Cluj Napoca, Romania ( Klausenburg )
I will write the German names next to the Romanian names, because for centuries those cities we will visit in Romania were at least 50% occupied by Germans. The “SiebenbürgerSachsen”, as they are known in Germany, were people sent by German Royalty to hold off attacks by the Mongols (Golden Hordes) and then later the Ottoman (Turkish and Islam) attacks. Those Germans established, built and organized their cities in ways that made them stand out in the region. A lot of the Germans sent to Romania were Protestants, people that the Catholic Church did not want in Germany and kind of ‘exiled’ them to the East. But the first waves of Germans came before the Reformation and to complicate it even more, they were not from Saxony but mainly from the lower Rhine Valley. History, even though understood, is still complicated.
History seems unavoidable when I visit a place. I ask myself questions like: how old is this town? What did it look like before man came to this spot? Why is the town in this spot? Somehow I am not so much interested in the latest buildings, bridges or living quarters the town is so proud to show me. I like to understand what made people come here and why and what kind of people they were. I have a hard time remembering the names because they are just names to me. Even though they were the important people of their time; today they are just names, with no longer any power behind them. I am not impressed with their wealth when they were alive, and I am sure I would not be impressed with their wealth today, either. But I must admit that, because of them, this part of the world looks like it does today. There are many circumstances that determine the appearance of a city or place in years to come. Just as there were many such circumstances and events that made a place the place it is today. History! It made and will make the world go around.
We had booked a pension via Bookings.com with an Italian name, Pension Piccola Italia. We had a hard time finding it, even with our very good and brand new GPS. We had maps of the town, we had our GPS but the city had major construction going on and a lot of roads were torn apart and detour signs all over the place. Our GPS gave up, too many detours. The map did not have the smallest streets on them and asking people? Do you speak Romanian? Besides, we were looking for a place with an Italian name, so when we did ask, they looked at us funny and kind of shrugged us off, shaking their head. “This guy is looking for Italia?” they might have thought. “This is Romania, fool.”
Well we found the place, an old, turn of the century house, converted into B&B. Parking for the bikes was under a grape arbor in the front yard behind a secure steel gate. Breakfast was in a small annex in the back, also under grape vines. Those plants give great shade. Much needed shade, the temps on the way in were 92 F and it was hot. The big, fat walls of the building though, helped the inside of the house remain cool and comfortable. No A/C, of course. It was an OK place to bunk down and explore the city. Exploring we did on foot, though. Besides the mess the construction made of the inner city, we were not happy with the way Romanians drive; aggressive, reckless and sometimes very foolish driving. We were better off per pedes, especially since the old town was only about 10 blocks away. When I use the word old town, it is a misnomer. Cluj (that is what the locals call the city for short) is a University town; There are many young people around. The ‘old’ center is made to look old but it is seeded over with Restaurants, eateries and drinking places. I felt like I was walking the gauntlet, everybody wanted us to come in and eat or drink in their place, the whole of it not busy, but all establishments very eager for customers.
We had dinner at one of the outside cafes but the atmosphere felt wrong. Naturally we had nothing better to do but watch the passersby and the general bustle of the place. To me it seemed contrived. I cannot remember the food we ate, all I remember is that it seemed overpriced for what we received. I do not know really what I expected, but I did not expect to see a town that made an area ‘old’ to bring in tourists but it was a failed attempt. Maybe we were too early in the day (7.00 PM) and the real “action” starts later, remember this is a University town or…… maybe the University was closed for the summer months. Anyhow, to me it was a dead duck place.
So all I can say about Cluj is that the houses need some fixing up, that most need a coat of paint and maybe there needs to be a program to teach drivers to be more respectful of others.
We had a nicer time at lunch today, we stopped alongside the road and the place had Romanian authenticity, great food and ambiance. A nice place with flowers in the front and a large hall with wooden tables and a nice menu greeted us. Even some (7) local bikers stopped in and occupied a table not far from us. They just nodded an acknowledgement when they saw us and did not make us a tourist target, like those dinner folks.
A curious event was the sight of large wooden houses with ‘silver’ roofs, trims and gables. I remember reading about some of them being ‘Gypsy’ king houses, but did not know they looked like that. A very peculiar look, very different looking. Very ornate and foreign, something my brain could not conceive as ever being a house for me.
Well, we are just starting to move into Romania, I need to keep an open mind. Romania is very different.