Sibiu, Sibime, Say It For Always
Trip Start Aug 03, 2006
9Trip End Aug 23, 2006
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After a somewhat rocky start in Timisoara, I pulled into Sibiu around 9:00 PM. With all budget accommodations surprisingly full, I resigned myself to caughing up the extra dough for more upmarket accommodations. So, I stayed in the best hotel in town, completely over the top in frilly elegance, for less than what I paid to stay in the roach motel in London. Honestly, you couldn't spend $100/day in Romania if you tried. For example, the hotel where Prince Charles stayed in Sighisoara, which I therefore assume must be one of the best in the country, costs only around $70/night
However, figuring out price quotes still poses a problem. Romania recently slashed 4 zeros off of its currency, but both old and new notes (which btw are made out of plastic) are still in circulation, and almost all prices are quoted in old terminology. So, if something costs 1.9 new lei, a merchant will ask for 19, which is really 19,000, just with the last 3 zeros cut off. Ach! My head spins every time I try to pay for something.
So, after sleeping in, I explored Sibiu. The entire town is under construction, and I mean EVERYWHERE, because it has been chosen to be Culture City of Europe next year. From what I've seen, it is an excellent choice, although given the inconveniences of all the construction, next year may rather be the year to visit. Sibiu is a charming town of cobblestone streets, great squares, moving Orthodox and Evangelical churches, and perfectly intact city walls dating from the 16th century. As I wandered around, I walked past a guy, obviously Romanian, wearing a sweatshirt that in large letters proclaimed, "CRYSTAL LAKE." Rich Cole, eat your heart out
Thanks to the Scottish/Romanian pair I ate breakfast with, I got the tip that there would be a New Orleans jazz concert that night just down the road from my hotel. To all who know me and my love of live music, this was the obvious place to be! In fact, when I asked the hotel concierge what was going on in the way of nightlife in Sibiu (it was Friday, after all), he named a few places but not the jazz club. And so I asked him about it, and his response was, "Well, yeah, you can go there, if you like that sort of thing." (Spoken with tone of disdain.) Like it?! HA!
So, I began my evening at The Classic Bar, a piano bar where an old man reminiscent of Jabba The Hut was playing the hell out of the piano. Most of this ginormous man was oozing off the piano bench, but his fingers sent forth an energy that brought life to the entire room. I mean, this guy was GOOD. I stayed for a while and enjoyed the entertainment, then decided it was time to move on to the jazz show
When I got to the bar the place was packed. I ordered a beer and noticed an open seat next to 2 men, and asked if I could sit. They turned out to be German, so they had no qualms about letting a stranger sit with them (the fact that I was female and dolled up probably didn't hurt either). Okay, so I tend to knock the Germans a lot, but I do have to give them credit for their openness to sharing a table or a drink with complete strangers. They turned out to be very interesting guys on a 3-week motorcycle trip through Romania, one of them having lived in Michigan for 3 years. It was only after an hour of chatting with them that they pointed out ot me that the leader of the band was blind.
Holy cow! This band was friggin' phenomenal! They played everything from serious jazz to Stevie Wonder (I Wish) to Romanian folk songs to a Hendrix medley, with down and dirty N'awlins sprinkled throughout. The bandleader was a blind man probably in his 60's who played a miniature red trumpet and wore a sequined silver visor with blue and red stars. This guy was CLASSIC. It was not until even further scrutiny that I realized that his left hand was completely mangled, as if his fingers were grown together into 3 toes
The German guys took off, but I was nowhere ready to go, seeming like eternity since the last time I had heard live music. It didn't take long before I found my next companions for the night, Andreea and Marina from Bucharest, two wonderful young Romanian ladies with impeccable English. They had just graduated from high school and were on their big graduation trip around the country. It was great to chat with them; as the first Romanians I had had any sort of a conversation with, they gave me a wonderful impression and insights on the country. I joined them at their table and we all stayed until they kicked us out (but when do I ever leave a show early?!) Marina talked with the band members during their setbreaks and informed us that the old man spends about 6 months out of the year in New Orleans studying the music and picking up the vibe. Well, that was certainly obvious! And I'll bet they LOVE him in New Orleans, too. It reminded me of the German movie, "Schultz Gets The Blues", about an accordian player from Bavaria who goes to Louisiana and finds his calling in Zydeco. What a great night! And to Andreea and Marina, if you two love live music so much already, you have a LOT of great experiences to look forward to! Thanks for a great evening.
So, Romania is starting to take shape. My Spantalian is improving, and I'm even starting to mix in some Romanian words. I still wonder where all the Hungarians are, aside from the occasional voices I hear on the street. But if Friday night in Sibiu is any indication of the fun to be had here, this is going to be a great trip.