Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

All Good Things Come To An End

We never got a surprise party. I never had a surprise party. We've never been part of one. We've seen some in Hollywood movies and more than once couldn't really understand how somebody can be so clueless to fall for it. I also couldn't understand what's the fun in it, but imagining how the others saw my face when they yelled "surprise!" was probably worth all the money and the trouble.

It was the last full day in Romania and absolutely nothing gave me any idea of what was about to come. We've spent almost six weeks here. We started with a few days away, isolated in the beautiful town of Sinaia. We needed rest and a period of adjustment, to the language, weather, family contact and holiday spirit. After that we had almost five weeks of more or less intense activities, including Maria's 18th birthday, Christmas, New Year celebration, visits with friends and families almost all over the country. We traveled by car and train, we stayed in five different places, we visited a couple of great cultural attractions.

Romania is an interesting country. It is not on everybody's list of dream destinations but invariably anybody who visits says that they had a great time, made great friends and they would come back. It has an interesting history, unique among all the European countries mostly because of the combination between the extremes, good and bad. Like most other countries it has a culture of exceptionalism, maybe not as bad as America, but nobody is as bad as America in that regard. What's special about Americans is that they genuinely believe that they are exceptional and they might have one or two arguments going in their favor. For Romanians it was probably a mixture between well organized propaganda and the lack of outside sources of information that produced a few generations, including mine, that really believed that we are the greatest nation on Earth. First, we had a civilized society that held its ground against the Romans when the whole world was under their command. Then, after being conquered, we became latins and were the only bastion of latinity left to hold the flag when Rome fell to barbarians. We were Christians as soon as possible, in the second century and later after the fall of Constantinople to the Otomans we were the only people who defended Europe against the invasion of Muslims, we protected the eastern side of the continent. When the Slavs came from the steps of Asia we were again the only ones to resist them and maintain our latinity. When the communists took over in Russia we were the first line of defense for the free, democratic countries of Europe.

And on and on it goes, the point being that when we realized that we might not be the most extraordinary people in the world - we fell in the other extreme. It lasted for a while and now we are surprised when we learn that we are not the poorest, most corrupt and most dysfunctional country on Earth. We are just there, in the middle of the pack. After touring the whole world I was positively surprised by how well Romania holds up compared to other countries. Go and visit. There are a number of interesting destinations and it can be fun any time of the year.

Typical contrast
Besides our visits with our families and friends we had a few short stops in Târgu Jiu, Sighișoara and Iași. We were a lot on the road and we could have stopped for a few days in several places. I guess we will have to do that at some point, maybe not in the winter.
In Târgu Jiu we saw a monumental complex by Constantin Brâncuși, one of the best sculptors of the twentieth century, a future World Heritage site. In Sighișoara we visited the old German medieval city, already a World Heritage site.

In Iași, Ileana's uncle gave us a quick tour of the monuments before the family reunion at a good restaurant. Then the children disappeared with their cousins for a few hours, they went skating and more, I don't know, I am glad they got back to the station in time for our night train.

Eventually we got back to Bucharest, the capital city and the headquarters for our families. We had fun and a little bit of too much talk about the future. When my father invited just the two of us (the parents) to a restaurant - his reason was that he didn't want my mother to spent her energy cooking. He left early to take the children to their other grandmother. My mom was going to take a cab with us and find this restaurant. We were running late. The cab driver just started his shift. He took us and then realized that he was out of fuel. His son, a good boy, took the cab the night before when he went to the bar with his friends. He returned the cab went to bed and forgot to tell his father that he emptied the tank. Maybe not a big deal, except that this particular cab was running on gas, and there are very few points to fill the reservoir with natural gas. And then, the driver had no idea where the restaurant was. We told him that it is next to the White Church, he didn't even know where that was! Thankfully he was a nice guy and followed our directions and got us to the restaurant only a few minutes late. My father already called several times very impatient. When we arrived a few minutes late, he was in the door with the maitre d'honeur, they both had very long faces. There has been a problem and we lost our table! Or something like that, I didn't get it, but then turning one short corner we found our combined families yelling "SURPRISE!!!"

Even our children were there, part of the plot. It was amazing, it was overwhelming. It was a celebration of our achievement and of their resilience. While we did the trip, something that nobody else has ever done before and something that none of them could have ever imagined possible, they were the ones staying behind to follow the news and to worry about us. Thank you!

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