I've been in Romania for the last week, visiting friends in Cluj, Sibiu, and Fagaras.
Many thanks to Dusty Blake for arranging shows at the Beer Cafe and Restaurant in Fagaras and Imperium Cafe in Sibiu--a basement venue with some awesome vaulted brick ceilings. Dusty is one of the few Americana artists in an area dominated by EDM, and he's got good taste, ranging from covers of Johnny Cash, Hayes Carll, and Leonard Cohen (not Hallelujah).
I managed to land in Sibiu just in time for the International Theater festival, and we were treated to a spectacular fire show and experimental musician who made music with everything from his electric guitar and looper to a drumstick run across the grill of his mic, to a set of contraptions dangling from the gazebo, while a bunch of metal figurines spun their legs crazily and reflected the light of the surrounding flames. During the day, dancing troupes and their crowds filled the streets.
Sibiu's old town is rows of red-tile roofed buildings, centered on the fan-cobbled Piata Mare (Great Square), with the town hall at one corner and the Sfante Treime (Holy Trinity) Catholic church flanking it, while the high steeple of St. Michael's Evangelical Church dominates the whole town, surrounded by the old city walls.
It's been good to get back into the practice of the limba Romana; I'd forgotten more than I realized, but it came back quickly. Linguistic mishaps go both ways--a friend laughingly asked me why I was asking for "onion of the pig"--ceafa for neck, not ceapa--but then he pointed to an apartment and said, "I live in that erection."
Today I walked the 2 miles out to Astra Park, which is full of restored traditional buildings from around Romania, from the crosses carved with roping, to roofs of split shingles or thatch, walls of stone, wood, or wood and plaster, and fencing made of woven withes. At 7.50 lei (about 2 dollars), it's well worth a visit for anyone, whether you're interested in folk styles of construction or just looking for a large area where the kids can let off some steam while you have a nice walk.
You might even see a donkey.