Train to Romania
We made our way to the station and caught our train. It was simple, and we set off. The train seemed to be a local train, and stopped at every little station along the way. Some of them didn’t even have a shack and no houses visible, but people still got off, so there must be something out here. After a while,we ended up on the Hungarian border town, and the police confiscated our passports. It wasn’t bad, just to check us out of the country. After a while they came back, and mine was stamped. This set off the whole thing again that Anna never gets stamped, being European and Australians get all the stamps. This continued while the train took us to the first Romanian town and we repeated the process.
Our first views of Romania were different. It is not a big town, but we were surprised that here was no bitumen on the streets. Other than that it could have been anywhere. Continuing into the country, all the roads between the fields were dirt. And not in such good condition, due to all the rain this year.
The train pulled into Oradea, and we were happy to see it was a proper station. OK, so it is a city, but still. Going down to the underpass, we came up on the other side. There was nothing here! On turning around, we saw that we had passed entirely under the station, the main road out the front and appeared beside the tram lines! Handy, but we needed an ATM to get some money. We decided on finding a place to stay first and luckily found a sign for a pension. Wandering up, it was quite nice and we had our place. It even comes with coffee on tap. Handy. The people are really nice, and helpful which is a bonus. They enjoy having guests and it is not just a job.
It took us a while to extract ourselves to get out and see the town. Starting our wander, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the suburbs, not a problem, as there is a river through town, and on finding that, we could walk to the down town area. The river is quite attractive, fairly full at the moment with one bank natural with willow trees and grass. The other has a nice walkway and separate bike path. Following it to down town we were stunned. It is amazing. The old buildings are stunning. The ones that have been renovated are beautiful. A lot of attention has been put into them. It is just a pity there are many more that need work as well. Plenty of buildings have massive screens riveted over them. We hope this is because they are being renovated, rather than just to stop bits falling off onto people.
There are lots of churches in Oradea, but unfortunately we could not go into many of them. There were too many weddings! Each church had a wedding party outside, or ceremony going on inside.
We took a peak at one or two of them, and enjoyed the traditional music and dancing outside. After the ceremony, it seems to be a tradition for everyone to get into their vehicles and drive around honking their horns. It looks to be a lot of fun, but loud.
With Romania being a different time zone, it gets dark really late here, and we had not noticed time flowing by. It was almost 10pm and still light as we made our way back to the pension. The place where we had picked up a rather plain dinner had closed up before we could finish our beers, so we had taken them with us. Not wanting to go into the pension with them, we were sitting on a step nearby another church. A man approached and started talking to us. Turns out he distils his own palinka, and offered some to us. It is a pure fire water, but with a lot of taste, and very smooth. Apparently you are allowed 40L before you have to start paying tax on home brew. There was a function happening at the church, and he offered to show it to us before they closed up. Walking over, he introduced us to the protestant priest, before handing him the bottle and heading in.
The church is simple and elegant. There is no real decoration, but the way it has been made is decoration in itself. Light and airy, it makes a pleasant change to the multiple altered, dark and overly ornate churches we had seen during the day.
At the party afterwards, we were passed around a bit, and discovered that it is a Romanian/Hungarian group that are having a wine and palinka evening. We were given glasses of the stuff. Not as nice as the home brew, but stronger. Everyone is celebrating their Hungarian ancestry with song and dance and it was a lot of fun. Luckily for us, they did not drag us in to partake in the dancing. It is quite complicated and would take a long time to learn.
A very fun evening, and it was well past midnight when we got out of there. Very drunk and glad our pension is only a few metres away!
The second was written off. Palinka gives you one hell of a hangover! Making it to breakfast, we wish we hadn’t. It was not worth it. 3 slices of salami and 2 pieces of white bread. Lovely. Back to bed! A few hours later, the brief but heavy storm had passed over and we thought we had better see some of the city we had missed yesterday. Apparently there is a castle in town. We had been near it yesterday, but couldn’t find it.
The walk to town from where we are is a fair way, and we still had not recovered from the revelry last night. Making it to where the castle should be, we still couldn’t see it. Searching all the streets for a sign, we eventually found a little tiny sign, covered in rust pointing down a small street.
The weddings were apparently still happening today, and the small park we ended up at was being used for the official photographs of one couple. After the rain, we felt sorry for them,as her nice white dress was quickly turning brown at the bottom. The park is quite nice and quite. Going around the base of the original Venetian fortifications where the thermal moat would have been. At stages there are signs telling the history of the bastions, when they were built, attacked, repaired and abandoned. Apparently the sight was not that strategic, and with changes in warfare it was quickly deserted after the Russian/Ottoman period of wars. Mostly made of brick with a few sections of limestone.
Other signs pointed out all the different plants and what they were good for.
Walking around the very wet and soggy paths, we made our way to the main entrance. It was closed. The site is being repaired and renovated with it not being due to open until 2015. This was a pity, but the glimpses of the buildings we saw up the top were not that interesting. Basically a church with surrounding out buildings. All in all, a little disappointing, but still a nice walk in the sun.
A few more churches, and off to do some shopping. Romania is supposed to still be fairly cheap with food, but is more expensive than Hungary for a few buns, cheese and salami costing 30 Lei! In Hungary we could do that and get two litres of wine. Still, maybe we chose the wrong supermarket. Anyway, the last thing we need today is more alcohol.