Mick Devine Euro Trek 2006 travel blog

A shroud of fog lies over Sibiu, which is a picturesque town at the worst of times. There are so many piazzas and downtown parks that it's a joy walking through the dense mist and seeing trees and statues looming, taking form like people frozen in time.

I'm in the Hotel Gallant, a cute little boutique number that is modestly priced and perched on the edge of Sub-Arini Park. Sub-Arini (from the ancient Latin, "kissing below the belt") is full of young lovers, old lovers, dogs, and occasional strolling Canadians. It extends from the downtown core of Sibiu in a narrowish strip for several kilometres. It is not landscaped in any way that would give meaning to that term. Trees lean out at odd angles, like they might grab you. Hillocks, mounds and winding pathways through brambles and bushes make any route circuitous, which is at it should be whenever one walks through a park. There are little venetian style bridges connecting high points of the park, and old damp tunnels which cut underneath the roadways above. There is a stream, or streams, and enough benches that one doesn't have to shove that old lady into the mud to sit down. Each part of the park is different. There are wide open meadows and tightly bunched corridors shot through with dirt paths. Sub-Arini doesn't go out of its way to be friendly, and I like that.

In short, it's one of my very favourite parks in the world, right up there with Stanley Park (Ottawa, not Vancouver, although Vancouver's is pretty special, too). I feel at home there. I've gone running through it many times in various directions, because one can't simply run straight through it. I've seen a theatre production which featured a woman riding a horse out of the distance towards the audience while a huge screen on tracks played the movie "Shane". The horse didn't look out of place.

Sibiu on my second day once more feels like the place I consider a home away from home. It encompasses Romanian, German and Hungarians within its old stone walls. Next year Sibiu shares the designation of European Cultural Capital, just as Romania enters the EU; I'm glad I'm here now, before the prices are jacked up and everybody gets permanently snide. The old town lies below the newer part of town, waiting for visitors after a precipitous walk on slippery cobblestone. Just above, the Piaca Mica and Piaca Mare are getting facelifts. What was faded glory is now becoming beautiful. I hope it doesn't progress to pretty.

I like Sibiu because people are happy to be here, but no one bends over backwards for visitors. Romanians, as I've noted, work very hard at not looking very happy. The women often wear a worried frown and the men look blank. This is possibly because the women know all about their men, and the men know it, and a blank look is the universal male response to trying not to look guilty.

Another bus ride tomorrow...only 5 1/2 hours this time. In the past two weeks, in going from Sofia to Thessaloniki to Bucharest to Chisinau to Iasi and now to Sibiu, I've covered a huge part of eastern Europe. The distances will get shorter, now, but the pace will not slow. I packed in some project meetings and lectures at the last minute (and you thought I was out gallivanting...shame!) In fact, today I clinched a gig for 2008 with the German section at one of Romania's 7 national theatres, Radu Stanca. I hope to tack on a simultaneous Romanian show (different play, different language) to the project, too, but that waits until the director gets back...from Canada. Yes, I'm booking 2008. I do not recognise this particular life I am living. But I am surely grateful to walk through the circling mist of Sub-Arini park and contemplate how fortunate I am.

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