something like a travelogue: setting off + timișoara

Day One

As always, we don’t set off exactly on time. I have put Juley to sleep in the usual way and I’m now taking him outside. Of course he wakes up. There’s little space in the car. I try to ignore that fact. Here are Lukáš’s parents, without whom we wouldn’t have been likely to manage to pack up our stuff and take it downstairs. We wave them goodbye. It’s dark but I can see a tear in his father’s eyes.

Juley sleeps uneasily and is constantly kicking his wool cover off. Of course this annoys me. Don’t I know better than him if he’s cold or not? (Wake up, mama!) I have to breastfeed him a few times while we drive. If you’ve ever tried to breastfeed a child sitting in a front-facing car seat while the car is cruising down the motorway, you know I’m talking about a posture worthy to compete with one from yoga for the advanced. Anyway, I manage it. Do I have any other choice but to manage it?

When Lukáš’s eyes start closing we pull up by a field and quickly pitch the tent. We already have the habit of spending a night in Slovakia with the accompaniment of trucks flying on the motorway not far from us. I wonder if the noise will disturb Juley.

It doesn’t disturb him that much.

Day Two

Sunrise and the promise of a beautiful day (meteorologically speaking). We fold up the tent, Juley poops and Lukáš washes himself amids the dirt road using our portable shower. For some reason I don’t take a shower and I’m going to spend the rest of the day wishing I did. At least Juley is sporting a clean butt!

(A note to self and anyone traveling by car: If you have the opportunity to take a shower, never miss it. You don’t know when the next opportunity will come!)

We have breakfast at a children’s playground in a small Slovak town. I’m not in a very good mood. I guess it’s because I didn’t take a shower. Juley is just smearing his food everywhere and filling his potty with rocks. A mother comes to swing her child near us. We must look strange.

Bratislava. Budapest. The endless uninteresting (motorway of) Hungary. I try to study Czech from a grammar book while Juley is napping but I’m uncomfortable and have no space. My knees hurt awfully. It’s either me getting old or the car has really no space or both. Lukáš doesn’t complain that much but I guess he’s tired and bored.

(Why do we use motorways at all? Why do we need to cover hundreds of kilometres to go somewhere else? Is it worth the torture for adults and children?)

These are rhetorical questions but if you have an opinion, there’s space for comments below.

I only know I really loved traveling by car before I became a mother.)

We leave the usual way we always use to go (back) to Bulgaria in order to enter Romania. Finally, something unknown! Juley is crying. I guess unknown things aren’t his cup of milk. I will have to breastfeed him again in this so favourite posture of mine (I think I will have to paste that sentence ten more times or so in this travelogue but, to avoid making it boring, I won’t – you play it on repeat in your minds.)

We exit the motorway. (Lukáš: “Do prdele!” (Something like “Damn” in Czech.), Me: “Hooray! Views!”, Juley: “Take me off this seat, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”) A little dusty gas station. A one-week vignette stamp. A Dacia police car.

Roads that are not quite wide, taking us to Banat.

Banat

Without consulting Wikipedia, Banat is a region in Romania (perhaps also in Serbia). The Danube River crosses it magnificently with wooded hills on both banks. I saw this area for the first time in the beginning of last summer when Juley and I were going back to Czech by plane. Even then I was impressed by how beautiful it looked from above.

Now we’ll see how beautiful it is from below.

Timișoara

Our first stop. A city Lukáš is adamant to show me. Sometimes, in our regular arguments and rows I forget how many places I’ve seen thanks to him. He’s even taken me to unknown places in Bulgaria. I always forget to thank him for this which annoys him very much.

Not that he’ll ever read anything written by me but:

Baby, thank you for taking me to new places.

(Yes, I call him “Baby”. So what?)

(No, when we argue, I don’t call him any name. I leave him nameless. Cruel, right?)

According to my phone notes Timișoara is:

Beautiful reddish buildings.

Pigeons.

People with better English than they think.

(That’s it. Three notes.)

Timișoara is really Italian. Warmly coloured. Beautiful even with its sparse greenery in the centre (just like Italy). Even a Capitoline Wolf statue is rising over a square.

(I imagine how the Capitoline Wolf breastfeeds both Romulus and Remus at the same time while they’re sitting in their front-facing car seats.)

(Does she have another choice but to manage it?)

I see why Lukáš was so adamant to show it to me. He says there’s no other city like this in Romania. I haven’t seen a lot of Romanian cities but I believe him.

According to Wikipedia, Timișoara is the third most populous city in Romania and an unofficial capital of the Banat region. It’s selected as a European Capital of Culture for 2021 (Let’s go back when that time comes!). Most of the buildings in the centre date from the time of the Austrian Empire (the English Wikipedia has forgotten to write they’re extremely beautiful. What a miss!)

I guess the website’s Timișoara page is not the place to inspire you. So trust me instead! Timișoara is beautiful! Even with my eternal whining twisting constantly tired and annoyed ten-kilogram front load (I mean my child who I actually love very much) I manage to go back to my former self for a while.

Note: My former self was free (both from a man and from (self)imposed soul borders), generally positive and always with her head in the clouds. She used to dream, she wrote in her blog regularly and while she walked the streets with earplugs in her ears, her soul was flying.

End of note.

We walk, we take photos of us, we take a look of the beautiful cathedral at the end of the central square. Juley is whining all the time, twisting himself in the carrier.

I think I forgot to mention two of his teeth are coming up at the same time.

While sitting and waiting for Lukáš to buy me a coffee from Burger King…

(Note: Next time you marry, marry someone who’d buy you a real coffee while you’re on holiday…)

a man is handing out chips to Juley. Insolently, Juley keeps asking for them, I apologize but the man keeps giving them to him. And he’s overjoyed to be doing so. And he speaks English better than he thinks.

And I, the unconfident mother, who’s read all child psychology books, do nothing and instead, I blame myself in my mind:

Why are you allowing him to eat Burger King chips?

Why don’t you try to explain him he can’t ask for more chips even if you risk making him cry?

Why can’t you show this man in a clear and determined way that you don’t want your child to eat Burger King chips?

Why do people express their good attitude at kids by constantly treating them to various things?

What’s taking Lukáš so long…

And while I’m thinking, Juley is swallowing chips. Thank God, the coffee arrives and something is left for the man.

We go back to the car because the sun is going down and we don’t even know where we’re going to sleep. Timișoara’s evening life begins. The last reflections of the sun in the windows, the fairy lights in the little bars, the shop windows, already lit, the hot summer evening… All this fills me with nostalgia for a time when I could go out somewhere with friends.

I tell Lukáš, as a matter of fact, how I really don’t know when I’ll be able to go out with friends in the evening. Instead of telling me what I want to hear which is: “Don’t worry, you can leave him to me some day and go out with someone who is visiting you, for example.” he says, “You never go out anywhere anyway.”

It’s too beautiful around me, and we’re on holiday, to get depressed by his words. And yet, suddenly silenced, I walk and think about the second child – a topic I had prepared to discuss with Lukáš during our holiday. Now, as people around me call someone to tell him they’re going to be a bit late for the date/cinema/theatre, I think about how I maybe don’t want a second child. How this would lead to my complete death as someone with any form of social life outside the home. How this child doesn’t belong to a home where my husband says: “You never go out anywhere anyway.”

One of my selves: Wait a minute, this second child was never to be for me. Wasn’t it supposed to be for Juley? So that he could have someone next to him if anything happens to his parents?

My other self: Yes, it was, but is it really worth doing something so big and eternal for somebody else, even if that’s your firstborn son? Is it worth the sacrifice and your death as a person with some form of social life outside the home?

One of my selves: I don’t know.

My other self: Besides, I once read today we want to have such a huge control over our children even before they are born. We plan for when the second child should come, and when the third, and why that should happen in three years, and why it’s better for it to happen in a year so that they grow up together and become best pals… Don’t we rob them this way from their right to come when they wish so? Don’t we materialize them too much when we make them part of our super detailed life plans (now the first, in two years – the second; the first will be just starting kindergarten when the second starts crawling and so on and so on).

You know what, just swallow your anxiety and sadness like you always do anyway. You can’t figure this out now. Will you manage?

One of my selves: Do I have another choice but to manage it?

I’m normally “two in one” rather than just “one” but during the holiday I’m that to an even greater extent.

I read two parenting books in the car at the same time. One of them is paperback and is in Czech (Jesper Juul’s Vůdce smečky translated as Leaders of the Wolf Pack) and I read it during the day and the other is Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross’s Simplicity Parenting which is on my phone and I read it during the night. I never read two books at the same time – that’s a serious sign for my temporary split personality.

It’s night now so I read from the second. Its authors claim that today children are overburdened with stimuli and have too many toys and scheduled activities. They say they should rather have a bit simpler life (hence the title), be able to concentrate during their play or reading and live in a more orderly and cosy environment.

In general, the book stresses me because we lack a huge portion of the things it describes at home. (We also lack important lacks!) But to an extent it also inspires me.

Looking out the window, without being able to move, I manage to immerse in the moment. Something I’m rarely good at. I suddenly begin to want to feel like this all the time. To experience everything slowly and deeply.

I write in my phone notes:

How is it that these thoughts come so naturally on the road? Is daily life a conspiracy that makes us living on the surface?

I want to discover not-easy songs, to give myself up to them. Will I ever be able to?

(On the other hand, didn’t we agree that anxiety is part of my creative self?)”

Here’s how long I can inhabit a moment. A few seconds.

And then I take out a notebook.

That’s normal for people who create, right? (I thought I shouldn’t write “create” but, damn it, the fact I don’t earn money with creating doesn’t mean I don’t create.) Isn’t it impossible to be a creative and not look for something more in the moment? Isn’t it impossible to be a creative and consider the tree just a tree?

Or it isn’t?

Tell me please. This blog is not a monologue!

The car goes down even smaller and even more broken roads. Lukáš isn’t sure he chose the right route. He changes it at a crossroads. He thinks the new one will be better.

In the night I look out the window and see long one-story houses with decorated facades, some of them wholly clad in mosaic. At the golden middle between beauty and kitsch. There are shutters in front of the windows and no lights can be seen. It’s like no one lives inside them. From time to time I catch a glimpse of the castle-houses, so typical for the rich Romanian Roma people. Now that’s kitsch at its best.

(Later I will find out the lifeless facades are actually not facades but something like fences. The houses themselves are at the back inside. I guess Banat people don’t like showing themselves a lot.)

(A quick memory of Denmark and Sweden where everyone can peek into the life of the inhabitants of buildings. And a memory of an evening in Dresden where we saw a dining family through the glass walls of their modern house.)

The road goes through a village and starts climbing up. On one of the pavements I see a wheelchair with thick soft padding, facing the street. Its owner probably sits in it during the day, turning the life of others into his own. Further up the street there are a table and an empty chair. So even though they like hiding, people here also live in the street – something I really miss in the Czech Republic.

It’s midnight already. We’re still on the road and have no idea where we’re going to sleep. Outside there are only lifeless facades and stray dogs. I give up to exhaustion, pull up the pillow I was smart to take from home and lean it on the door of the car, saying: “Please lock the door.”

Lukáš says something that doesn’t sound like an answer to my request.

What?”

Ask these people in English if the road ahead is just as damaged.”

He suddenly stops and I shake the sleep off me. Three men are coming over.

Do you believe in chances?

I already don’t…

But I’ll tell you why next time.

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photo by Lukáš

 

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photo by Lukáš

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