Thursday, November 03, 2005

Victoria - The Summer Resort

I had been itching to visit my hometown, Victoria, a small town at the base of the Carpathians, about halfway between Sibiu and Brasov. As soon as the filming in Bistrita was over, I ditched the rest of the team and made a solo escape to Victoria. To cover my tracks, I first took a shuttle bus to Sibiu and then the train (the slow one, or "personal") to Ucea station. However, in Ucea my plan ran into troubles. The bus service that used to run regularly between Ucea and Victoria was cancelled. What happened? Did Victoria fall off the map? Dejected, I walked out of

the train station and to the main road where a traffic sign showed the world that Victoria was indeed still there and for a brief moment I thought of walking all the way to town (if it wasn't so cold and rainy). But then I remembered that hitchhiking is a popular means of transportation in this part of the world, and before too long a car picked me up and deposited me in the center of town.

Victoria used to be lively little town. Built around a chemical factory that employed half of its citizens, it grew from a small outpost in 1945 to a town of 10,000 people in its heyday in the 1980s.

I always remembered my hometown the way it looks here, in a photo taken several years ago: A beautiful town flanked by the majestic Carpathians.

But this time, the town seemed deserted. The chemical plant had laid off most of its workers after the revolution, and many of the young people had emigrated or found jobs elsewhere. On this day, the town was particularly quiet because the school teachers were on strike and all schools were closed. On top of it, it was late October and the town's main attraction, the municipal pool (strandul). was out of commission for the year.

I took a stroll around town and went by the old apartment block where I lived for 18 years of my life. It looked the same.

The cultural center (caminul cultural) which used to house a movie theatre, a recreational room and a library, was always a hotbed of activity, but on this day it sat deserted with its windows broken. The only place that seemed more lively was the small market at the south end of town (piata) where I ran into a couple of my old teachers. I talked to them for a while and promised to visit them next time when I come to town (those of you who know them should recognize them).

While grabbing lunch I talked to a couple of elderly people who provided the best quote of the day: "Ehhh, Victoria e ca o statiune linistita. Noua ne place!" (Ehhh, Victoria is like a quiet resort. We love it here!). Indeed it is. For a few months of the year, Victoria comes alive to welcome tourists and those like me who have left and come back on vacation. The rest of the year the town is quiet and unnassuming.

Besides the market, the only other places that were doing a brisk business were the few bars around town. At the town hall, I ran into an old friend from high-school (Tisu) whom I later met for a few drinks at Paulica's bar. Trying to think of who else may be around, I called Schwantz out of the blue and set up to meet with him at the same place. This is how my day in Victoria ended. Sipping a couple of cognacs with some old friends and musing about Victoria and its fall from grace.


Post a Comment

<< Home