The Bucharest Bugle: Issue 75
The Jesuit Church in Piatza Mare constructed in the 17th century.

--Thursday 29 April 99--
In the morning I walked over to the Jesuit church on the Piatza Mare (Big Square). NIce looking on the outside, it is lovely within with a high barrel vaulted nave and semicircular arches. The statues of the saints are very 17th century, polychromed wood with eyes upcast to heaven. It was as if there was a TV in the ceiling and all the saints were were watching the show. Seeing so many eyes upcast has an unsettling effect. If we found people like that we would hustle them off to an ophthalmologist in short order.

The stained glass windows were donated by rich German Catholics in 1801. They are the perfect touch to guarantee that the interior is dark and mysterious. Here and there were five or six older women, one old man and one young man. They were all kneeling with their heads (and eyes) cast downwards to the floor. No one seemed to notice me.

The "Eyes of the City." Most of the older houses have roof windows like the above. It gives Sibiu its distinctive look.

Back in the hotel, I realized that it seemed nicer than I remembered it. The paint seems brighter, the furniture seemed less used. More's the pity that so much of the furniture seemed designed for someone a foot shorter than I am.

After our meeting a car had been arranged to take us to Resita (pronounced "Resheetsa"), so after a quick lunch, off we went on the four hour drive across the rolling plain of Transylvania to the Banat, that part of Romania that is bounded by Hungary and Serbia. It is yet another rich agricultural region. The part of the Banat we drove through is distinguished from Transylvania by being less of a plain and more a collection of rolling hills. To my mind, it was very like New England without the rocks and boulders but with the hills and mountains.

All along our road were farms and fruit orchards. The latter were in full bloom and we could see the blossoms on sweet and sour cherry trees as well as apricot, plum and apple trees. There were many herds of sheep, small amounts of cattle, and some stork nests -- not to mention the geese surrounded by their numerous goslings in the towns.

We arrived in a timely fashion and, completely by accident, the mayor noticed us as we got out of the car on the municipal plaza. He brought us to the hotel, got us registered just by us giving our names to the clerk and took us to our rooms. We had a half-hour's rest and then a driver gave us a tour of the city.

Resita used to be a major industrial center manufacturing railway locomotives, whitewash and steel but, with the revolution, heavy industry collapsed without all the subsidies. The businesses here do not seem to have been completely liquidated; one was described as running at 25% capacity. We were shown a textile plant, a Hungarian gas station, and the long, high, and very prominent limestone conveyor belt that feeds the whitewash plant.

Resita is located along a narrow valley sided with steep hills. The valley is so snake-like that it twists and turns as it gradually widens from the oldest part to the newest. We drove the length of the city (pop 98,000) and in the oldest part I saw people who seemed poorer and with a skin of a darker color. "Do you have many Gypsies here?" I asked the driver. "Regrettably, yes," was his response.

The mayor was waiting for us on our return an hour later. We went into the hotel and were shown to a private suite where we had dinner and a pleasant conversation. He left us around nine and Irina and I visited the restaurant. We had a beer and listened to a band that played better than it looked (so sour were their expressions) but so loudly that there was no pleasure in listening. To bed early.

--Friday, 30 April 99--
I was up at 6:15 AM and looking forward to a shower. The wash basin disgorged cold water from both taps. Not a good sign but I hoped that the tub would be different and it was. Soon I was enjoying a shower from one of those hand held gizmos that sometimes can be put in a holder over your head to get a real shower. Then the water turned _very_ hot and I realized that the cold water had been turned off. I quickly wet my head and made do with a thin stream of hot water. Later, near the end of my shower, strange sounds emanating from the pipes announced the return of cold water to the tub.

I didn't describe my hotel suite. The main room is faded yellow with padded fabric of a brighter yellow over the door panels, white curtains and a black couch. The bedroom is pink with white trim and the bathroom is a mottled white-gray pink with red fixtures and a shocking pink padding on the doors.

This morning the Mayor introduced us to the Economic Director responsible for the collection of local fees and taxes and we chatted in the mayor's reception room and then were led to the building that houses this function. It seemed like a first-class operation. Later, we had a goodbye with the mayor, a lunch with the Economic Director and a 40 minute drive to Caransebes (pronounced "Caransebesh"). The train schedule had changed and the first train for Bucharest left an hour later than originally planned so we wouldn't arrive in Bucharest until 10 PM.

At the lunch I asked the Economics Director about opinion in this region regarding NATO's bombing of Serbia. He said that there were many Serbian people here and much Serbian sympathy. The border was only 40 km away and Belgrade was only 140 km away. Calmly, politely, and in a reserved way, he asked why we were killing civilians (he quoted a Serbian figure of 1,000 killed and 5,000 wounded). I questioned the figures and asked about the Kosovars. In a somewhat roundabout response he mentioned international law and internal affairs but not the Kosovars. I agreed he had a point but 800,000 refugees were also a point. He asked about the riots in LA years ago. Although not sure of the connection, I said 1) the riots were dealt with by local police and state militia, 2) the US Army was never used, and 3) the riots contributed to a reevaluation of race relations in the US that led to improved protection of minorities. More things were said politely, but this was the gist.


The city center in Resita, a former major manufacturing center in the Banat.


A Virtual Tour of Romania
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley