I have spent the past three and a half days in Craiova, located in the southeastern corner of Romania, appr. 150 miles from Bucharest. With a quarter million residents, Craiova is the sixth largest city in the country, and is home to the University of Craiova and its 25,000 students, which makes it just slightly larger than my home university in Texas. The city’s center has much of the old world charm that I have yet to discover in Bucharest. Overall, I enjoyed my first getaway, primarily due to the quaintness of the city and the lovely little hotel where I took refuge (and most of my meals).
I came to Craiova to attend the 15th International Conference on Language, Literature, and Cultural Policies: “The Past in the Present.” On Thursday afternoon, I presented a paper entitled “SHqIP: The Vietnam Play” chronicling my experience directing Njerëz Me Shpresa Të Thyera at the National Theatre in Kosova four years ago. Conference attendance was primarily those presenting papers and turned out to be far fewer than those listed in the program. Fellow Fulbrighter, Rick St. Peter gave one of the keynotes (on Hamilton!) Overall, I found the papers diverse and interesting, the people warm and welcoming, but the operations of the conference so casual as to seem haphazard. And, I never discovered how to get into the communication loop about social events that, evidently, I was supposed to attend.
The train ride either way takes 3-4 hours depending on the type of train and time of day. My trip to Craiova took four hours (from Gara Nord, a 20-minute taxi ride from my apartment), while the return to Bucharest took only three hours. I paid a few extra dollars to travel first class, which affords larger seats and less crowding but cannot be compared to first class in western Europe, e.g., there is no food service. On both ways there were Roma hitching free rides in between the carriages and even sitting beside me until a uniformed rail employee showed up to check tickets. My impression is that, while ticket class matters, most people just sit wherever they want.