I asked my friend Anca a few questions about flânerie in her hometown.
What is your favourite street in Brașov and why?
A: Oh, straight to the difficult questions! 😊
It’s always hard to choose a “favourite” something, even more so when the choices are unlimited and equally great. However, the dearest streets will always be the ones of the hill I have grown up on. During the last few years, Mihai Eminescu Street held a dear place to my heart. Whenever I decided to take a walk and avoid the crowds in the city centre, the fact that my hill still offered great walking possibilities has been such a relief. A thing I often think about: what is in the closest proximity to one can be the most overlooked thing – it is very true in this case.
For more than half of my life I lived without questioning what is happening on the other side of the hill, or on the other end of the street. Once I became curious to go outside of the known, into an unknown that’s right there, in plain sight, I was fascinated. It’s the mix of architecture and styles, the views, the one abandoned villa which always makes me pause in front of it every time I take a walk.
Agnes Varda said: “If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes. If we opened me up, we’d find beaches.” I started thinking: what would we find if we opened me up? Now I know the answer: we’d probably find streets and houses of Brașov.
What is your personal definition of the flâneur?
A: I picture the flâneur as someone who feels at home while being on the streets. Someone who practises walking without any purpose and finds extreme joy in it. Someone who learns about the world while losing himself in it, in the most literal of ways possible.
Please share a serendipitous moment from a walk.
A: This did not happen in Brașov, but in a small, famous German town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We were visiting the town last year together with my brother, shortly after I moved to Germany. It was a sunny April evening, and the city was filled with sunlight.
At some point, I stopped to watch the landscape, and while doing that, a woman approached me and asked: “It’s breathtaking, isn’t it?” We chatted for a while, told her we’re not from here, we would like to see more of the city, and she said: “I could show you guys around, if you want to, as I’m a local!”
It was great to have her around. We went through towers and through thick walls, we climbed some only-by-locals-known stairs and we listened to good stories. It’s the unknown and the unplanned that gives you such gifts.
What part of Brașov would you like to re-enchant and why?
A: There is plenty to be reenchanted in Brașov. Decades of negligence have affected this city deeply, leaving some of its most beautiful buildings in horrendous states.
If I could pick where to start, and could be a little egoistic in the process, I’d start with the citadel, which holds an important place in my heart. It’s not only a historical place, but one of those where people would gather, where elders could take walks or pause for a coffee, where kids would run and play, where medieval or little music festivals would take place. I remember when a good friend of mine celebrated her birthday there, it was one of the most exciting places for us kids to play hide and seek through walls and towers, to make up stories of knights, of witches, of ghosts, to make crowns out of flowers. I might be egoistic, but I want the people – kids, adults, elders to all have access to it, again.
What café did you visit the most often while living in Brașov?
A: There are places which correspond to different periods of one’s life – and I find it true even for cafes.
Cafeteca was my most visited café in high school. It was not only the proximity to the school, but also the atmosphere, the cosiness, the big windows that account for the first experiences of people watching. It was well known and loved by many. The last time I went there was around three years ago. Its location has changed since then, but the good memories will always stay.
For the moment, one I visit often when I am home is CH9. I love the house it’s located in, the attic which is the best place for reading on large, comfortable chairs, the tasty coffee and the friendliest personnel.