Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Staircase of Widows or ("get off the stage whore"!)

Bucharest is a strange place. One can only describe it as a decrepid yet Communist version of Paris. We arrive in the midst of Madonna Mania. You see on the 26th she is to give a huge concert in the middle of a park near the famous 100,000 room Palace of the Parliament built by Cesescue during a particular peak in his mania. Its construction bankrupted the country, most of the GDP for years going to its rise. He also tinged people off by making up credentials for his wife, sons and brothers and making them all Secretary of State, Secretary of the Economy etc...

We are warned by the man from whom we are renting an apartment not to go south in the city that night due to the huge crowds coming from across Romania to see this once in a lifetime event.

Just outside our apartment block is the Raddison hotel where Papparazzi lie in wait day and night to take Madonna's photo. Our window looks onto her lush apartment suite at room 754. I know this as I've made good friends with the Papparazzi and offered them beer during their lonely 24 hour vigil.

Our apartment is decked out in the best 1980s style, somewhat "12 1/2 Weeks"; the rest of the building is a crumbling mess. Everytime I get into the frightening elevator the roaches scutter back under the walls afraid of the doom of my sandals.

The stairs however are another story: it seems the tired traffic way for the lonely and forlorn poor widows of Bucharest. They climb the crumbling and graffitti stained staircases in old support hose, their hair a rat's nest of greys. Our host makes a good profit, renovating select apartments in tenements to Western standards of 25 years agao and then renting them to travellers for what must be a fortune to Romanians.

Madonna however never appears to the Paparrazzi. You see here in Romania, the only thing, I think worse than a Jew, or perhaps a Gay, is a "Gypsy". The Roma, filthy and dishevelled line the streets crawling on broken limbs or as the boy on the train this morning, two arms pulling the rest of their body along like a crab. They beg.

On the night of the fabulous concert Madonna stopped during the third part of her show, and surrounded by Roma Musicians, started in to a set with an acoustic guitar, devoted to the beautiful music of the Roma and the Balkans. In the midst of the set, she stopped and began a brief speech, stating how she had been led to understand that there was great discrimination against the Gypsies in this country and urged the massive crowd to eschew such behaviour; that the Roma should not be treated badly and called for an end to discrmination to the Gypsies of Romania.

What did the crowd do in response to such a plea? From a woman they all so worshipped and adored: a great who came to Romania?

They began to boo. They booed and jeered and nearly booed her off the stage.

She didn't come out of the hotel after that for any shots for the assembled Papparazzi she was so angry. Madonna stayed for three days, but only left her apartment to go downstairs and swim in the pool with her orphans. Her entourage went out and purposely gave alms to the Roma beggars nearby: the old grandma who loved Catherine for her many generous donations or the small boy who got down on his knees and prayed to Catherine for 5 more Lei.

This morning our host picked us up and drove us to the train station. He told us about the Madonna incident of which I knew about from CNN, but told me more. Things said in Romanian that the Western media couldn't understand.

They didn't just boo. The crowd screamed: "Get off the stage whore...get off the stage whore!!!" He laughed at the story. "Maybe in your country you are used to them. But here, you give a boy a chocolate and then he grows up and they are all the criminals. You must have this problem with the Arabs, like in Paris...?"

I just wished the lonely widows of Bucharest could swim in the pool with Madonna and a Gypsie grandmother could join me for a plum brandy at the Raddison waterfall bar.