Travelling Light

Turda, Romania To Linz, Austria: Chasing Trains!

When we emerged from the mine, we caught a bus to the centre of Turda. We would have thought it was amazing and wonderful just to drink hot chocolate in the sunshine, but the town centre is quite lovely in its own right.

The central square is paved, with fountains and well-maintained old buildings. And it has free WiFi everywhere in the town centre!

Turda has a few notable churches (as does every European town), and it is pretty, but without the salt mine it would just be a backwater village. If you go to the mine, though, it is worth strolling around the town centre.

You can find the album of photos from Turda here:

From Turda, we caught the bus to Valcele, where we had been offered a place to stay. We had already committed to staying in Cluj, but we wanted to meet Csabi and see his place.

We got off the bus and waited for Csabi to come and pick us up. While we were waiting, we saw a horse and cart (not unusual in country Transylvania) stop for fuel.

Valcele is one of the villages in Transylvania which speak Hungarian, because it was in Hungary until the Treaty of Versailles. Ethnic Romanians point out that the area was only part of Hungary for a short time, and opine that the Hungarian-speaking residents of Romania should accept that they are Romanian. Of course, Transylvania has only been Romanian for an even shorter time, because Romania as it exists today is a product of the peace negotiations after the two world wars in the 20th century.

Prior to the Austro-Hungarian expansion, Transylvania was independent, and allied itself with Wallachia and Moldova to stay that way. If the EU umbrella takes full effect, we might even see the Scottish referendum being repeated in Transylvania!

Csabi showed us his organic herb farm, the house he designed (he used to be a construction project manager), fed us Hungarian soup made by his mother, and then drove us back to Cluj.

We insisted that he come in and meet our hosts there, Adela and Dan, because we thought they would get have a lot in common.

It turned out that Dan and Adela had ten people coming next week for a week-long residential permaculture course, and were short of two locations to take them for an afternoon’s hands-on agricultural work. Csabi volunteered his place for both the days, and a new alliance was forged.

We love it when that happens around us!

And the next day, we caught the train to Linz.

Except we didn’t, because there was no way to book the train ticket online, so we decided to get a bus to Budapest, and catch a train from there.

Our wonderful friend in Linz offered to pick us up from the train when it arrived at two minutes past midnight. We have amazing friends!

The bus to Budapest took three hours longer than it was supposed to, partly due to a wait of more than an hour at the border, so we knew we had missed the train. We walked across the road to the big bus station and found a bus was just about to leave for Vienna – and we even got seats next to each other, despite being the last people to board.

This bus was significantly faster than the train, so we were able to get a taxi across Vienna from the bus station to the Westbahnhopf train station in time to get on the very same train we had missed in Budapest.

We were slightly hampered by a lack of Austrian cash, as the cash machine at the bus station wasn’t working, but the Serbian taxi driver was wonderful – he parked at the station and came in with us to help us find a cash machine. He showed us where to buy the tickets, too. People are wonderful.

Charly was waiting when we arrived, and took us back to his place, where we all pretty much collapsed into bed.

The next morning, we did yoga together,  had a hearty European breakfast (that peach jam you see in the photo was home made by Csabi’s mother in Romania) and settled in for a day of geekery, because it was raining and the top temperature was predicted to be 14 degrees.

Our laptop is finally reinstalled!

And Charly’s phone now thinks fast enough to display the “answer” button on the screen before the call goes to voicemail.

On Sunday, the weather finally improved enough that we could walk around and see Linz. Tom was puzzled by this statue, and even after the German-speakers (Charly’s girlfriend Melanie was also with us) had read the inscription, it was still not clear to us why the naked woman had a spear point for a head.

The “New Dom” church is the largest church in Austria, and vast and impressive Gothic structure. We couldn’t fit it all into one photo from the outside!

The ceilings are very high, and there is lots and lots of stained glass. Comparing this church with the “Old Dom”, which was dark and busy, and somewhat claustrophobic, it is easy to see why the Gothic arch was instantly popular for constructing cathedrals. By transferring the weight of the roof to columns, the Gothic arch allows the walls between the columns to become non-load-bearing, and they can then be made from stained glass instead of stone.

Linz has a very large town square, close to the Danube.

We stopped at a kebab window in the square and had some vegetarian kebabs with falafel and feta cheese (very tasty), before crossing the river to Ars Elektronika, which is something like Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, but more artistic. Every year, they have a competition for interactive art installations related in some way to technology, and the winners are installed in Ars Elektronika for the following year.

The facade of the building is a lit at night, and can play music through a number of speakers on the outside of the building. Between 9pm and 10pm in summer, you can bring a Bluetooth music player device, and have the building play your music, accompanied by moving colours in time with the music.

We didn’t hang around until 9pm, but we did go back after dark to see the animated facade. You can see a video of the building’s changing colours here:

We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which had one of the biggest Lucky Pigs we have yet seen, and then headed back to Charly’s for our last night in Linz.

Tomorrow we head off to Croatia!

The photo album from Linz is here: