Monday, February 27, 2012

Around I Go! Suceava and Ciumani

A week ago I returned to Constanta after a four-city trip around Romania.  I visited Suceava, Ciumani (near Gheorgheni), Cluj-Napoca, and Brasov.
Cities I visited on my trip
My first stop was Suceava.  I took the train with Josi on the 2nd of February.  It was a little over 9 hours long, and I brought way too much food for our trip.  Since the train started in Constanta and ended in Suceava, by the end of the trip there weren't many other passengers left, so Josi and I were sprawled out in our own compartment and getting a bit stir crazy.  This was in the middle of the deep cold that gripped Eastern Europe.  Our compartment was heated, but the hall next to the outer door was not.  One of the doors was a bit ajar and it was quite frosty and snowing inside, which was very unhelpful for when we wanted to use the bathroom.
Snowy Floor

Frosty Door

The thermometer in the wagon said it was 17 C inside (63 F), but with that much frost inside, we're pretty sure it was broken...

We had arranged to stay at a hostel ahead of time, and the owner had said she'd pick us up.  When we arrived at the train station in Suceava she wasn't around.  We were able to call her and she came straightaway (she had thought we were on the train from Bucuresti, an hour earlier) to get us.  She told us the current temperature was -27 Celsius (-17 Fahrenheit)!  It was certainly chilly!  We got to the hostel and were pleasantly surprised.  We had a 4 person room to ourselves with our own bathroom.  We also had access to a kitchen, where there was free coffee and free raw milk, so we had some nice cafe lattes the next morning.  The next day we took a taxi to the school where Josi's friend Carolin was teaching and living in the attached dorm.  We had forgotten to go to the ATM before our trip, so we had very little money between the two of us after paying for the hostel and we weren't entirely sure we'd make it all the way there.
In Josi's left hand you can see the amount on the taxi meter so far.  In her right hand is all the money we have remaining, 3 lei.
Laura, Kelli, Carolin, and Josi braving the cold in Suceava.
We dropped off our luggage in Carolin's room then headed into town to find an ATM and meet up with two other Fulbright ETAs.  We met Laura and Kelli for lunch and then went to the mall together.  It was pretty cold out, so we weren't in the mood to spend much time outside.  Laura is teaching in Suceava and Kelli is teaching in Iasi, visiting for the day before they headed off to Cluj-Napoca for a short vacation.

At the bottom of the stairs to the citadel
The next day Josi, Carolin, and I visited Suceava a bit more.  We went to a bazaar, to the ruins of a citadel, to a 3D cafe, and a disappointing Chinese food restaurant.  It was the best Chinese food we've had in Romania so far, but it wasn't really up to our standards. Back to the citadel:  it sits a top a hill overlooking the city.  It had a great view, but since it snowed every second we were outside or looking out the window, there was a lot of snow on the steep path to the top.  This made for an exciting and fun trip.

Climbing the snowy stairs

The citadel

It was worth the climb!
Josi could only stay the weekend, so we both left Suceava early Sunday morning.  Josi had planned to take an early bus back, but when we got to the bus depot we found out that the bus wasn't running.  We made the best of the situation and got Josi a train leaving only a minute after my train.. All went well until Josi ran into numerous weather and technical problems with her second leg of her trip.  She was supposed to arrive that evening, but instead had to spend 36 hours in transit.  And she was lucky!  Hers was the last train to arrive in Constanta before the tracks were closed.  The problem was a massive snow storm that dropped up to 15 feet of snow in parts of Eastern Romania.  I, on the other hand, had no problem with my train trip to Gheorgheni...except for two different men who wanted to woo me upon hearing I was an American.  I had been nervous since I had to transfer trains in a relatively small station, but everything turned out just fine.
The train station where I waited for 3 hours before transferring trains

This gelatinous casserole is made from the hooves... I didn't fancy it. 
When I arrived in Gheorgheni, my friend Eniko was there to pick me up with her boyfriend, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend.  They brought me to a hotel room where I spent my first night in Ciumani (the town where Eniko lives) and then to a dinner with representatives from Ciumani's sister cities in Slovakia and Hungary, all ethnic Hungarians.  You see, Ciumani is actually the Romanian name for Gyergyocsomofalva, what the nearly all-Hungarian residents call their town.  All my hard work learning Romanian was mostly useless here.  I was able to attend this dinner because Eniko works for the town hall and was one of the coordinators for the event.  I got to try some traditional Hungarian food, all made from the pig.  Some of the dishes were delicious (such as blood sausage) but others were...not my taste.  Overall I had a really nice time meeting many nice people who tried to get to pronounce Hungarian properly.

The next day Eniko had the day off from work so she showed me around the area a bit.  We went into the city, Gheorgheni, for a bit, and we also visited a castle in one of the other towns that circle Gheorgheni.  According to the folks working at the office of the castle, I am the only american they can recall having visited, so I felt very special having gotten to visit.  On subsequent days we went ice skating, went to the pool (this town of 4,000 has two and so far as I know, Constanta has none), went sledding pulled by a car, visited the middle school per my request, watched some traditional Hungarian dancing, and visited the museums of Ciumani and Gheorgheni.  We also did some other things as well, but there's only so much I can recap in a blog post nearly three weeks later.  I stayed with Eniko's family had their home and received the best hospitality.  It was really a wonderful experience to stay in Hungarian town, in contrast to a Romanian city.  It was like being in a whole other country.
The church in Ciumani.  Nearly everyone is Catholic, so there is just one big church.
A banner for the town

The castle

The view from the top, of the entire basin where Ciumani, Gheorgheni, and the other surrounding towns are located.  It was snowing so visibility was poor.

Eniko's sister Julia gets naturally carbonated mineral water from a neighbor's well.

Eniko and Julia's boyfriend ready the sleds behind the car

Eniko and Julia riding on the sleds.  I did it for 5 minutes before hoping in the car.  I'm not really a thrill seeker.

It's really a very beautiful area!

The sun setting over Ciumani

When it came time to move on from Ciumani to Cluj-Napoca, Eniko put me on a bus at 4:25 am that stopped right in her town.  I spent six hours in transit and then arrived in Cluj-Napoca, but that's a story for another post, because this one is too long already.

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