Romania is divided into regions within which there are counties each of which has one main city associated with it (and usually a few smaller cities). Cities are usually surrounded by villages – sometimes so densely you may not even know that you’ve left the city. Roads generally cross straight through the villages – we could see this on the flight from Bucharest to Cluj – villages are a small area in which houses are grouped on smaller roads through which runs a main road.
We are in the region of Transylvania, county of Cluj, in the city of Cluj-Napoca. We will be in the city for a few months until we find/make a permanent home in a village outside the city (at least that is our intention at the time these words were written). The “online identity” of Cluj describes it as the 2nd largest city (after Bucharest) in Romania and in a state of extreme development. I’m happy to say that the Internet makes it out to be more then it actually it is. From ground level, though parts of it are definitely seeing a boom in development, it is still a modest city that hasn’t yet been taken over by western grandiose and commercialism (except for a McDonalds stuck like a wart in the city center). Still, and to give my words and images proper context, I don’t like cities. They are too busy and hectic and aggresive for me and though we’ve found a lovely apartment in a quiet neighborhood I’ll be happy when we leave the city.
I’ll start this part of the tour from a tree that overlooks a small lake in the city. We reached it after a long walk through the city and breathed a sigh of relief to be close to an artifact of nature.
It isn’t without irony that two minutes after I took this serene image an airplane appeared above the houses from the airport just outside the city. Which also leads us to what’s hiding behind the tree on the right side of the image. This is to assure those who consider Romania to be in any ways backward that they are wrong and to remind me that I need to leave the city soon. I give you Iulius Mall one of two large shopping malls in Cluj-Napoca which puts to shame any shopping malls I encountered in Israel:
By the way – Audi’s, BMW’s and Mercedes cars are all over the city – and they aren’t taxi cabs (those are mostly the cheaper Romanian made Dacia cars)- they are private cars. The shopping mall is filled with western brands including a Starbucks, Pizza Hut which greet all visitors.
And for those in my family who can relate, this small shop sits rights outside the mall and at least one other place that we know of (there may be more) in Cluj-Napoca. For those who may not be able to read it’s sign clearly, it says “Kurtos”:
Getting around in the city is possible either by foot, bus/tram or taxi. Bus tickets cost a minimum 3.5 lei for 2 journeys (in the same day) – either using a connection to get where you want to go – or for a back and forth journey. The bus-lines take some figuring out – which we are just starting to do. We usually go out together – which brings the bus fare to 7 lei – which comes close to the cost of a taxi drive within the city – so far we have gotten around with taxis. Taxi’s are nicely arranged all over the city in designated parking areas – almost always available – just walk into the first taxi in the queue and the rest move forward:
There are all kinds of neighborhoods in Cluj. In those that we visited we found both old and renovated structures. There are run-down buildings and houses that look like they shelter well-to-do and even rich people.
Our hostel was in the Marasti neighborhood which is north of the center and close to the industrial area of the city. We walked through the Gheorgeni neighborhood and though it has mostly large block buildings it is on the periphery of the city and felt relatively peaceful. Manastur is a relatively remote neighborhood in the south-west side of the city – Andreea was warned to stay away from there, but we went to see for ourselves. It is a very crowded neighborhood filled with huge block-buildings (our taxi driver told us it was built in the 70’s as housing for workers who got to the industrial area by tram. Our walk from Manastur to the neighboring Zorilor brought us to a vantage point where we could take in the diversity of the city – crowded blocks on the right and rural houses on the left:
That walk also happened to take us on a path alongside a large cemetery which didn’t make the walk too pleasant but was visually impressive.In the first image you can see what the cemetery looked like from Manastur:
We rented a 3 room apartment in a neighborhood called Andrei Muresanu – it is just south of the center of the city. It is considered a good neighborhood with mostly private villas in it. Ours seems to be the only apartment building in the neighborhood – so it’s a very quiet neighborhood. A 10 minute walks brings us to the southern side of the city center:
A 15 minute walk east into Gheorgeni brings us to the closest food market, which we happened to visit during our apartment searching. It’s a small and cozy market but the variety isn’t that great (compared to the impressive market we visited in Andreea’s homw town of Piatra Neamt) and the prices a bit high.
We visited about 10 apartments – we moved into the first one we sat. We knew it was the one but we wanted to see more of the city before settling into it. We were not impressed by most of the apartments we saw but I am confident there is a potential to find well kept apartments. There are plenty of apartments on the market. Most of the apartments you can find online are through real-estate agents (which generally charge 50% of one month rent). We used a local newspaper filled with ads and there too we found many apartments – including the one we now live in. The apartments online look much better maintained then most of the apartments we saw through the paper.
The following three images are left over from the first selection. The first picture is of a brick wall which seemed to reveal the city’s past similar to a tree rings that indicate a tree’s age and development.
The next image is a simple composition I enjoyed coming across – great light, great textures – simple 🙂
The last image is a mysterious reflection of a single street light through the textured window of the bathroom of our hostel.
More soon 🙂