Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why bring a car to Romania?

We made the right decision. If many former Fulbrighters have expressed frustration with auto travel in Romania, I will bet that they haven't lived for 30+ years in Northern New England. Today I left Oradea at 10:00, and arrived in Cluj about 1:30 after a breathtaking 165 Km trip across the mountains and into Transylvania. I saw storybook villages, women and children picking vegetables in the fields, very rotund women in long dresses and babushkas, seemingly out and about in every town, perhaps shopping for Saturday's bread and vegetables. Men in horsecarts full of logs, apparently of firewood grade, kept to the side of the rain-wet roads as we passed by in our 21st Century spaceships. A horesdrawn wagon full of scrap metal was being transported down an urban street in Oradea. Way out in the country, a young woman was hitchiking, though a nearly new car was parked with its driver's door open just a few meters away. A man was sitting in the driver's seat of the car. (Hmmm. Sorry, but I don't want any ... riders.)

The land I passed through today is different from any I have ever seen... and that says quite a bit. My mental image of the nicer parts of Middle Earth comes closest. And the road from Oradea to Cluj is just fine. Sure, it is a two laner, a "blue line," a "shunpike" rather than a turnpike. But I am a full-blooded shun-piker from New Hampshire. This trip was comparable in road and distance to the drive from Campton, New Hampshire to Rutland, Vermont. And, big trucks and all, it took only a little longer than that trip takes, mostly because of a traffic snarl at the Romanian Auto Registry on E60, about 8 Km southwest of Cluj. To us Northern New England folk, who cannot go east or west on expressways because there are none, Romanian highways are no worse than the roads we travel regularly. And we love those twisty, hilly, motor trails.

The local folks tell me that traffic is much worse on weekdays. I believe them. But I thank God that I carried through on my plan to come to Romania by car, for if I had flown into Cluj, I would have missed seeing Middle Earth today. And it is so worth seeing that I hope that many of my offspring (can't call them children anymore, as the youngest, Alex, is 23) will come here to celebrate Christmas with Shirl and me. I mean it, younguns. You must see Transylvania before it modernizes completely, and the only storybook figures left are in theme parks. Talk to your Mom. We can make it happen, if you want it to.

And Schmids, you must come, too. What Europe was, much of Romania still is. And that is worth a visit.

And as for the progress of the main mission...

Since I arrived in Cluj much earlier than I'd planned, I stopped to eat and to buy a cell phone, and load it up with airtime. Then I called Mircea, my former-Fulbrighter friend at Babes-Bolyai University. He then contacted guardian angel Livia, who had located our apartment for us. Both met me when I got downtown, and took me to meet the good Drs. Moldovan, Victoria and Florin, both UBB professors, and our new landlords. Both were at the apartment, and had brought o sticla cu vin alba and o sticla cu apa, cookies, as well as a lovely bowl of fruit. We sat for a good chat, then agreed to part until tomorrow at 2:00, when we shall meet for dinner.

Our apartment is large and comes equipped with a Whirlpool washer and Internet hookup. Who could ask for more? There is a lot of closet space, too. That is very good, because, as you all know, I packed heavy!

1 comment:

SKM said...

Welcome to your new home! Really happy that you arrived safely. And enjoyed the drive.