July 25, 2016
Baia Mare, Romania
(Continued. Note: this is taken from an actual diary entry from my time traveling in Eastern Europe.)
I will do my best to recap yesterday in detail.
Such a remarkable day! First, it continues to be so hot here I can hardly stand it. No one seems to be suffering but me! Very strange, but I would guess they have all adjusted to their climate by now.
By 2 p.m. I felt ready for lunch. I had wandered all about the Old Town area. Because it was Sunday I watched people walking to church in the most beautiful clothing! Women’s dresses are so stunning here, it’s remarkable. They are tight to the top with a skirt that flares in these amazing prints. I hope to get to a shop with some of them today to take photos at least.
I tried to ask the pensione owner to find me a driver so I could easily explore the area; he said, “shofer!” Yes, I said, but never saw him after he nodded and tapped his head with his index finger–thinking on it. So today I depend again on my trusty feet!
So I just started walking and found a really cool piazza lined with chic outdoor cafes. I continued strolling all over, taking random roads. In wandering I came upon a beautiful park with what looked to be a military monument– and a cool unit with “potable water” allowed me to fill my bottle. It also had small mist nozzles so people can cool themselves, but they did not seem to be working.
I continued strolling past lovely little houses and came upon another park. By now, the heat was intensifying!
A woman walked by–they smell like candy here. I must smell terrible, ha! I have not yet done laundry, but discovered a clean sundress in my bag last night–yay!
The second park was lush and green and enormous. Oh my heart just exploded with joy!
Families were walking and children were playing on the jungle gyms, and vendors were selling corn on the cob and chips and popcorn and balloons and COTTON CANDY!!!
It was only 3 lei, so I waited ever-so-patiently for the children to select their sugar color and flavor, and I approached with my 10 lei bill and got a big, fluffy cloud of happiness! So marvelous.
A little treino/train buzzed through the park, and I watched them go–the line or queue was long, but it would have seemed odd for me to ride it anyway.
I continued walking, cotton candy in hand, pulling it apart bit by bit in fluffy, cottony, wooly, pink bits. I came upon a pond filled with koi, a man throwing bits of popped corn into the pond, and all of the fish flapping about, trying to get it. Some kids came up with cotton candy and a little boy, his fingers wet with spittle, tried to throw the cotton candy to the fish, but of course it stuck to his fingers and evaporated into near nothingness from the moisture. He was so perplexed. You forget you have to learn those things. So much to learn.
I continued walking, past a ropes course that was closed, but looked thrilling and a bit dangerous. I walked until the shade ran out, then circled back. A man was seated on a bench, playing violin. I gave him some lei, which I tossed in his violin case, and watched as a child, at his mother’s urging, did the same, but handed the cash straight to the musician rather than dropping it in the case. The musician stopped playing and took the bill, then continued. So much to learn.
I spent so much time pondering some big, Anthony Bourdain-type questions: What is beauty? Who decides? And if not ourselves, why not? It felt good to crawl inside my head as I strolled around on new soil.
Who decides what is normal? What a high price we pay for the sameness we are sold. And what if everything we’ve been sold is a lie? Why must we have only one kind of bananas? One kind of tomato one kind of pepper? One need only travel the world to see there is so much more, so much.
And what if the seeds of innovation we seek to solve the problems in our country, to make us stronger as a nation, rest in the solutions forged by nations so much older than ours, and we need only to travel to discover them? I think of the two button flush on toilets–surely a water saver….the water monitor next to the sink at the apartment where I stayed in Budapest….how a hotel key is necessary to turn on the electricity in a hotel room in Bangkok. Why aren’t we doing these things? Stoves are smaller. Fridges are smaller. Even cars are smaller here–think of the savings.
Anyway, I pondered as I wandered. Beauty, normality, innovation.
I started to leave the park and the sun was so hot. I went up a side street that climbed past homes dripping in grapevines, plums purple and ripe on the trees, roses–so many roses! Up I went. There was a sign for a monastery, so I kept walking to see. It was so hot–but I was rewarded with a view of the city would not have otherwise seen. So much beauty.
I turned around–the road continued to climb, but the heat was getting the best of me. Back through the park I went, down the streets, sweating and snapping photos as I walked.
I found my way back to the Centrul Istoric, the Central Historic District, grabbed a seat at a cafe with lovely oscillating fans that sprayed cool mist–ordered a beer from a slightly surly waiter-though who can know? And a pizza, which listed no cheese in the ingredients, but oy, there was cheese. Popped two lactose pills, said a little prayer and dug in–salami, ham, cheese, and so huge and delicious! I watched locals get massive platters of meat and potatoes, omg. So much food. I could only eat 1/2 of my pizza. They served it with two types of ketchup–one apparently spicy, judging by the peppers on the label. It seemed curious, and only later did I see some teens put ketchup on their pizza.
I had been sitting there for several hours, observing, contemplating, enjoying wifi (my hotel wifi is not working). I ordered a beautiful tropical lemonade that came in a mini pitcher, so delicious and refreshing, with lemon seeds in the bottom.
It was hot. I wandered toward a historic church bell tower–now a clock tower–the church itself is long gone. Very peaceful area. Another monument–bells and glass-topped displays of the church excavation. Originally build in the 1300s.
I went back to the pensione. I had been in the sun all day, aside from the cafe shade, and I was feeling off: headache, dizziness. When there, I determined I would rest with the windows open–took off my sweaty dress, took a cool shower, then read my book, “A Man Called Ove,” for several hours. Drank a liter of water or more, and when the sun went down, I put on lipstick and my fresh sundress (yay!) and headed back to the piazza, visions of the pork ribs and potatoes I’d seen the locals order, dancing in my head. Once there, I noticed the same surly waiter, wandered to other cafes, and could not decide. The cafes were full–every table occupied, or nearly so. Clearly evening is when people make their way to the plaza in Baia Mare. The night air was so delicious. I sat at one cafe, but no one came to my table, and after 20 minutes I got up and left. No one was eating food there anyway.
Sometimes I am this way: tentative…reluctant to press myself into a space where there seems no opening, unwilling to start conversations with strangers. Being alone doesn’t bother me a bit, but sometimes re-entering the space beyond the safety of my own thoughts seems daunting. So I retreat instead.
I stopped at a little grocery and bought salami, some biscuits–sweet ones, an apple and a banana and a grapefruit beer, for 10.2 lei, less than $3 USD. Dinner=served.
Then, still feeling off, I sat in my room, drank water and read into the late night. The book made me cry, so after a good night’s rest I awoke puffy-eyed and eager for coffee. I readied myself, the bare minimum, then headed down to the cafe to have some breakfast. No sign of the male owner–only the woman, a lovely, large, friendly blonde woman who touched my arm and said in careful, uncertain English, “gud MORE-ninG.”
Okay, with the chef out, back upstairs I went to drop off my extra stuff–and walked to a cafe on the main drag, where I got an espresso and wifi. They have a buffet, I think I will check it out.
(to be continued)
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.