September 27, 2008

Turda Fest 2008
Cluj-Napoca, Romania

By the end of three nights with Laura in Deva, we were more than ready to move on. Having pre-planned our next CouchSurfing jump before we even arrived in town helped ensure that we didn't have to idle in an environment where we had no conversational chemistry with our host.

Recent travel around Cluj

Yesterday we took an evening train to Cluj-Napoca (most commonly known as just 'Cluj'), where we finally got around to taking our first taxi in Eastern Europe to their home. I was prepared for the worst given our after-dark arrival time (asking our host in advance for the appropriate fare and looking at a map ahead of time so that I knew if we were being driven in a direction far off course), but found the young driver of the cab I selected to be both honest and timely. The meter wasn't rigged (once a problem in these parts), and generally think it's a good sign when the kid's got a radar detector suctioned to the vehicle's windshield.

Our new CouchSurfing home is host to a small family of three—the mother (Teodora) is an artist, the father (Marius) a dentist, and the nearly two-year-old girl (Ana) quite adorable. We were particularly excited to give Aidric the opportunity to interact with another child (as he's never been around one before).

Teodora and Marius welcomed us into their warm apartment, situated inside a large home built nearly 100 years ago (thankfully saved from a Communist demolition team). We were unexpectedly ushered into a very large bedroom—their bedroom—and told to make ourselves at home. (they would be sleeping on the pull-out couch!)

Eight-month-old Aidric and baby Ana instantly hit it off; watching the two play and socialize has quite special for us. Ana is an absolute sweetie, and surprisingly outgoing with Aidric. Tatiana looks at me interact with the two and reminds me that she'll kick my ass if I knock her up again. (laughing)

Day-Trip to Turda Fest

Mere moments from the center of town (Ştefan cel Mare Square), Teodora and Marius' home is in a prime spot for exploring the city, or getting out of it, as we all decided to do today.

One of the valuable pieces of information that I'd picked up from our time with our previous hostess in Deva was a festival in the (poorly named) city of Turda. Apparently this was originally started up by the Peace Corps (and is still a draw for Peace Corps volunteer attendance/participation from around Romania).

As described from the Turda Fest Web site:

The objective of the Turda Fest Association is to design programs that help villagers make a success of the projects they want to accomplish for their own communities. Most of the requests have centered on providing greater information for and assistance with: seed saving and distribution, product promotion and marketing, organizing markets and cooperatives, as well as how to bridge the chasm between small-scale producers and agricultural policy makers. The ultimate goal of these programs is to provide greater economic stability for small-scale producers and connect consumers to healthy, natural, traditional and local village products.

Our hosts have no car (and no rail lines connect Turda with Cluj), thus we found ourselves in a private car (unmarked taxi) for the 45-minute drive south. I would've never guessed that the man that Marius approached on a random, anonymous street corner was actually idling there with intent, waiting to fill his sedan (around the corner) with enough people to ferry to a nearby town.

Turda Fest turned out to be quite a bit of fun. A primary street in town was turned pedestrian-only, a large stage erected at one end, and vendor booths (with folks from all over Romania) flanking both sides of the avenue put in place. Some were there to sell their products, whereas others were oddly only there to create awareness (Marius wanted to buy some of the food he'd sampled at one and was told they weren't there to sell anything, just give away samples).

The cheeses, gingerbread, meal, and costumes were certainly memorable for this worthwhile day-trip, as was the world record-breaking onion chain…

Turda Fest World Record-Breaking Onion Chain

Wait… the what?

Yep, that's right. Now an annual event at Turda Fest, the flowing chain of red and white onion bulbs is a pretty kooky sight (with participants hell-bent on the breaking of the previous year's record set at the previous festival).

This year's record was officially verified, with the strand reaching a whopping 5,800 meters. That's 3.6 miles of chained onions!

Mosaic Eggshell Artwork

Honorable mention must also be made to one of the most interesting characters of the day. The fellow pictured below has created these pieces of art out of broken pieces of eggshells, which he glues together and colors. While the artwork itself is rather interesting and a bit unusual, the real gem was the man himself, who confidently spoke (or was at least able to accurately describe and sell) his creations in a multitude of languages. We tested him as best we could, with successes across the board: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Hungarian, and Russian.


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