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Coming full circle in Romania

Old-style streetlamp lighting Timisoara's Union Square at dusk
St. George Cathedral, Union Square, Timișoara, Romania

It’s funny how, no matter how much life changes, some things seem to come full circle.

When I lived in Denver twenty-some years ago, my main mode of transportation was by bicycle.

I loved it.

With hundreds of miles of bike paths and lanes, it was so easy to explore the city on two wheels, enjoying the different neighborhoods at a leisurely pace.

Fast forward a few years, to my first newspaper job in Alamosa, Colorado. The paper covered the nearly 8,000 square-mile area of the San Luis Valley, so getting around by pedal power was no longer an option.

I bought a small truck, a vehicle I could load the bicycle on and go for rides along the long desolate stretches that crisscrossed the valley.

As the years passed, those leisurely bike rides with no particular destination in mind became a rarity.

Part of me thought I would go back to using a bicycle to get around when we moved overseas, but we quickly found out riding a bicycle in Tbilisi would be about as safe as dressing up in a steak tuxedo and going for a stroll through the bear enclosure at the zoo.

I don’t know what the phrase in Georgian is for “ride a bicycle,” but it probably translates into something along the lines of “leaving this Earthly realm sooner than anticipated.”

But here in Timișoara, there are designated bike lanes through the city and, now that it’s spring, a plethora of pedal pushers everywhere.

With visions of exploring the city and finding those out-of-the way coffee shops and cafes, I wandered to the bicycle store this week and bought an unassuming two wheeler, perfect for lazy rides through town.

As the salesman fitted the bike to me, he asked why Corie and I had decided to come to Romania. It seemed strange to him that everyone wants to go to America, so why would Americans want to come to Romania. It wasn’t the first time someone has asked us the same question, and my answer was the same for the bike salesman. It’s a beautiful country, we’ve heard the people are amazing, and we can make a visa work here.

While flattered, he didn’t seem to believe me.

“Because everybody wants to be somewhere they’re not,” I said. That answer satisfied him. It does seem to be a universal truth, after all. 

Before I left, a younger man who worked at the shop told me it’s quite easy to bicycle to Serbia from Timișoara along the Bega River, something that will very likely find its way into a future newsletter. 

I named my glossy black bicycle Rocinante, a fine designation with a literary tradition spanning Cervantes to Steinbeck.

With Rocinante beneath me, I rode away with all the grace and finesse of a praying mantis suffering a stroke. It has, after all, been nearly fourteen years since I’ve been on a bicycle, and I was a little out of practice.

That evening, I loaded my camera and tripod on Rocinante, and rode to Timișoara’s city center to take a photo of the city’s Union Square at dusk. The tires humming underneath me and the late-evening spring air blowing in my face, my mind wandered back to my Denver days, grateful for life’s circles.

1 comment

1 Comment

Apr 15

Awesome! Reminds me of my 25, sometimes 60, mile jaunts up and down the Chicago lakefront on my 21-speed bicicleta. Yes, pop into any number of cool rest stations for a snack and some dialogue.

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