Sighişoara was the last time I updated this and quite honestly I haven’t been to many places since, well no more cities or anything, but I have explored a lot of places within the Romania’s second city; Cluj-Napoca. I first arrived into Cluj-Napoca on the 20th January and after visiting Sibiu, Brasov and the aforementioned, Sighişoara; I decided to come back because I adored the place, the vibe and the general feel. Oh, and I didn’t believe I had seen enough of the city.
Having spent nearly 3 months in the city, and it’s also been quite a while since I left Cluj-Napoca, it means that I will find it somewhat difficult to write about every single place I went to and everything I did and explored during my time. As there’s a great deal of activities to write about, I’ve actually decided to split this post into two separate editorials. This one will detail the non-bar/club related activities I got up to and the other will discuss the local watering holes.
I came back to the city and stayed in the same hostel as before, the receptionist even remembered me; they knew me as The Metal Guy, which is a compliment in some ways. The day after my arrival I actually had a meet up with the owners of another hostel: Transylvania Hostel, to volunteer with them for a little while. It was only a brief meeting, a sort of introduction to each other, to explain what tasks I would be doing and they wanted to know about my travels. It was through this hostel that I really got to know the city – they have special agreements with a variety of restaurants, and bars and clubs around the place that offered something unique to the travelling backpacker.
The general tasks that were asked of me were usually cleaning, changing beds, the normal tasks asked of that from volunteers. However, because they also knew I had led bar crawls and walking tours previously, they also asked if I would take guests out on an evening and show them the local bars, the ones they had agreements with. Transylvania Hostel is the only hostel in the city that offers this experience, and it’s certainly one that can benefit anyone visiting the place.
I started volunteering at Transylvania hostel around the start of February, and as the hostel didn’t have many guests; we, the other two volunteers and I, were instead taken to the owners abode and were asked to help clean out the basement. This was good fun as we got to see a communist era dwelling and also got to inspect some old artefacts, some sentimental, some just mental. We then got to try some homemade wine and the local Romanian, brandy style, tipple: Pălincă (or otherwise known as Ţuică). The next time I visited the owner’s accommodation was for Easter Sunday and we had a very big lunch together along with other staff. After the meal, the owners and I were the only ones who wanted to enjoy the day and so we went for a little wander into Hoica Bacau. If you’ve been reading this before you’ll know that I’ve already been to the haunted forest but in the cold and the snow. This time it was, obviously, different as there was no snow and it was a hot day. We walked into the clearing this time and they explained all the theories about why the trees bent in a particular way, and also why the clearing actually occurred. I then took a walk back to the hostel as it was such a nice day, took about an hour but I did get to see Central Park for the first time.
Speaking of Central Park, as the weather got better and I didn’t have anything else to do, I would quite often just go to the park, sit under a tree and play some ukulele. It was really nice to sit in the park as people would pass on by, or they would sit and watch the people pass by and some people even did little activities, such as slacklining, juggling and playing violins, ultimately just a nice chilled out open space.
Towards the end of my time in Cluj-Napoca, there was a big celebratory weekend for the 100 year anniversary of the unification of Transylvania and the rest of Romania and, with Cluj-Napoca being the unofficial capital of the region, the city hosted a festival. Along the old walls, there was a live gallery of traditional weaponry, armour and reenactors along with some original jewellery and displays from craftsmen. Just aside from there was a massive food parade with loads of small businesses selling some small selections of their menus. I had a burger and then went back to the hostel for a beer or two. In the evening, there were some rather odd spectacles in the form of some guys dressed in neon costumes, and tree-people, and a large puppet contraption.
Also, during May, I actually signed a contract with Transylvania Hostel and started working as a receptionist as they were training me up to work in Vama Veche as a host. It was good fun to be working behind the desk as I had some more responsibility and I got to do some night shifts which was really nice to be awake when everyone else was asleep.
In part two, I have written about the local bars and clubs I visited during my 4 month stay in the city, stay tuned for that…