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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

TheQueen in Romania: Day 2 - September 5

Awake at 8 a.m. we dress and have a peek around the hotel area.  Our room is very plain and clean with a window that looks out onto the courtyard. Courtyards are everywhere in this land of tightly packed houses right up next to the street. Peek through any gate and even downtown you are likely to see chickens or flowers, grapes, or automobiles, laundry or cobbles, or trash, of course. Romanians are people just like everyone. But inside most courtyards are gardens. Inside ours is smooth clean parking with a big clothesline strung from the building to the shed along the back. Sometimes there was laundry hanging on it but it was always spare and tidy and just clean clean clean.

LD picked us all up around 10 and took us to have breakfast with his friends M and P Rogers and her parents from Columbia – South America, not South Carolina. They were all touring Europe together and had scheduled things so that they could meet up in Turda for the wedding. M and P both work at the Robinson plant and her parents are retired. She is an engineer and she’s just as cute as can be, with beloved kitties she’s left behind.  Love me an animal lover!

They were staying at the Hotel Dracula ... it’s not really quite called that ... it’s real name is Hunter Prince Castle& Dracula Hotel .  That had been an option for us, too, but it was pricier and honestly, the rooms looked weird in the photos. Not that it was all that expensive, though – $60 for a room and breakfast. The hotel was much prettier than it appeared in photographs, though. The restaurant is open to the outdoors and there are flowers packed in tightly around every inch of bare ground. In the end, though, I really felt at home at Vila Adriano and I don’t think I’d ever have felt at home at the rock hotel. I did enjoy the breakfast there, though. Yum. Salty cheese and bread and little cups of coffee.  I’m sort of a big mug-0-coffee girl but I grew to love these tiny espresso drinks and am seriously considering buying an espresso machine. What I began to miss, though, was fruit. Eventually I learned to buy fruit at markets but those first few days I really yearned for that particular kind of sweet.

LD was our only tour guide today because P and her family were busy with last minute wedding prep.  I had asked the night before if I could help in any way but she said no no – go be a tourist.  In the end, I wish I had helped, but then again – everything about that ceremony was so perfect I can’t believe I’d have added much.  LD recommended visiting the historical museum first and then the salt mines so the troupe of us started down the narrow streets to the museum – in a fortified palace built sometime in the late medieval or early modern era. 

We were the first museum visitors of the day and we had the most enthusiastic guide, who was thrilled to practice his English and show off his collection. He claimed expertise in the Roman era but he knew about every exhibit.  I was most impressed with the prehistoric pottery but there was an enormous painting of King Zapolia granting religious freedom to 4 of the Christian sects in Transylvania ... notably leaving out the Orthodox religion which, I believe, was the religion of most of the peasants. this event was known as the Edict of Torda – 1568.  

Our guide took us on an extended tour till we realized, suddenly, that if we were going to go to the salt mines we had to leave right away. I skipped the salt mines that day because I wanted time for a bath and to get dressed for the evening’s party at grandmother's house.

 It turned out I had plenty of time to get ready though, because about 2:30 P called and said they were running late. When the guys arrived people wanted to do different things. B was sleepy, BD wanted to walk and I wanted to be out and in the town. So W, J, and I met up with the Rogers for a drink at one of the outdoor cafe’s on the square on Str. Republicii.

We were all a little excited about what might happen - what was coming next - in this adventure into another culture.  what was so interesting and heartwarming was how ready everyone was to be pleased, to have fun, to experience something new.

At 4 we all piled into cars and drove to grandmother's house. It was on a street that served two different groups, since her part of the street was well paved and across an intersection it was all pot holes. I know, because W turned the wrong way at that intersection and we got to see both ends! 

Her house is in the left corner of a long lot. The front door is on the side, a la Charleston houses.  the right side is a small yard with fruit trees planted the whole length.  Behind the house is a cement walk between a pen for her little wire haired dachshund and a fairly large hen house. Behind this was a large garden, full of tomatoes and peppers,  and more orchard – pears and plums and apples were in bloom and later in the evening, when Sister and I wandered back to have a look, she gave us samples of each. This was the first fruit I'd had other than grapes - which are a bit fiddly to eat -  and enormously welcome. The neighbor behind grandmother’s house had a dovecot and his birds swooped in big circles overhead as the evening came on – glittering white with the angle of the setting sun.

But wait! I’m leaving out the party part. Here was a gathering of the two immediate families plus the American guests, including Sister and BiL, who had arrived at the Vila Adriano.  They were both tired from their week of trail riding on horseback in Southern Romania, BiL especially, who told me he should have taken this trip 20 years earlier. Sister was full of stories and I listened some but soon we were swept up in the festivity of this gathering.

Here were, gramdmother, uncles and aunts and cousins. One uncle and aunt would be the bridal couple’s Nas si Nasa, pronounced Nashi Nashi. They are the only other people besides the bridal couple and the priest who will have a role in the wedding ceremonies.  The idea is that an experienced married couple, who are not the parents of either bride or groom, offer to be advisers to the couple. Not being the parent of either, the nas and nasa can give unbiased advice when the new couple have troubles in the future. There was one cute little cousin that I wanted to steal away.  Such sparkling eyes, long and twinkling, shy, but with some of P’s intrepidity.  

Last of all was the wedding coordinator. This is more of a role than the wedding coordinator in American weddings because there are more speeches and customs involved. Although he is a family friend, he also does this professionally. He spoke no more English than I did Romanian so P had to do a lot of  translating. Explanations were frequent but hard to remember. But he was very vivacious, with twinkling eyes that made frequent contact with mine and he had a beautiful voice.

The food was stuffed cabbage roles – perfectly seasoned, deliciously addictive – I ate so many I nearly popped – and cheeses and grapes. There was also M’s fabulous cranberry and tuica brandy in which I indulged – rather a lot.  Oh and yes. sparkling water. And cake! The cake continued from this party on throughout the entire trip. Little rectangles no bigger than my thumb, with 3 layers of sponge cake soaked in flavors, topped with flavored gnash frosting. There was a very light chocolate but my favorite was the lemon. 

As we sat and ate and chatted, P came up and told me she had bad news about the hair appointments. They were scheduled for 6 a.m.! Instead of a big salon with all the girls gathering there was one hairdresser who would be doing all of the women in the wedding and M, Sister and I were to be first. P promised to call us at 5:30 to wake us up. Oh My.

At the end of the party the wedding coordinator led us in a song: Multi Ani ... which means Many Years. It’s sort of the Happy Birthday song, also appropriate  for weddings. The tune and syllables were slow enough that I could sing along and later R came up and told me I was complimented on my excellent singing (by whom?) 

We were all so flushed with happiness and good food and delicious tuica brandy and kindness and excitement and new love that I, at least, was rather floating on clouds as we began to walk back to the hotel. A few blocks from grandmother’s house I was summoned back to help with fiddly wedding tasks, so I drove to the apartment with P. The whole place was fragrant with tuberoses she had bought at the market along with roses, gladiolas and other blossoms with which she planned to make all the bouquets for the whole bridal party. She asked me if I would like to help but I was not confident enough to say yes. Instead I helped cut out place cards for the reception tables – and chatted a little with M, who arrived later. LD was present too but it was pretty obvious that the bride was too tired to delegate tasks and the groom was being quite tenderly, but nerve-wrackingly helpful, so P gently suggested that perhaps it was time I took LD back to the hotel.

We gathered up the bouquets, as LD had an important role to play with them on the morrow, and tuica, cake and glasses for serving at our hotel on the first step of the ceremonies. LD would stay with B at our hotel this night and by 10:30 I was back in my room with BD, who had discovered FavOrit – the Romanian music and dance channel on TV.  It truly became our FavOrit channel throughout the whole trip, with the pretty girls in white embroidered blouses and white skirts with black aprons and the men in their black boots and white costumes. The songs all sounded alike to me but they were always charming.

And so ended Day 2 of our Romanian odyssey.

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