Walden World

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

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bits and Bites of Romania ;>)

1) New Business Ventures

C has decided to create a business wherein she, for 1 Euro, corrects all English mis-translations that plague Eastern Europe. It's like "Chinglesh" without the weirdness, more a matter of context and spelling mistakes that change the meaning of things:

- for example: Bucharest - a major company which produces ice cream launched a new line of fruit smoothies (Romanians are mad about ice cream treats or any new way of eating chocolate or frozen fruit). They had spent a great deal of money for a lavish brochure/menu distributed throughout Romania which advertised the following:

"MAGICAL EXOTIC PORTIONS FOR YOUR PLEASURE"

I was a bit confused..."portions"? However C advised me that they really meant "potions" as in "Love Potion Number 9" not "portions".

Unfortunately the menu continued from there:

"LOVE PORTION; TEMPTATION PORTION; MAGIC PORTION (and perhaps the
most alarming) MYSTERY PORTION" (does it contain Rohypnol I worried)

She believes, as do I, that she will soon be rich in light of the many odd signs: One of my favourite was in a posh hotel bathroom in Bucharest: "We have taken the utmost to ensure that all premises are uniquely hygenic. However if you inadvertently find a defect please advise our staff." I wonder how one "inadvertently (finds) a defect"; do I slip and fall on the floor and see some gum behind the toilet?


2) Corruption

Romania has been listed by the UN as the most corrupt country in the Northern hemisphere. It may in fact be a world leader as I was actually quite shocked when I came across the statistic in some guide I was reading.

Case in point, on the train to Transylvania, we encountered the most odious man I have ever met. Trailing beind him was his pathetic mother, wife and baby. He was decked out in (what else?) skin tight fitting spandex football wear and gold chains (he looked like an ugly tanned version of Tony Soprano, a character not known for being even remotely 'hot') However later he got into trouble for being in 1st class despite his second class tickets.

When confronted by the sweet, blue suited conductor, he began screaming and yelling and when brute force didn't work, actually pulled out a wad of bills bigger than my fist and offered a bribe.

Given that he has such an amount of cash in the first place, I couldn't begin to understand why he just didn't spring the extra $5.00 for the first class ticket. Such is Romania.

The saddest story however is that of a guy we hired to drive us from Transylvania to the airport in Bucharest to save us a trip of multiple train, bus and eventually airport changes.

His friend had spent three years in police college, had written the final exam and was poised to graduate. However the head instructor knew the student had "two cars, not great ones" as our driver explained. Thus the headmaster told the student that unless he gave him a bribe of so many thousands of Lei, he would be failed. In the end, the student sold both cars, gave it to the instructor and now he is a policeman.

Our driver had considered going into the police force: a good, steady paycheque for any young man in Romania, however he told us he didn't have the money for the bribes. Thus left with no option despite speaking three languages and just having graduated from University with a Degree in Economics, he dreams of going to America where he might get a job doing construction work.

3) Dracula

Yes, this is what everyone holds out for. However despite the general overall creepiness of Transylvania (I actually did get a tad antsy in a graveyard C decided to hang around in just to read the inscriptions on all the grave stones) there isn't much vampirism to be seen. As I have noted, nasty old Vlad Tepes the Impaler is a hero here, having impaled 20,000 invading Turks causing the follow up army to turn tail and flee. Thus they don't think him as a 'bad man'.

Somewhat vampiric in theme, I did note that on our tour of Peles Castle, our guide who was in her mid 30s, actually sounded like the brilliant Chloris Leachman character "Frau Blucher" in Young Frankenstein. Every time she began to describe a exceptional piece of carved linden wood I'd start giggling her voice bringing up the following diaglogue: "Vood za doctor care for a night cap perhaps...zum varm milk...Ovaltine?"

However the most authentically undead one encounters are lots of tacky, cheap toby vampire mugs with blood drooling from fangs.

We did however visit Castle Bran, a creepy looking and absolutely authentic medieval castle where poor old Vlad was imprisoned by a fellow nobleman for three days before escaping.

I did have to say that I was a bit chilled that our guide left us to assemble in a very small, grim chamber for five minutes only later to tell us that we were in Vlad's 3-day dungeon.

I guess in the end, the most scariest thing we saw on the visit was a Romanian father of two children, aged approximately 4 and 6, who throughtout our visit to Castle Bran kept doing a frightening "BWAA HAAA HAA HAA" laugh from horror movies and jumping out each time the poor kids walked around a corner.

We last saw the oldest boy running crazily down the ankle wrenching steep cobblestone hill away from the castle in tears, followed by dad's "laughter" while his younger sister stoically trudged along in front of her father blocking her ears with both fingers.

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