Weddings, Emus, and Dracula... Oh My?
Trip Start Apr 01, 1979
62Trip End Ongoing
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The guidebooks led to believe that it would indeed be a raucous affair. In fact, paraphrasing slightly, I can remember reading that the locals usually drink and dance for two days, the first one ending with people wandering off and collapsing in a field, sleeping off the drink, and waking up early to start the process all over again. Okay, that was a slight exaggeration, but it was still a lot of fun, and what a unique experience.
It all started just before 8 am. I had woken up early, splashed some water on my face and brushed my teeth. I was just lumbering back into my room when I heard my friend (the groom) outside the window. I was staying in the bride's neighbor's house, and he had walked over to make sure I was ready. "Dan! Dan! Come on, man!" I reckoned he was maybe a bit excited, so I squelched my normal retort for those who dare to raise their voice at me in the morning, usually something that starts with a curse word or two, continues with spittle cascading from my mouth in a stammering tirade, and ends with a giant yawn and an apology. Heck, I was excited too, and even with the early start time, found the energy to quickly throw on the decent shirt, tie, and pants, that had been crammed in my bag over the previous week plus of third world travel. But I still looked good by my reckoning, and off I went, swept into the strange ritualistic world of the rural Romanian wedding.
Now, before I jump too far into the proceedings let me explain the basic set-up of this wedding event, and I'll add that I don't know if this is isolated to this family, region, or whatever, but I do know it was quirky fun. First, there is a Negotiator, and his main role seems to be the lead spokesperson for the groom, and basically the center of all the fun. We started at his house, where, at 8 AM, they slammed a glass of Romanian moonshine into my hand. There was also some candy, so I reckon that was meant to be breakfast. Eventually, a lot of the groom's people started to show up and share in the revelry. These would probably be other groomsmen and guests of the groom in normal circumstances, but since I was really the only one, these were mostly the male friends of the bride and her brothers. And yes, it was all dudes. After some drinking and good times there, we all piled into about 8 cars for what would have been a 5 minute walk (and yes, I mean to say WALK) to the bride's house. Our caravan pulled up and we all got out and marched up to the front door. The Negotiator then went to work, demanding that they produce the bride for us. The parents of the bride complied by sending out a fake bride (in this case, a man wearing a sheet and a veil. We did not believe this was the correct person, so instead went into the house and searched it until we found the bride, hiding. Once found, drinking and eating (once again candy only), followed by singing, ensued. When it was finally time to leave, we were running about 30 minutes behind the scheduled start time of the wedding. So we all piled back into about 20 cars (with the full bridal party now in tow) and headed towards the church. Blocking our path were some locals, who had pulled a rope across the road and demanded ransom in exchange for our passage. The Negotiator bought them off with a little more moonshine, and back into the car and off we went. The two minute walk from the bride's house to the church took 10 minutes with all the hoopla.
The wedding itself was just a wedding, the first of which was in a protestant church (yes there were two). Of course I, best man extraordinaire, teared up a bit, and was quite captivated by the multilingual service, but within 30 minutes it was done. We then headed out again and drove to an orthodox church for wedding two. This was also about 30 minutes and involved the kissing of many relics and other bits and pieces around the church. I contemplated the germs being passed around while I held a candle, glad that I didn't have to do any kissing. My legs were tired, but worst of all, I was dang hungry. In the end, my hunger was well served.
Soon we were off again, to a reception at, of all places, the Hotel Dracula. I kid you not, people, that this wedding which took place deep in the heart of Transylvania, not far from the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Drarcul, had a very pleasant hotel on it's outskirts named after the bloodsucker. And for some strange reason, it was also an emu farm, but that is less important. The reception itself was a raucous affair, filled with a 5 course meal, dancing, booze, singing, and more food. I gave a toast which was translated into Romanian by the Maid of Honor. My theme: between Romania and US there is not that much difference, especially when love is involved. As expected, it was an absolute smash! So after cake, and more booze and dancing, they served another full meal. Eight hours of revelry later, I was completely tanked and completely knackered. But what a great time! I enjoyed extensively the wedding and post-wedding celebrations.
The next day we briefly explored Sighisoara before taking the train down to Brasov, a large central Romanian city. We met up with the bride, groom, mother of the groom, and father of the bride. They had all come down to do some exploring with us. The first afternoon and evening was spent visiting the historic city center. We had found a nice and fairly cheap hotel right downtown, and put its centrality to use by walking through the main shopping district to the obligatory church, synagogue, and market. All were very nice, as per usual. The next day we rose early to catch a bus to the castle at Bran, a long time residence of the Romanian royal family before the Iron Curtain fell upon the land. It was known popularly as Dracula's castle, although Vlad Dracul probably hadn't spent more than a day or two as a visitor at the location, if at all. Nevertheless, this palatial estate, high in the Carpathians, is the most visited place in the country, and it was easy to see why. Beside the historical value of the castle, it was also incredibly picturesque, perched as it was on the side of a mountain. We eventually hiked all the way up the mountain and came to an incredible overlook that was truly one of the most incredible views of my entire life. The soft, lush Romanian countryside spread out before us, demarcated by the harsh lines of rival farms, and framed by the next mountain across the quiet valley. There was barely any sign of development, and the only structures were aging farmhouses.
Yet that would end our Romanian adventure... pretty much. That very evening we headed for our overnight train back to Budapest. Just as we entered the train station we saw a teenage boy leaning against a column. Suddenly from out of nowhere a foot came up and kicked into his face. The boy stood there bleeding. His attacker came at him again with a quick punch to the jaw. We steered clear, seeing as this was a fight between two foreign teenagers, I thought it best not to get involved. It was not yet too late (around 8 pm), and it was in front of the well lit and moderately congested train station, so alas best to move on.
And move on we did, into the train, and out of Romania. But I'll end with this final note: I love that country. A vibrant, colorful, and historically intriguing location. And you know, the wine isn't too bad either.