blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Timișoara, Saturday afternoon and evening

The flight from München to Timișoara left on time, the people on board mostly Romanian. En route we soon climbed through the layer of low cloud to an altitude where I had a splendid view of the Austrian Alps from my window seat on the right hand side of the Embraer. The cloud looked like a huge snow-white lake among the islands of hills that stuck up through it; as the weather below improved I could see we were crossing steep Alpine valleys. Then came the flat lands of Hungary. When we landed and walked across to the terminal at Timișoara, it was sunny.

Our cases were among the first to roll off, so no waiting for a taxi. The taxi driver could speak enough English for his job, but his seat belts were just for show, with nowhere to insert the clips. My first view of Romania was a long straight road through flat fields, and then at a junction we saw a horse drawn cart. Concrete blocks on the edge of the town, but then we passed older buildings, rather tatty, in need of repair, but looking as though they'd been stylish once. I liked the look of the Parcul Botanic and the street market, then suddenly the Hotel Timișoara was in front of us, very central. It has a modern interior and our room is spacious.

We are an hour ahead of München here, but it was past lunchtime in both time zones when we entered the 19th century splendour of the Restaurant Lloyd opposite the hotel, I ordered a Romanian beef and vegetable soup, preparat tradutional romanesc. A ciorba taraneasca de vacuta, it was called. Other things on the extensive menu didn't appeal so much: soup dumplings boiled cow, fried pork leg, fresh pond frogs, fresh hen eggs, whites and quickly fried in hot oil (omleta simpla), flowers of fried sausages, dry highly seasoned, decorated with vegetables. Shades of China.

We walked down the wide avenue to the Cathedral, past a bronze sculpture on a pole of Romulus and Remus being suckled by the wolf. The Catedrala Mitropolitana is a massive brick edifice, Eastern Orthodox, with a huge image of Jesus painted on the highest cupola. Inside there are no pews, because it is required of worshippers to stand throughout the Divine Liturgy, as in Ukraine or Russia (Romania borders on the Ukraine). We did see people kneeling to kiss three icons in front of the extraordinary gilded altar or to pray beside the candles they had lit in the side chapels. Chris observed that they were crossing themselves right-to-left, which is the opposite way round from western European Catholics or 'high' Anglicans. When we'd gawped at the church interior we walked through the adjacent park to the banks of the river Bega, which is canalised, with willow trees and lovely tall russet conifers I couldn't identify, maybe a sort of Romanian larch. [Added later: My botanist sister has identified it as a swamp cypress, Taxodium distichum.] People were jogging along the river path and children riding push-along scooters and pedal carts. We saw them for hire outside one of the recreation buildings. There were parks all the way along, one of them a rose garden (Parcul Rozelor), another full of climbing structures and fancy "castles" or "pirate ships" for the kids. We saw one man kayaking on the river ... kaiac-ing, I should say, since that word was painted on a wall. So were some extraordinary graffiti.

We spent a long time by the river, eventually returning to the pedestrian zone in the city where there are impressively large squares (Piata Libertatii, Piata Unirii, Piata Sf. Gheorghe), floodlit after dark, clearly modelled on the ones in Italian cities. After all, for a couple of centuries, Romania was Roman, and the language is perhaps the most Latin of the world's languages. Around the perimeter are cafés, many people sitting on the outdoor patios despite the cold weather, to drink and smoke, in their padded jackets. In the evening we found a vegetarian café on a side street (strada) which served light and stylish suppers. Chris had slices of bread spread with hummus with pomegranate seeds. I had an avocado soup with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. To Chris' delight, we were served by a beautiful girl.

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