Thursday, 12 September 2002

Chasing Dracula in Cluj-Napoca


It's me.

When I was a teenager I was a big fan of a TV show about a fictional town in America called Twin Peaks.

It was a strange town, full of weird and wonderful characters like the Log Lady and Agent Cooper and visited by evil spirits that possessed many of the locals. I watched Twin Peaks every week and for a while I was obsessed. But in all the time that I spent watching the show, I never thought that I would end up visiting a town like Twin Peaks...

Welcome to Cluj-Napoca in Transylvania.

I'm exaggerating, of course. Cluj, the second largest city in Romania, is really nothing like Twin Peaks. But it's still a weird and wonderful place.

I have never before set foot in a city with so many flags. They decorate every street here. The mayor is a bit of a right-wing nut and he's taken his love of Romania to the extreme. Even the benches have been painted in the three colours of the Romanian flag. And the traffic cones. The litter bins. The police cars....

Romania, though never a part of the Soviet Union, still looks very Soviet and the cars, buses and monuments here are very similar to those you can find on the streets of Belarus and the Ukraine.

To tell the truth, I don't really like the people, though my opinion of Romania and the Romanian people is changing daily.

Some people have been kind and I've collected many new email addresses. Cluj is a very nice city and I would recommend it. The girls are also very pretty.

But this is not the welcome that I received from the people of Belarus. I've spent the last week thinking about the people I met there. People like Michele, Tanya, Olga and, especially, that wonderful girl I fell in love with...Katja Hrinkevich.

Here in Romania, walking the streets of Cluj in my expensive clothes and with my British accent, I do get the impression that many people look at me like I'm a meal ticket. And many people here have told me that the locals just want to know me for my euros.

So anyway. I mentioned last time that I was coming here to meet some mysterious strangers. Those strangers were a group of international volunteers I had arranged to meet here. We were coming to Transylvania to learn how to make pottery.

Unfortunately, I was a few days late and when I arrived I discovered that the volunteers had decided to abandon the project and go travelling. It seems that there English wasn't so good and they didn't understand the meaning of the word "pottery"! Eh?

This means that I have come to Romania for nothing. Am I pissed? You bet! But still, it has given me the opportunity to meet some new people and to see a place that I would never otherwise have visited.

I've also had some rather unique experiences.

On the train from Budapest to Cluj I met a girl in her twenties who spoke good English. She was travelling to another city in Romania. We spent some hours together and ended up playing a game where we used a pen and bits of paper to ask each other questions.

These soon became questions of a very sexual nature and as the journey continued we both started to get rather excited and rather hot.

Nothing actually happened, because I'm far too shy to have something with a stranger on a train - I prefer to get to know a person much better before doing the shaky-monkey-wild-and-bumpy - but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

So. What else have I done in the past week? I visited a Chinese restaurant and sampled frogs legs for the first time. (I wanted to try shark and octopus but they were out). I went to an art museum with a girl called Dana and later watched Stuart Little 2 with her.

I met two pleasant girls at a restaurant and enjoyed speaking to them very much. I sampled some of the nicest milk shakes I've ever had in my life. I also went to a nightclub with two people.

During the past days I've come to the conclusion that Romanians are vampires. They really are a night people. Many places - clubs, cafes, shops, bars, supermarkets - are open 24 hours.

I've become addicted to a local chat site and have spent lots of time in Internet cafes. I've been visiting one particular Internet cafe until 6am and each night at around 3am the owner tells me he's going to sleep and I should wake him before I leave. Odd!

It was my plan to visit Brasov to pay my respects to Count Dracula before I left but my money is running low and so I've decided instead to return to Budapest and then to head to Minsk. In fact, I'll be boarding a train for Budapest in just a few hours time.

So, these have been good days in Cluj-Napoca. Not great days, but good days. I'm glad that I finally got the chance to visit Romania - it's been an ambition of mine for a long time. And although I do feel a little disappointed, I will one day return to this country.

And now I have to go. I have people to do and things to see.

I will write to you once again from Budapest.

The adventure continues...

From the memory box of a Professional Englishman.

PS: A big hello and a message of love to my family: My Mum and my sister Emma and my brothers David and Mark. xxxxx

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About Me

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London, ENGLAND, United Kingdom
This is me. Read a few entries and they will tell you more about me than I can fit into these few paragraphs. Many of these entries started their lives as mass emails. That was before I discovered blogs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for visiting my blog and reading about my life. Both a work in progress.