Walden World

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

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Land that Time Forgot

Romania is a very odd place. When the guidebooks said that it was a land of the 19th century, I thought quaint villages with alot of hay and carts, not, in some circles, the mind set of a committed 1938 National Socialist Brownshirt.

In Poland there was a guide which advised tourists in the very sweet and literal style of bad translations: "Do not be afraid to come to Poland if you are a Gay". However the converse might be said of Romania. It should read: "Do be afraid to come to Romania if you are a Gay".

We can start with sexism. In terms of gender relations some people are one cobble stone misstep away from walking on all fours.

We first got wind of this at the Bucharest airport where C and I kept wondering why there were such a considerable number of prostitutes. Not just us, but a pair of university students, ironically from Orangeville, one of whose parents are Romanian, kept whispering to each other about the frankly whorish dress of every woman standing there. Don't take this the wrong way. I go to Pride and haven't ever blinked an eye. However every woman's skirt was so short it would make Britney Spears on a concert night blush. Tops that barely covered one's nipples revealing full and unabashed cleavage. One woman didn't even do up her buttons on her shirt; that's a new one. 5 inch spiked gold (or white - what's with that?) pumps that would cause Tina Turner to painfully turn an ankle. Turns out that's normal women's wear for much of the under 35 set.

Men however are men and wear manly things. Things such as jeans, tanks tops, baggy shorts, belts and t-shirts: precisely the thing little me wore throughout my travels. Turns out I was dressed as outlandishly as if a quite masculine guy decided to put on a low cut Chanel dress and wander around Scarborough on a Friday night.

I didn't just get stares; rather outright hostile glares and quiet frightening whispered conferences amongst men in tightfitting spandex football outfits whose diminution was directly in ratio to their hefty girth.

Thus C and I slowly began to side with the Count Dracula of literature with respect to his treatment of the locals.

Afterall, the national hero is in fact, Vlad Tepes: Vlad the Impaler. He not only impaled invading Turks, a practice involving the spearing of a person from rectum up to armpit without touching a vital organ, but in a novel poverty reduction strategy, decided to do the same to the poor and disabled because he felt they were messing up the landscape of his kingdom. No wonder the other nobles dispatched him after six years of rule and only when his back was turned.

The country is an oddity in other respects. The fall of Communism, like in so much else of Eastern Europe hasn't been all a happy event. On our excellent tour of the Castles of Transylvania our guide pointed out scads of huge German based supermarkets which had sprouted about the outskirts of medievel Brasov. He said: "You see these beautiful new supermarkets. In Communist times we had money, but no supermarkets and in the markets nothing to buy. Now after Communism we have supermarkets and many things to buy, but now we have no money."

Likewise he commented wryly on the change in culture: "In Communist times it was terrible. We only had 2 hours of television a day, so we had only to read books and to spend time with our family. Now we have television 24 hours a day and internet and we no longer read books and spend no time with our family."

Next up stories of Dracula's Castle, corruption and C's new idea for a money making career: correcting Eastern European translations.

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