Friday, January 30, 2009

Maybe the Most Lively Thing I Have Ever Seen in Cluj

Yesterday, while non-striking French were inconvenienced by more than a million of their fellow citizens protesting against job insecurity, my temporary home here in Transylvania was racked by not one, but two demonstrations. Surely, the good burgers of Cluj-Napoca downed tools and demanded their own protection from the ravages of our World Crisis?

Not quite.

As I was walking home from my labors at the Central University Library, I could see that further down my route, the B-dul 21 Decembrie, a mass of people had gathered and attracted a number of emergency vehicles, which squawked and flashed their strobes. Curious, I went on ahead to investigate and, eventually, gawk like the slack-jawed foreigner I am. It became apparent quickly that it was some kind of procession. I picked a spot on a corner across from the Sora shopping center and gazed upon the spectacle passing before me. 

The lead banner in the parade told me that I was watching a "MARŞ PENTRU O IDEE" -- a  MARCH FOR AN IDEA. The idea, as it happened, was the Universitatii Cluj, or "U," athletic organization. "U" is one of the two professional soccer teams in the city, and are the secondary division Montagues to their primary division Capulets, CFR Cluj. Though their fan bases are naturally much more expansive these days, "U" (patently enough) represents the agglomeration of universities and colleges in the city (over a dozen with around a total of 100,000 students), and CFR was originally the team of the railroad workers (Căile Ferate Române is the national rail system), back when the city used to be called Kolozsvár. I've asked around, and while I am told neither team represents any particular socio-economic group, their competition for local hegemony has given rise to the rivalry of the two neighborhoods where the respective stadiums are located: Gruia for CFR and Grigorescu for "U." 

Well, I should say, "where the respective stadiums were located," since "U's" was demolished in 2008 to make way for a new one, and I think this had something to do with the march -- something about expanded resources and facilities both for soccer and for the club's other athletic endeavors. Whatever its precise argument, the march featured thousands of people wearing the team's colors (black and white), holding aloft team scarves, waving team flags and Romanian tricolors, and chanting slogans that I couldn't really understand. (One of these chant-songs was set to what was meant to be the tune of  "The Battle-Hymn of the Republic," but the pitches were not quite what they should have been.) Police, with some private security mixed in, flanked the crowd, and ambluances zipped up and down the boulevard, but things were entirely pacific. Here is a video of what you missed:

Oh! And what was the other demonstration? It was a motor-parade of licensed taxi drivers, campaigning for greater regulation against their black-market competitors. Although more close in spirit to yesterday's French demos, the taxi protest seems to have gotten a lot less press coverage. I wasn't there to see it, in any case.

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