It is with great joy that I can announce that I have moved again – this time to Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I hadn’t even heard of this gem of a city before September, and yet now I’m in love. In the UK – mostly thanks to the media – Romania tends to be depicted as a land of gypsies and thieves, where people still queue for hours for a loaf of bread and shuffle around with horses and carts. Yet Cluj is one of the most beautiful, exciting, progressive cities in Europe. Let me tell you some things about it.
The website BestCityinEurope.com will tell you a lot about Cluj, but in case you don’t want to click it, here are some highlights:
- Cluj is known as “the Heart of Transylvania”
- It has some of the cleanest air in Europe, perhaps because it is surrounded by the Carpathian mountains
- Cluj was European Youth Capital of 2015 and is home to around 100,000 students
- Romania in general has some of the fastest Internet speeds in Europe – we pay £5 a month for 100Mbps and could go up to 1000 for £10, there’s 4G pretty much everywhere (including remote villages in the mountains)
- Due to its low cost of living and amazing Internet speeds, Cluj is a massive hub for tech start-ups (look on meetup.com for the sheer number of groups going)
- A massive art hub, Cluj has been called the #1 city that will shake up art in the 21st century. It is also home to the Transylvania International Film Festival every year, which attracts around 60,000 viewers and 400+ screenings.
- There are loads of amazing bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes – for example this Kinetic Steampunk cafe (which has amazing hot chocolate) or the Submarine bar
- Lonely Planet recently voted Transylvania the #1 spot for Best in Travel 2016
- There are some fascinating things to see in the surrounding area, for example a haunted forest, a theme park inside a salt mine and, well, Transylvania is generally just beautiful!
We moved here because we were given the chance to work with the Peace Action Training and Research Institute of Romania, who do fantastic work with peace education both within Romania and internationally, run training courses for peace-builders and activists, and partner with other organisations (including the UN) on projects around the world. For example, I’m now researching how to heal from trauma after prolonged conflict in order to put together a training manual for use by local council, NGOs and activists in Nineveh, Iraq, as well as putting together local film nights in Cluj and a summer camp for young peace-buildings in the Transylvanian mountains. It’s pretty fascinating!
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to support this venture through teaching over Skype and with some savings for now, although hopefully there will be a more stable income later down the road. The other thing to note is that Cluj has a very low cost of living (not compared to the rest of Romania, but compared to the UK), for example:
- A flat 10 minutes’ bus ride from the centre = less than £200 a month
- A half litre of delicious beer = 80p/£1
- A meal in a restaurant in the city centre = £3
- A taxi from the centre to our flat = £1
- Monthly public transport pass for use on all lines = £20
Look forward to some posts detailing the magic of Romania over the coming months, but for now let me show you some photos of Cluj-Napoca: