Tag Archives: Cluj

City of contrasts

We had some paperwork to sort out in Cluj today, so took a wander round the lake near the Julius Mall.

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This is the most recently developed part of the town. The Julius Mall itself is all shiny and new and looks very Western. Then, across the lake, there is the ‘Riviera Luxury’ – a newly built luxury apartment block:

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And the development is ongoing, as the presence of the cranes testifies.

Yet, in the midst of all this, there are still a few ramshackle houses with the ubiquitous beans, tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the garden. Not rows of terraces, cottages or suburban houses, like you’d see in England. Just a small single-storey village-type dwelling marooned in the midst of the city.

And then, in other parts of the city, there are the huge, grey, factory apartment blocks of the communist era, many of which make the likes of Grenfell Tower look like paradise. Here’s one in Manastur, next to the bus stop where we changed buses:

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It was factory workers from blocks like these that marched into the centre of Cluj on 21/22 December 1989, a couple of days before the revolution climaxed in Bucaresti. 26 people died and 57 were injured when the security forces opened fire in Cluj.

So Cluj, like so many others, is a city of contrasts. It’s also a city with much more to it than I have shown here, dating as it does from before the Roman conquest of 106 AD. But there is only so much of it one can see at once!

New beginnings

It’s been almost a year since I last blogged. There have been a number of reasons for this, not least that I have been trying to learn Romanian – something that takes some considerable time!

The reason? Well, it all started with a sense of restlessness. The Bible says of the wind that it ‘blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.’ And that’s how it felt with us. Then, last summer, my husband returned from a two-week excursion to Transylvania with the possible offer of a job and we decided we’d go for it.

So here we are, a year later, in Romania, having spent the last couple of months packing up our belongings and getting our house in Somerset ready for rental.

We flew out on Monday, leaving a suitably chilly England to land at Cluj-Napoca airport in temperatures approaching 40 degrees centrigrade. We were met by a Romanian pastor and his family and taken to their home in a village a few miles outside the city; the place where we are now living.

We were given a wonderful welcome in true Romanian style – a good meal and everyone talking at once! This is a particularly interesting experience when more than one language is being spoken!

Since then, we have mostly been unpacking and sorting things out. We’ve not had a lot of opportunity to explore yet, partly because the weather has been so hot. (I’m allowed to say that because even the Romanians think it is hot at the moment). Here in the village, we are a little cooler than Cluj itself. Nonetheless, the temperature reached 37 C in the shade yesterday and is now 38 C. Thankfully, it is not that warm indoors, although the temperature has been rising all week and the house no longer feels cool. Just cooler than outside!

Meanwhile, our adjustment to the 2-hour time difference has been helped enormously by the cockerel in the garden next door, who wakes at about 5 am and clearly thinks that everyone else should too! He shares his plot of land with some hens, a cow and a couple of goats. Also, two dogs. We thought we heard geese the first morning, but we haven’t actually seen these. It could be that they live next door on the other side.

This traditional way of life exists side by side but in direct contrast with the hypermarket up the road in Floresti. This is bigger than any I have seen in the UK, although it has to be said that I’m used to rural Somerset, where such things simply don’t exist! The last time I saw something of a similar size was in Texas.

The city is also undergoing a massive expansion, with buildings going up everywhere, often with little thought as to how they will look in their surroundings. Floresti is also growing fast, with the result that the road between here and Cluj becomes heavily clogged with traffic and it can take well over an hour by bus or car to cover the 10 miles to the city centre.

So we have come to a country of massive contrasts, more about which I will share in future posts. For now, just a few pictures; snatched in the morning and evening when the weather is more tolerable:

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Biserica Reformata-Calvina, Luna de Sus, dating from 1320

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Horse with haycart drinking at ford

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The road goes ever on and on: Looking over the village, with Cluj in the distance