I thought seeing as this is my first time in Romania that I would share my first impressions and then reflect on them at the end of my stay. These are my random, unordered initial observations from my first 24 hours in Oradea, Romania. I’ll also do a detailed write-up of what to see and do in Oradea later.
I’ve found the Romanian language to be both familiar yet often indecipherable. Being a latin-based language, it shares a lot of similarities with French and Italian and even some shared words like Salut and Mersi. However, I think it also has a little bit of a Slavic twist to it. Overall this means, that I can occasionally understand words but not enough to make sense of things.
As I was expecting, things are quite cheap here relative to countries like Austria. Notably bottled water is super cheap coming at 0.25€ a bottle. My taxi fare from the station was a little more than I thought it would be, but still only about 4€. Judging by the state of the buildings and the quality of cars, the people of Oradea seem to be about as well off as those in Budapest, which surprised me a little.
Regarding the Romani people, I was quite surprised to actually see somewhat stereotypical representations of them here in Oradea. As I arrived by train last night, I saw a couple of Roma families camping out by the train line, literally within my first 5km after crossing over into Romania. Today in the city I also saw a few more Romani families, dressed in traditional clothes. I had assumed these were broad stereotypes/depictions but perhaps that is not case.
Speaking of ethnicities, I have noticed a distinct lack of diversity so far in Oradea. This may be due to Oradea being a small city, but it is still noticeable. It doesn’t help that nearly every restaurant I spot is a Pizzeria, further indicating a narrow idea of “foreign”. I am curious to see whether this will hold true for the rest of the country or is simply the case here.
A striking difference from Vienna has been the relatively few beggars I have encountered walking through the city. Whereas in cities like Vienna and Budapest you come across quite a few homeless persons and refugees, that simply doesn’t seem to be the case here. This could possibly be due to people seeking out wealthier countries to try and make a living, rather than stop or stay in Romania.
English seems to be a fairly uncommon language to know here. I have come across a few people with English but mostly not. There doesn’t seem to be a defining demographic for speaking English either, with some younger people not speaking it and some middle-aged people being able to. It will be interesting to see whether English becomes more common in the more touristy places.
In Oradea, I have come across a lot of beautiful examples of Baroque architecture from the days of Austro-Hungary. However, generally those buildings are in a fairly bad state of disrepair so maybe they do date back that far. There were a number of buildings covered in sheets/scaffolding which makes me think that there may be a wave of restoration going through the city at the moment.
Well, those have been mine my first impressions of Romania so far. Have you been to Romania before? Do these impressions hold up or do you disagree with them? I look forward to being challenged on them.