Snow, Ice, and Getting to Romania…

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Snow, Ice, and Getting to Romania…

Eastern Europe, here I come…or so I thought. A third Nor’easter resulted in a cancelled flight, which I did not know about until I appeared at the airport. And no, I did not receive an e-mail about it, United Airlines. I wouldn’t have shown up at the airport had that happened.

But, enthusiasm undaunted, I blithely accepted an alternate arrangement, even though I was told that I would have to clear customs in Munich before proceeding to Bucharest. I was less happy when I noted that I had only fifty-five minutes between flights. When I contacted United about plans if I missed connections (this, after interminable time on hold while watching my cell phone battery flash “low”), I was told that if that happened, I could take the next flight out. That it was nine hours later didn’t seem to bother the representative.

Then a kind Lufthansa rep actually took the time to find (or sent a minion to find) my checked bag and reticket it on through. Things are looking up, I thought. Stay positive. Which I did. Throughout the flight, while the toddler in the seat in front of me screamed for much of the eight hours. Those hours of meditation seemed to pay off for me, as I sent tonglen to both child and parents.

Arriving early, I made my way, not exactly easily, to Terminal One, Munich. I found the gate number– for my cheat sheet told me that my Tarom (Romanian Airlines) boarding pass would be issued at the gate – and attempted to clear security. I had my passport. But security required a boarding pass. The guard sent me to ticketing. When I arrived there, it was closed. A sign said that staff was now at the gate aiding passengers. I must admit that I thought of Joseph Heller – I needed a boarding pass to clear security, but I could only get a boarding pass if I cleared security.

So, good old Terminal One, Munich – grey in contrast to the glitzy Terminal Two –may lack shops and perfumeries, but it does have a visible Information Desk. There I was in luck, because the representative took pity on me, called, then paged, the Tarom gate, and an agent came sprinting to get me. Still no boarding pass, however, since, you may remember, the boarding pass is issued at the gate.

What she said to the security patrol, I don’t know. I think her tears may have worked – and he, looking decidedly glum, waived me through. A race to the gate, where, boarding pass issued, I made that flight. Now I was always sure that eventually I would arrive in Bucharest, and I have to thank these lovely women who worked so hard to help me arrive there.

And arrive I did – to ice and snow. Bucharest, my first look at Romania.

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The next morning, still ice, still snow, I learned much about Nicolae Ceausescu, the last leader of Communist Romania, how he progressed (or regressed, really) from a popular leader whom people believed worked for the betterment of the nation, to a megalomaniacal egomaniac who tightened the noose around his people, cutting them off from any kind of contact with those outside the country. All the while building monuments to himself on an unparalleled intensity.

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While balancing on an icy square, our group met with Egmond, who participated in the Romanian revolution when he was only a young boy. He told of the hatred of the Romanian people for Ceausescu, along with his wife, Elena, and the consolation they took from their executions. Ceausescu built, as a testament to himself, a parliament – the second largest building in the world, it is said.

There was much to see in this historic city. I noted the demonstration that was happening in one of the squares, a protest against the rising cost of gasoline.

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And an outdoor market, now holding its own against supermarkets, the latter needed to show that the country is ready for the EU.  But on this cold, snowy Saturday, vendors and buyers gathered to sample skins, honey, bread, meats, and, of course, slivovitz!

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Soon we bused to Constanta, an ancient port on the Black sea. We viewed Roman artifacts, some more than two thousand years old, and, astoundingly, right out there in the elements – rain, pollution, weather, continuing to take their toll.

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While in the museum, I was delighted to see, and it wasn’t a mirage, a tableau of World War I soldiers and nurse walk across the square. That they were re-enactors didn’t bother me a bit!

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So, the start of my trip, with its kerfuffles, segued into days of seeing years and generations of history become real to me. Tough times for these people – then and now, as they work to adjust to a totally new economy. Some will benefit, but I feel for those who will be left behind.

Next week, another hard-times country: Bulgaria.

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On Travel and Getting One’s House in Order…

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On Travel and Getting One’s House in Order…

I’m heading to Eastern Europe this week. Somehow, though it doesn’t appear in my DNA, I am drawn to these countries. Their history, their sadness, their literature, their movies, resonate with me. It will be my fourth trip to this part of the world, although now I will see countries I haven’t been to before – Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, then to my favorites, Croatia and Hungary.

I must admit that traveling is getting harder for me. A long flight looms, and I’m hoping that I’ll not be too snockered by jetlag and currencies in countries that don’t use the Euro. I came upon a few Kuna in an envelope and was sure they would get me through my few days in Croatia. When I checked the conversion rates, I found that I had about $2.50. So, I will master Lecs, Leus, Dinars, and Forints. and hold my currency converter close, keep my phone programmed for calls home to make sure that family is surviving without me, and soak in any atmosphere of old Europe that I can find.

It’s a short trip, a lot of countries, I’ll get an overview at best. But at least it’s something, and I suspect that the area will once again touch my heart.

In the meantime, at home, I’m pruning bookcases, closets, whatever seems or feels out of place. When you’re in the mood, it is liberating. Books that I don’t love, books I know that I won’t get around to reading – out they go, with a wish that they will be found by a loving reader. It’s stewardship, really. At least that’s how I’m seeing it. Those cartons in my office, all filled with very important papers and remembrances, well, they’ll go upstairs to storage. Not exactly a minimalist stance, but at least my office will look efficient and well-ordered. A presence to come home to. And maybe one day, just maybe, I’ll tackle that storage area.

In the meantime, Eastern Europe, here I come!

http://www.cynthiastrauff.com