On the journey from the plains of the southwest into the foothills of Transylvania, the landscape changed. Farms were smaller, men mowed hay with scythes, draft horses replaced tractors and, instead of concrete, the houses in the mountains were made of wood. Romania, in our first glimpse of it, was rural in the extreme, like a gothic fairytale.
But then we got to Cluj-Napoca and spent two damp days floating in a sea of modernity, music and food - the dripping forests, wolves and castles would have to wait. Above, "Rupa and the April Fishes" - a San Fransisco based band that sang in French and Spanish - plays to a crowd of soggy urbanites. As we were passing by, a group of young mimes showed up in stripes and facepaint. The mimes danced soundlessly, we felt bemused, the setting could have been anywhere.
Transylvania International Film Festival begins June 1st, there are posters everywhere).
Cluj had been described in our guidebook as a university city, which meant two things to us. First: the guidebook would probable be out of date. College towns change quickly, what was new and popular two years ago will be passe by the time we visit. Second: the town wouldn't be out of date. If there are students and young people, a city can't help but feel stylish. Students don't care about how old the town museum is, or the story behind the belltower or what the old mayor said about the Hungarians - they want good places to eat and exciting places to drink. Case in point: Kaja Tanya restaurant on Inocentiu Micu Klein. A daily menu, vegetarian options, excellent food, cheap prices, bottles of liquor being passed from hand to hand - it was great, it was fun, we began to fall in love with the city, rain be dammed.
The clothes were made for very angular people, a few photographers roamed around to document the coming together of Cluj's fashionable set.
A big stage had been set up outside in the square. We listened (sipping our second cups) to a full orchestra play for a few umbrella-holding pedestrians, the conductor exuberant, the string section shivering, the audience very meagre.
We left Cluj in another downpour, having seen almost none of its sights but feeling that we knew it well - both because its demeanor was familiar and because we'd spent so much time in its boîtes.