Seeing my train pull into the station carried with it a strange combination of dread and relief. The coldness of the night was beginning to bite at me, but I knew that I had found the right platform and that I’d be in Bucharest when I woke up but the train looked rickety at best. I stared on at my rusty carriage that would be my bed for the night, and began to reflect on my day.
The time I had spent in the city had been strange at best. Iaşi, the largest city in the Moldavian region of Romania was a hodgepodge of lavish palaces, decrepit churches, communist blocks and ultra-modern shopping centres. The place seemed to be sewn together from different towns and cities, but I had developed an understanding of what this place was after reflecting on it.
With my time on the train passing by slowly, I was hoping to piece together the puzzle that was this city. It was in this existence as a puzzle that was exactly what its charm was – Iaşi was an unsolvable puzzle, and it told this for everyone who came.
Much like fantasy, magic or science fiction, Iaşi’s hook lies in the fact that it doesn’t make sense. The different parts of the city don’t jar, but rather reveal a Wonderlandian fantasy that radiated from the city’s four corners. A multi-million pound mall filled with designer boutiques would seem farcical next to a UNESCO ancient palace anywhere else, but for Iaşi it just works.
Iaşi matches its people perfectly, existing completely differently to the rest of Romania. It holds its own identity whilst venturing towards the scary lands of Capitalism with a world class mall and American franchises juxtaposed with Communist power architecture.
The city might not make sense, but part of the thrill of visiting this unknown corner of Europe is accepting this and seeing Iaşi for what it is; a kaleidoscopic microcosm for the new Romania.