Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Saturday, June 4, 2016. Free day in Cluj-Napoca

Ate breakfast in our room. Bread and butter, fruit and juice. We ordered a cab and rode to the Iulius Mall on the east side of town. It is a large typical mall. High end stores, a food court and a Cinema, as well as a LARGE Walmart type store at the very back. It was like most Walmarts on a Saturday anywhere in the USA--lots and lots of people and long lines. We found some new reading glasses for Mike, as his good ones he brought got smashed when the back of the bench in our room crashed down on them. It did take us a while to find them in the store, and to find the correct magnification level. Nothing was in the right box. They cost a couple of dollars less than in US.

We had a nice big lunch in the mall at the food court. It was fun to see all the variety of buffet-type choices. We were a little unsure about how to order there. The price is sometimes by weight...people were rushing up, we couldn't tell if they paid before or after. There was also a Pizza Hut  near the main entrance of the mall, and the food court's busiest food counters? KFC and McDonalds. Lots of people eating fried chicken and french fries. We settled on the shaved meats--a plate for Mike and a gyro for me. Very tasty. And very filling. But we still had some cheesecake and an eclaire for dessert from the dessert/bakery place in the food court. We took a taxi back to our room and while Mike napped, I checked on our Rome information...had our boarding passes printed at the front desk (took a while to do that!), got bus/train/Metro info to get from Ciampino airport to hotel in Rome, etc.

At 5:00 pm we attended the organ recital at the Cathedral of St. Michael in the town square. It lasted 30 minutes. Following that, we had lemonade, visited with some ladies from California and Seattle who had been Peace Corps volunteers 10 years ago, and were here for a reunion of sorts with the students they'd taught, etc.  Then I went on a personalized walking tour of the downtown area with Andrea from the Information center of Cluj. It was personalized because I was the only one on the tour! It was informative, but I don't recall many of the dates or names. Suffice it to say they are very proud of any and all the people who did anything great from their town. The churches are cool. Very old, and have many restorations over the years. My tour lasted 1 1/2 hours. Walked back to our hotel, showered and started organizing and packing our suitcases. I have a LOT of heavy papers and brochures that I collected from BBU, plus that big coffee table book of the Botanical Garden. (BBU owns and manages that Botanical Garden.)

the washers, dryers and fridges at the mall seemed to be kind of small.

the central altar in St. Michael's Church

A plaque on the house where King Mathias was born

King Mathias' birthplace

My tour guide had a story about the crown and the crooked cross on the top. It's that way because of when it was damaged at one particular take-over. When the crown and their country was 'returned' the cross was damaged and left that way so they would always remember.

A favorite queen, Carolina. Her monument is pictured above.

Andrea and me outside of St. Michael's. Interesting story about how the entry and doors were "used" or repurposed from another building.  It didn't quite fit, so the coat of arms is just cut down and incomplete--because it didn't fit, after all!

Street of mirrors. The buildings on either side of street are twins/mirror image of each other. All owned by the Catholic church at this time (and right across the street from St. Michael's)

Nice view of the square, the church, the statue, the twin buildings AND film festival stuff scattered around the square.  The center of their town square has a glass-covered archeological dig of Roman ruins that they have left intact.  Cluj has been occupied for a long, long time!

A fortress. I walked to the top of this on my "lost" day, as it was on the way home.  The interior has been repurposed to be an art gallery.

This is Siago Pension, our home for the week we were in Cluj-Napoca.

Now we are packed and ready to leave. It was a trek.

Friday, June 3. The Salt Mine Tour and a leisure afternoon and evening

Friday, June 2. Maybe. I have no concept of dates while on vacation!

We ate our first breakfast in our Hotel's breakfast room. We felt that, at 5 Euro per person, it was rather pricey, so we have mostly eaten in our room, or had other stuff out. But it was okay. No hot food but some hot dog - looking "sausages", which we did not eat, but Mike found some delightful cheeses, I had meat and cheese, tomato, we had toast/bread, orange juice, yogurt, hot cocoa for Mike, I had a few cocoa puffs, too. It was a pretty good variety of stuff.

Then we caught a taxi (it was raining quite steadily) to the University Hotel on the West side of town at 10 a.m. We met up there with Oana and the rest of the BBU (Babes-Bolyai University) participants of International Week and traveled in two large vans 30 minutes to the Turda Salt Mines. There were a lot of stairs for Mike, but also an elevator for the longest drop/climb. I took the stairs going and coming. It was a huge place and the tour was very impressive. A lot of walking and climbing for  Mike, but he made it.
There is a wooden walkway that goes all around the big open area. Rickety and very scarey to walk on! But I walked over to a different (less-busy) set of stairs and walked down. Mike took the elevator. This is looking DOWN to the floor, but it's not the very bottom. Yet.

This is kind of blurry, but stalactites cling to the roof of this cave. Salt ones, of course.

This is from the floor area. Games and activities for the TONS of noisy school kids who were there. Pool, miniature golf...

A ferris wheel kind of contraption...

And a Bridge that is fully 10 stories LOWER than the previous pictures.

Here, you can rent boats and paddle around in the salty lake.

Looking up to the ceiling area.  It's well-lit. Imagine how dark it would be if the lights went out!  And will all those school kids. Wow. That would be very loud and very dark.

I took this from the little salt "island" in the middle of the lake. Miners threw the less-pure stuff down this big shaft, making a big mound. Then, later, the shaft was flooded on purpose and the lake around it formed.  If you look really closely, you can see teeny tiny people standing on the brink of that ledge over looking the island and lake. This place is BIG. AND it is ALL hand-mined. No machinery carved ANY of this mine.  Totally by hand--over many, many years, of course.

Walking down the stairs to begin the mine tour.  I marveled at how corroded the electric lights were, yet still worked. I am sure they must have to replace them all the time.

Salt will liquify when temps warm, then slide down the wall, re-crystallizing on the bottom.  There is natural wind flow through this mine, too.

This is a "balcony" overlooking an echo chamber, but I think it is actually the top part of the "lake" chamber. Maybe. I didn't get a chance to look closely at the mine schematic drawings I passed on the way out of the visitor's center.

There was equipment in the form of pulleys in the ceiling.

There were informative plaques on the walls.

They had tracks, and carts. Horses actually ran the pulleys. In total darkness, no less.

See how the crystals are re-forming on the ceiling?

There was even a church down there for the miners.

After the Mine tour, we were back at the BBU office of international affairs for me to sign paperwork, receive my money and a gift (large photo book of botanical gardens). That was about 3:30 or so, and I was done with all requirements. They paid me 2080 Euro in cash. That's almost $2,000. That's a lot of cash to haul around!! And what a help that will be to pay for our extravagent European vacation!

Ever seen a grand piano filled with dirt and plants?  Seems a sacrilege.

We were hungry and ate dinner at yet another place. It was still raining lightly, so we went inside to eat after waiting (and Mike was cooling off from walking and sweating in the humidity, though it is quite cool) outside at their sidewalk tables under big umbrellas for 20 minutes without being served or even acknowledged or even given a menu. I guess the outdoor tables are "closed" when it is raining?

One time we sat down at a restaurant's sidewalk tables to eat our pastries we had picked up elsewhere from a window and have some cherries for a quick lunch, and were immediately given a menu by the waitress from that restaurant. We bought hot chocolate to go with the pastry, and it let us know that the restaurant tables were ONLY for restaurant customers. That's why we were surprised not to be served when we sat down at this place in their side walk serving area. Our food at this place (pork ribs for me and fish and chips for Mike, pear "Cappy" bottled drinks for both) was great! They even substituted grilled vegetables for french fries in my meal. I have discovered that inside dining usually has loud music in these bar and grill/pub - type places, so I prefer outside where its quieter, but only if we are not on the major thoroughfare streets with noisy and smelly traffic.

After dinner, we walked slowly home. Mike knees were sore and tired, and it was still drizzling rain most of the time. We played "GeoGuessr" on my tablet to TRY and keep Mike from falling asleep too early. It was only 9 pm! But he really did just fall asleep,while doing that, and while watching TV. I listened to my audio book since it was to expire in a day. Its a Nick and Nora mystery. Cute. I finished it at midnight, we had prayer and went to bed. This night we decided to try sleeping without the air conditioner being on (it's a bit noisy), but by 4 am it was stuffy, so Mike turned it back on. I wore earplugs all night again. They are a little uncomfortable, but it does muffle his loud snoring. Our poor neighbors!

Thursday, and a brief meeting, etc. June 2, 2016

Thursday. I had a 10 am meeting with the Erasmus Coordinator/vice dean of European Studies. I had no name, no address. I went to the building on Avram Ionciu that we walk down daily with the flags and a sign out front that says European studies. When I went in, there was a little booth occupied by a short, round gentleman. I asked (in English) where I might find the vice dean of European studies. He did not speak English. I approached a nearby student and her English was okay, but she really didn't know what or who I needed. She did speak with a friend or two,  then walked me around the corner to the offices of the European studies. I had gone to the class room building, basically. (Only they have "courses" and "seminars" or symposium, not "classes.")

I was left at the secretary's office. She, also was confused by my request, but quickly made a phone call, and then I had to wait. I waited until 10 am, then told the secretary that my appointment was at ten, and perhaps I should just go to the office she'd called and not wait for them to call back with the info we needed. Just then the phone rang and it was the lady I needed to meet. She had not taken the phone call from the other person because she was expecting me. Delia Flangja came downstairs to retrieve me, and then we walked back up to her office. I asked if there were music classes in here, too, as I'd heard what seemed to be a tuba. This building used to be a theater and now part of it is still a rehearsal hall for the Cluj Philharmonic Orchestra. It  can get very loud during rehearsals, but it is "pleasant sound", according to the secretary.  Many of the University's buildings are "re-purposed" buildings and they are scattered about the city.

Delia told me about the program they have in European studies in many different languages, but mostly the ones offered in English. She gave me a class schedule. She asked what courses were taught at our University. I left all of my Cedar City pamplets with her. I wish I would have brought more SUU info. I wish I KNEW more SUU info! I just felt really unprepared to be an ambassador and wasn't sure just what I was supposed to be doing. But I did my best. She walked us down the street and around the corner, down two blocks to where the library for THIS faculties was hidden in a French studies place--not related to them. Stairwells in that building had no handrails in them. The library had only 2000 volumes mostly in English. It served the department that studies ...I am not sure what. International relations, among other things. There is some overlap with economics and political science. Books were piled in a blocked off entry way. There were areas to study, but the number of students in that " faculty" is relatively small, so there library is, too. There was no librarian on duty, but a kind instructor came to show us the library. He has authored some books and discovered on that little trip to the library that the books written by him were not on the shelves. The  room holding the books on its exterior shelves had one large study table in the center of it, and that was the extent of this library. One large room with a conference-sized table in the center and a separate study "lab."

Thursday afternoon. June 1, 2016We went to museum of national history, but it was a special exhibit about ancient Rome, done computer game (Wii) style. But in that museum building also contained a library of books for the study of Art History aT Babeş-Bolyai University AND Ancient History. We found a nice library worker named Steve who got permission for me to take some photos of those two places.
Stairs to the top floors of the Museum of National History

Interesting Tombs in the courtyard area of the Museum. Most of the Museum was closed.

Ceramic and gas heater in the corner of several rooms. No A/C at all. very warm.

 After that, we found a place to eat lunch. This one was a French bistro, and multiple languages were being spoken in it-- French on one side of us, and German on the other and then they switched to English. They only had one quiche Lorraine serving, so we convinced the waiter that we would share it. It was so rich and creamy, I'm glad we did. Small salad of just lettuce and tomatoes, too. Very good, and one of the most reasonably-priced ones we have had since he didn't know how to add a second salad to the bill!  I hope we left a good tip for the waiter.

We forgot to take the "before" pix
Their place mats were coloring pages.

There is a law, prominantely placed about in most places of business, that if the seller does not give you a receipt of sale, you do not have to pay for the goods. Receipts from a cash register machine are REQUIRED. Limits street venders, yes?

We did stop in at St. Michael's çhurch to find out about evening Organ recitals, and found they are only on Saturday nights. Also, on our walk back to our room, we walked through a Fransiscan Order of Catholicism(?) Church. We were not really sure, bit it was lovely, old, well-used and richly decorated with many paintings and statues.

We also stopped to buy some yummy and rather expensive chocolates, but I made Mike promise we would not gobble them up in one sitting -- which we are certainly able to do! -- , but savor them for special desserts. So far (I'm typing this Saturday morning) we have!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wednesday in Romania. June 1, 21016

Wednesday 1 June, 2016.

 Noon meeting at BBU. I met with Oana in the international office for about 15  minutes, then she passed me off to another  colleague until Ramona Onciu came in, bruskly asked me if I had my boarding pass (?!), signed my paperwork and took it, told me I would receive the scholarship on Friday, and then said they were very busy. Basically. No photos.

I did enjoy the brief meeting with Oana and she gave me instructions on where to go to meet for the salt mine excursion on Friday.

Oana was busy with other International Student business, so she handed me off to yet another associated. That woman spoke with me about her return to work after three YEARS of maternity leave. Three years. They have a choice to take one year or three years, the three year plan giving them far less money during their absence. The government will pay up to 85% of their income while on maternity leave if it is only one year. For three years, they receive the equivalent of about 400 US  dollars, but she didn't say if that was per month or one lump sum. And she discussed how their country is gong to be in  trouble soon due to the lack of employed gen x and gen y  people...and how Gypsies come into play in the formula. Interesting. They (Gypsies) do have children, but they do NOT educate them (beyond about three years of school on average she said), so there are no jobs they can to to contribute to the society and the tax base.

In the afternoon, Mike and I wandered down to the central park area. It was a very pretty area and they were having a fair/street with activities, venders, kind of like our Iron County Fair, but without the rides. Food, fun, performances, displays and LOTS of families and finally some children! We have seen so few. Mike sat on a bench and rested, I walked around and took pictures until my camera battery died. Then it started to rain, but not really hard. We waited it out under a tree on our way back to our room. (We did not take our umbrella with us.)

I wish I would have taken a photo of cars parked on sidewalks.  These are side-streets, but they look like alleys because there are no sidewalks. But they are streets.

Face painting and clowns at the little fair.

A cheshire cat and some creepy manikins in the tree.

This is the park area where the close-up of the lawn was taken. You can see the bitty white daisies in this pix.

Fountain in the park area. They had a performance stage for this little fair, too.

Paddle boats that look like cars. Cute.

I just loved all the cobble stoned walks and roads.  Patterns abounded.

I think this is in "Museum Square". There is a monument here, but I was noticing these two buildings. One stripped down to the bricks. But they do dress it up with flowers in window boxes.

Since we were going so slowly, it was time to eat dinner.

Before we stopped for dinner, we did stop by the visitor information area and got info on travel to Sibiu. And lots of pamplets.

 Dinner was outside by a lovely ancient wall...the actual wall of the old city. The wall where, if you were Romanian 2 centuries ago, you could not live on the inside the city side, but had to live outside of the city wall. Only the conquering German and Hungarian peoples could live inside the walled city limits. We actually ate American style food, just to see the difference. Mike's burger was tasty, and very garlicky. The "bacon" in the bacon burger was diced up and mixed inside the patty. It was very good. My grilled cheese and ham was actually two small sandwiches, so I only ate one and brought the other home. No ketchup to go with Mikes fries, but we didn't ask for it, either.

Various stages and lack thereof of roofs and fences and wall. And always lots of graffiti. Everywhere.

Check out the rain gutter holders--they are sunflowers. Cute

To keep mike from falling asleep too early that evening, we played Geoguessr online, and I also checked with our front desk people about getting a taxi for Friday, car rentals to Sibiu, airport closures (they don't close, she said).

We have been having such a grand time exploring bits and pieces of the city! Its beautiful, old, interesting and very safe and friendly. Smokey. But lovely.