Cluj was nice. It has that kind of faded belle époque grandeur even though it’s pretty much falling down in places. Under the Hungarians it (Kolozsvar) was the capital of Transylvania. It was the cultural centre, the academic centre, the administrative centre. And you can see that it was once important.
It’s still one of the most (possibly still the most) widely respected university in Romania, and it really does feel like a student town. In fact the first afternoon we were there every single person I saw walking round was either a student or someone doing a passable imitation of one. The population of the city is approximately 300,000 and to this is added something like 80-100,000 every term time. Some locals we were talking to told us that in fact the plan is that in the next 5 years the student population will be increased to something like 400,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Where they will fit is anyone’s guess. It already feels like the world’s most student dominated town. And I speak as someone who comes from Cambridge.
Those unfamiliar with Romania may have looked Cluj up or see on a map that it is officially called “Cluj-Napoca”. Napoca is the name of the Roman settlement in the same spot, and it has been appended to the name (I think during the Ceasescu years) in order to remind people of that fact (you see, if it’s Roman, then it has a history that predates its Hungarian one. It’s all very forced). In fact, the city has come to symbolise the worst and most ridiculous excesses of nationalism. In the late 90s the people somehow elected this psycho idiot called Gheorghe Funar (from the revolting PRM Romanian nationalist party) as mayor. He proceeded to do petty and childish things like painting all the benches and lampposts red yellow and blue (colours of the Romanian flag), and then in the middle of town, where there is a large statue of Mátyás Corvinus, a famous Hungarian king who was born in the town, he first removed the word Hungarian from the plaque, and then decided to have an archaeological dig for Roman ruins right there in the same square. This dig necessitated the statue being hidden behind a wooden screen, and then latterly moved somewhere else so they could dig under it. Fortunately at this point the director of the National History Museum stepped in and told him to sling his hook, but this big pit still exists right in front of the statue. Basically, as with most nationalists he was (and presumably still is – while he’s no longer mayor, he’s still alive) an exceptionally childish individual. I think the brain power involved in choosing to be an extreme nationalist is such a regression of humanity that one ends up applying the retardedness to all aspects of ones life.
I have a pic of the statue which I’ll put up later in the week. However tomorrow I have to do a mad day trip to Bucharest (5 hours in 5 hours back, for a one hour meeting), so I won’t be on till Wednesday.