11 February 2008

Laser frate - you're under!

Va ziceam mai demult ca am avut in vizita doi tineri ce domiciliaza in Amsterdam, desi de loc sunt de pe taramuri si mai indepartate. Si va mai ziceam ca vor reveni cu perspectiva lor asupra celor 4 zile petrecute in Romania. Well, enjoy! :)

As I am set in a Czech hotel room in the no man’s land that lies somewhere between work/the office and bars, I thought I might dash off a few lines about my visit to Romania.

Descending from the clouds we had our first view from the air of Bucharest late on a Wednesday afternoon. What immediately jumped out at both of us was…a frozen river. We were semi-prepared for cold, but a knowing look and a quick exclamation of “f*ck me that river is frozen!” exchanged between Dave and myself confirmed that we had not prepared for what appeared from up above to be Yukon/Siberian/Lapland style cold. Little did we know that a) it wasn’t REALLY that cold and b) the warmth and hospitality of our hosts and everyone we met would make weather concerns of no importance.

After landing Iulia and Claudia were waiting as promised and we were spirited off into the city. Dave’s interest was piqued immediately by the sight of an IKEA (doesn’t everyone play “spot the IKEA” from the window seat on the plane?) on the way in to town, which in addition to providing all household needs from cradle to grave I understand is quite the local luncheon spot.

It will come as no surprise to any Bucurestean reading this, but I reckon the first thing you notice when arriving in Bucharest is the traffic. To my eyes at least there are no discernable rules of the road and I believe I would need to learn how to drive all over again to get round the place. This was one of many areas where both Iulia and Claudia were stellar. We always felt in good hands with the girls behind the wheel, something I don’t think would’ve been the case with your average surly rip-off merchant taxi driver. Should either of them feel the need for change in career, I recommend Taxi Centraal Amsterdam- their drivers don’t have a patch on you!

Due to the always heavy traffic we were running late for the night’s planned entertainment so after picking up Ramona from her work we had just enough time to get where we were going and have a quick beer before the show started. The show in this case being Tamango and Shukar Collective, except there was no Shukar Collective as Tamango, being the legend that he is in his own mind’s eye, felt he had outgrown them. Or something. Well, he is a bit of a John Lennon after all so he is. We had an excellent time and it was a perfect introduction to Romania. By the way, if anyone knows where Tamango does his clothes shopping, let me know, as the dude has some pimpin’ threads. I was particularly envious of the shirt and hat combo.

The rest of the night was a late one, so the Thursday did not start off too bright and early. Nevertheless we still managed to fit in quite a few sights, starting with the Palace of the Parliament. Very impressive, though much like their superior driving skills I believe the girls knew more about the place than the tour guide. Knowing the history of the building though, I’d hazard a guess that many people’s feelings about the Casa Poporului were summed up by what I overheard a Romanian couple saying- “criminal frate…!” Afterwards we strolled over to the Contemporary Art Museum next door which I quite enjoyed and probably could have spent longer in, as I am a legendary slow-arse in museums, however hunger got the better of us so off we went to the Hard Rock Café, where in a display of gluttony (the first of many) I managed to clean a rather large plate. From there we had a drive round the city centre where once again the girls’ local knowledge was indispensable. I don’t believe any major landmark was missed and I expect we will be quizzed on it soon.

Friday was our introduction to Romanian cuisine and a pork and offal lover like myself was not disappointed. Once again there was more food than could possibly be consumed and I think I am not engaging in hyperbole to say it was a feast. Everything was excellent, though Dave and I both concluded that the pork skins could be improved upon by some frying. Will someone please send me some hot sarmale at your first opportunity?

Up early on Saturday for the big away trip to the mountains and the grand castle tour! There had been some rumblings from Dave and myself about a particular football fixture that evening, the mighty (yes I am joking) Sunderland away to Liverpool, but as we could sit in a pub in Amsterdam any old time watching footy it was foregone for the full Carpathian experience. Which was no mistake. It was truly a great day out and once again the girls spent the whole day behind the wheel to show us their country. Peles was grand, plenty of swords and guns which excited us boys. I am sucker for snow (rarely seeing much of it) and was not let down on that front either. We were just too late for the tour of Dracula’s castle but local Brasovian Roli gave us the low-down having been a tour guide there before. Then off for a sunset at the walled city (Rasnov) which couldn’t have been better timed. To cap it all off, another bang-up Romanian meal in Brasov with a starter of palinca to get us going. Then a long dark drive back to Bucharest for poor Iulia (who still had the energy to drag race Oana for a good stretch of the way) as Claudia took a well deserved rest having battled traffic and mountain roads for us all day.

Then on Sunday was the usual scramble for the airport and all the melancholy that attends such a moment, ie., when you are leaving for home after having had a brilliant time somewhere and you are not ready to leave yet …

So a very big thank you to Iulia and Claudia for all their amazing hospitality and guidance in all things Romanian. A big shout out to Ramona, Oana and Roli, and of course frate Matei who shared his fascinating perspectives on life and all the rest of it when maybe he should have studying for his exams…frate tare ashe, ashe tare frate, tare ashe frate….

It was a wonderful trip all-in-all and I hope to visit again soon!

Patria si Dreptul Meu*


* asta a gasit Jason pe Wikipedia citind despre Bucuresti. Nu stie ce inseamna dar a vazut ca io rad in hohote de cate ori foloseste expresia foarte serios, asa ca acum o insereaza de cate ori are ocazia.

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