Roaming Romania, Take Two

Old Nov 4th, 2014, 08:31 AM
  #101  
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Oct 6-7, 2014: Targu Mures, or not? A lovely building and a happening town.

Sibiu to Sighisoara to Cluj-Napoca? Sighisoara to Sibiu to Cluj-Napoca? Stop off in Alba Iulia (from Sibiu)? Stop off in Targu Mures (from Sighisoara)? I knew nothing about Alba Iulia or Targu Mures until I looked them up in Lonely Planet. Then a reference to an Art Nouveau building decided me on the Sighisoara - Targu Mures - Cluj-Napoca route, but how long should I spend in Targu Mures? An afternoon? An over night? I'm not fond of one nighters but I figured I could handle one (nowhere else on this trip was going to be less than three nights). Then I added the night I cut from Sighisoara to Targu Mures.

Looking at the map it made perfect sense to go via Targu Mures, but the railway engineers didn't agree with me. I was going to settle for the bus or a maxi-taxi, but the driver I used for my afternoon excursion from Sighisoara made me an offer I was willing to accept, so I arrived in Targu Mures in style. The owner of my pension, the Ana Maria, offered me a choice of three rooms, and kindly carried my bigger bag up and down the stairs to the bedroom plus sitting area I chose at the top of the building. Her English was limited, so we communicated in French, with a little help from the translate app on my smart phone. (The phone wasn't new, but my T-Mobile contract was, and I was finding the unlimited low speed data useful.)

Turned out that for my purposes - the Art Nouveau building - one night would have been fine. But Targu Mures was a lively town, with a festival setting up along its beautiful central promenade, a symphony orchestra practicing outside the concert hall, and a castle area undergoing serious renovation. Its population is mixed Romanian, Hungarian and Roma, and I saw signs in both Romanian and Hungarian, and a number of Roma women in bright flowered skirts and head scarves.

The Culture Palace, my target, held my attention both inside and out. Inside a whole series of stained glass windows illustrated Hungarian folk tales, and I liked them enough I actually bought a set of postcards with descriptions. The last time I bought that kind of souvenir was at the Alhambra, ten years ago. Outside I took plenty of photos, finding a number of other buildings of interest.

Wandering away from the central promenade (officially Piata Trandafirilor) I found the remarkable Teleki-Bolyai Library, founded in 1802, with an eclectic collection of rare books and maps and including 52 incunabula. Count Teleki specialized in scientific volumes but several other libraries were added over the years.

I took advantage of some down time to catch up on sleep, laundry and my journal.
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Old Nov 5th, 2014, 05:02 PM
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"Its population is mixed Romanian, Hungarian and Roma, and I saw signs in both Romanian and Hungarian, and a number of Roma women in bright flowered skirts and head scarves."

Fascinating. Still following along, THURSDAYSD.
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Old Nov 6th, 2014, 11:39 PM
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"Sibiu to Sighisoara to Cluj-Napoca? Sighisoara to Sibiu to Cluj-Napoca? Stop off in Alba Iulia (from Sibiu)? Stop off in Targu Mures (from Sighisoara)? I knew nothing about Alba Iulia or Targu Mures until I looked them up in Lonely Planet. "

It was only that last sentence that assured me that I was, indeed, reading English. ;-) Obviously, I haven't looked into the area at all!

"The Culture Palace, my target, held my attention both inside and out. Inside a whole series of stained glass windows illustrated Hungarian folk tales, and I liked them enough I actually bought a set of postcards with descriptions. The last time I bought that kind of souvenir was at the Alhambra, ten years ago."

Now that is high praise! Sounds wonderful -- so glad you got to see it!

I'm enjoying your report, thursdaysd -- thanks so much!

No mention of your ankles for a while -- I hope that's good news?
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 12:07 AM
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Glad to know there are still people reading!

My ankles finally started behaving in Graz, and I walked round (lovely) Ljubljana with no problems. However..... Getting up after lunch in a bar in Trieste I forgot that I was on a dais. I would have fallen flat on my face if an occupied bar stool hadn't been handy, but my left ankle is complaining again. But neither the weather nor the town are really tempting me to be very energetic. Thanks for asking.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 12:13 AM
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Oh, no!!! Not another cause for one of your ankles to complain!?! Please pamper it, if not for your own sake, then for all of us who are following along.

(Ljubljiana is truly lovely, isn't it? I thought it uniquely charming.)
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 12:23 AM
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This was my second visit to Ljubljana, and I should have given it more time. Instead of Trieste, which is altogether too monumental Hapsburg 19th century for my taste. And seems to have no redeeming museums. I had looked forward to seeing Miramare, but I am not about to tackle a 15 minute walk across a wet and windy headland to get there.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 04:45 AM
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Oct 8-9, 2014: Cluj-Napoca

The train connection from Targu Mures to Cluj-Napoca was no better than the connection from Sighisoara to Targu Mures, so I took the bus. The bus station turned out to be a long way south of the center, justifying my taxi, and the bus only cost 25 lei ($7.00 US). Waiting for it to show up, I talked with a woman from Manchester who had been using Sighisoara as a base, which I thought rather an odd choice.

Arrived at Cluj-Napoca's train station I decided it was too hot to walk to my hotel, and since it proved to be uphill I was glad I had persevered in my search for a taxi driver who would use his meter. (In more expensive countries I walk or use public transport, but this taxi cost me all of $2.00 US!) I did walk to and from the town center, which took me a good ten to fifteen minutes, uphill one way. My hotel, the Escala, was trying hard to become the number one small hotel in all of Romania on Tripadvisor, It is currently number three, and it showed. My room was clean, comfortable and nicely decorated. The chairs weren't the most comfortable, but the sitting areas downstairs, both indoors and out, more than made up for them. The owners were full of helpful information, too, which is how I wound up at the Botanical Gardens, a place not listed in my guidebook.

Of course, October was not the best time of year for gardens: the roses were clearly on their last legs, and the Japanese garden was inauthentically overgrown, but the dahlias were doing well, and I was very glad of the peace and quiet under the trees. Cluj turned out to be big, bustling and noisy, and not really offering enough sights to make up for it. The Ethnographic Museum would have been a bit of a disappointment even without the hideous noise made by the piano tuner in the main room. I may be virtually tone deaf, but even I could tell his services were needed! There was one room of costumed mannequins that kept me occupied for a while. The Minerological Museum was closed the days I was in town.

I did find a few interesting buildings to photograph, and a couple of reverential statues - one quite overpowering the cathedral behind it. The main square was largely occupied by the tents of a major book sale. This seemed to be part of a festival, but although my hosts assured me there would be music, every time I went through there were speeches instead. They were also enthusiastic about an early evening trek up the hill to the citadel to admire the view. I did not actually find the citadel, just a large hotel and a large cross, and I didn't stay until dark because I wasn't sure how much light there would be for getting down. The views weren't bad, but didn't justify the exercise or the strain on my aging knees.

My hosts' restaurant recommendations, on the other hand, worked well. The vegetarian restaurant, Samsana, at the bottom of their hill, served me excellent mushroom soup, although their take on falafel was bizarre. The Reata, suggested as serving authentic local food, was down a dark side street, but gave me a non-smoking table, reasonable mushrooms stuffed with sheep's cheese, and very good venison stew, served in a small iron pot hanging over a votive candle. I ate one night at a packed place on the main square, Toulouse, on good duck salad, and enjoyed a conversation with a Swedish woman on a business trip at the next table.

Best hotel in Romania or not, I doubt I will return to Cluj-Napoca.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 07:29 AM
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Still following with great interest. Sorry to hear about the latest foot problem.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 07:57 AM
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I'm still with you and enjoying. My comments are somewhat limited by my being in Tunisia at the moment with iffy internet and lots of rain. Will try to make some useful remarks soon!!
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 08:58 AM
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Thursday have you read Between the Woods and the Water? Its the middle one of the Patrick
Leigh Fermor books about his walk from the Hook to Constantinople in the 30s. All about the Romanian/Hungarian area you have just been through. Has been criticised for being too flowery and romantic but was written, or at least experienced, by an 18 year old. I really enjoyed it when it came out in paperback in the 80s.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 09:51 AM
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Hi gertie - own it but haven't read it....

Sorry to hear about the rain, same problem here, all I did today was visit two churches. And eat and drink - just had a very nice (and large!) aperol spritz, DO NOT understand why I can't get one in an Italian restaurant where I live! Looking forward to hearing about Tunisia, it's high on my list.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 10:16 AM
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I'm still following, though I will probably take a hiatus while we are in Peru.

I hope you get some better weather!
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 11:07 AM
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I think I had some delicious aperol spritz in either Graz or Ljubljana.... Not Trieste for sure. Though there is a fantastic gelato shop there that has at least 60 flavours.
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 11:12 AM
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Have a wonderful trip, Kathie. Will be looking for your TR, although maybe not reading too closely until I get home.

Gertie - heresy, I know, but I am not especially fond of gelato. Or ice cream. .... Now Sicilian cannoli....
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 11:33 AM
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Oh yes I am still reading.
Keep it coming !!
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Old Nov 7th, 2014, 01:08 PM
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Me too - and sorry about your latest foot problems.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 08:35 AM
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Sorry for the long delay, have been busy traveling - Ferrara, day trip to Ravenna, Venice (some really awful weather) and am now in chilly Aix-en-Provence. I am happy to report that my feet are doing better, which is a very good thing, as my otherwise very nice AirBnB room is up SEVENTY-EIGHT steps.

Oct 10-12, 2014: Oradea - Art Nouveau and a festival

I went to Oradea to see Art Nouveau buildings, and I did indeed see some, although not quite where I had expected. However, I'm not sure the town was worth the hassle of getting there and away, and it certainly wasn't worth the three nights I gave it. But they were comfortable nights....

I almost never stay in US chain hotels outside the US - I much prefer local places. But I just couldn't resist the $50 a night deal that booking.com offered for the Doubletree by Hilton, even though it was a little further out of the center than I would have preferred. On the other hand, I had a great view of the river, when it wasn't too hot to leave the curtains open. Was it a typical Doubletree? No idea, first time I stayed in one, but it seemed to be a standard intercontinental hotel - very clean, very comfortable, and totally generic. Although I did dock it a TA star because the AC wasn't working when I checked in, and half the too small closet was taken up by a stand for the iron. My excellent rate didn't include breakfast, and after one so-so buffet at an excessive (for Romania) 40 lei, I picked up supplies at a massive Carrefour sprawled behind a fancy mall three tram stops south of the center.

My previously good opinion of the Romanian train system took a severe hit on the Cluj to Oradea leg. The train arrived at Cluj station early, and I was happy to board and find a seat. But then it didn't leave. It just sat there. Inside, the passengers were getting hot. And still it didn't leave. And we got hotter. We finally pulled out a whole fifty minutes late.

Apart from a few Art Nouveau buildings and one gently decaying arcade, the main excitement in town was a big festival occupying much of a nice central park (Oradea gets points for its parks). The helpful young woman in the T.I. office told me that it was a ten day affair, and it concluded my last day in town, with a solemn wreath laying ceremony at midday, and a massive fireworks display at midnight. I had taken a look at the food and souvenir stalls, and chosen to eat at my hotel instead, and if I hadn't had the river view room I would have missed the fireworks entirely. As it was, I enjoyed a marvelous, grandstand view of a stellar display, in perfect comfort. I didn't even get a crick in my neck.

I did try to take a look at Oradea's citadel, only to find that it was undergoing a major restoration. At least, I will be charitable and call it a restoration, but it looked more like they were building some kind of conference center inside the walls. Outside, a pretty park had already been completed.

Aside from the fireworks, the best part of my stay in Oradea was the massage I treated myself to at the hotel. Unlike the breakfast buffet, the price was reasonable for Romania, and the masseuse was reasonably skilled (not up to the wonderful woman I see at home, but she is exceptional). Afterwards I relaxed on a lounger overlooking the swimming pool with a cup of green tea.

The trek to Timisoara would undo much of the good the massage had done.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 10:53 AM
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Good to hear from you. I thought you had abandoned us in the middle of Romania. Looks like it was wearing a bit thin by this stage and presumably you are almost out and into Hungary.
I know what you mean about generic hotels; mine is the Ibis, a French chain which suits me on price, locations and comfort when the hassle and unpredictability of local places is getting a bit much!
Looking forward to hearing tales of Ferrara, Ravenna and Venice. This last is pretty much on my 'don't want to go back and see how much it has been spoiled' list. Burma is on it too. Sorry about the rain; have been reading about torrential downpours in Italy on the BBC.
I got back home a few days ago and am in recovery mode. Just reading The Broken Road, the final Patrick Leigh Fermor book which has only just been released. He is flitting in and out of Romania and has just arrived in Bucharest. This is 1934. You really must have a look at these.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 11:21 AM
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Hi gertie - and I am looking forward to hearing about Tunisia, hint, hint.

I know what you mean about the Ibis, I have stayed in one or two. In fact, I just wrote on a TA review that next time I was in Graz I might well stay at the Ibis - equal lack of charm but greater comfort and better transport connections, lol.

Crowds in Venice weren't as bad as I expected, but I am sure the weather was to blame, plus I stayed out in the boonies at Sant' Elena. I was in Myanmar in 2004, and am also reluctant to go back, especially having seen how much Luang Prabang has changed.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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I am enjoying your trip details and above all hope your feet hold up for you. I cannot imagine wearing a smile too long when feet are hurting. You seem like a good sport.
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