Flinn Scholars

On the Road 2009: Day Seventeen

June 10, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

Awaking with sore muscles and numerous “battle scars” from yesterday’s hike, I reluctantly left the cozy comfort of my bed this morning. The events of the day began with a short question and answer session about Romania with our guides, Zoltan and Uniga. Although I was too groggy and sore to be a fully functioning member of the discussion, I listened in on the topics brought up by my fellow Flinns. Subjects, such as the potential autonomy of Transylvania, Romanian healthcare, gender equality, and the remnants left from Ceausescu’s time in power were only a few only a few of the queries discussed in our Q & A session. Though Zoltan and Uniga explained many issues in the session, an overarching idea that I extrapolated from their responses was that Romania is a country that is still very much tied to the problems of its past and a great deal of action has not been taken to help the country overcome these setbacks. For example, Zoltan discussed how governmental corruption that was common during Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship is still present to a certain degree in the modern government. Specifically, he shared an example about a 1 billion Euro project, started in 2000, to build a Transylvanian highway system, and citizens have yet to see 1 km of their money’s worth.

I’m sure many of us wished that Transylvania did have a clear highway as we began our bumpy 2 hour bus ride to Cluj-Napoca. Though I found the beauty of the Carpathians to be breathtaking, the city-dweller inside of me was ready to return to an urban environment. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our stay in Cluj began with a trip to a major shopping mall. As I walked through store upon store of trendy European clothing, I realized how easy it was to burn through my extra spending money! All in all, I think our time at the mall was well spent as a few other girls and I left with matching shirts and jackets.

After my Romania shopping spree I was looking forward to hearing about how my role as a consumer slave affected the Romanian economy; however, our lecture on economics was rescheduled for tomorrow morning, allowing us to begin our scavenger hunt through Cluj early. Kellie, Chase, John, and I formed team GIMP (Gammon, Ingraham, Mejdrich, Pandurangi). Preplanning the most effective route while still on the bus, team GIMP was aiming for victory. We charged off the bus as soon as it came to a halt and began our search for St. Michael’s church, Babes-Bolyai University, and many other places. The streets of Cluj whirred into a Post-Communist blur as team GIMP sprinted from site to site. We hoped that our intense workout would be met with victory when we entered the Bulgakov pub, but we soon discovered that another team had reached there 5 minutes earlier. Though a few members of the team had sore feelings about coming in 2nd, we soon discovered that nothing cures crushed hopes better than an ice cold Fanta.

In order to get a better look at the city I ran through on the scavenger hunt, I toured the city again during my free time. Mitch and I revisited the Orthodox Cathedral and the birthplace of Mathias Cornivus. While trying to find a place to eat dinner, we also discovered other monuments dedicated to Mihail Sadoveneau and Avram Iancu. Walking through Cluj at a slower pace made it all the more evident that it was a town that was directly affected by Communist planning. The city was extremely crowded, and many of the buildings that are now used as offices appear as if they were once cramped apartment spaces. My tour showed me that the streets of Cluj serve as a physical reminder of the progress Romania has and has yet to make.