Smoke and Secessionists
July 15th, 2013 | Posted by Shannon
And then we drove south.
It was a long, hard drive from Botiza to Arad, our next base. We are talking two lane roads through an entire country; and on this particular day we went through a couple of towns where it was market day causing insane traffic. Switchback mountain roads (with trucks), horse drawn carts and tractors combined with market day meant it took about four hours just to drive the first 90 kilometers or something equally insane. But there were four more wonderful hours to follow. I felt very bad for Dan – driving that day had to suck beyond belief. And to add to the injury, we got to Arad, like two kilometers away from our lodgings, only to sit in a stopped row of trucks interspersed with cars (like the jackass behind us in a BMW SUV who kept his hand firmly on the horn while eating a hamburger. I am serious) for an hour.
Dude. That is not going to help.
Anyway we finally made it and somehow found our lodgings – just by driving by because the google map Deborah had printed and the google map I had put in my ipad were both fairly worthless. Note to self – always try to get a real map of the town before you arrive.
So our first night in Arad we were just a little stressed. We took a cab to the center and had an OK dinner at a place in Deborah’s Lonely Planet guidebook. The next day, refreshed, we were really able to check out Arad. It was a Saturday, and the main street was busy with shoppers; we walked along the river, had drinks in a couple of bars, and then a late lunch.
Arad has some big, grand, public buildings and a nice riverwalk.
If you want to go walking along the river on the right here, you have to pay to go into a “baths” place. We opted not to do that and instead walked on the main road on the left, and found a good place to enjoy a drink.
Earlier in the day we had passed by a pizza and pasta place on the main drag that advertised “pizza happy hour” from 3 pm to 6 pm. I’ll be honest – by this point, I was getting very tired of a) cigarette smoke in restaurants and b) not being able to understand what the heck the menu was saying. At an Italian restaurant, I can understand. And half price pizza? It is a no brainer. We went at like 3:01 to take advantage of the happy hour special.
Mi dio were we ever happy at La Pergola. I speak the most kindergarten Italian ever and was able to communicate – BLISS. The pizzas were fantastic. For the .001 percent of the people who read this who will eventually visit Arad, you must go there.
Then we went back to our pension for a bit of a rest, and a light and easy dinner of cheese and ham and melon on the little terrace. Deborah and Dan had a room next to a couple of guys who were chain smoking in their room, so badly that the smoke was coming into their room. Then these two came down to the terrace and were joined by two more. It wasn’t a big space and they all four were smoking. It was awful. Romania is definitely a place that smokers can go and be happy. But as for us we decided to shorten our nights in Arad from four to three – the smoke was that bad in the place we were staying. The following day we drove to Timisoara.
Timisoara. This is the city where, in 1989, the revolution started. Travel teaches us how the world changed, and why, and when. In this gorgeous university town, a priest, László Tőkés, was evicted from his post and the city for speaking out against Ceauşescu and what he was doing to the people of Romania. First, a group of people collected in front of Tőkés home, to keep him from being taken out. Then, a larger group formed in front of the Timisoara opera house. Then it started to spread all over Romania. It started on December 16, 1989. On December 25, Ceauşescu would be dead.
This is obviously the most thumbnail version of events, and it would take years to really understand what happened in Romania during this time. Young people died. In Arad there was a plaque in front of the city hall that commemorated the city’s fallen (mostly young men) and in Timisoara, on the opera house, this:
It is, of course, about the events and the revolution, we can wait for one of my Romanian readers to translate it effectively. I am curious enough now about this history to make me want to go to Toronto and visit my friends Doru and Josette who emigrated from Romania some decades ago and make them dinner in exchange for a full lesson.
Anyway. Besides all this, Timisoara is a really beautiful town. The main square is full of colorful flowers that could rival the gardens in Paris.
At the end is a beautiful orthodox church. Since it was a Sunday there were services and the church was packed. In Romanian churches you can light a candle on one side for the dead and another side for the living, so I lit a candle for my father on the right, and a candle for my mom on the left to send her some light for her current journeys. I also bought a cool postcard, one of those kind where it changes if you move it back and forth. It is half Byzantine Madonna and half Jesus Pantocrator. I love those postcards, I even have one of Padre Pio, even though I am far from religious.
Here is the opera house. It is hella cool.
In Timisoara – and Arad, too – there is a lot of Secessionist architecture. I LOVED the architecture in these towns. In Arad it was a bit falling apart in places, but in Timisoara it was glorious. Deborah was going on and on about how she wanted to buy an apartment in this building and who could blame her? Not me, ‘cept I don’t have any money.
We had lunch in a popular pub/restaurant/art space on the river, that was in the shape of a giant boat. It was just OK but that was fine because we had plans to go back to the pizzeria in Arad at 5:45 and partake of one of their fine happy hour pizzas a second time. Before that though, we went to a pub called the Drunken Rat. All in all a fantastic day – and the next day we would leave for Hunedoara, but on the way there is an adventure and Dan is lucky he is not in a Romanian jail right now. I’ll get all caught up soon, I promise. But before that, one last look at beautiful Timisoara.