Initial Impressions of Romania
It's been day after day of sunless sky for something like two weeks now, and certainly not the introduction to Romania that we needed. The weather only amplifies the cold, ugly slabs of gray concrete saturating the skyline, while people walk against the frosty breeze with their eyes down and their mouths frowning.
The impact of the temperature and lack of sunlight has had a negative impact on Tatiana's state of mind. She often seems depressed, with little to no desire to leave the bedroom, let alone our host's apartment. Colder weather, gray skies and occasional drizzle do not make a girl from the tropics happy.
As such, we've spent the bulk of our time indoors here in Lugoj, often only venturing out for small errands or brief walks. We've found a stark difference in both supermarket offerings and building quality here in Romania (compared to that of neighboring Hungary). At the market we're paying more than double for basic foodstuffs and baby supplies, with a serious reduction in selection. Higher prices and less choice are a sentiment echoed at most every market that we've visited.
I'm constantly getting agitated by the people inside the supermarkets. Folks push past without excusing themselves or asking for permission to walk in front of you, and then there's the nasty, extremely annoying habit that the inhabitants of Lugoj seem to have with pressing up to you as close as they can when queuing in line. I found that the Nicaraguans are notorious for this behavior, and hate being a part of it—I can't help feel like someone's trying to pick my pocket when they're so close.
Living Monuments to Communism
When people cross between Hungary and Romania, they say it's like jumping ahead or falling back in time 30 years—and I'm starting to really understand why.
Communism looks like it has ravaged this country in more ways that I can pick up on, but building construction is an obvious one at the forefront of your vision. I'm under the impression that in nations like these, people had generational specialty trades. The mason father teaches his son(s) his trade, passing knowledge from one generation to the next.
But Romanian buildings built only 10 years ago are crumbling as if they've seen a flight of decades pass by. I've a sneaking suspicion that communism erased the vast majority of the specialized tradesmen and the generational guilds, leaving the labor pool of post-communism Romania without the proper skill sets across myriad genres of industries.
The communist bloc apartment that we've been living in has been an interesting experience (and surprisingly cozy when given a contemporary Danish/Norwegian touch from Martin). A primary goal of this Red period Romania's past was the (often forced) relocation of villagers into cities, where they were used to sustain the agricultural and industrial backbone of the labor state. As an incentive, characterless apartment buildings were build en mass, within which families were designated a unit (sometimes free of cost). It also helped to motivate the populous of some villages to relocate when the government razed their homes.
The destruction of villages (the subsequent unification of the population centers) has supposedly lead to a large-scale problem with stray dogs in the country—many of which are now the descendants of home guard dogs left behind during the exodus to the cities. Estimates of the semi-feral population in the local news media state reports numbers upwards of 200,000 dogs.
In 2000, Traian Băsescu was elected Mayor of the capital, Bucharest. As such, he was credited with a reduction in the number of stray dogs (although he sometimes used very drastic measures such as large-scale euthanasia) roaming freely through the streets of the city from approximately 200,000—300,000 in 2000 to 25,000 in 2004, and thus in the number of dog bite injuries from 1,500/month to under 200/month.
Nine Nights of Movies, Wine, and Food
Tonight's our ninth and final night with Martin, with us moving east to the city of Deva tomorrow evening. It may have been cold and uninviting outside, but inside Martin's place it was certainly the opposite. By the end of our time here, Tatiana wanted to either make a roommate out of our host, or (at minimum) a brother-in-law by marrying one of her sisters off to the guy.
This will be a part of the CouchSurfing review that I'll leave for him:
Spend time with Martin and learn what a man with excellent taste in film, music, alcohol, cars, kitchenware, and home furnishings looks like. His home is a fusion of vintage and modern, while Martin himself is a complex blend of professional and party animal. Without question the man knows how to have a good time, and what you should be listening to while you're having it.
Reliable, courteous, trustworthy, open-minded, entertaining, knowledgeable, easygoing, and handy are just a few words that might describe him. He's an amazing cook, and has style to spare.
We'll certainly miss our time with Martin (and Mike, the Peace Corps volunteer in town). I'm hoping we'll be in a position to swing back through Lugoj to spend Christmas with them.