February 08, 2004

Day Three in Targoviste

Today was mostly about getting a look at Romania's mountains. No official work until evening. We piled into the mini-bus and headed upward.

I'm still jetlagged and achy and sitting in one place in a mini-bus designed for shorter legs didn't add to the fun. But the show outside the window distracted me from all that. Images slipped by so quickly my eyes couldn't parse them: a winding dirt road with two old women carrying bags; an old man in a fur hat solemnly saluting the minibus in welcome; a family in a horse drawn cart with auto tires; wooden houses with sharply pitched roofs; a gypsy village by the river; a whiff of wood smoke, twin domed church spires clad in metal. If I were driving this road by myself there were a dozen National Geographic-worthy pictures I could have taken; but the mini-bus hurtled onward.

One of the highlights was Bran Castle, the official Dracula destination. This is the one they're setting up as a tourist attraction, but Vlad the Impaler never lived here. It was a garrison for his soldiers guarding the border betweek Transylvania and Wallachia. One thing I learned from the guide was the etymology of "Dracula". Vlad Tepes' father was called "Drac", which means devil. The "ul" affix means "the", and the "a" affix means "son of". Romanian adds all these things to the end of words. So Dracula = son of the devil. I think I'll refer to our president from now on as "that Bitchula".

And all the Disneyesque commercialization that was absent at the castle ruins in Targoviste was there in spades at this one. I picked up a Dracula t-shirt for Alex and a handstitched table runner for June (that had flowers, not fangs).

After yet another big meal and a long drive, we made it to Brasov, a beautiful old city with buildings dating back centuries.

With night falling, we zoomed back to Targoviste with a couple of hours to spare before dinner. I slept like a corpse for an hour. And dinner was great. It was a celebration of the professional relationships that were deepened during these three days and looking ahead to the next part of the project. These are fun people and I'm happy to be getting to know them.

Even after the long day of tourism, we somehow managed to prolong dinner past 2am. There was dancing involved and even I, a notorious stick in the mud disco-wise, got up and boogied some.



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