So my BFF (and travel partner) and I have been running around Romania this month. Last week was Bucharest – where Michael Jackson apparently made the faux pas of enthusiastically shouting “Hello, Budapest!” to thousands of gathered fans. Sadly, it appears to be a common mistake. Admittedly, before coming here, I did want to visit Hungary and explore Budapest (I hear the buildings are incredible!), but took it off the table this summer because of visa reasons.
This trip to Romania has been far from a disappointment, though. Part of the allure of foreign traveling these days is to temporarily divorce myself from the endless media coverage of 45. It seems like every day, something happens around that noxious orange cloud that the media gleefully reports, a state of affairs that makes me want to duck under a shock blanket until the next election. So for that alone: Yay, Romania!
Overall, it’s been pretty cool to find out more about Romania, a country liberally sprinkled with French and German influences. Learning about Romania’s communist past and its neo-communist present, I’ve been unable to escape the parallels between the under-educated, egomaniacal, and easily influenced dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and 45. Ceaușescu’s story (as I’ve heard it) makes it clear just how easy it is to slide from the relative normalcy of life in a country you love to living with laws restricting basic rights, and people wondering how it all came to this. Freedom can end in the blink of an eye. Or in the few moments it takes for people of relative privilege to turn a blind eye to the oppression of their neighbors, or at least people unlike them. But enough about that.
One of the most defining features of the country as I’ve seen it so far has been the architecture. It’s incredibly eclectic. In Bucharest, purely utilitarian cement-block style buildings (very Communist and hated by the people, according to our city tour guide) sit side by side with older, ornate French style “palaces” that lounge next to glass semi-skyscrapers which in turn loom over abandoned and boarded up architectural wonders defined by crumbling statues and cracked cement lace.
Here in Constanta, the architectural wonders are even more obvious, if more uniform in style. Amazing art deco style buildings are scattered throughout the city center. One of the buildings that’s a symbol of the city—a casino built during a time in the early 20th century when casinos were a big thing in Europe—lays crumbling and abandoned. The once gorgeous glass windows are now cracked and broken, the massive building empty and exposed to the elements, the symbol of the city an inaccessible ruin. It’s both beautiful and sad.
And did I mention Dracula, Vlad Tepes, is Romanian? And that Transylvania is in Romania? Or that his supposed castle is a two-hour drive from Bucharest? So, because these are facts (-ish), Angela and I had to go on a tour of Dracula’s castle. It was pretty awesome. So awesome that we almost gave in to temptation and bought some vampire-themed drinks in honor of the occasion: Draquila (Dracula tequila), Dracu-rita, and Dracula Blood Beer. But in the end, we resisted and bought pastries instead.
Among all this gallivanting around, I admit it’s a struggle to find time to write. Naturally lazy, I grasp at any opportunity to slack off. What better excuse is there than pondering communism and the significance of architectural diversity in a country’s landscape?
But the words are managing to trickle out despite myself, the scenes from my current WIP (Work in Progress) appearing in shadowy outlines on my computer between early morning café writing sessions and late night pre-sleep while propped up in bed with my eyes half-way to being closed.
It’s all a challenge, like most things in life. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.