I´m finally getting round to another post in what was going to be a series dedicated to the large Romanian population in Alcalá de Henares.
However, the post isn´t quite what it should be since, rather than describing the activities of Romanians here, I´m rehashing a post from an earlier blog I had.
It details a trip I made to Romania in 2009 and serves as a nice lens through which to start to get to know these Eastern European people.
Book – a – Rest
I did, I did, I booked myself a rest of only four days in the Romanian capital, Bucuresti - anyone know how to get the little tail on the t ? - in the style I like best. Not quite resting, but getting away from it all (household appliances) experiencing a change and carrying out a bit of research.
Romania has Roman and Latin cultural and linguistic roots and so I´d wanted to go for some time. I didn´t love it, right away, but it definitely began to grow on me.
So, here´s the worst and best of Bucharest. As any traveller knows it´s impossible to be objective about places visited as you project so much of yourself onto them. I gave up on objectivity some time ago as an intellectual chimera – even though in practice it has to be striven for – so my opinions are only that.
It was grey and wet, but I´m a Scot so it only meant that I didn´t see the city at its best. Many of the buildings, including the outside of my accommodation, were ugly leftovers from communism. The interior of my flat, however, was modern, spotless and complete even if the stairways were antiquated and dreary and the lift had three battered doors requiring three point turns to get in and out.
Imagine doing that with shopping bags, I thought, though the situation never came up as the whole time I was there, I never saw a food shop.
Cue comments on the cuisine.
I had my prejudices, I admit, but I ate splendidly. I had acquaintances from the Instituto Cervantes to show me around and so I often left the menu choices to them. While I didn´t take to the tripe soup with cream and vinegar, I liked everything else, and I can be a fussy eater.
I liked the mamaliga, a sort of yellow polenta, loved the aubergine paté, and of course, adored the little mici sausages. There was much more but as I was engaged in fascinating conversation, I hardly noticed it.
I did like the wine, though, big glasses of it served up, resulting in one of my programmed chats going a bit AWOL. I lost the address of my accommodation and the person I´d arranged to meet rang up the agency and, very nicely, walked me home.
From tierra to tara
I´m a museum freak and went to the Museum of the Romanian Peasant - Muzeul Taranului Roman (I can´t believe how long it took me to work out that tara and tierra are cognates) and the National History Museum.
I thought both were very good although the information was mostly in Romanian, logically enough. The rural artifacts and crafts were wonderful in the Muzeul Taranului Roman and I was suitable amazed at the massive replica of Trajan´s column depicting the conquest of the native Dacians by the Romans, in the National History Museum.
Trajan was “Spanish”, from what is now Seville, adding another Latin twist to my attempts at understanding the history. I was disappointed to find that the Cucuteni artifacts I´d wanted to see were “not there” – just that, I could get no further information. I hope to see them another time.
The Madman´s House
And, of course, I went to see the gargantuan House of the Republic, popularly known as the “Madman´s House“, built by the dictator Ceausescu and now housing the Parliament. It looked pretty much like it does in the stock photos, so I just stood in front of it with my “I was here” face on.
I didn´t go inside as my friend wanted to take me around some other places, sometimes on the underground, which I thought was very good. One place was the historic quarter of Lipscani (named for Leipzig) with its mercantile architectural jewels and old shops. Another was to a puffy Russian domed church and yet another, Bucharest University. There was the glass-roofed Pasajul Villacros and Carul cu Bere tavern from eighteen something. I loved it, all of it!
Bucharest is only three and a half hours from Madrid by plane. And there was nothing about it to suggest it wasn´t Europe. I´d been warned about packs of stray dogs, orphan pickpocket rent boys living in the sewers and unbearable scenes of Roma poverty. I saw none of this in the capital, though I don´t doubt that these are daily phenomena a little way away from the centre of the city.
My hostess waved her hand, waved it again, when I asked where all the privation was. Moved on, moved on. On my way to the airport, my blink-of-an-eye visit over, a smiling family of gypsies crossed the road in front of my taxi, half of them bent over from the waist like silverbacks and leaning on makeshift crutches. Moving on, moving on, smiling.
There´s a lot of Glorious Martyrs in Romania every day, not just those gunned down during the 1989 Revolution/Putsch. There´s also a lot of nation-building to be done to create opportunities for this young, educated and vibrant population.
Now I have a context against which to set Romanian immigrants in Spain. It´s obvious that, like all immigrants, they´re only here because they can ´t make a living in their own country, one every bit as fascinating and beautiful as Spain.
I wish them luck.
P.S. I avoided all vampire-related stuff except for the gift for my daughter.