Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Up and Running

Its been about a year since I've done any serious running, apart from the sprinting I did in the Budapest station to catch the train to Krakow. A lot of my habits changed when I came to Romania, and I guess running wasn't one to make the cut.

However, I resolved today to reclaim this habit (especially since the weather has started to be so nice here). For the past few days I had given some thought to where I could run; Lugoj is not exactly an ideal town for runners. At first I was a bit shy about running, since I don't often see people jogging around town. Secondly, I had always been warned about stray dogs chasing runners, which made me a tad nervous.

So I thought, where might I go to avoid the dogs? My first idea was the park, where it is shaded, and relatively devoid of big dogs. However, it's sort of small, often crowded, and the paths are paved in asphalt, which I don't really prefer. Then, I thought about running along the banks of the river, which is fairly scenic and also has some shady spots. But, I wasn't sure about the dog situation, and the sidewalks are concrete. Next, I thought about running in the cemetery, which is rather large and has a wall surrounding it. I thought perhaps the wall would make it a fairly dog-safe area, but then I thought that if people noticed me running around the cemetery, they might be offended, or at least they'd think I was nuts.

Then, finally, it hit me. I knew there was a soccer stadium on the outskirts of town, but I had never seen what it was like inside. It looks rather dilapidated from outside, so I just assumed that it was closed and abandoned. But, I decided to go check it out today, to see if there might be a way to get inside. I nearly walked around the whole thing, trying to find an entrance. There were walls around the entire field and couldn't really see inside. But, I heard noises, and every so often I caught a glimpse of a soccer ball as it arced high enough for me to see it over the wall. So, I knew the stadium couldn't, in fact, be closed. I trotted around a corner, and came to a doorway. Once inside, I was stunned. Not only were there tons of people playing soccer or practicing, but there was also something else--a one-lane dirt track around the entire perimeter of the field! It was perfect! So I happily jogged a few laps just to see how out of shape I was. I typically prefer trail running, but I'll take what I can get, even if it's flat and lacking shade. In any case, it was good (both physically and mentally) to get some exercise.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lugoj Beer Festival

This past weekend has been a blast. The Lugoj Beer festival kicked off Friday afternoon and hasn't quit yet.

Coming home from school on Friday I discovered a crowd obstructing the street near the entrance to my apartment. They were surrounding a musical duo dressed like Native Americans. One of them was playing a drum, the other a flute. I'd actually seen these guys several times before, the first time was in Ploiesti. Apparently they are from Ecuador and make a living by performing at festivals throughout Romania. They are ok, if you listen to them in moderation. But, considering they've been playing right below my apartment for nearly the whole weekend, I've become quite sick of their repertoire. What makes it more annoying is that they only have five or so songs that they play in the exact same order every time. But enough about that...

Merrymaking was aided by beer, mici, all sorts of grilled food, beer, cotton candy, ice cream, kurtos kalacs (a sort of Hungarian/Transylvanian pastry), more beer and.... GOULASH (my favorite).

I went to a BBQ at someone's home Saturday afternoon, after which I attended the much-anticipated (at least by me) goulash competition. There were at least 5 teams, mostly from Hungary. I happened to time my arrival just so that I could sneak into the cooking space before they closed it to the public. So, there I was with all the cooks and judges. I asked one of the cooks if I could take his picture, and in return he offered me a taste of the goulash. After that, I went around and tasted each pot, which was great fun. Some of the chefs spoke only Hungarian. But, using universally-recognized culinary sign-language (a smile and pat of the belly), I was able to communicate my appreciation of their work.

After the judges announced the winning goulash, bowls of the stuff were given to the crowd -- and the best part was that it was totally free!

That night they had some Romanian folk bands perform, and today was more of the same (including the same songs by that South American group). I took a break from it all by walking to the outskirts of town. Passing the tennis courts, I ran into a colleague from school, so I hung out to watch him and his friends play tennis. Next time I'll wear my sneakers and play with them.

This evening they have some rock bands playing on the stage. I've just returned after watching a Romanian blues band (called The Timis Blues Band, I think). They're pretty good, and quite refreshing compared to the typical rock/pop played on the radio in Romania. As I type this, I can hear the music of another band, called Directie 5, emanating from the stage. One of the nice things about living directly in the center of town is that I'm right where the action is (of course, this isn't always a good thing...see above example concerning South American band).

Right now I'm just waiting for the fireworks, which are scheduled for midnight.

If you'd like to see pictures from this weekend, go here

Monday, May 5, 2008


Well, I'm back in Romania after a trip to Budapest and Krakow.

Click on the slideshows below to open the albums

In Budapest we stayed at a 'boat hotel' on the Danube, saw a show at the National Opera, viewed a great Medici/Renaissance art exhibit at the history museum, met up with some fellow PCVs, perused the huge market building, ate at the finest restaurants, swam in the famous baths and walked...A LOT.


We almost missed the train to Krakow because of a misunderstanding about the tickets. However, in the end, we resolved the issue and got off alright (with 20 minutes left before departure I sprinted to the ticket office, pleaded to cut in front of the throngs of impatient travelers, threw some money to the ticket lady, grabbed the corrected tickets--without waiting for change--and hustled back, arriving out of breath but happy to be able to board the train). After getting in early the next morning, we headed straight to the bus station and took a maxi taxi to Oswiecim (aka Auschwitz), which was a sobering experience. In Krakow itself we enjoyed the lively street scenes, visited Collegium Maius, walked to Nowa Huta (stopping on the way for an impromptu picnic consisting of a granola bar and yogurt), saw a chamber concert in Saints Peter and Paul church, ate potato pancakes at a milk bar, sampled pierogies that my father would die for, and toured nearly every square inch of the old city, with its castle and numerous old churches (Krakow has 142, which I believe is a higher concentration than anywhere outside Rome...though Nanticoke, PA is probably also pretty high on that list).