cards that they kept.

Some of the small things stirred powerful emotions. Dad’ s old California crutches – the ‘clickey clack’ sound they make evokes memories of him. His 4 pairs of hearing aids, his 3 pairs of glasses, his pocket knife and the other little things he kept on his person at all time in his bulging shirt pockets.  I gave them all to the Salvos (except his pocket knife – I kept that)

All the little items that they’d scrimped and planned and saved for, the minutiae of their everyday life that was mostly only valuable now as a historical reference and a curiosity for later generations. What wasn’t thrown out was all neatly boxed and packed up – an entire lifetime in a dozen boxes.

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The whole ‘clean up the shed’ exercise showed exactly how much I’d been avoiding their deaths however and was a chance to acknowledge that. To linger with their memory and say goodbye.

What about my own crap! I started on my own stuff. The remaining physical baggage , boxes and reminders of things from my past best cut away and left far behind. Hoarded for almost 30 years. I could be more ruthless with this.

Keeping photographs and some old primary school books (covered with comic book covers, full of mopey teenage letters, short stories and self indulgent writings from when I was a little kid right through to High School), it was fun to read through them all, get a glimpse myself before: a good kid but a little too serious. Most everything else went in the bin.

In hindsight this ‘cleansing’ was important though, decluttering and simplifying my life even further than I had before.

And then it was done. Shed cleaned, decluttering complete.

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I was a little bit empowered.

Next…

Training? Sure! There was a Data Cabling certification that I needed to get for this summer to be considered for the Antarctica role – easy peasy! A week in Canberra (thanks Lou) , a 2 week vacay in Chiang Mai that I’ve told you about already, then another week in Melbourne (thanks Steve) and the certification was done.

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Qualified Data Cabler? Check.

Now what?

I scored another day as an extra on a TV show over in Mudgee, which was great fun as usual and I got to see the crew that I’d gotten to know of the last year or so.

**On a side note, the series is Doctor Doctor – its actually a decent show! I finally watched a few seasons on the flight here.

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Next…

Shit. It’s winter. Even the kangaroos were wondering why I was still here.

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WTF dude.

The prospect of spending a few more months in a wintry Dubbo was not filling me with boundless joy, and due to my general uselessness I’d stuffed up the dates for attending a friend’s birthday in Spain by almost a whole month  (Sorry CB).

All was not lost!

Chatting to another yoga buddy from a Svastha course last year, I’d been promising to come visit in her home city of Timisoara, Romania for a while.

So I thought, why not? I’ve never been to Romania and it would be only my second time in Europe. Another glass of wine, and ticket booked! I’d arrive the week after my friends birthday (see, told you – shitty timing) and right in the middle of their summer.

So I hit the airways again…

Travelling lighter and lighter these days and am getting a little too used to this lifestyle I think. 7.1kg of carry-on luggage for 3 months travel. Who does that. Jeez.

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Dubbo>Sydney>>Hong Kong>Frankfurt>Timisoara – just on 30 hours with short layovers.

So here I am – enjoying sunny 30+ degree days in Timisoara Romania – an elegant, modern and vibrant city: a restoration ‘work in progress’ in parts but with such beautiful bones.

The old Roman era and later versions of Timisoara are still here once you dig deeper or get outside the city centre, but the new?

It’s a University city and a Tech hub, with a healthy Cafe and budding Coffee scene, a decent Theatre and Arts community and a politically engaged younger population – not so long removed from the stifling effects of Communism – angry at the corruption issues plaguing the country today.

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I’ve been here for about 10 days now and have spent the bulk of it roaming around the city exploring every nook and alley, meeting some lovely people, failing a lot at Romanian, but generally trying to immerse myself in the day to day of life here – yes, largely just an observer but I’m so very keen to learn more.

It’s absolutely fascinating here – my first experience in an ex-communist country and I’m loving at least this part of Romania so far…

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So with the roaming come the words apparently!

All this walking is shaking something loose and I’ll be telling you all about it very soon.

Stay tuned…I’m reinstating my rule of once a week posts again.

This writing thing is good for the soul.

🙂

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